French driving licence

I have today discovered that my UK driving licence expired in 2013 (oops!). I need to apply for a French licence so have been trying to research what I need to do. Having checked with I am confused about which form I need to complete and what documents I will need to provide. The rules and forms seem to have changed in 2013 so the advice on some of the expat websites is probably out of date. Is anyone able to help me please? All advice gratefully received.

I wouldn’t give it a second thought Alex. A pretty unenforceable law nowadays i would have thought. There is obviously not a waiting period of three years to get a UK license for a new arrival there so why should a “returning” UK resident be penalised? The only “residence” rules I would pay attention to are tax ones. They ARE taken seriously.

And there is also, from what I understand, a potential hefty fine of about 2000 GBP for falsely declaring your residence status in order to get that kind of documentation.

Did this with my partner last quarter of 2013. In France there is the law, decrees, ordinances, etc, and then there are the civil servants that locally try to enforce one or more variants of what is deemed correct by the local prefecture. Her photocard had expired, just like yours. We went to the prefecture (several times as it turned out in the end, to mine and her exasperation). The online forms are generally not the ones you need, so don't bother, go to the prefecture, take a ticket, wait with everyone else and ask when your turn comes. Due to rationalisation changes in administration, most sous-prefectures now no longer deal with driving licence changes so you will probably have to go to the head prefecture. If you don't speak French well enough, try and get someone who does to come with you, otherwise there can be a lot of frustration and ill-feeling for something that should ordinarily just be a matter of dealing with simple bureaucracy. If the bureaucrat behind the desk is used to dealing with Brits, then you should be alright, and you will probably get a correct explanation of the situation. They should explain that you can not legally drive in France on your expired photocard, even if your licence is still valid, until you have passed a medical examination. They should also tell you which other documents might be required (passport, attestation de residence or domicile, electricity bill or landline phone bill.

They should provide you with a list of registered practitioners that carry out these examinations, you can not simply use your GP (unless they are registered for that particular exercise). You will have to pay for the examination. Be wary of any GP that requests that you disrobe to your undies, this should from what I understand absolutely not be necessary. The aim of the examination is to discern whether or not there are any manifest impediments to your being able to drive categories of vehicles on your GB licence as they translate to the French system. For example, if you have corrected vision, then it is likely you will lose the right to drive certain types of heavier vehicles, trailers, etc. The GP may or may not decide to send off the papers him/herself to the prefecture (sous-prefecture) if they are feeling pompous about it, but if you can, it will be quicker to get the documents they've signed and take them with you with the remaining documentation directly to the prefecture. Once all the documentation has been put together, the prefecture will file the application with the licence issuing authority to have it printed - the printing process can take anywhere from 10 days to a month or more. They will also send you a letter giving you a number you can ring to check whether or not the printing process has completed. During this time, you should carry around with you the copy of the medical certificate provided by the GP when driving in case you get stopped by the police or gendarmerie at one of their "contrôles". Some prefectures will let you know via phone or letter when the licence is ready, and you'll have to go back to the prefecture to pick it up, others won't so you'll be reliant on the phone number. The phone service is particularly unavailable, i.e it has restricted hours of availability, so don't bother trying to ring it out of hours (or the prefecture for that matter).

The above represents our personal experience from August to November last year (2013) - your mileage may vary depending on where you live and the particularities of your local prefecture.

I did indeed Doreen.

What will they accept as proof of residence Mandy?

Dunno mate. I just did a copy & paste job of the DVLA reply. I do remember yonks ago buying "international" permits from the RAC hut when I was off to "The Continent" with my Ford 100E side valve motor. Those were the days ;-)

Bonjour Mandy

Recommend you go to your nearest sous-préfecture or préfecture (that’s the administrative one not préfecture de police)and ask to change your UK licence to a French one. They will give you the forms and explanatory notes. It is best to do this because in France requirements/interpretations of what is needed can vary from department to department, irrespective of what Government websites say, expat sites, or the experiences of friends.

You then take your forms back with your licence and usually a cheque to cover postage, hand over both parts of your UK licence. They will give you an ‘attestation’ to show to the gendarmes in case you are stopped which will explain your licence is being changed.

Note: some of the categories included on the UK licence are not automatic on a French for which you will need a medical certificate… if you want to be able to drive a minibus or heavy van for example. They should explain this to you and give you the necessary forms for the doctor.

You will then in due course receive your French licence in the mail, or a letter asking you to go where you deposited the forms to collect it.

Mine came in the mail within ten days, but I have heard other people say it took theirs several weeks.

Bonne chance!

Thought about doing that but you have to prove residence in the UK for the last 3 years. Stops non-residents doing exactly what you have suggested.

If I was you Mandy I'd just use a friend or relations address and renew the UK one. Life's too short :-)

I may be wrong Vic but I don't think there is such a thing as an "International Driving License". If you have the document that is called that and issued by, for example, the AA or RAC it is in reality just a multilingual translation of your real, Government issued, license. You need to have a current "real" license for the International to hold any weight. Or at least that was the case when I last investigated it.

Thanks very much Doreen. I think this is exactly what I've been looking for.

Thanks Doreen. I'll also have a look at the other links in case they're now out of date.

Just found this.

I emailed the DVLA and this is their response. Just sharing as i'm sure many will be/have been in the same situation where their UK Photocard has expired:

Thank you for your email received on 28/11/12. Your email reference number is ########

If you are temporarily abroad and even if your photograph is due to expire, your driving entitlement remains valid until the date shown on the reverse of the licence. However, for clarification, we would advise that you check with the host country driving licence authority to confirm whether your licence is valid for use there.

The validity date of your driving entitlement(s) can be found on the reverse of your photocard licence (Column 11). The date showing in section 4b on the front of the licence shows the date that the photograph needs to be renewed.

It may be more convenient for you to submit your application for photo renewal on your return to Great Britain (GB), however, this is a personal choice. The renewal should be done as soon as possible on your return as driving in GB with an expired photograph is an offence, which could result in a fine of up to £1,000. Please note road traffic enforcement is a police matter.

If you have moved abroad on a permanent basis, I am afraid that DVLA is unable to renew your photocard driving licence as road traffic legislation stipulates that driving licences can only be granted to those who are resident in this country.


Customer Enquiries Group


I got my International Driving License today instead. I dont want the hassle of being chased by the DVLA, as at the moment i am a resident of NZ. I spend more time here than in the UK.

Best of British then :-) Double whammy !

Mandy, go to the Useful Links page (see link at the top of the page) and scroll right down to the section on all things to do with cars and you'll find two links to blogs/discussions on obtaining a French driving licence.

No, Vic, not yet 70 although I feel like it some days!! Still in my 40s.

I have a credit card sized licence with a photo on it and it has an expiry date which, I believe, relates to the photo. I think I need to renew it but I'm really not sure. My passport is also due to expire shortly so have to do that as well. Tant pis!!

I thought that GB driving licences lasted until one is 70 . Looking at your photo Mandy you certainly don't look 70 so why has it expired? I know there was some stuff about changing to "credit card" type licences but I'm sure the original paper jobs are still OK. Surely you haven't posted a picky of you in your yoof ;-) Weird or what? I changed my paper GB licence for a French paper licence about 5-6 years ago.