Sous-Prefecture de Castres v DVLA

I wanted to share with you my recent dealings with the above while attempting to exchange my UK driving licence for a French one.

Many months ago I noticed that my driving licence photocard had expired in 2013 so felt it was high time to get a French licence. I asked for, and received, some excellent advice from this site and eventually pitched up at the sous-prefecture in August with all my documents (originals and 2 photocopies of each one) and the 2 forms I needed (each with a terrible photo of me attached to it).

It was only then that I was reminded that it couldn't possibly be that simple!! Despite the website telling me that an avis d'impot was one of the documents they would accept as evidence of residence in France it wasn't good enough for the woman hiding behind a thick glass panel. The necessity of the thick glass panel became more obvious to me the longer I spoke with this lady. Having studied the document she said that it was for 2013 and not 2014 so was not acceptable. She then said that because the photocard had expired (not the licence) I would need to have a medical. I tried explaining that it was the photo not the licence that had expired but she wouldn't have it and insisted on the medical. I eventually gave in and she gave me a third form (also requiring a photo??!!) with a much-photocopied and dog-eared form to explain the medical procedure. I asked her to check all the other documents were OK for when I returned with the medical cert and she said they were.

Had the medical at a total rip-off cost of 33€. It took me longer to write the cheque than he spent on the examination. I was there less than 10 minutes. Then I returned to the sous-prefecture with all the correct documents on 28 August. The same lady checked everything and said someone would phone me to come to collect the new licence. So I had to return once again to Castres - a round trip of an hour and a half!! But at least all the documents were OK ... or so I thought.

We now move to last week when I receive a letter saying that I didn't quite manage to include every document required. The sous-prefecture appear to have invented a new one not mentioned on any websites I have looked at! They now want an attestation from the DVLA confirming that the details on my driving licence are correct and ... wait for it ... a translation. Well, I had to laugh! Actually, I didn't. What I did do was shout and swear and rage for about 20 minutes while hubby tried to work out what I was so upset about. HOW CAN IT POSSIBLY TAKE 3 MONTHS FOR THEM TO ASK FOR THIS & WHY WASN'T I TOLD THIS IN AUGUST!

Anyway, on Thursday I sent an email to DVLA telling them what I needed. They responded on Friday morning saying I needed to phone them to request a Certificate of Entitlement and it would cost me £5. I did just that and spoke to a very happy & helpful Welsh lady who took all my details, took my payment and said the certificate would be sent the same day. It arrived this morning.

I am arranging for a translation, another unnecessary 40€ and will let you know if I ever get my French driving licence.

You might be interested to know that, at last, I collected my new driving licence today. It has only taken five months!! Interestingly, I was asked for a piece d'indentite as well as my old driving licence which has a picture of me and my name and date of birth on it. I was standing in front of her so she could see it was me from the photo on the new driving licence and the old driving licence. Apparently that's not sufficient so had to show her my passport as well. Madness!

It's possibly a new requirement. The document they sent me says it was updated on 01/07/14 so it may have been updated for that.

If anyone is interested I have scanned the request from the sous-prefecture and copied it below. Both sides of the document are included. It doesn't show up on the scan but the attestation they want was just highlighted in yellow (point 3 in the section headed Dans Tous Les Cas). Couldn't even be bothered to write me a letter! This list of required "pieces a fournir" is completely different to the previous document I was given in August!

I'm only guessing but it may refer to the fact that UK driving licences automatically expire when you are 70 years old and you have to reapply for a new one.

Hi Martin

I have been told that I must surrender my UK licence to the sous-prefecture before they will give me the new one. Have kept it for now but must take it with me when I collect the new one.

While on the subject of driving licences, mine has the note "UK70" on it. Anyone know what that means?

Yes, we changed ours in March.

Mind you, we've had some grim encounters with UK bueaucracy as well, though nothing quite a labyrinthine as French at its sublime worst!


They (the authority) take it away from you.

Well, the medical is what my partner had to go through with her expired photo card, so no surprises there, but the requirement for a certificate of entitlement and accompanying translation is a new one on me.

Hi Martin,

the exchange licence in now European, exactly like the UK licence. If you changed prior to the European licence, might be worth now changing it for one.


Does anyone know if you can keep your UK driving licence once you’ve done the business to change at the prefecture? I travel worldwide and have seen many others struggling to get cars etc and each one didn’t have a UK license. Secondly, re the comment about applying for a second UK licence and then changing that. Surely the French send the licence back to the UK, the DVLA will then notice it’s a replacement and all hell breaks loose as they think someone is trying to set up a false identity.

Thank you. If the DVLA certificate and translation don't result in a new driving licence then I may come back to you.

Thanks Chris that makes me feel a lot better!!! Only kidding. Perhaps I made the mistake of going in August or perhaps they have tightened the rules. I noticed that the recent request I received for the DVLA attestation suggests the rules changed in July 2014. Did you exchange yours recently?

Also, the digital display showing which ticket number was next was not working properly so she had to shout out the number for each victim customer. Would have made me a bit cross as well!

Evidently, we didn't have the same lady!!

This is what is so bizarre about French bureaucracy. My wife and I underwent exactly the same process as you at exactly the same office [except that our photocards hadn't expired]. no questions of any medicals: proof of residence via latest Taxe d'Habitation, passports [+ photocopy of course] - and Bob's your uncle! Only problem was that when my missus went to collect hers they denied they had it - until she spotted it in the pile... under her maiden name [but of course!]

Hi Mandy,

I do offer a bespoke service, a one off charge if that helps and it is pretty low.

If I can help in any way.

Warm regards


Admin Support Specialist

Maybe that's why she was so grumpy and obstructive. Probably just wanted to be on her holidays!

I wish I could afford it but financial pressures won't allow unfortunately.


Goodness, you actually got to see a fonctionnaire in August?

*shakes head unbelievingly*