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Non-EU driving licence exchanges continue to cause issues in France

Problems include disability adaptation codes and hiring cars in the UK

Readers continue to share issues over the exchange of a foreign driving licence for a French licence Pic: mundissima / Shutterstock

Readers continue to share issues over the exchange of a foreign driving licence for a French licence.

These included disability adaptation codes, what happens when the holder originally passed their test in a different country from the one that issued the foreign licence, and problems with hiring cars abroad. 

Read also: What are the rules on exchanging your driving licence in France?

Read also: How long to exchange a driving licence in France: your feedback

Peter Spence, 68, from Deux-Sèvres, who is paraplegic, swapped his UK licence as Brexit approached, but codes for adaptations allowing him to control his car by hand were missing from the French licence. 

“When I looked into putting in extra adaptations to help me get in and out, the garage said ‘we can’t do this because your licence doesn’t have the required details on the back’. 

“It’s an old automatic Toyota with a hand control for the brake and accelerator. Now I also can’t buy a new car and put these adaptations into it.”

Retired record producer Mr Spence said officials would not change the licence, saying he should retake a French test. He has started lessons.

Licences can be issued with one of several number codes on the back, indicating modifications for disabilities: for example, 10 for the gears or 15 for the clutch (see here for more information). 

They are the same on UK licences.

Read also: UK driving licence exchange: Why is there a 70 on my new French one?

Read also: Biker cannot ride his motorbike after French driving licence swap

Avocat Basile Tissot, from the office of leading motoring lawyer Eric de Caumont, said these codes do not ‘entitle’ you to drive an adapted car, but rather ‘require’ you to drive one.

So, in theory, if Mr Spence’s French licence does not have them, there is nothing legally stopping him from using his current adapted car or buying a similar one, Mr Tissot said. 

He added, however, that there might be issues in claiming certain state financial aid towards the cost.

If the lack of the codes continues to pose practical difficulties, there should be no legal reason why Mr Spence should take a new test. 

“He should contact his prefecture and ask for an appointment with the commission départementale médicale and they will be able to evaluate his disability and give him a certificate of aptitude for driving with, perhaps, the obligation to use an adapted vehicle (véhicule aménagée). 

Then he should ask for the licence to be modified with the little codes on it. 

“He should only have to retake a test if there were another problem with the exchange of his licence. It should not be linked to his disabilities.”

Read also: Can a French insurer reject me because of a foreign driving licence?

What about licences obtained in country different to where delivered?

Irving Hunger, 76, from Haute-Savoie, was refused a French licence as his UK one was obtained in exchange for a Zimbab­wean one. He had passed his test in Kenya before moving to Zimbabwe.

Even in the case of exchanging a licence from another EU country (Code de la Route R222-1), this is impossible where it was obtained in exchange for one from a country that has no exchange deal with France (see here for a country simulator). Kenya is accepted but Zimbabwe is not.

The French law on exchanging non-EU licences says at article 5 that the licence must have been “issued in the country where you had your usual residency before coming to France”. It also refers back to R222-1. 

However, a circular from 2012 (click here for the PDF version) says the country that delivered it should have been the one where you obtained the driving rights. 

We consider this puts in doubt the exchange of a UK-issued licence, even if it was possible to prove the test was passed in Kenya. 

The question arises as to whether UK licences issued in relation to driving rights pre-dating Brexit might still fall under the same rules as an EU exchange. 

As the UK-France driving licence swap deal is not publicly available, we are awaiting clarification from the Interior Ministry.

Finally, a reader who was told she cannot exchange because her paper UK licence is valid in France until she is 70 has had issues with hiring cars on visits to the UK. She was told she needs a code from the DVLA.

A DVLA spokesman said: “To retrieve a code to hire a vehicle, the reader needs to provide their licence number, National Insurance number and the postcode shown on the licence.”

See the UK government website for more details on this.

Read also

Post Brexit: When do Britons need to swap to French driving licence?

Is it true that older drivers must put an S sticker on cars in France?

Still no France-UK deal to share details of speeding drivers

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