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DRIVING

EXPLAINED: How to swap your UK driving licence for a French one under the new system

At long last, a post-Brexit deal has been agreed to allow Brits living in France to swap their driving licences for a French one - here's how to go about it.

EXPLAINED: How to swap your UK driving licence for a French one under the new system
Photo: AFP

After several years during which the exchange of driving licences was effectively suspended, a deal has finally been announced between French and British authorities.

Who is affected?

This affects UK driving licence holders who are living in France – tourists and visitors can continue to drive on their UK licence and do not need an International Driver’s Permit.

The deal is a generous one, so many Brits living in France will not need to apply to exchange their licence immediately.

The great majority of people whose licences were issued before January 1st 2021 can simply keep on driving on their UK licence until either the licence or the photocard nears expiry.

READ ALSO What Brits in France need to do now with their driving licences

The people who need to apply to exchange their licence are:

  • Anyone who has a UK licence issued after January 1st, 2021. This must be done within one year.
  • Anyone whose licence expires within the next six months. This can refer to either the expiry of the licence itself – for example if you are approaching your 70th birthday – or the expiry of the photocard, whichever comes first. Please note that applications to swap licences that have more than six months left on them will be rejected.
  • Anyone whose licence has been lost or stolen
  • Anyone whose licence has already expired. Because of the long-running problems with exchanging some people’s licences ran out while they were waiting. The French government has agreed that these can be exchanged for a French licence and drivers will not need to retake a driving test
  • Anyone who is ordered to exchange their licence by a gendarme after committing a driving offence

How to exchange?

The swap itself is done via an online portal. The portal previously blocked UK exchanges pending the deal, but since Monday, June 28th has been accepting UK applications again.

You can find the portal HERE

If you haven’t used it before you will need to create an online account, or if you already have online accounts for French government services such as Ameli or tax declarations you can login by clicking on the France Connect button.

Once logged in, select Je demande l’échange ou l’enregistrement de mon permis de conduire étranger (I request the exchange or registration of a foreign driving licence) and fill in the details requested on the form such as name, address etc.

Once you have completed the form, you get to the section where you can supply supporting documents as requested. These vary slightly depending on your circumstances but will include 

  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of address such as a recent utility bill
  • If your driver’s licence is in a different name to your passport, you will need to supply your full birth certificate 
  • Photos – these must be taken in a government-approved photo booth or via the app

The documents need to be scanned and uploaded to the website, not sent by post, although photos can be sent in the mail.

You can find a full guide to each step of the process of filling out the form at the Facebook page Applying for a French Driving Licence.

Kim Cranstoun, who runs the group, did a test run using the site on Monday and added two crucial facts

  • Supporting documents which are in English do not need to be accompanied by translations
  • UK nationals do not need to supply a post-Brexit carte de séjour with their application – so if your licence has expired/is about to expire but you have not yet received your carte de séjour, you can go ahead and apply

Next steps

Once you have made the initial application, you will then be contacted later and, depending on your circumstances, asked for extra documents, and then to send in your old driving licence.

Some people, including those whose licences have expired, will be asked for a Certificate of Entitlement showing they are entitled to drive. This is obtained via the DVLA in Swansea and the certificate must be from the past three months when you submit it.

You will then be asked to send in your old driving licence to be exchanged and will receive in exchange an Attestation de Depot de Permis de Conduire (certificate of deposit of driving licence) and you can use this of proof of your right to drive while you are waiting for your new licence to arrive. People whose licences have expired can begin driving again once they receive this certificate.

Pending applications

If you already applied under the old system and your application is still pending, the advice is just to wait.

If you fit the new criteria, your licence will be exchanged and you should be contacted to ask for extra documents or to send in your old licence. Once you have sent in your old licence you will receive an attestation that allows you to drive until your new licence arrives.

If you don’t fit the new criteria your application will be rejected and you can carry on driving on your UK licence.

Expired licences

People whose licences have expired while they are waiting can swap them for French ones without having to take a driving test.

If you have already applied and your licence expired while you were waiting then the advice is as above for pending applications.

If your licence expired and you were not able to apply before, you can apply now using the process as outlined above.

Once your application is processed you will be asked to send in your old licence and given an attestation – it is only when you receive the attestation that you can legally drive again.

How long will the process take? 

Good question! Many people have been caught up in the systems backlog and have waited many months for their applications to be dealt with.

The new criteria should significantly cut the waiting list by allowing more people to continue driving on their old licences, but authorities will need some time to clear the backlog. In short, we simply don’t know how long applications are expected to take.

For more details, head to Applying for a French Driving Licence.

Member comments

  1. I’m now a resident of France and have had a driver’s license for over 45 years in six different countries, but not France. I currently have a New York State driver’s license, which I’ve been told doesn’t have “reciprocity” with France. My (French) insurance company tells me that I need to start all over again, ie sit in a classroom with a bunch of 18-year olds, take a written test, and then a driver’s test. This can’t possibly be the case, can it?

  2. Your article is not correct. You now MUST supply images of Cartes de Sejour to exchange a UK licence. This is creating a problem for married women, as both maiden and married names must be on the CdS, and many do not show the maiden name. This causes a long delay in the licence exchange process, as Départements no longer handle amendments to CdS, instead it is now handled centrally, but the system is not yet working fully. My wife is thus stuck hitting her head on two brick walls and getting nowhere with either, and her licence has now expired.

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For members

LIVING IN FRANCE

Reader question: Can I buy or sell a car in France if I have a foreign driving licence?

You can drive in France for a certain amount of time with some foreign driving licences. But can you buy or sell a car with one and what other documents do you need?

Reader question: Can I buy or sell a car in France if I have a foreign driving licence?

Let’s start with the good news: a driving licence is not among the list of official documents needed to buy or sell a car in France – just to drive one.

But it’s likely that are asked to provide one when you buy a car.

In that case does what happens if you have a foreign rather than French licence?

We know by reading certain Facebook posts that this question often arises and some people have reported that they were wrongly asked for their French driving licence when buying a car and told that a UK licence, for example, wasn’t acceptable. 

Not having a French driver’s licence should not stop you from being able to buy a car in France.

Kim Cranstoun who runs the Facebook group ‘Applying for a French Driving Licence’ told The Local: “It’s a dealer issue, they have it fixed in their mind that you have to have a French licence mainly because they don’t understand the new agreement and the last thing they read was a UK licence was only valid until the end of 2021.

“As long as you have a valid UK licence you can purchase a car in France. Anyone going into a dealer with a valid UK licence should carry a copy of the agreement,” she said.

Interestingly a driving licence is not on the list of official documents you need to buy a car (see below) but dealer’s will often ask for it if they take charge of registering the car.

What does the seller need?

The seller is responsible for providing the car registration document, called the certificat d’immatriculation and known informally as the Carte Grise.

You must sign a certificat de cession (transfer certificate) along with the buyer, and then declare the sale on the ANTS website within 15 days. 

You should then receive a code de cession (transfer code) which you must also send to the buyer so they can register the vehicle in their name.

If the vehicle is second-hand and more than four-years old, the seller should also provide a recent roadworthiness certificate, proving that the vehicle has passed a contrôle technique (similar to an MoT in the UK), in the past six months.

What does the buyer need?

When you buy a car, you must sign a certificat de cession (transfer certificate) along with the previous owner, who has to declare the sale on the ANTS website within 15 days. 

The seller should then receive a code de cession (transfer code) which they must send you because you will need this to register the vehicle in your name. There is a fee, which usually falls to the buyer to pay for transferring a vehicle registration – which varies depending on the region, type of car, and its CO2 emissions. 

The previous certificat d’immatriculation (registration certificate – aka carte grise) needs to be struck through, and completed with the date of the sale and the seller’s signature.

You will then need to register the car in your name, which can be done online. You have one month to do this, otherwise you risk a fine of up to €750. 

If you are purchasing the car through a dealer, this transfer of registration will be done at the time of the purchase. Be aware, a dealer may ask for your driving licence as part of the process, but – as long as you hold a valid licence, whether it is French or not, you will still be able to go through with your purchase.

In fact, you can ask any certified garage to apply for the carte grise on your behalf, which could save on time and hassle, even if you didn’t buy the car from them.

When applying for a carte grise you will need to submit proof that the vehicle has undergone a contrôle technique (vehicle safety check) within the previous six months if the car is at least four years old.

To register the vehicle, you need the following official documents:

  • Identification (passport or identity card)

  • Proof of residence (typically a utility bill or rental receipt, less than six months old).

  • A copy of the Certificat d’immatriculation/Carte Grise with the appropriate section filled in.

  • The contrôle technique (CT) certificate, if required.

Buying a car with a loan

If you have the funds to buy the vehicle outright, you’ll have no problems – simply hand over the cheque at the appropriate time. It may be harder, however, to access financing for your vehicle if you’re not permanently resident in France.

Driving your new vehicle

If you plan to drive your car away that day, you will also be asked for a copy of a valid insurance certificate for the vehicle – in France, the vehicle is insured rather than the driver. 

Most car insurance companies will provide a provisional certificate to allow you to drive your new purchase. You will then need to finalise details and provide them with a copy of the Carte Grise when it arrives.

Driving licence

If you live permanently in France, sooner or later you may need to swap your driving licence for a French one – but where you learned to drive in the first place could dictate whether you have to take a French driving test. We cover that in depth here – including what’s changed for Britons in France after Brexit.

You can buy some vehicles – known as voitures sans permis – and drive them on some French roads without having a driving licence. Anyone born after 1988 must, however, hold a Brevet de sécurité routière, which has a 15-year limit, and the vehicles are speed limited and can only travel on certain routes.

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