Do I need to exchange my licence?
Legally you don’t need to exchange your European driving licence for a French one unless you commit an infraction and they want to be able to put points on (or deduct them in the French case), or you are no longer contactable at the address to which it is registered in the UK at which point you will need to change it because of DVLA rules which don’t allow foreign addresses.
However once Brexit comes into effect you will no longer have a European driving licence and as such will only be able to drive for a year on your current one before being obliged to swap it for a French licence. Here’s how you do it. If you wish to see the explanation in French from which it is taken, it is on the Service Public site.
Postal Service Only
The application can no longer be done at the mairie, prefecture or police municipale, but only by post to a centralised office in Nantes.
You need to fill in, date and sign both the form cerfa 14879*01 ‘demande d’échange de permis de conduire étranger’ and cerfa 14948*01 ref 06 ‘Demande de permis de conduire – format de l’Union européenne’, print them off in colour and then send them with the following:
- 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)
- photocopy of both sides of a document proving residence in France for at least 6 months (eg lease, employment contract, tax notification…)
- 3 photos, 2 of which need to be stuck on to the 2 forms
- For residents of Corsica and other DOM-TOM a cheque made out to the ‘régisseur des recettes’ for the regional tax due.
- A printed-postage lettre suivie envelope for 50g made out to yourself. (You can buy this at the post office)
This all has to be sent off to the Centre d’expertise et de ressources de titres (CERT) – Échanges de permis de conduire étrangers:
44035 NANTES CEDEX 01
NB if you live in Paris there is a different address:
Préfecture de Police de Paris
DPG / SDCLP
Centre de ressources des échanges de permis de conduire étrangers et des permis internationaux de conduite (Crepic)
1 bis rue de Lutèce
75 195 Paris Cedex 04
Once they get round to working on your file, you will be contacted to send them your actual driving licence rather than the copy you’ve supplied. You will be given a receipt for your foreign licence.
This varies ‘depending on the number of requests and the complexity of the case’ to quote the government site. In January 2019 it seems to be taking near to a year as the Nantes office is receiving around 20,000 applications a month, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear anything for a number of months, they don’t send confirmation of receipt.
The French 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 the UK.
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: https://permisdeconduire.ants.gouv.fr/Services-associes/Effectuer-une-demande-de-permis-de-conduire-en-ligne.