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

For UK nationals living in France, the rules for exchanging a UK licence for a French licence are flexible - but there are exceptions

Compared with other aspects of life, driving licences have been left relatively untouched by Brexit
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Reader question: I currently have a UK driving licence, which expires in 2025. What are the exact rules as to when I need to change the licence. Does Brexit have an impact on this?

This is one situation where Brexit has a reduced impact on Britons living in France due to a post-Brexit agreement on the issue.

France and the UK struck an agreement on driving licence exchanges in 2022 that was favourable both to Britons already living in France – but also to many of those who may choose to move to France at a later date.

When it comes to driving licences, the issue does not revolve around when a person moved to France, but rather the date you first acquired your UK driving licence.

This means most Connexion readers will not need to swap their licences before their current expiration date, which is to say ten years after the latest licence issue for more recent licences, or at age 70 for old paper ones.

What are the exact rules for exchanging the licence?

If a UK licence was first issued to a driver before January 1, 2021, the owner can use their current licence until its expiry date, before which point they will need to switch to a French one.

The issue and expiry date are both detailed on your licence (see the start of your driving entitlement on the back for first issue, and check the card expiry date on the front).

Drivers do not need to take a French driving test – nor translate essential documents – to exchange their licence for a French one.

Compared to general regulations, which require non-EU licences to be exchanged within a year of the holder moving to France (assuming a deal on licence swaps exists with the issuing country) this rule provides plenty of flexibility to UK licence holders.

If your licence is coming up to its expiry date (around six months before) you should apply for a driving licence exchange via the Agence nationale des titres sécurisés (ANTS).

The section on the ANTS website for exchanging a foreign licence gives further instructions, including the list of necessary documents required for a licence exchange depending on the reason for the exchange.

Generally, documents you will need include a passport or identity card, a valid residency permit, and your (currently valid) driving licence.

Read more: France to trial digital driving licences as move online gathers pace

Are there exceptions to the rule?

There are some exceptions to this rule, however.

For a UK driving licence that was first issued after January 2021, the owner has up to 12 months to swap their licence to a French one after moving over, provided they are planning to reside in France for longer than this. This is also done through ANTS (in the case of a visa de long-séjour valant titre de séjour, the 12 months runs from when you ‘validate’ the visa).

If you have committed a driving offence in France that would usually involve loss of points from a French licence, for example because you have received a speeding fine in the post, then by law you should exchange your licence for a French licence. This is so that they can apply the appropriate penalty. They cannot remove points from a British licence and in fact the UK has the opposite system, of adding points for offences.

Other reasons for needing to request a swap include if the licence holder has earned a new driving category, or if your licence is ‘deteriorating’ or damaged and can no longer be read easily, or has been lost, stolen, suspended, or cancelled.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the UK cannot knowingly issue a driving licence to someone who lives in France.

In general, therefore, in these situations you will need to apply for a new licence in France from ANTS, regardless of the expiry date of the licence in the UK.

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