Elsa Cormack’s license in the UK expired when she turned 70 in January and she has not been able to renew or exchange it for a French one, so she cannot drive despite living in a small town in the south of France without public transport.
Her husband Sydney, who has been dealing with the exchange, said: “There is no public transport here, just the school bus, so I had to take her everywhere. Our son is getting married this year so we will try to get to the UK as soon as the borders open, but we usually share the driving as it is a long road. “
Several other UK citizens have also described similar circumstances.
Britons living in France were supposed to have 12 months to exchange their licenses, with the exchange process set to open on January 1, 2021 and an agreement whereby UK licenses for residents of France would continue to be recognized until late 2021.
This applies only to Brits living in France and does not affect tourists, visitors or second home owners.
However, when January 1 rolled around, the online license exchange portal was not accepting UK license applications.
The British embassy in Paris initially told The Local that the French site simply needed to be updated, but He later admitted that the problem was the lack of a reciprocal agreement. in force between France and the United Kingdom.
No agreement is in place yet and the window for exchanging licenses has been shortened to just over nine months.
But for many, the situation is even worse, as all applications have been suspended, even for those whose license is about to expire, leading some to face the possibility of being left without a license, a big problem for those who live in rural France, where Public transport networks are often minimal or non-existent.
UK driver’s licenses must be renewed once the driver reaches 70, but currently this is impossible, leading to people in situations like Elsa’s.
Sydney said: “I applied online for her in November of last year, when at least they were still accepting applications from people whose license would expire shortly, but since then we have not heard anything and every time I call or write an email they just say that wait.
“We can’t get help or advice from people, some say just keep driving anyway, but the official advice seems clear that you can’t drive if you don’t have a valid UK license and it would probably invalidate the insurance.
“We are lucky because I managed to exchange my license last year, but what about people who live alone?”
A spokesperson for the British embassy in Paris said: “The latest on the French driving license exchange remains that UK driving licenses will continue to be recognized in France until December 31, 2021.
The rules for redeeming your license have not been confirmed. We will provide updates as soon as we have them, and you can find the complete information here. “
Since 2019, Britons living in France have only been able to exchange their licenses in certain specific circumstances after an earlier surge in applications left a huge backlog of orders in the Nantes center that processes such applications.
This means that people who moved to France since 2019 have never been able to apply for the license change, while many others waited for months or had their application rejected.
French officials are still working on the delay, which is also slowing down some requests from drivers of other nationalities.
Anyone who is unable to redeem their driving license before it expires potentially faces having to take a French driving test, a lengthy and expensive task even for people with many years of driving experience.
A fed up French resident has launched a petition calling on the two governments to reach an agreement and end the deadlock, saying: “Currently, no one with a UK license can exchange it for a French license due to the lack of an agreement. Reciprocal effective before 01/01/2021. This is causing real difficulties for many.
“Accept the deal so the exchange process can start over.”
You can sign the petition HERE.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism