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living and driving in France (bit long)

(28 Posts)
sleepy78 Wed 22-May-13 14:33:46

My friend has had a problem with her driving license and I'm afraid the same will happen to me! So..
We both live permanently in France, and recently she received a letter from the DVLA to say that, due to a new law, she had to change the photo on her British driving license. She apparently had 1 month to send it to them with a photo etc, otherwise she would be fined.
She did so, but since she told them that she lives in France (even though she said that it was not permanent), they have kept it and won't give it back, saying that she needs a French one now.
As far I as I can grasp, we can swap our British license for a French one, but you physically need to exchange them, so she cannot do this now that hers has been confiscated.
I looked on the DVLA website to see what it says and it says not a lot. I tried to phone but they're always engaged.
Has anyone else heard of this new "law"? I haven't received any letter yet, and I told them my new address when I moved to France 6 years ago without any problem.

sleepy78 Sat 25-May-13 08:16:05

clearsommespace - that's what has confused me so much - the fact that when you phone either side of the channel, the story changes depending on who you talk to! I'm lucky that my friend drew my attention to all of this now, whilst my English card is still in date. I'm definitely not giving it up though before I get a French one..
Off to make a "dossier" then and find my nearest sous - préfecture!

tb Fri 24-May-13 18:45:09

Normally, you can exchange your license at the sous-préfecture. Need all the usual docs, such as birth/marriage certificate, edf bill, etc etc.

I'm really annoyed as I had a spent speeding offence on my old one, and forgot to 'lose' it before we moved. It's now written down on my French one.

clearsommespace Fri 24-May-13 05:26:06

It's such a minefield.

I moved to France when my UK license had 8 years left to run wrt to photo. I was told by DVLA that they couldn't change the address but that it would still valid for driving.
I was told by French to register it with the prefecture which involved sending a photocopy + proof of address and receiving a paper ( giving me a French driver number only I didn't know at the time) which showed my current address and UK license number. Everytime I changed address in France I got the paper updated. Numerous spot checks by gendarmes always fine.

Then I heard years later that because the address on UK license was incorrect, my license might be invalid. I phoned the DVLA a few times getting a different person and got different answers each time which sometimes contradicted the info on the web site.

It seemed that my license was acceptable to the French authorities for driving in France but not for driving in UK to the UK authorities (except if I was visiting according to one DVLA person). So I got DH who had a French license to do all the driving on our visits to the UK until I could change my license to a French one.

By the time I could do this, my photo had expired. This is because we were in the process of moving region in France and you couldn't apply for a French license until you had a proof showing you'd been at your address for at least 6 months! (But nobody mentioned the photo date, perhaps because the paper bit has a different expiry date) It was when I got the French license in region 2 they told me region 1 had already attributed me a driver number.

The system is flawed if the UK says it's no longer valid as soon as the address is invalid but you need to have been living at the same address in France 6 months to exchange your license.

marchmad Wed 22-May-13 20:58:32

The only reason you need to exchange a valid UK photo licence if living in France is IF you are no longer living in the UK as well, if you're resident in both countries, then it's fine, if only resident in France, then not fine, because the DVLA does not allow you to have a foreign address on a UK licence and if you don't have a UK address because you're no longer resident, then you see why you then have to exchange your licence, not because France won't accept the licence because the EU directive says they have to, but because the DVLA will not accept you're living in the UK if you're not. If you consider you still live in the UK as well as France and therefore have a UK address which is yours and not a relatives, then you won't have to exchange.

sleepy78 Wed 22-May-13 20:52:21

Cross post usuallydormant!

sleepy78 Wed 22-May-13 20:45:19

Thanks usuallydormant - that was really clear and useful. I saw on the French licence website that the documents needed can change slightly depending on where you live.
I'm sure I'm not breaking any rules yet - I've never been pulled over yet and no-one has asked me to update/change it and so I am ok on my British licence until it runs out. I've got a while yet so I have time to wade through the paperwork!

usuallydormant Wed 22-May-13 20:43:18

Marchmad, all the advice I have been given over the years is that if you live in France, the fact that you do not live at that UK address does not invalidate the licence. Practically it would be crazy, as as soon an an EU citizen moved to another EU country they would have to exchange licences.

marchmad Wed 22-May-13 20:27:07

Usuallydormant is exactly correct on the fact if you live in any EU country now, so long as the driving licence of the other EU country is still in date, you don't have to exchange it, the problem with the UK ones is that if you don't live in the UK any more, it means your licence is no longer valid. So catch 22.

usuallydormant Wed 22-May-13 20:27:05

Just to add, it is not illegal to drive your French reg car with a valid UK licence. The address doesn't matter- mine was for a rented flat - but it should be in date. My French insurance was definitely valid.

It is also possible to get the French speeding fines as they know where the car is registered - I had to pay a few. hmm They can demand at that point you switch to a French licence but didn't with me for some reason.

usuallydormant Wed 22-May-13 20:19:25

I've recently changed my uk licence for a French one. The photo card was about 2 years out of date. If you don't have a UK address you can't get a new UK one sent to a non uk address and I think they are getting a bit more strict on this. Apparently there are loads of people in the UK driving on out of date photo cards as it is only on the last few years that the first batch of photo cards have become out of date and a lot of people haven't realised they have to renew.

Anyway, your friend needs to call the Prefecture in her department to find out what paperwork is needed- apparently it varies a bit from office to office. I had to submit the out of date card and ask the DVLA to send a certificate of entitlement to me to show the licence is valid and any endorsements, even if the photo card is out of date. They might need more paperwork is you have no photo card. It took about 3 months but they had no problem with me driving in the meantime and gave me a bit of paper to show if needed. Nor were they bothered that the card was out of date ( not that I even mentioned itsmile)

You don't have to change the licence if you live in France but once the photo card is out of date, you effectively have to switch.

marchmad Wed 22-May-13 20:14:09

If you are not living in the UK and driving on a UK licence, then of course you are breaking rules.

There are agreements being formed and info being shared between EU countries now regarding speeding fines.

Speeding is rather a stupid thing to do and if I did it, I certainly wouldn't be bragging about it or proud of avoiding a fine. Speeding kills.

EdvardMonsterMunch Wed 22-May-13 20:08:35

But as it stands i dont think i'm breaking any laws and as an added bonus, no points if flashed speeding!

marchmad Wed 22-May-13 20:02:45

Edvard, your licence will be invalid in 2015.
If you ever come across an official who follows through enquiries and you're not living in the UK, be prepared for the consequences as in reality the DVLA will not back you in the event and if you're driving a vehicle registered in another country, you might find your insurance is invalid.

I must repeat, it is not the DVLA's responsibility or domain to be commenting on the regulations of another sovereign country. It is the individual's responsibility to ensure they respect the regulations of the country they are resident in.

sleepy78 Wed 22-May-13 19:57:44

Thank marchmad - I'll pass all of that on to my friend...

sleepy78 Wed 22-May-13 19:57:18

Edvard - that was what I was hoping to do! I'm just going to have to try to convert it but it's a pain. The official things that I've done here so far (health card, marriage etc) have involved a lot of paperwork and backwards and forwards going to the town hall.
As I said, I was just confused since I phoned to tell them that I was moving 6 years ago and was never told any of this!

EdvardMonsterMunch Wed 22-May-13 19:51:38

I've been using uk licence for over 20 years.
The old fashioned A4 sized one with no photo.
Has parent's address in uk on it.
Been stopped for routine checks and never had a problem.
If anything it's prooved to be advantageous, police just tend to let me drive on rather than wade through a British document.

(Sorry, no help with OP original question, just wanted to share!)

Brangelina Wed 22-May-13 19:43:35

In most eu countries you're allowed to keep hold of your uk licence for the first year of official residence in that country, after which you need to swap it for a local licence. Not entirely sure if this is the case in France but it certainly is where I live. Friends of mine have been fined and had their licences confiscated until they converted them to the local one. Be careful, as in one case where a friend was driving a car with local plates she was told that her lack of local licence invalidated her insurance. Yet another fine!

marchmad Wed 22-May-13 19:31:37

Here is an article about the reminders being sent to those whose photo licences are about to expire, maybe this is the letter your friend received? There is no change in the law however, but the photo driving licences will be mandatory from 2015. It seems a few million people in the UK are currently driving without valid driving licences.

marchmad Wed 22-May-13 19:26:40

Maybe as your friend admitted that she no longer lived in the UK, the DVLA had no choice but to impound it. Without knowing the exact contents of the letter from the DVLA and any following telephone / email conversations, it's just guess work.

sleepy78 Wed 22-May-13 19:18:17

Sorry, I'm not explaining myself properly - I wanted them to explain why they had taken my friend's licence, for example - what is the rule for having an English licence generally when not living in England. I won't ring them in fact, as the answer seems clear - she should have changed it beforehand. Now she's sent it in, they can't issue another. I can avoid the situation if I swap mine before they ask for it to be renewed.
Thanks for all the info.

marchmad Wed 22-May-13 19:13:08

But the DVLA cannot give you an answer about using your UK licence when living abroad, as they have no authority there.

sleepy78 Wed 22-May-13 19:08:03

LeBFG - sorry for being thick - what's a certificate of entitlement?
Marchmad - I wasn't going to ask the DVLA about the French licence, just what the rule was about having an English one when living abroad. And about the date of renewal.
My friend said that the expiry date on hers had not yet arrived, so I have no idea why she had to renew it. That was really one of my original questions.

marchmad Wed 22-May-13 18:56:09

the expiry date on a UK photo driving licence is written on the driving licence and it's up to the holder of the licence to look at it, not for someone to be reminded about expiry date.

I have no idea actually of what your friend now has to ask for from the DVLA, indeed you probably need a certificate of entitlement rather than a scanned copy of it. Can people however not register their UK licences in France though? Where we live, you can register an EU licence, it is very handy, because in the event of losing that EU licence, it is replaced with the licence of the country, can't do that if you lose it without it being registered, if it's a UK one lost, you cannot drive again until returning to DVLA with proof you had a UK licence.

The DVLA are NOT the people to ask what to do about driving licences in France or any other EU country, you must inform yourself of local practice in whatever EU country you are moving to. It's like asking the UK tax office how to pay your taxes in France.

LeBFG Wed 22-May-13 18:13:39

marchmad is perhaps correct, but I thought that once they'd confiscated your licence that was it. I thought that you had to ask for a certificate of entitlement, or some such, rather than a copy of the licence.

sleepy78 Wed 22-May-13 18:07:53

Sorry, I also seem to have forgotton how to spell this evening... bit tired blush

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