Explainer: Using a UK driving licence as a British resident of France

British residents of Spain have been banned from driving on their UK licences after Brexit. We explain why and clarify the situation for French residents

Rules on driving on UK licences in France depend on when the licence was issued
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Britons living in Spain can no longer drive on their UK driving licences due to failure of the UK and Spain to agree a post-Brexit driving licence deal – which has led some people to query the situation for UK licence holders in France.

Fortunately, as we have covered in previous articles, matters are different in France due to a UK-France deal having been signed last year. Here we recap the rules.

What is the problem with UK licences in the EU?

Prior to the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1, 2021, UK driving licences were treated as EU ones, meaning they could be used by holders living in France as long as they were within their validity period.

This is due to an EU-wide recognition of other EU states’ licences. In the EU it is also possible voluntarily to apply to swap another EU licence for a national licence of the country you have moved to. A swap is obligatory in certain circumstances, such as if you have committed a driving offence requiring points removal in France.

Normally, people moving to France with a ‘third-country’ (non-EU) licence are required to swap them for a French one within a year of establishing their residency in France if they wish to continue driving in France without taking a French test.

However in order to apply to be entitled to ‘swap’ without taking a French driving test the foreign licence must have been issued by a country with which France has a reciprocal agreement on driving licence exchange.

The end of the transition period led to confusion for people living in EU countries and using UK licences, as nothing was agreed in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement or in the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement with regard to driving licences.

During 2021, however, the UK agreed deals with most EU countries, with one being signed with France in June 2021.

Read more: UK-France driving licence swap deal has been agreed

Some countries decided to require residents with UK licences to exchange them for a licence issued by the country in question by a certain cut-off date, others agreed to recognise ongoing validity for unexpired UK licences.

Was the problem resolved everywhere?

No, for example, complications remain for UK licence holders in Italy, where those living in the country before 2022 can use their licences until the end of 2022, and those moving since January 1, 2022 can only use them for a year. In both cases people will have to take an Italian driving test to continue to drive, as Italy has not agreed on reciprocal swaps with UK licences.

In Spain the situation is even worse, as the country only agreed to allow pre-Brexit residents with UK licences to continue using them until the end of April 2022, which has now expired.

People moving to the country from January 2021 are able to use their licences for six months only. Continuing to drive in the country then requires a Spanish driving test.

The UK government says it is still in talks with both Italian and Spanish governments in hopes of agreeing simpler rules.

What does the UK/France agreement say?

The rules in the UK/France agreement depend on when your UK licence was issued, rather than when you moved to France.

If your licence was issued before January 2021, you can use it in France until it expires. Paper licences are usually valid until you are 70. For plastic photocard licences, the expiry date is on the front. Check the expiry date.

If your UK licence is coming up for expiry in around six months or has already expired, you should apply to exchange it at the website of the ANTS agency.No driving test is required.

You also have to exchange, and will be permitted to do so without a test, in certain other situations such as your UK licence being lost or stolen or if you have committed an offence that would involve withdrawal of points from a French licence.

If you move to France with a UK licence issued from January 2021 onwards, it will be recognised in France for 12 months from the official start of your residency in France (if you come with a visa de long-séjour valant titre de séjour, the countdown starts from when you validate the visa within the first three months in France).

You do not need to take a French test to apply for a swap.

Read more: Official French driving licence site now open to swap UK licences

The British Embassy previously told The Connexion that unlike some foreign swaps, translations of documents are not required for swapping a UK licence for a French one.

France is also now accepting a simpler ‘check code’ process instead of the D737 Certificate of Entitlement, to fulfil the requirement of providing an ‘attestation of the right to drive.

Previous articles

Q&A: What does UK-France driving licence deal mean for you?

UK-France driving licence swap: What about ‘on-hold’ 2020 applications?

Must British second-home owners with cards here get a French licence?

How to contact ANTS for help with licence swaps