French – UK driving licence agreement in place for current & new Residents
Among the hundreds of unanticipated repercussions of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, some of those affecting British residents in EU countries have been amongst the most severe in their potential to disrupt lives. The requirement to apply for permanent residence and the possibility of losing existing rights have haunted the UK’s expatriate community for years and negotiations to find solutions are ongoing.
There is an urgent challenge that will be all too familiar to UK citizens who are currently residents in France or own holiday homes there and it concerns driving licences. It’s an issue that should also be considered by anyone thinking of relocating abroad to France.
When the UK left the EU, the French authorities introduced a requirement under which UK driving licences would cease to be valid for British citizens living in France. Instead, the law stipulates that they must be replaced by a French licence by the end of 2021.
Sounds straightforward enough, even if it does involve tiresome admin and extra costs. However, the application process was halted when it became clear that no reciprocal arrangement had been agreed between the French and UK governments. Thousands of Britons found themselves in limbo, fearing all kinds of inconvenience and disruption, whether they were permanent residents, frequent visitors to holiday properties or simply contemplating a relaxing holiday in a mobile home. Those whose licences expired in 2021 have been in a particularly uncomfortable position because they have been unable to drive.
The New Rules
The clarity and simplicity of the new arrangement will be very widely welcomed. Every British/EU driving licence issued before 1st January 2021, the end of the transition period, will remain valid in France until its expiry date. Only when the time comes for renewal will drivers need to apply for a French one. This eliminates the effort and cost involved in early replacement.
Any licences issued in the UK after 1st January 2021 with remain valid for one year after your arrival to take up residence in France, after which time a French licence must be obtained.
Applying for a French Licence
This will be a relatively simple online process with the kind of documentary requirements you would expect: passport, proof of address, photo, proof of residence, birth certificate and either your current licence or a certificate of entitlement from the DVLA if your licence has expired.
The news of this agreement between France and the UK will come as a huge relief. There has been a substantial UK expat community in France for decades and leaving the EU has raised all kinds of obstacles for those simply wishing to enjoy the quality of life offered by the UK’s nearest neighbour. The popular image of expats is retirees living in splendid villas and farmhouses, but there are also many Britons who appreciate the pros of caravan ownership as an inexpensive way of enjoying the French way of life. Other issues surrounding residence and working rights may not yet be fully resolved, but at least the major headache for motorists has been addressed.
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