A reader who lives in a rural French hamlet and was unable to drive due to driving licence swap delays has now received his licence, in time to make it to family celebrations.
However several other readers responded to our report on his dilemma by telling of their own struggles with long waits for swaps.
Lester Dedman, 70, emailed to say that after The Connexion followed up his delayed application made via the ants.gouv.fr website he received an attestation giving temporary right to drive, followed by the new licence in the post two weeks later.
He said it was “ironic” that the licence was delivered along with his copy of the November edition of The Connexion newspaper, which carried an article about his frustrating experience.
“We can’t thank The Connexion enough,” he said. “We’ll be able to drive to the UK and see our three kids over Christmas now.
“My wife also needs to go back at the end of January for the birth of our grandkids.”
Last month he was also able to drive his wife to Poitiers airport for a family wedding in the UK after receiving the temporary attestation.
Mr Dedman originally told us how he had applied six months before his 70th birthday which fell on December 13, 2020 but had then had to reapply just before his birthday due to technical issues over the spelling of his email address.
He was still waiting ten months later, having been unable to drive all year.
Another reader, Adrian McCormick, who has a UK driving licence from Northern Ireland, wrote to say he is “in exactly the same situation”, having applied in May 2021 and now having been unable to drive for five months.
He said his company is now looking to put him on chômage technique (a temporary lay-off), as he needs to use his car for his job.
“ANTS refuse to update me on my exchange, or give me an attestation allowing me to drive,” he said. “The situation is extremely stressful.”
ANTS is a government agency concerned with the issue of documents, via whose website swap applications now have to be made. A second stage involves sending the UK licence off, in exchange for the temporary attestation.
A spokeswoman for the agency told The Connexion that users of its web portal (ants.gouv.fr) should find it has “better performance” than before, after a recent revamp.
However neither she, nor officials for the Interior Ministry, with overall responsibility for licences, wished to comment on the ongoing issue of long waits, including for those who are unable to drive as a result as their UK licences have expired.
Alan Bond wrote to say he was “extremely disappointed, yet encouraged at the same time, to read that it takes the intervention of a newspaper to get ANTS to take action on an exchange”.
ANTS agency told reader he had to be patient
He said he is in a “similar situation” having originally applied by paper in 2019 but having had his dossier returned by officials last year due to ‘non urgency’. He applied again via the website in December 2020.
“In the meantime my licence expired on my 73rd birthday and the end of May 2021 and I have not been able to drive since then.
“ANTS just say it takes time and I need to be patient.
“This is causing unwarranted hardship and distress for many elderly and disabled UK citizens who have chosen to live in France.
“I am fast losing my independence as we live 7km from public transport and my confidence and mental health are suffering.”
Peter Duncanson, 70, from Lot-et-Garonne, said he applied in November 2020 and his licence expired in March 2021.
“I heard nothing for months then was told I must remove certain driving categories or have a medical. I removed them, as I only want to drive my car.”
There were then additional complications when he was asked for a certificate of entitlement to drive from the UK’s DVLA, which he said he was unable to obtain.
“After finding everything else regarding living in France to be accommodating and efficient, I feel totally lost over this,” he said.
Anne Marchant, from Aude, thanked The Connexion for raising the issue, sharing a letter she has sent to the British Embassy in Paris asking for support in “navigating the problem”.
In it, she said she and her husband are in the same “pathetic situation” as Mr Dedman, having applied in September 2020.
She said the problems faced by applicants such as themselves include “stagnation” of the applications and requests for the D737 certificate of entitlement [from the UK’s DVLA], despite the fact of applying during the Brexit transition period, in theory under ‘EU citizen’ rules, which do not usually include this document.
“My husband would really like to have his driver’s licence by Christmas this year,” she said.