For members


Can you really drive on an expired photocard licence in France?

The UK government has updated its Brexit information for those British nationals living in France with UK driving licences and it has corrected wrong information it published around the expiry of photocards.

Can you really drive on an expired photocard licence in France?
Photo: AFP

The issue of the impact of Brexit, especially a no-deal exit from the EU, on driving licences has been a real concern for Britons in France.

Initially Britons in France were advised to exchange their driving licences as soon as possible to avoid the prospect of having to take a driving test in France. 

That led to thousands of Britons inundating French authorities with exchange applications which led to a huge backlog. Many have been waiting over a year to get their French driving licence.

Eventually French authorities decided to stop accepting applications unless it was to replace a lost, stolen or soon-to-expire licence.

Then in April the French passed a decree that said authorities would continue to recognise UK driving licences in the future even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

That came as a huge relief to many drivers, although it wasn't much help for those who had already applied and were stuck in the system.

The British government is still advising people not to seek to exchange a British driving licence for a French one because of long delays.

In a sign of the difficulty around getting the right information to Britons in France, the UK government has had to correct information around the expiry of photocards after The Local contacted French authorities to confirm it.

Initially the British government said that anyone with a UK photocard licence that is about to expire did NOT need exchange it.

“Only the expiry of your entitlement is concerned, not that of your photo card. The expiry of your photo card does not restrict your right to drive in France,” the site read.

The British government said only those with four months remaining on the actual licence, rather than the photocard, should apply to exchange it.





But after The Local asked French authorities to confirm if this was correct and if British drivers would be able to take to French roads with out-of-date photocards, the advice changed again.

French authorities in Nantes told The Local they have been in touch with the British government to flag up the problem.

Now anyone who has a photocard licence due to expire within 6 months is advised to apply to exchange it for French licence.

Drivers with British licences can request a certificate of entitlement from the the DVLA authority in the UK which specifies more clearly when the person's actual licence will expire, rather than their photocard ID.

While in theory drivers are able to drive using the “Certificate of Entitlement” even if their photocard has expired they may run into problems if they are stopped by the French police.

Kim Cranstoun, who runs the Facebook group Applying for a French Driving Licence told The Local most gendarmes or police will be sympathetic as long as you exchange is in the system.

She recommends getting the Certificate of Entitlement from the DVLA if your licence is expired or is about to.

She also recommends some other tips to British drivers.

“If people have applied for an exchange, it is recommended that they keep a copy of all correspondence in the car as evidence should they get stopped. Even though the officials can check they do like to see a piece of paper,” she said

Having a copy of France's no deal decree in the car is also recommended. The decree tells people to exchange their licence if it is due to expire in six months.

A spokesperson for the British embassy told The Local: “It’s advisable for British drivers in France to have a valid photo card. Though your driving licence entitlement may be valid, if the accompanying photo card has expired, there is a risk the police may challenge you.”

The government says anyone who needs a change of licence to drive other types of vehicles or those who have committed driving offences in France resulting in points deductions or even a suspension should exchange their licence.

“In all other cases, if you are resident in France before the day the UK leaves the EU, you do not need to exchange your licence to drive legally in France. French authorities will continue to recognise your licence as before Brexit,” reads the government website.

It also notes that the Centre d’Expertise et de Ressources des Titres (CERT) in Nantes, which deals with exchanges is being reorganised “to deal with the backlog with delays which are currently between 8 and 12 months.”

If you are in the process of exchanging your UK licence via CERT, do not try to renew in parallel with DVLA because this will invalidate your CERT application. Applications in the UK with a French address cannot be processed.

In terms of driving in France after Brexit, the government reminds Britons that: “If there is a deal, driving licence rules will stay the same during the implementation period,” which currently ends on December 31st 2020.

If Britain leaves without a deal on October 31st then anyone “resident in France on the day the UK leaves the EU will continue to be able to drive in France with your UK driving licence under the same conditions as any resident.”

But for those who move to France after Brexit day, if there's a no-deal then they “will have a one-year period to exchange their UK driving licence for a French one.”

Member comments

  1. Shouldn’t a lot of these British living here have exchanged these licences ages ago before all this brexit kicked off.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


How French cities are getting people out of their cars

In an effort to get motorists out of their cars for environmental reasons, France and its cities are trying a number of different stick-and-carrot policies, from parking charges based on weight to free public transport. We look at the various schemes around the country

How French cities are getting people out of their cars

Pay by weight

A number of cities in France are watching the roll-out of new car parking rules in the south-eastern city of Lyon in 2024.

Currently, residents in the city pay a flat rate of €20 per month for an on-street parking permit. But the council has decided that, from next year, residential rates will range from €15 to €45, based on the weight of their vehicle.

Under the new rules, owners of an internal combustion car that weighs less than one tonne, or an electric car weighing less than 2.2 tonnes, will pay €15; for an internal combustion car weighing more than 1.725 tonnes, a plug-in hybrid weighing more than 1.9 tonnes or an electric car weighing more than 2.2 tonnes the price will be €45. 

For vehicles in the middle range for weight, the monthly price for permits will be €30.

READ ALSO French city to bring in parking charges based on car weight

Carshare lanes

An online consultation on reserving one lane of Paris’s notoriously congested Périphérique for car-sharing, taxis and buses was due to end on May 28th.

The results of that consultation should shape plans for the 35km ring-road beyond next year’s Olympic Games, when one lane will be reserved for athletes, officials and emergency responders.

Prolonging the scheme beyond 2024 as part of the games’ legacy would aim to “develop more virtuous and economical use of cars,” Belliard said.

Radars are already being tested that could detect whether a vehicle has multiple passengers and is therefore legally in the car sharing lane, he added — while insisting that the project remains “open to discussion”.

READ ALSO Paris weighs car-sharing lane for crucial ring road

Low-emission zones

France’s environment minister announced last year a major extension of ‘low-emission zones’ that will see certain types of vehicle effectively banned from numerous town and city centres by 2025. 

Those vehicles carrying a 4 and 5 Crit’Air sticker are then banned from these low-emission areas (usually the city centre) or limited to certain times. The exact details of the restrictions are up to local authorities, who have the power to extend the limits – for example Paris intends to also ban Crit’Air 3 vehicles by July 2023. Bordeaux plans to follow suit in 2025.

These zones already exist in 11 French cities – Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Aix-Marseille, Nice, Toulon, Toulouse, Montpellier, Strasbourg, Rouen and Reims – but by the end of 2025 they will be compulsory for any town that has more than 150,000 inhabitants. In total this will be around 40 towns and cities. In addition, local authorities in smaller towns can create ZFEs, if they want.

READ ALSO Car bans and €750 fines – how France’s new low-emission zones will work

Car-free zones

From next year, Paris plans to ban cars in an area taking in the first to the fourth arrondissements – the area that makes up much of the historic city centre that runs along the Seine and attracts the most tourists.

The plans were first announced in May 2021 and were set to come into effect in 2022, but have been pushed back to allow more time to implement the changes. 

An exact date for the introduction in 2024 has not been set, but Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said it will start at the beginning of 2024, ahead of the Paris Olympics, which will be held in July and August.

The plans as envisaged by City Hall don’t constitute a complete ban on all vehicles in the city centre, and there are many exceptions – including for people who live in the central zones to use cars, as well as allowances for delivery drivers, the disabled, taxis, VTC vehicles such as Uber, buses and car-sharing.

Bordeaux, meanwhile, extended the pedestrianised area of its city centre last November, to include part of the Chartrons district, increasing the size of the existing pedestrian area by 45 percent. The current car-free zone is some 58 hectares, and the plan is to increase it to 100 hectares in the next few years.

READ ALSO MAP: Where and when will Paris ban cars from the city centre?

Low-speed travel

An increasing number of French cities are cutting speed limits to 30km/h in a bid to encourage motorists out of their cars, save lives and – according to advocates – reduce pollution.

Cities recognise that cutting speed limits does not work in isolation. They go hand-in-hand with other so-called ‘soft transport’ measures to reduce reliance on cars in heavily urban areas.

In Montpellier a €150million 10-year mobility plan aims to cut car use and encourage other means of transport. 

As well as the reduction in speed limit, the plan includes new cycle lanes, new bus lanes, and improvements to the city’s tram services – including a new line set to open by 2025.

In 2019, Lille took a step-by-step approach to its speed limit reduction, adding new areas over a period of months, while also improving infrastructure for cyclists and public transport.

READ ALSO Why more cities across France are imposing 30 km/h speed limits

Cycle lanes

During the pandemic, more people were prompted to take up cycling as a means to escape the virus-spreading confines of public transport. In Paris, the rapidly expanding cycling path network was dubbed “corona-pistes”, as commuters shunned public transport for fear of infection.

Images of Paris as an example of how a city can switch transport focus to cycling are regularly trotted out on social media. But it’s not the only city to do this, as government-backed pro-cycling schemes are proliferating across the country.

READ ALSO How France will splash another €250 million on national ‘bike plan’

Free buses

More than 35 towns and cities across France – including Calais, Dunkirk Libourne, Niort, Aubagne, Gap, and Castres – offer permanent free bus travel on in-town routes. 

The idea is to ease congestion on the roads by increasing the number of journeys made by bus, and to reduce the environmental impact caused by cars.

Others – including Rouen, Nantes and Montpellier – run or have trialled free public transport on certain days, notably weekends.

And some have age-restricted free travel, allowing under-18s to travel without having to pay.

Public policy

It’s not just at a local level that France is trying to break the monopoly of car travel. Those commuting in and out of Paris, as well as tourists looking to enjoy a day at Disneyland, are familiar with the region’s extensive suburban train network (RER). According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be replicated in other French cities in the coming years.

In the latest in a series of short-videos answering constituents’ “ecological” questions, the President responded to the question “What are you doing to develop rail transport in France, and offer a real alternative to [travelling by] car?” by offering plans to duplicate Paris’ RER system in “the 10 main cities” in France.

Macron said that building suburban train networks in other cities would be “a great goal for ecology, the economy, and quality of life.”

He did not give a timeline, but the Elysée later told Le Figaro that the first step would be for “the orientation council for transport infrastructure” to identify which projects could be “launched first.”

READ ALSO Macron wants new suburban train network in France’s main cities


Since 2022, car adverts have been obliged to carry messages that encourage more eco-friendly forms of transport such as cycling and public transport.

All car adverts now contain one of the following messages:

  • Pour les trajets courts, privilégiez la marche ou le vélo – For short journeys, prioritise walking or cycling
  • Pensez à covoiturer – Think about lift sharing 
  • Au quotidien, prenez les transports en commun – On a day-to-day basis, take public transport 

The messages must be clearly visible or audible, and failure to comply will lead to a €50,000 fine.  They must also mention the hashtag  #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer – which encourages people to choose less polluting forms of transport. 

Car manufacturers and advertisers will also have to mention which emissions class the advertised vehicle falls into.