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Reader question: Will British second-home owners in France need to get a French driving licence?

The subject of driving licences for British residents in France is a source of ongoing misery, but what is the situation for second home owners?

Reader question: Will British second-home owners in France need to get a French driving licence?
Photo: AFP

Question: I’ve read that Brits in France need to swap their licences for French ones, does that apply to me? I live in the UK but have a home in France and usually spend several months a year there. The house is in a tiny village so having a car while we’re there is vital.

One of the many changes that Brexit has ushered in is around driving licences, but not everyone is affected.

Anyone who has their permanent home in France and drives on a UK or NI licence needs to swap it for a French one – although the swapping process is still not open due to the lack of a reciprocal agreement between France and the UK. Licences continue to be recognised until December 31st 2021.

For people who are just visiting France, however, there is no need to swap. Tourists can continue to drive on UK licences and British and French authorities have agreed that there is no need for International Drivers’ Permits. This also applies to anyone who has a French licence and is visiting the UK.

So what’s the situation for second home owners?

Well most of them in this case are classified as tourists.

Brexit has ushered in some changes for second home owners, with people now being limited as to how long they can spend in their French properties without acquiring extra paperwork.

You can read the full range of options for second home owners HERE but essentially they boil down to three choices; spend less than 90 days out of every 180 in France, get a visitor visa or become a full-time resident in France.

Those coming for shorter stays or staying on a visitor visa count as tourists in this instance and do not need to swap driving licences.

Only those who decide to change their full-time residence to France – which requires a visa – are covered by the driving licence change. 

If you have a question about any aspect of life in France, feel free to get in touch as [email protected]

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.