Driving licence conundrum

I knew it was going to be a problem.

Spent the morning at my local préfecture, third visit to replace my soon-to-expire photocard licence - this time armed with my fat ‘dossier’ to make my application irresistible. Everyone loves a dossier.

After long poring over utility bills and passport (an ‘English’ passport, almost stumped by that one…) we got to the driving licence itself, and that’s where everything came decisively unstuck.

The paper counterpart licence isn’t acceptable because it wasn’t dated as being issued within the last 3 months. In fact, it isn’t dated at all except with the expiry date 20-odd years from now.

I was told I needed to get one from the DVLA that is officially dated, or a get an attestation from them in French to the same effect. The validity doesn’t count in terms of ticky-boxes.

The photocard licence wasn’t acceptable, either, because apparently I am entitled to drive heavy goods vehicles (first I heard about it) and anyway it must be translated by a traducteur assermenté.

All the DVLA lines are engaged, the official website says I’m not allowed to renew my photocard because I’m not a UK resident, and the days are ticking away until my UK licence expires.

I’m thinking along the lines of mensonges pieuses using my mum’s address in blighty? Any thoughts?

p.s. good news is, if ever I figure out how to get a French licence, I don’t have to pay. Apart from in lost work time, grey hairs etc.

Not luck but according to the DVLA, the law --but things change this was about 2 years ago-- better check with both the DVLA and the hire company your going to use just in case!

Hello John, I hope you're still there

You said you hired a car in UK with a licence needing its 10 year renewal? Do you think that was luck or ..?


John, that's interesting about the UK police stance. But watch out if you have to rent a car - normally you DO need your photocard. That's one of the reasons why I really need to get sorted.
Nick, yes. Makes me fizz. I'd demand if I were in Britain, but this isn't Britain; it's France, and not just any France; it's a concrete planet in a suburb of Paris, which I don't live in but have to deal with, people by manic disfunctionaries who have to knock off at 12.30 in time for their 1 o'clock lunch break.
There. I feel better now. Calm, calm, calm.
ps actually I already did;-)

Well, best of luck Amanda. We weren't asked for a Certificate of Entltlement when changing our Irish licences, so requirements vary wildly between the various prefectures. We did have to get our birth certs translated in order to get the Carte Vitale (which Sarah did for us, as she is a traductrice assermentée) but lots of other SFN members were NOT asked for translations. So you never know! Onwards and upwards.

Helen, sounds like yours and most people's experience is really easy and straightforward. Jammy to about the notaire :-)B
Jane - yes, the certificate of entitlement. If anyone else is wondering, it costs £5 from the DVLA in Swansea. You order it over the phone and they'll either fax it or post it to you. I've asked for a hard copy because I just know my prefecture won't accept a fax.
Sarah - yes, thanks for the confirmation. I AM expected to get my driving licence translated (not sure how you translate pictograms, but still...).In fact, I think they'll insist on everything being translated. It's that, or brace myself for a 5th trip...
Thanks to all for your help and comments!

Ah, okay Jane, thanks for that. In Ireland, driving licenses are issued through the local authority for each region.

Not the place to post this but the thought occurred so here goes, Sarah: Jazz outside Jument Rousse next Saturday. Maybe see you there?


For everyone's information, below is excerpt from the official website of the French Administration:


Pièces à fournir

  • une photocopie recto-verso du permis de conduire à échanger (certaines préfectures exigeant la traduction officielle des permis rédigés en langue étrangère, se renseigner au préalable),

Hope this clarifies the situation.

Best regards,


Sheila, we had to get the proof from the DVLA, which issues all licences in UK, that our llicence was indeed valid.

It is just one of the hoops that you need to jump through.

There is no need to have it translated. This is just the French not understanding the regulations and being french about it.

My family and I have been here 8 years and never yet been asked for a translation of anything, hubby and kids on Irish passports (and marriage cert) and me on UK passport. We owned and disposed of an SARL and our accountant and notaire did 99% of our legwork over the years (very lucky us). When we don't get the required result she telephones the relevant department for us (even luckier).

Préfecture is Périgueux and RSI was Bruges/Périgueux. Had the hic of certificate of clean driving licenceness but never asked for a translation.

I might be mistaken but I don't think, that just because the photo bit of your UK licence has expired that your main license has. I think that lasts until you're 70 -I can recall asking the DVLA about this and they said that yes you licence was still valid, but the UK police frowned upon out of date photos. I'd checked just before hiring a car in the UK with a out of date licence. The most important bit was that your insurance was valid. I just taken out new insurance in France with my (still out of date) UK licence.....

Bonjour Sarah, and you are right of course, as we met when you translated our birth certificates, etc. for the Carte Vitale application, which some others have not been required to do.

Great fun last night in Lagrasse with the Karaoike (or however that is spelt). Next music festival starts on 19th July (L'Abracadagrasse).

A bientot!

Bonjour Sheila,

From my experience as a sworn translator, I can confirm that some préfectures require sworn translations of EU licences. In Carcassonne, it is not requested, but in Perpignan for instance, it is.

Au plaisir de vous revoir lors des prochains festivals!


I think your prefecture are being difficult and obtuse. I recently exchanged my UK licence for a French one thro’ my local prefecture and they didn’t need “an officially dated” paper counterpart, or a translation; as for the HGV category on the plastic card etc it does not have to be translated either. You are up against a local bureaucrat who doesn’t understand the documents you’ve given him and its him who wants the translations to make life easier for himself - its not the system that’s demanding these things. How to overcome the problem ? I’d start by demanding to see the officials boss and explaining to him/her that you are being obstructed. I bet if you incurred a speeding fine or something they’d soon exchange your licence.

I am not sure what event they are referring to, but they are talking about washing away the pain and tears due to the loss of lives (19 to be exact), so the small nation is suffering because they lost so many loved ones, so wash away the tears.

(Yes, further and furtheroff-thread but then I posted it in the wrong place anyway, oops. Lovely ... even if I don't know what they're singing about.)

I think the sinking story was over a concern about possible rising sea levels. They are reefs and atolls and are at risk from floods if there are tsunami or high waters for some reason. Off topic, there is a wonderful group called Te Vaka, who are now in the 'world music' category and they sing in the languages of Tuvalu and Tokelau, which is similar to Maori - here is a link to one of my favourites:

That probably is the reason! What a faff! Talking of Tuvalu, isn't it sinking? Or am I thinking of some other tiny island with which France has reciprocal dealings?

try getting a licence when you come from New Zealand! There is no reciprocal agreement between France and NZ (we think it's still because of the Rainbow Warrior issue... [tongue in cheek]) so when our international driving licences expired we had to actually go to classes, sit the theory test and then do the practical. Yes, we could have gone to a couple of seedy looking guys on the internet, but we didn't, and doing the classes helped with our French too. Funny thing is that if we had known all this before we left NZ, we would have taken a side trip to Tuvalu (never heard of it?) which has about 10km of road on the whole island, and got a licence there which we could have just exchanged for a French one! Good luck with yours.