Can I swap motorcycle entitlements from British to French licence?

The rules on licence swaps are more complex for motorbikes than for cars

Swapping certain motorbike licence categories differs from those for cars
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Reader Question: I need to swap my UK driving licence for a French one. Will my motorbike categories automatically carry over?

Car drivers from the UK wishing to switch to a French driver’s licence are able to keep their ‘B’ category for cars without issues.

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

However, it is more complex when switching a motorcycle licence (‘A’ categories), notably in the case of the full ‘A’ category which allows the holder to ride the largest bikes (as opposed to A2 for medium-sized bikes).

In 2016 France ended the practice of automatically transferring this entitlement when it exchanges foreign non-EU driving licences, except in certain circumstances.

France also reportedly refuses to transfer motorbike categories if it believes these to have been obtained automatically by a holder of a car licence, as opposed to via a separate test.

One older British biker previously told of a problem with the latter requirement because his current UK licence showed the same entitlement start dates for both cars and motorbikes, despite the fact he had taken separate tests on different dates.

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

This was for technical reasons as the UK had not kept full records of start dates earlier than this – they were rather all shown on licences as ‘1976’, with a small arrow next to them.

Only category A2 now exchanged for most foreign licences

This official website explains the rule that France no longer exchanges the full A category directly from most foreign non-EU licences.

Holders will instead be granted an ‘A2’ permit (to ride smaller motorcycles).

This can be upgraded to a full A licence (covering all motorbikes) after a 2-year wait and seven hours of mandatory training.

Good news for many UK licence holders

The good news, however, is that in general the post-Brexit France/UK agreement on driving licence swaps treats UK licences first issued before 2021 as comparable to EU licences – and there is an exception to the rule on swapping the A category that applies to EU licences.

The full ‘A’ category is carried over for eligible European licences in the following cases:

  • If the holder has an EU card-format licence (issued on the basis of European Commission Directive 2006/126);
  • Or if the holder has an EU licence issued before 2006 and the regulations in force at the time explicitly said the full motorbike category was transferable from a licence from the issuing country (according to the table of equivalences appended to European Commission Decision 2016/1945).

No copy of the France/UK agreement is available to read however we have previously been told of Britons successfully exchanging both A and A2 categories where the complication over test dates detailed above did not apply to their case.

This suggests that France is indeed treating older UK licences as equivalent to EU ones for this purpose.

In general then, assuming you took separate tests for both your motorcycle and car elements of your driving licence, you should be allowed to have both A categories transferred.

The exception would be if your licence was first issued after 2021, in which case UK licences are treated the same as other non-EU licences.

Date of ‘first issue’ relates to the start of entitlements, rather than the issue date on the front of the physical card.

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