Brexit: Time running out for UK-Italy driving licence agreement

There's just over a week left until UK driving licences are no longer valid in Italy. As the deadline draws ever closer for Italy and the UK to make a post-Brexit agreement to allow Brits living in Italy to exchange their permits, the UK government says that talks are still continuing.

There's just over a week left for UK driving licences to be recognised in Italy.
There's just over a week left for UK driving licences to be recognised in Italy. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

With just days left in 2021, many readers have contacted The Local to ask whether Italy and the UK will agree a deal on recognising driving licences.

Since Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, British residents of Italy who hadn’t converted their UK licence to an Italian one were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to use their British licence in Italy.

It provided breathing space for residents in Italy with UK licences, as they had initially been warned they may need to take an Italian driving test immediately.

But now those 12 months are almost up, ending on December 31st 2021.

A growing number of readers have told The Local they are concerned about being able to drive in Italy from January and have asked for updates about an agreement being reached in time – and what it means if one isn’t.

A spokesperson for the British government told The Local on Wednesday that negotiations are still ongoing.

“We very much recognise the concern felt by many UK nationals regarding driving licences. Please rest assured our engagement with the Italian government on this continues at pace,” the spokesperson said.

Many hoped that Italy and the UK would have made a decision by now, which would allow drivers to continue using their British licence in 2022. As things stand, there is no time left start the process of sitting an Italian test, should UK licences not be recognised from January 1st 2022.

UK driving licence photocard. Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP

Although they confirmed no agreement is yet in place, the UK government spokesperson said that negotiations are continuing with the Italian government on the right to obtain an Italian licence without the need to re-sit a driving test.

The British Ambassador, Jill Morris, provided the latest update on a possible deal at a meeting in Naples last week, according to the UK government.

Both the Ambassador and the UK authorities confirmed they have requested an extension to the December 31st 2021 deadline, but there are still no further details on when this could come into effect or for how long it would last.

Q&A: What is the British government doing to help Brits in Italy overcome post-Brexit hurdles?

Wendy Morton MP told The Local in September that making a deal on driving licences before the end of this year was “our absolute priority”.

The current advice on the UK government’s Living in Italy guide continues to be that you can use your UK driving licence until December 31st 2021.

If no agreement is reached by the end of 2021

So where does that leave you if you hadn’t started the conversion of your licence by December 2020 and no agreement is reached on a reciprocal agreement by the end of next week?

It looks likely that you would need to retake both the theory and practical tests and, from January 1st 2022, you wouldn’t be allowed to drive on Italy’s roads until you do.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

The British ambassador Jill Morris stated on the British Chamber’s latest update, “Until an agreement is reached you will need to re-sit your driving test to obtain a local licence.”

“Both governments share the same objective of having the agreement in force as soon as possible in order to minimise disruption and limit the impact on daily life,” she added.

Residents in Italy will end up only having an Italian driving licence, as you can’t hold two licences at the same time – so you’ll surrender your UK one when you get your Italian patente.

The requirement only applies to UK licence holders who have their full-time residence in Italy. Tourists and second-home owners can continue to use their UK licence when they visit and do not need an International Driving Permit.

If Brits are eventually required to re-sit an driving test in Italy, there are other implications such as the type of car you’re allowed to drive as ‘new’ drivers or neopatentati.

According to the Highway Code, there are limits on the engine power of the car you may drive, as well as tighter speed restrictions in place for those recently certified in Italy.


Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Extra time for those who obtained Italian residency in 2021

Not all British citizens living in Italy are against the clock. Some have a little more leeway, depending on when they got residency in Italy.

“If you moved to Italy after January 1st 2021, you can use your valid UK licence for 12 months from the date you became resident,” state the official guidelines.

Therefore, those who moved to Italy in 2021 and officially became a legal resident this year have 12 months from the date of residency. In theory, that means some UK nationals will have until the end of 2022 before needing to get an Italian driving licence.

These were the rules before Brexit – the only difference now being that you may need to sit an Italian driving test after 12 months, whereas before Britain left the EU, you could exchange your permit without the need to take the Italian driving theory and practical exams from scratch.

Does Italy have reciprocal agreements with other countries?

Although the authorities have indicated a deal between Italy and the UK is planned, albeit potentially slower than scheduled, it isn’t necessarily a given.

While residents with licences from other EU countries – formerly including the UK – can swap their documents without retaking a test, Italy does not exchange licences from most non-EU countries, including the United States, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand and currently, the UK.

Italy does have reciprocal driving licence agreements with around 20 non-EU countries though, including Switzerland, Brazil, the Philippines and Turkey (full list here), which allow holders of these licences to swap their permits without taking an Italian test.

We will continue to post updates on this issue as soon as we get them. Find our latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

Member comments

  1. Again there is confusion in this article between “UK” licences and “British” licences. There is no “British” licence, per se, but licences issued by the Crown Dependencies could be generically described as British. Do the negotiations foresee recognition and reciprocal change of Jersey, Guernsey and IOM licences, as well as UK licences?

  2. “Both governments share the same objective of having the agreement in force as soon as possible in order to minimise disruption and limit the impact on daily life,”
    Have I missed something here? Someone’s telling porkies. What’s to stop me saying, if stopped, I’m a tourist, I’ve borrowed my friend’s car?

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How will Italy’s Amalfi Coast traffic limit for tourists work this summer?

The Amalfi Coast will reintroduce traffic calming measures for the summer in an effort to unclog the coastline's congested roads. Here's what visitors need to know.

How will Italy's Amalfi Coast traffic limit for tourists work this summer?

Dramatic, lush, and improbably picturesque, it’s one of Italy’s foremost attractions – but in recent years, the Amalfi Coast has become a victim of its own popularity, drawing so many crowds in the summer months that its tiny roads routinely become paralysed by traffic.

Now, authorities in the area are hoping that seasonal regulations – first introduced in 2020 – will once again help to ease the pressure on the coastline’s teeming thoroughfares.

As of June 15th, alternate driving license plate rules now apply on the 50km stretch of road between Positano and Vietri sul Mare, known as the SS 163.

Vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers will only be allowed through on odd number days, and those ending in even numbers on even number days.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

The rule currently only applies between 10am and 6pm on weekends, but will be in force every day throughout the month of August.

From the 1st to the 30th of September, the rules will once again apply only on weekends.

The narrow roads connecting the tiny towns along the Amalfi Coast quickly become congested in the summer months.
The narrow roads connecting the tiny towns along the Amalfi Coast quickly become congested in the summer months. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Taxis, buses and local residents are exempt, as are vehicles displaying the ‘H’ sign indicating a disabled person is on board (provided they are carrying the disabled person in question).

In addition to Positano and Vietri sul Mare, the rule affects travel between Praiano, Amalfi, Atrani, Ravello and Cetara, popular tourist towns which all fall on the SS 163 route.

The measures have proven popular with some residents, but not everyone is pleased with the restrictions.

In the absence of private transport, tourists staying in the area will either need to travel by taxi or public bus on days when their vehicle is not allowed on the roads.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

Antonio Ilardi, head of the hoteliers federation Federalberghi Salerno, has requested that the rules be adjusted to allow guests to return to their hotels and to permit staff who live outside the area to get to their jobs by private transport.

Alessandro Russo, Praiano’s chief of police, told the Positano News daily that the rule has helped with the traffic problem in previous years, but hasn’t eliminated it – and that for the restrictions to be truly effective, more resources are needed to allow police to conduct checks at the main entry points.

Without a dedicated taskforce, the outlet says, it will be very difficult for the authorities to enforce the traffic rules.

For more information on the Amalfi Coast’s summer traffic rules and schedule and how this may apply to you, contact your accommodation provider or the Comune di Positano‘s tourist office.