For Brits living in France after Brexit, an ongoing worry has been that of driving licences. Those with a UK driving licence must apply for a French licence before the end of the year, but with applications currently paused and no resolution in sight, the situation is becoming more and more critical. So what’s the latest?
What’s the situation?
Since the UK left the EU, France has confirmed that all British residents in France must change their British driving licence for a French one before December 31st 2021. However, applications have been paused due to the lack of a reciprocal agreement between the UK and France.
Currently, the UK government’s Living in France guide simply states the following:
“The rules for exchanging your licence have not been confirmed. We will update this page when more information is available.”
FrenchEntrée has also been in touch with the British Embassy and they are unwilling to offer further comment or lay out a timeline for this. The official word is to keep checking the Living in France guide (see link above) for updates. Frustrating as it may be, the best advice for UK driving licence holders in France is to wait.
The good news is that the French government has assured that all UK driving licences remain valid until the end of 2021, so you can still legally drive in France using your current licence.
What if my UK licence has expired or is about to expire?
This situation is much more critical for those whose UK licence is about to expire or has already expired. FrenchEntrée has received numerous queries from expats and retirees to France who have now found themselves in the impossible situation of being unable to exchange their UK licence for a French licence, and also unable to renew their licence in the UK due to being resident in France. In many cases, these are elderly people over the age 70 or those with medical conditions, both of which require regular licence renewals in the UK.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this. If your UK driving licence has expired this means that you are no longer legally able to drive in France, a reality that is causing great distress, especially for those living in remote rural areas or reliant on driving for work. The British authorities are currently not offering any further advice on the situation and they do not appear to be treating it with the urgency it requires.
So, what can you do if your licence has expired and you need to drive? The only practical option available at this time is to apply for a French licence. This entails undertaking a compulsory series of driving lessons, and passing both the theory and practical test (in French), with estimated costs of more than €1,000. In short, this is no easy option and may not even be possible for some British expats, especially those who do not have the required level of French.
What else can I do?
The bad news is that despite the increasing pressure being put on the British government to resolve the situation, they do not appear to be making any progress and there have been no updates on this situation since January 2021.
A petition to the UK government has been put in place to put pressure on them to conclude the reciprocal deal over driving licences and has so far gained more than 13,000 signatures. You can sign the petition here if you are a UK resident or ask family and friends back in the UK to show support on your behalf.
Those permanently resident in France can also sign up for the Applying for a French Driving Licence Facebook group, which is a great source of information if you do need to exchange or apply for a French driving licence.
UPDATE: As of April 9th 2021, a spokesperson for the British Embassy has said that the British government are in the ‘final stages’ of negotiating an agreement on driving licenses, so we are hoping to receive more details on this in the very near future. Watch this space!
FrenchEntrée is in contact with the British Embassy and other immigration specialists to find out the answers to all your questions regarding licences, residency, and other Brexit-related issues. As soon as we know, you will too.
In the meantime, head over to our Brexit zone for the answers to all your other questions regarding pets, second-home owners, and healthcare after Brexit.