Driving licence in France

At the moment you do not have to change your British driving licence for a French one if you move to France. This is because the British driving licence is an EU licence and any licence issued by an EU country is recognised throughout the EU.

You can use it as long as it is valid; you are old enough to drive a vehicle of the equivalent category; it is not suspended or restricted and has not been revoked in the issuing country. If you want, you can exchange it for a French driving licence but you don’t have to (except in a few cases, such as getting points for traffic offences).

The categories AM, A1, A2, A, B, BE, B1, C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, D and DE are also recognised in all EU countries.

There is much speculation that, post-Brexit, Brits living in France will have to change their British licence for a French one. The question is whether a licence issued by a country which was part of the EU at the time of issue remains a European licence? It is also unlikely that the EU would have reason to fail to recognise a British licence.

But while France is unlikely to want to make life difficult for the thousands of British tourists who visit every year, it could nevertheless ask visitors to produce an International Driving Permit (IDP). Americans, for example, are advised to carry IDPs although most say that they have never been asked to show it. These are available from the AA here and are valid for twelve months from the date of issue.

France may also ask resident Brits to apply for a French driving licence – this is one of the thousands of minutiae that will have to be worked out during Brexit talks.

It probably makes sense, to be on the safe side, to exchange your licence now, while it is still an EU licence. Although it is unlikely to apply to post-exit Brits, some non-EU citizens have to retake their tests rather than being able to do a straight exchange.

Another advantage of a French licence, especially for retirees, is that unlike the British licence, the French one does not need renewing when you reach 70.

If your British licence is lost or out of date you will need to contact DVLA by telephone on (+44)300 790 6801 and ask for a ‘certificate of entitlement’. This is free.

More information on applying for a French driving licence here.

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