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

UPDATE – 01/02/2021 – The ANTS site is currently refusing applications to exchange UK licences under the EU system.  No new applications will be accepted until a reciprocal agreement has been signed off.  The French government has recently issued guidance that UK licences are recognised as legal to drive for anyone that arrived in the country before the 31st December 2020 deadline.  This is the link to the text stating this in French on the “applying for a French driving licence” facebook group.  It is advisable to print it off and keep it and proof of the fact that you arrived in or before 2020 in the car. 

Don’t worry if you applied before the cut off date in early January when they stopped accepting UK licence applications.  Your case is still being dealt with.

For the time being, you can drive on a photocard that has expired as long as the licence itself is still in date.  

The guidance that various people are receiving that they need to take a driving test now, is incorrect.  It is the official response for non-EU applications, not tailored to the British withdrawal agreement.  We will update the page as new information is received, but the best place to check for the latest news is the Facebook group, as Kim Cranstoun is in direct contact with the officials concerned.



At the beginning of December 2020, the French government issued new guidance. UK citizens who are resident in France now need to change their licence before the 31st December 2021, if they are resident under the Withdrawal Agreement, or within the first 12 months of arriving, if they arrive after 1st January 2021.

If you are applying before 31st December 2020 you will need to prove that you have been resident for at least 185 days or your application will be rejected.

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 they are asking that we do not all apply at once in order not to break the system again.

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.

Non-UK European Licences

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.

Process for exchanging an EU & UK driving licence for a French one

As of 3rd March 2020 a new online process has been launched to deal with European licence exchanges (including UK licences for those under the Withdrawal Agreement). 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.  At the time of writing they were:

  • colour photocopy of both sides of your driving licence
  • proof of identity (passport)
  • proof of address (utilities bill or similar dated less than 6 months)
  • proof of the right to reside in France if British (titre de séjour, visa stamp in your passport), or proof of date of arrival in France (ferry/train/plane ticket or first avis d’impots), or attestation from your Mairie (if they will issue one).
  • photograph taken in a government approved photo booth which can be identified by the blue circle with Agréé Services en Ligne ANTS inside it.  You can find the location of one near you by inputting your post code on the ANTS site.  Your photos will have a 22 digit alphanumeric code to be included in your application.  There is also an app Smartphone ID that can be downloaded to take photos on your phone, although it wouldn’t take images using the front camera when I tried.  If you can’t get to an official booth, you can post a physical photo.
  • if you are not a national of the country which issued your licence you will need proof that you were resident in the issuing country at the time of issue (visa, registration at consul, work contract, pay slips etc…)
  • if you are not a national of the country which issued your licence you will need a document, dated less than three months, from the issuing body of your foreign licence declaring that you have the right to drive and the translation if not in French by a sworn translator as above.
  • if you have a “heavy vehicle” licence, a medical certificate saying you are fit to drive heavy vehicles or a renunciation of the right to drive these categories of vehicle.  See below for an explanation as categories that are included on the standard licence in the UK are covered by this.



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

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 has now also been moved on line with the link appearing on the aforementioned page.  You need to submit the following documents:

  • colour photocopy of both sides of your driving licence
  • Translation of your driving licence (if it is not in French) by a sworn translator or an apostilled translation from abroad
  • proof of identity (passport)
  • proof of address (utilities bill or similar dated less than 6 months)
  • proof of the right to reside in France (titre de séjour, visa stamp in your passport)
  • photograph taken in a government approved photo booth which can be identified by the blue circle with Agréé Services en Ligne ANTS inside it.  You can find the location of one near you by inputting your post code on the ANTS site.  Your photos will have a 22 digit alphanumeric code to be included in your application.  There is also an app Smartphone ID that can be downloaded to take photos on your phone, although it wouldn’t take images using the front camera when I tried.  If you can’t get to an official booth, you can post a physical photo.
  • original document, dated less than three months, from the issuing body of your foreign licence declaring that you have the right to drive and the translation if not in French by a sworn translator as above.
  • 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 (visa, registration at consul, work contract, pay slips etc…)
  • if you have an heavy vehicle licence, a medical certificate saying you are fit to drive heavy vehicles or a renunciation of the right to drive these categories of vehicle (see below).

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.

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.

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Comments


  1. The latest information I have received is that you will need proof that you lived in the UK when your licence was issued. I have not found a way to do this.
    If you worked in the UK at the time a payslip may be accepted.
    I got my licence in 1980 do not have payslips from then.
    Good luck !!

  2. Hello, above you state that if a person was UK resident, with a UK licence, but not a UK national, they will need a a document, dated less than three months, from the issuing body of your foreign licence (in this case, DVLA) declaring that you have the right to drive. I have looked on the DVLA website and cannot find any contact details there within the DVLA to get this. Do you have any further details? Thank you

  3. As stated in the article, section ‘ Exchanging a non EU-driving licence for a French one‘ …..
    “Translation of your driving licence (if it is not in French) by a sworn translator or an apostilled translation from abroad “

  4. Hi , my english driving licence runs out in January next year , I am a tax payer in France have everything together for exchange, question is,, do I have to have an offical translation of my english licence and if so where do I get it from .

    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.

  5. 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 !

  6. @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.

  7. 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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