Carte grise backlog: Angry motorists head to court

Maybe the next protests should be about exchange of driving licence. I only put mine in to swop in March but I’ve heard the backlog there is 5-6 months.


The ANTS debacle highlights again that the French can’t do technology.

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Seems like nothing changes then. I exchanged my UK licence for a French one in 2014. The process took 5 months from my first visit to the Prefecture. I imagine it will always be the same no matter how the process changes.

Changed mine in 2016, only 8 weeks including a request for a translation of my photo card licence 5 weeks into the process.

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We sent our first application off last October, but heard nothing, so sent a second application in January. Still heard nothing. We don;t even know if they’ve received either application, although the second was sent suivi. We’re now panicking because DH’s licence expires at the beginning of August when he’s 70, so he won’t be able to drive and I don’t have a licence. We’re 12 miles from the nearest shop or doctor, and I’ve had a stroke so need regular appointments, etc.

There doesn’t seem any way of speaking to anyone by phone, or contacting by email. DH is too worried to drive if his licence has expired, especially as we think insurance would be invalid. We just haven’t a clue what to try next.

We thought about buying a voiturette sans permis, but even that wouldn’t work because you can’t get a carte grise!

Apply to the DVLA for a Certificate of Entitlement. That will show your entitlement to drive and the proof of postage will explain why you don’t have a licence. They will send it to a foreign address.

We’ve learnt from experience that when sending anything to a government department to send it recommandé avec accusé de reception so that you receive a stamped notice of receipt. I know that doesn’t help in this instance but maybe for next time.

Surely that won’t work David Martin-as you need to renew your UK driving licence at 70 and the DVLA won’t renew it if you don’t have a UK address.

@Sue_Young and @Marie_Llewellyn

Hi Sue and Marie … if you actually are Resident in France, you come under French Laws… one of which is that your Driving Licence is for Life (albeit they renew the photocards etc)… but you cannot be damned for being 70+ in France… :grin::upside_down_face:

The exchange system is straightforward enough… although the wait is long… but if you are in the system… no worries at all…

Have a copy of all relevant paperwork in your car… and be prepared to explain if you should be challenged. Although, this is actually unlikely to happen. You could have a word with your Insurers if you are really worried… again, show them all the paperwork… you will not be the only ones in this situation. They will be able to put your minds at rest…

It will sort itself in the end…

Yes it will. You do not lose your entitlement to a U.K. licence even though you have applied for a French one. The CoE just shows the test categories you have acquired. It has nothing to do with being 70 or trying to renew a U.K. licence from a French address. It is a different thing altogether. Do yourself a favour and use Google to find out more before being so negative about the advice I suggested in good faith.

David I did use Google and the DVLA website says that at 70 you must RENEW your licence. If you have not by then changed it for a French licence then you are still under UK rules for your licence. If you have already changed it for a French one then you are under French rules. If you are in the process of changing your licence but have not yet received your French one and are still using your UK one when you reach 70-according to the DVLA- you must RENEW your licence which they won’t do to a French address. Please don’t patronize me.

Sue… the lady at the Prefecture was quite clear… those were the days when you could do things face-to-face. I went into particular detail with her, as I would be passing on the info to other Brits in my area.

David is not patronizing you… he (and I) are offering good advice - from different angles…

You are in the French System… you are a French Resident, declaring your Income here etc etc… and your paperwork for Driving Licence is also in the French System…

David and I have both tried to reassure you … please accept our advice in the friendly vein in which it was given… :relaxed:

But you don’t HAVE a French licence-if you are in the process of changing it you still have a British licence. I don’t need reassurance-my UK licence doesn’t run out for another 18 months and I’ve already applied for my French one. But I’m pretty sure if you were driving in the UK with an expired licence (e.g. you are over 70) the Police wouldn’t accept a CoE or the excuse 'I’ve applied for a French licence '. Sorry-that’s the way I understand it. You obviously understand it differently.

Sue, you are in the situation that you no longer have a UK Licence, you are in the process of exchanging it… it has gone into the system and the French one will come out at the other end… eventually.

If you had gone to the Prefecture in the old days… you handed over all your UK paperwork and waited for the French one to arrive… your “licence to drive” was covered by France in the interim…nowadays… you are still covered by France, but you have to wait a bit longer for the licence to arrive.

Yes you got a letter from the prefecture. At the moment people are in the position of needing to renew their licence, sending paperwork to Nantes- AND receiving nothing in return. No acknowledgement, no attestation, nothing. You have no proof you are in the process of exchanging your licence. And as I said I am not in this situation(my UK card is valid for another 18 months) but I have read on fora of people who licence have run out and so have neither a UK licence nor a UK licence nor anything from the bureau in Nantes to prove they are applying to change.

You really don’t understand what I wrote do you. I was suggesting a way for somebody who has sent off their U.K. licence but not yet received their French licence to have an official document that shows what they are entitled to drive. It has nothing to do with being 70, nothing to do with renewing a U.K. licence just a helpful suggestion. Perhaps the moral here is don’t leave changing your driving licence to the very last minute!

Thanks for the suggestions, David and Sue. We didn’t wait until the last minute to exchange DH’s licence; we made the first application 10 months before it was due to expire. The application to exchange no longer asks for the original licence to be sent off with the forms and docs, just a photocopy, so we still have the UK licence. Apparently, we don’t have to send it to Nantes until they ask for it. The problem is that it will probably expire before they get round to even casting an eye over our application - if they don’t say they didn’t receive it, that is. We have heard absolutely nothing - no acknowledgement of receipt, no request for any further documents, nothing. The only thing I’ve found which is a tiny bit reassuring is that “l’expiration de la durée de validité du permis étranger ne fait pas obstacle à la demande d’échange.” So, if I understand that correctly, the licence can still be exchanged even if it has expired?

From the beginning of August we will have nothing to prove that we’ve made an application, just an expired UK licence. We’ve tried visiting the local Prefecture (normally very helpful) but they couldn’t get us out quickly enough - just kept insisting that everything was done online now (incorrect).

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I can understand people getting twitched about driving licences, as I was very nervous aged 80 about getting my French permet de conduire in exchange for the UK one. It did arrive eventually, the wheels turn slowly but they do deliver in due course, but French culture seems to take time in a more approximate way, probably like most of the rest of the world does, thank goodness. Time is at our service, it is not and never should be our master. The French know this, I think, and I respect the attitude.

I’ve not had much experience with the gendarmerie, but what little I have had as a driver has been considerate, courteous and calculated to put me at my ease. They do understand that the bureaucratic machine can be sluggish, but asking for help and acknowledging one’s relative helplessness never fails, in my experience, to elicit a sympathetic response. French people are, I find, almost universally disposed to be friendly and good-natured, and not officious or surly in their dealings with the English. I wish the obverse were also true…


Sent my papers in early March and haven’t heard a thing. There’s no way of knowing if it’s ever going to be exchanged.
There must be a mountain of documents somewhere; hopefully nothing gets lost (or eaten by mice)