Do I need to exchange my UK driving licence in France?

Legally, a European driving licence does not need to be exchanged for a French one unless you:

  • commit an infraction and incur points
  • need to renew a licence due to loss, theft or expiry
  • wish to add driving categories

These rules are outlined in French on the Service Public site.

New process for exchanging a UK driving licence for a French one

For British drivers who arrive before the end of the transition period, these are the regulations that apply.  The French system was overwhelmed by Brits trying to swap their licences before Brexit, and they do not want a repeat of these problems, so if you apply for an exchange for anything other than the above reasons, you will be refused.

Bear in mind however that in theory, DVLA rules in the UK don’t allow licences to be registered to foreign addresses .  However if you are resident in France and don’t have an official address in the UK, and can’t swap your licence as the above criteria don’t apply you can/should contact the DVLA and let them know that you have left the country.

As of 3rd March 2020 a new online process has been launched to deal with European licence exchanges (including UK licences during the transition period). This means that exchanges can no longer be done at the Mairie, Préfecture or police municipale, or by post to the centralised office in Nantes, as previously. Do not send any documents to the CERT (Centre d’Expertise et de Ressources des Titres) at Nantes.

The new website is https://permisdeconduire.ants.gouv.fr/ and this is the specific link for exchanging a European driving licence.

If you already have a FranceConnect account enabling you to access several public service sites with the same details you can use that, otherwise you will need to create an account on the ANTS site.

The best resource for up-to-date information on applying for a French driving licence is the Facebook group of the same name. You will find a list of all the documents required on the group page.

Exchanging a UK driving licence for a French one post-Brexit

The French have decided that British licence holders resident before Brexit and ordinarily resident in France (i.e. spend more than 185 days per year here) will be able to continue driving on their UK licence until the photocard or licence expires.

It is not yet clear what the post-Brexit situation will be for UK drivers not resident before the end of 2020, when the transition period ends, and whether UK licences will be treated as non-EU licences. If that is the case British drivers who move to France will only be able to drive for a year on their UK licence before being obliged to swap it for a French licence. It is important to bear this in mind because if the exchange is not done within the year then a French driving test is required.

Exchanging a non EU-driving licence for a French one

Non-European licence holders have to follow  a different process to exchange their licence. This is simpler if the licence has been issued in a country which has a reciprocal agreement with France. You will find a list of those countries here.

The process is outlined (in French) here and click on the links for downloads to the CERFA forms required 14879*01 and 14948*01. It appears that you need to submit both the EU and the non-EU forms, printed in colour along with a dossier of the following documents:

  • colour photocopy of both sides of your driving licence
  • photocopy of your proof of identity (passport)
  • photocopy of proof of residence (utilities bill or similar dated less than three months)
  • photocopy of both sides of a document proving residence in France for at least 6 months (eg lease, employment contract, tax notification…)
  • If you are not a national of the country which issued your non-EU licence you will need proof that you were resident in the issuing country at the time of issue
  • Original document, dated less than three months, from the issuing body of your foreign licence declaring that you have the right to drive
  • Proof of the date of your arrival in France (flight tickets, registration with social security etc)
  • Translation of your driving licence (if it is not in French) by a sworn translator or an apostilled translation from abroad
  • Four passport-sized photos, two of which need to be stuck on to the CERFA forms
  • A printed-postage lettre suivie envelope for 50g made out to yourself.  (You can buy this at the post office)

Completed dossiers should be submitted to your local Préfecture or sous-Préfecture. In Perpignan there is an appointments system. To make an appointment you need to go to the Préfecture’s information page regarding non-EU driving licence swaps, scroll down and click on the link to Prendre un rendez-vous en ligne.

Disclaimer: while we make every effort to keep information on our site correct and up-to-date you are advised to double check current requirements on the government website before making an appointment to submit your dossier.

The French Driving LicenceFrench Driving Licence

The new licence will be sent to your home address.  It will be a full licence unless you had passed your test within the 3 years prior to the exchange in which case it will be a probational one.

The start date shown is the date of your French licence, so you are best to keep a photocopy of the old one to prove when you first started to drive for insurance purposes.

The French licence is valid for 15 years, unless you are allowed to drive HGVs in which case it will be valid for 5 years.  However all that is required at present is to update it with a new photo, as there is no age limit for driving in France and no requirement to attend a medical after a certain age, unlike in the UK.

Medium-Sized Vehicles/Minibuses

The French licence differs from the UK one in that in the UK you are automatically given the right to drive categories C1, D1, DE, C1E and D1E when you pass your test.  You can find an explanation of the categories on the UK government site.  In France the Cs and Ds are dependent on passing an additional test and a medical.

If, when you apply for your French licence,  you fill in all of the categories that appear on your UK licence, you are likely to get a letter asking you to supply a medical certificate to allow you to keep your entitlement to drive “poids lourds”, this is referring to the medium-sized vehicles and minibus categories on your UK licence.  If you are not bothered about driving a small lorry or a minibus then you just need to confirm that you are happy to lose the entitlement.

If you do decide to take the medical, then you will have to provide a medical certificate every 5 years till the age of 59 and then every 2 years from the age of 60 to 75 and every year from the age of 76 for HGV (category C), and every year from the age of 60 if you are driving a vehicle for more than 8 people (category D). Go on to the ANTS site to ask for the licence to be renewed before it expires.

Comments


    1. The French licence differs from the UK one in that in the UK you are automatically given the right to drive categories C1, D1, DE, C1E and D1E when you pass your test. You can find an explanation of the categories on the UK government site. In France the Cs and Ds are dependent on passing an additional test and a medical.

  1. Reading this article it doesn’t sound like you need to translate either the photo card or the paper version of the licence. Is that correct?

    I’m just gathering all my documents together to go through this process, so would really appreciate confirmation on this from one of the admins or another member of the group who has already gone through this process.

    Merci beaucoup !

  2. @glynd and @rafemckenna – it’s apparently normal not to have heard anything. A friend rang after a few months and managed to get hold of somebody who confirmed that they had his application in the system but said that they had huge delays and that they would be in touch.

  3. We sent out application to Nantes in January 2018 and have not heard a thing. We have spoken to numerous people and they seem to have the same problem.

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