Any British citizens with a non UK or European/French driver's licence residing and driving in France?

A British citizen who lived and obtained her driver's licence in South Africa has since moved to France, she does not have a UK licence.

According the Haute-Garonne Préfecture they say British nationals are not restricted to the one year exchange limit to exchange a driver's licence in France because the exchange depends upon nationality and not the actual licence (which in this case is a South African one)

Does anyone have this experience?

Peter, well it was four years ago come next month. Nonetheless, it is none of their business anyway. When both girls had new Swiss passports earlier this year, off they went to Paris because it is an embassy thing now since countries are all beginning to do the photographs to print directly into the biometric passports, and no questions asked. They used the UK ones for ID which my OH simply showed without them actually being opened and that was that. I suspect the UK is becoming a little (or more) paranoid.

As you say, the type of thing that gets past four MPs soundly asleep whose hands flap up automatically at 0200. Stuffed, dressed and served with sauce as usual and people moan about France!


Gatwick may not know about dual nationality, but the UK Passport Office now requires (with sanctions for non-compliance) to know about it.

On my last passport renewal I was required to send a colour photocopy (at my expense) of all pages, including empty ones, of any other passport I held. (Originally, they wanted me to send the original, but I said that I needed that all the time for nipping into Geneva as my UK passport had to be sent off to them.) I was a bit inclined to ignore this nonsense as I think it's none of their business, but these people just tag this sort of thing onto a Statutory Instrument & it gets through Parliament at 2 in the morning. The private citizen is then, again, stuffed by the system.

And content to remain so.

That is a moot point. Our daughters are dual nationals. In the UK we were told that no such thing really exists at Gatwick, therefore when in the UK they are treated as UK citizens and in Switzerland would be treated the same. That came of one girl being with me on her Swiss passport and the question as to whether she really is my daughter (they could have asked her, 8 year olds, she was then, can speak...). I suppose my great age put that in doubt. So when I said her birth was registered in the UK if they wished to check they wanted to know why she was travelling on a Swiss passport. UK passport temporarily lost did not interest them. Bureaucratic ignorance all round no doubt.

Actually, as our gendarme acquaintance would tell you, they have no idea what the law says except what they think it says. I think he might put it this way: murder is obviously illegal so act, parking unpermitted in a blue zone is only illegal if the maire phones his boss to complain.

This is the problem in France, the gengarmes often do not know the law if it is European.
They only know French law and when it is superceded by EU law they dig in their heels and insist they are right.
They can make life very difficult.

Do you reallythink that will work with the money making machine that is the gendarmerie?

Vero, you cannot be the only person with dual nationality in France.
There must be a procedure written down somewhere.

Apparently so but as yet I have certainly never heard of anybody being done. At present, or at least as far as I know, it is a France-UK agreement, but has been discussed for expansion although it already existed between some countries.

As for SW London, my sister in SW19 said that one of the companies her agency clean is French. They made a complaint about a smoking ban in the enclosed courtyard of the office block and believe what happened was revenge. A police car turned up in the basement parking, went round video recording every number plate (not just French) but the outcome was 100% of them fined and required to register and properly ensure their cars within 28 days or risk them being impounded. When the director complained he was told that his car was included, therefore if he wished his complaint to be taken into account before the local bench he should be prepared to get a higher fine than the others. My sister's van was naturally legit, so she had a good laugh over that.

Very interesting, Brian.

Does this mean that speeding in the UK will get points on your French licence, as well as the fine coming through? I can see the point(!) of doing this, but don't fancy trying to fight the case where points are added to my licence because of some infringement by a car with the same reg. no. as mine in, say, Estonia.

As for the interchange of untested (+ probably stolen & terrorist) vehicle information, again I see the point, but it is all getting a bit Big Brother-ish. I was in London recently and saw a police car marked ANPR Alert Response Unit haring down a main road with sirens & all the trimmings! Hopefully, it will take France as long to introduce these as it did for the Permis à Points, so I'll be pushing up the daisies before they're intoduced.

As for unchallenged UK & Dutch cars on French roads, in South-west London particularly, there's no shortage of French-registered cars who aren't paying any UK road tax. A school my grand-daughter used to attend had as many French-registered cars in the parking as UK ones.

Peter, there is the new agreement since last year by which the people offending here now get the fine or whatever equivalent served on them via the DVLC that also works the other way round. Caught in the UK is done here too now. However, our gendarme friend says they are gradually getting a list of car registration numbers from several countries, the UK and Netherlands at the top of the list, where cars are on French roads that have been untested (MOT or whatever) but are untraceable in the UK thus when for instance a speed camera here captures a number it is referred back to France. What should gradually happen is that if those cars are ever stopped or found illegally parked and so on, that they will be immediately off the road and the owners (not necessarily who is driving it, but extra trouble if it has been sold on) in quite bad trouble. The biggest problem is in his opinion that because they do not know who has what therefore where they live, if at all they are even in the French system, then it is very difficult to catch them. Anyway, what he considered a joke on the matter was that he said that they would not be needing a French licence because they would not have one from anywhere for a very long time.


I think that an earlier post of yours explains this very well. There were points to be put on your licence and the French authorities do have the right to require you to exchange your licence under those circumstances.

Of course, an interesting game of ping-pong can be imagined if you subsequently get caught for something in the UK!

A year or so ago I received a phone call instructing me to go the the (I thought) Marie. I went and Monsieur ******** who made the call did not work from there. Confused and thinking of scams, I went home. An hour later, another call from the same man said why had I not attended. I explained and it was promptly made clear that I should have been at the Gendarmarie. Off I went to be told politely that I MUST exchange my UK license for a French one. I said that I don't permanently live here but it was explained that because I have a French address and a French registered car, it is necessary to have a French permit. My wife was OK on UK licenses but not me. The reason given was that, in the event of a motoring infringement, pooints could not be added (or deducted) from a UK license.

We have an English speaking Notaire whose son is a solicitor and they spent four days trying to clasrify the situation. In the end their reply was " if the Gendarmes say you must change, then you must" end of story.

I agree that the procedure was painless and fairly quick and one benefit is that it is much easier to hire cars in UK now, no phone calls to obtain codes from DVLA.

Cheers everyone for your advice and sharing your experiences. Will defo get stuff sorted out here before hand and drop Perigeux Prefecture an email :)

Glen the problem cum contentious issue is about place of residence.To renew a UK licence there you have to have a UK address but whilst there is no specific law forbidding you using Auntie Mary's place as your proxy, the DVLC is perfectly entitled to refuse to issue one if they find out that is the case or annul one if they find out they issued one to a proxy address. So, no law to break unless you get caught when some obscure regulation supersedes it. This also one where nobody can blame the EU, because in the arrangement in that case is that a standardised type of European licence be issued but conforming with nation regulations, for instance annual medicals for UK drivers over 69 may be demanded. Several other countries never had that type of rule and did not want it brought in whilst only the UK tried to push for it. Pleading ignorance as you say is probably about as close as anything to telling the absolute truth - since nobody really knows.

Hi Jo, just went through the same process at the start of this year. Exact same situation, UK/Aus dual nationals wanting to exchange Aus licenses for French. They definitely made us jump through a few hoops with things that were not on théier website. For example, we had to provide proof that we lived in Australia at the time we first obtained our drivers licenses. Tres facile they said, just provide us with a utility bill with your name and address from the same date you got your license. Unfortunately we had forgotten to keep any utility bills from 40 years ago when we first obtained our licenses. Finally got around this by getting a letter from the motor vehicle branch showing our change of address records for all of this time. Still have to get it translated by a certified translater into French but you can save yourself some grief by getting these before you leave Oz. also require copy of passport, utility bill in your name with current French address, passport sized photos etc etc. the other trap they laid for us was proof of arrival date in France. Unfortunately we had originally flown into Italy and the stamp was of course Italian. They seemed not to have heard about the free travel around the EU thing so ended up getting a letter from our local Marie stating that we had arrived and lived in the area for xx months.

We have since signed up with a company called “Please Help” that I found on this site. So far they have been brilliant with this sort of stuff and can’t recommend them highly enough. You won’t be able to start the process until you are in France however it would be well worth dropping them an email via their website and they can advise further. I’m sure you’ll have some other admin type issues like healthcare etc that they can also help you with.

Bon courage

Hi Graham, nice meeting you both at Jardiland and thanks for the coffee!

I tried changing my UK licence (the old paper kind, I've never had a modern placcy one) for a Fr one: major problem for them is I am French & they expected me to provide some justification from the Embassy in London explaining why I passed my driving test in GB. I explained about having dual nationality & therefore not having any sort of justification for being in GB & there was a lot of tooth-sucking & guess what however many years on it is (10 or so) I still have my tattered paper UK licence with its out-of-date address, my old name etc etc . Idiots. I shall try again...

Yes Brian

We found Périgueux quite helpful, but had to follow some procedures for non EU. As my wife's passport is in her married name, we had to provide a copy of marriage cert to show her official birth name. I forgot about the electricity bill (how could you forget that !!!). The painful part was getting the driving record from Aust to Périgueux.

Once problems !!!

PS Enjoyed the café with you and Veronique at jardiland.

A good point, Graham. This motor insurance thing can be a bit of a bu***r, even in the UK.

My daughter, living in Dubai, wants to buy a car in the UK as she has a house there & her daughter is at boarding school. She can't get permanent motor insurance in the UK without becoming resident again, even though she was born & grew up there & passed her driving test there. Becoming a resident would not, however, be comfortable from a UK tax point of view. As a result, she's continuing to rent cars each time she or her husband go to Blighty.

Interesting you should mention 15 years of licence at no cost. Most of us 'poms' have never heard of 'driving licence' birthdays, since in the UK your licence used to be issued up until you were 70, and technically still is, though you have to renew your photo periodically these days. As I'm just coming up to such a birthday, my brother used the term & I'd never heard it before that. Is it every ten years or just five that count as being driving-licence events?