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DRIVING LICENCES

Reader question: Can expired UK driving licences be swapped for French ones?

Good news! A post-Brexit deal was finally agreed in June 2021 that permits Britons living permanently in France to swap their driving licences for a French one.

Reader question: Can expired UK driving licences be swapped for French ones?
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.

We say finally because the impasse over this issue dragged on so long that many people’s UK licences expired while they were waiting – leaving people stranded in rural areas with no transport.

But there is at last some good news for them – people whose licences expired while they waited can now swap them for French ones without having to take the (complicated and expensive) French driving test.

You can read full details of the new deal and who it applies to HERE.

If you had already applied under the old system – if you had previously applied and have an application number, the advice is simply to wait.

No application from UK licence holders were being processed until the deal was agreed. Processing has now begun again, but there is a big baklog to get through.

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 expired 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 have not applied – if your licence expired while the system was not accepting applications from UK licence holders, you can now apply. 

Yu do this via an online portal, which you can find 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.

UK nationals do not need to supply a post-Brexit carte de séjour with their application – so if your licence has expired but you have not yet received your carte de séjour, you can go ahead and apply and there is no need to provide translations of the documents you supply, unless asked.

For more information on exchanging your UK driving licence for a French, one click here

Member comments

  1. Although the advice is that those who submitted their applications prior to Brexit to sit back & wait I have a different result. I submitted mine in December 2020 and received an online acknowledgment. My application was simply rejected by SMS message two days ago. My licence expires on 24 January 2022 so that maybe the reason for rejection ? My ANTS site , however, indicates my application is still pending ! Confused de Nerac !
    On another point relating to UK Driving licences it used to be the law that on arriving at 70 years of age one was required to swap your licence for a French one. According to a lady at ANTS this regulation appears to have been quietly dropped .

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SECOND HOMES

CALCULATOR: How to work out your 90-day allowance in France

If you're visiting France and you're not a citizen of an EU country, your visits may be limited by the '90 day rule' - here's how it works, who is affected and how to calculate your trips so that you don't overstay your allowance.

CALCULATOR: How to work out your 90-day allowance in France

Who?

If you have the passport of an EU country – including dual nationality – you are not covered by the 90-day rule and are free to come and go from France as you please.

Non-EU citizens fall into two categories – those covered by the 90-day allowance and those who are not.

Citizens of certain countries, including India, need a visa for any visit to France, even just a long weekend, but other countries allow up to 90 days of travel without the need for a visa.

Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders are all covered by the 90-day allowance – find the full list here

Blue marks the EU/Schengen zone, green is countries covered by the 90-day rule and citizens of red countries require a visa even for a short trip. Map: European Commission

What?

The 90-day rule states that you can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing to get a visa or residency card.

The allowance is for the whole Schengen zone, so if you’re travelling to multiple European countries your tally is for all the days you have spent within the Bloc.

For example, if you spent 85 days in France and then travelled to Spain for a fortnight, that would take you over your 90-day allowance because both France and Spain are Schengen zone countries. 

The allowance means that in total over the course of a year you can spend 180 days in the EU/Schengen zone without needing a visa – but the crucial point is that your 180 days cannot be all in a single block.

This means that, for example, you can’t spend the summer in France and the winter in the UK, or vice versa.

How?

So – the crucial bit – how do you go about calculating your allowance?

The people most likely to be affected by this are second-home owners and freelance workers or contractors who make multiple short work trips to the EU.

If you travel for work, it’s important to note that your 90-day allowance covers all trips for all reasons – so you need to add in any European holidays as well as work trips to your total. 

It’s when you’re making a series of short trips that things can get complicated, because the 90-day rule is calculated on a rolling calendar, so that at any point of the year you need to be able to count backwards by 180 days, and have only spent 90 of those days in the Schengen zone.

You also need to be aware that any time spent in the Schengen zone counts as one day – so even one-hour stopovers take one day off your allowance. 

The easiest way to keep on top of this is to keep a diary (paper or electronic) with your travel days marked in it, and then use the online Schengen calculator to check that you’re within your allowances.

Short stays and stopovers can add up more quickly than you might think.

The online Schengen calculator can be found HERE – simply input your travel dates and it will tell you how many days you have left. 

What if you have a visa?

People who want to spend more than 90 days at a time in France have two options – get a visa or move here full-time and get a residency card.

Visa – for second-home owners the 6-month visitor visa is a popular option. This allows you to keep your main residence in your home country, but spend plenty of time at your place in France. 

For the dates when your visa is valid, your trips to France do not count towards your 90 day allowance – but trips to any other EU/Schengen zone country still count towards that 90-day allowance. Once your visa runs out, the 90-day clock starts again, unless your get a new visa – more details here.

Residency – if you take up permanent residency in France any time spent in France obviously does not count towards your 90 days. However, it’s worth pointing out that you are still bound by the 90-day rule when travelling to other EU/Schengen zone countries – full details here.

Overstaying

Many readers, especially Brits who were previously in the happy position of not having to worry about calculating 90 days, have asked us whether they really need to go through all this hassle.

The unfortunate answer is yes – passports are checked regularly as you enter and leave the Schengen zone, and upcoming technical changes mean this will only get stricter.

People who spend more than 90 days at a time in the Schegen zone without having a visa are classed as overstayers, and passports are likely to be stamped or flagged.

Overstaying is usually punished by a fine, but having that ‘overstay’ on your passport also means that future travel is likely to be a lot more difficult, and you may also have trouble with any future visa applications.

People who travel for work should note that keeping track of your 90 days is your personal responsibility, not your employers’. It seems that many UK employers are still pretty clueless about post-Brexit changes, so don’t rely on your company’s HR department to calculate your allowance.

At present passport checking and stamping at the border is varied and variable, but changes to EU travel coming in later this year will mean that the process becomes more automated, and overstayers will have nowhere to hide. 

READ ALSO Passport scans and €7 fee: What changes for EU travel in 2022

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