UPDATE: France still not accepting new applications from Brits to swap driving licences

No new applications are being accepted from British residents in France to swap driving licences, and a month after applications were suspended there was no sign of an agreement being reached by British and French officials.

UPDATE: France still not accepting new applications from Brits to swap driving licences
Photo: AFP

For British people who are resident in France and have a UK driving licence the last four years have been a confusing time with contradictory advice issued on whether they should exchange their licence immediately for a French one or wait until the end of the Brexit transition period.

The confusion seemed to have been finally cleared up in November 2020 with the announcement that all British residents in France would have to exchange their licences, but they would have until December 31st 2021 to make their application.

The online system to do this was to be made available to British residents from January 1st, 2021.

However since the beginning of January, the online portal has been saying that UK licences cannot, after all, be exchanged because there is no reciprocal arrangement in place between France and the UK.

This suspension does not apply to people who hold a Northern Ireland licence.

No new applications to exchange UK licences are being accepted – even from people whose licence is about to expire.

It is understood that talks are underway between French and British authorities and in the meantime people are advised to wait to make their applications – UK licences remain legal to drive on in France.

This change only affects UK licence-holders who live in France – an agreement has been reached that allows British tourists to drive in France without needing an International Drivers Permit.

Kim Cranstoun, who runs the Facebook group Applying for a French Driving Licence, said: “A UK licence remains legal to drive with in France without an IDP.

“The officials have been bombarded with questions and are on it, so for now DO NOT try and start an application. Please try not to worry and sit tight.”

The French government's Brexit website advises British residents: “If you have not exchanged your British driving licence before the end of the transition period, it will be recognised in France for one year.

“You will have to apply for an exchange within this period if a reciprocal agreement is concluded between France and the United Kingdom.”

It appears that it is the lack of a reciprocal agreement that is causing the current suspension.

This is just the latest twist in the long and complicated saga of UK driving licences.

In the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum, the British government told all British people living in France that they would need to exchange their driving licence for a French one.

Thousands of people did so, completely overwhelming officials in the small department at Nantes préfecture which processes all requests for foreign licence exchanges. It resulted in a massive backlog of applications.

In 2019, French authorities issued a new directive – only people who fell into certain categories (such as those whose licence was lost or about to expire) needed to exchange their licence, everyone else could carry on driving on their UK one.

They then began work on clearing the backlog and also created a new online process to make applications easier.

This means that anyone who moved to France after 2019 has never been allowed to make an application to exchange their licence.

British and French authorities have been contacted for comment.

Member comments

  1. Actually the French Government site to process the exchange of British Driving Licence for a French one was opened officially on the 1st December 2021 and not the date you indicated.
    I, who came within a certain category, duly applied that day and received an automatic email acknowledgment with reference number and message on my portable also confirming same and requesting I submit new ID photo on prescribed form. This I did with the required supporting documents – photocopy UK Driving Licence, Avid d’Impot, EDF facture and Carte de Sejour.
    Since then I have heard nothing until reading your article this afternoon. Fortunately I have good time left on my UK Licence and, like others, will see what happens. However, its unsettling when combined with the UK passport stamping business.

  2. I applied for my exchange in August 2020 as it was due to expire at the end of September. (The UK “government” has extended all licenses which were due to expire by the end of 2020 for 11 months.)

    I had heard nothing at all since then until coincidentally, yesterday, when I received an email stating the following:

    “Bonjour Monsieur Oldham,

    Votre demande en ligne de d’échange de votre permis de conduire n°34320200824195744783200, est toujours en cours d’instruction.

    Vous serez informé si des pièces complémentaires étaient nécessaires et de la décision prise à la fin de l’instruction.


    Le service instructeur

    Ministère de l’intérieur

    I will wait and see.

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‘Aggressive drivers’: Why cycling in rural France is becoming more dangerous

A new report by the French road safety observatory found that cycling-related deaths have been increasing in France in the last three years, particularly in rural parts of the country.

'Aggressive drivers': Why cycling in rural France is becoming more dangerous

Cycling has become more dangerous in France – particularly in rural parts of the country – according to a recent report on road safety.

Published on January 31st, 2023, the report, by the National Inter-ministerial Observatory of Road Safety (ONISR), compared road accidents and deaths in 2022 to those in the three previous years. It found that there has been 30 percent increase in cycling-related deaths since 2019 (the most recent pre-pandemic year) in France. 

In 2022 alone, 244 cyclists were killed – a rise of 57 deaths in the past three years. 

Deaths concentrated in rural areas

It is the French countryside that has been most impacted, and based on the report’s findings, it may be safer to bicycle in urban areas than in rural ones. In 2022, only one person was killed on a bicycle in Paris.

Rural parts of France saw a 47 percent increase in bicycle-related fatalities when comparing deaths in 2022 and 2019. Of those killed in these incidents, many were over the age of 55 (38 percent). Serious injuries on country roads also increased by 22 percent for cyclists.

The ONISR had already pointed to the trend of danger for cyclists on rural roads in 2021. The Observatory found that mortality for cyclists was increasing at a rate of seven percent for urban areas, in contrast to 37 percent in rural areas.

In general, road fatalities have increased in rural parts of France – of all people killed on French roads, whether they be cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, or scooter-users – 59 percent died on non-urban roads. 

The President of the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB), Teodoro Bartuccio, told that there must be urgent action in response to the increased number of deaths and injuries involving cyclists on French roads in 2022.

Bartuccio told the French magazine that the organisation is “seeing more and more aggression from motorists, especially in the countryside where motorists seem to be the most intolerant of cyclists”. The FUB has therefore called for a road safety forum to develop plans to ensure the safety of non-motorised forms of transportation, like bicycles.

Why rural areas?

The report does not offer concrete explanations for why cycling has become more dangerous, namely in rural areas. One explanation that some have signalled to has been the fact that biking has become more common in France.

Florence Guillaume, the inter-ministerial delegate for road safety in France told Le Monde that the ‘concerning’ increase in deaths of cyclists “unfortunately goes hand in hand with the growth of environmentally friendly modes of transport”.

The report also noted that cycling in urban areas increased by 34 percent, and by 17 percent in suburban areas, in the last three years.

Rural parts of France have also seen an increase in cycling – up by 18 percent since 2019.

However, other countries have observed the opposite – as cycling increases, bicycle-related mortality decreases. In fact, the author of “The Power of the Pedal”, Olivier Razemon, told Le Monde that the presence of cyclists actually helps to slow down traffic.

“The more numerous they are, the more they lead motorists and motorcyclists to reduce speeds”, Razemon said, explaining that more bikes on the road push motorists to have to take into account the presence of bicycles and slow down.

This trend was seen in the Netherlands, where more people cycle than in France, but the number of accidents per kilometer travelled is lower than in France, according to Le Monde. 

As a result, others, like Thibault Quéré, a spokesperson for the French Federation of Bicycle Users, told Le Monde that high speed limits for cars may be to blame.

Quéré told the French daily that cars run at speeds two to three times higher than bicycles, and that the départements which saw the highest increases in road deaths for cyclists in 2022 were also those who had raised their speed limits to 90 km/ hour. 

“It is a completely lethal speed for cyclists”, Quéré told Le Monde, referencing the 90 km/hour rule. In comparison, speed limits in the French capital are typically kept below 30 km/ hour. 

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: How much will the new 30km/h speed limit really change Paris?

The FUB spokesperson also pointed to risky behaviour on the behalf of motorists – such as driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs or speeding. 

Meanwhile, some, like Mathieu Chassignet, an engineer specialised in sustainable modes of transportation, have noted the lack of bicycle infrastructure on regional and national roads.

“This is the blind spot in public policy,” Chassignet told Le Monde.

Nevertheless, the report itself did not offer any causal explanations for the rise in cycling deaths and injuries. In the Spring of 2023, the ONISR will reportedly release more details regarding the 2022 road safety report and the data used in producing it.