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

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

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

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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?

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