British expats being denied French driving licenses

Published:  7 Mar at 6 PM
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With just two weeks to go before Brexit kicks in, Brit expats applying for French driving licenses are having their applications refused.

In spite of the British government’s advice to exchange UK driving licenses for the French equivalent before Brexit day, attempts to comply by UK expats living in France are being rejected by the authority. Letters have been sent out informing applicants their requests will not be processed and their applications will be returned. Reasons given by the Nantes office for its refusal to cooperate seem to be based on applications which don’t fit with a number of obligatory categories such as those for stolen or lost UK licenses, driving offences resulting in points removals and expired licenses. France’s official driving license-related website advises expat applicants to ‘be patient’ as pre-Brexit rules are not yet clarified, but misses out on the French law which states it’s a human right to voluntarily ask for the exchange of a European driving license. Presumably, after March 29, British licenses will no longer be classified as European.

The somewhat overworked Nantes driving license office responded over a month ago to an enquiry from a local English language media outlet, saying that any license exchange applications which haven’t been processed by Brexit day would be given precedence according to arrangements between the UK and France, but no concrete information has been received to date. Post-Brexit complications for British expats include the necessity of providing extra documents when applying as non-EU citizens, with the newspaper now asking the office why it isn’t simply waiting and requesting the necessary extra paperwork rather than simply returning the applications. In the event of a Brexit deal, British citizens in France would have the right to apply for replacement licenses up until 30 December 2020 but, should a no-deal Brexit be the final outcome, there’s no information as to its effect on expat drivers’ licenses.

, a foreigner arriving to live in France would have a year’s grace in which to convert the home-country license to the French version, but the present situation is unprecedented and the majority of officials haven’t been prepared to even speculate on the problems this may cause. However, one expat reader of the newspaper has been given an explanation of a possible process, sent with the driving license office’s refusal of his application. It states a no-deal Brexit would trigger governmental legal moves to allow British expat license holders to continue driving in France for at least a stated temporary period. The newspaper itself has received a reply to its query, which states the authority does not wish to exchange a large number of European Union licenses pre-Brexit, only to have to repeat the process after March 29, The reply is confusing in that there seems to be no difference between a European driver’s French driving license and that of a non-European driver.
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