Monday, 11 March 2013

Update on UK licences not valid for French residents.

It's been a few weeks since I first posted this slightly alarming story and I have had replies from the DVLA through my old UK MP Sir Roger Gale as my own attempts to communicate directly could not elicit a reply.
Although in the scheme of things my query is not of major import, it nevertheless received the full attention of Sir Roger and his staff and was dealt with promptly. The request was simple - could the DVLA explain how we Brits, when visiting the UK using our UK licences, could avoid a £1000 fine for not having our current UK address on said licence as UK law insists. The Road Traffic Act (1988) section 99 states:-

(4)Where the name or address of the licence holder as specified in a licence ceases to be correct, its holder must forthwith surrender the licence to the Secretary of State and provide him with particulars of the alterations falling to be made in the name or address and, in the case of a provisional licence as respects which the prescribed conditions are satisfied, with a statement of his sex and date of birth.
(5)A person who fails to comply with the duty under subsection (4) above is guilty of an offence.

Apparently this does not apply to UK licence holders who are just visiting the UK. How we are meant to convince a copper that we are just visiting and this piece of law does not therefore apply is not made clear. The production of an EDF bill only proves that we have a property of some kind here, it does not prove residency. Would it also be a bit presumptious of us to expect the average copper to be a french speaker and understans what french document was being shown to him?
Where does it say that we do not have to comply with the law? I contacted Sir Roger again who in turn contacted the DVLA. The replies are attached.

The sensible thing seemed to contact the police to see how they would perceive the situation. I sent:-

Dear sirs,
I am trying to establish how a British French resident can meet the legal obligation of a UK licence with reference to the holder's address. It is, I believe, an offence for a licence holder to not have his current address on his licence & can be fined up to £1000.
I have published the following on various websites & wish to provide an answer.MP Sir Roger Gale has approached the DVLA on my behalf & received the reply which I include here. This does not answer the question as I'm sure that just telling a police officer that I live in France does not go far enough & perhaps some proof would be asked for. We no longer have to carry a residents permit here & all other forms with a French address would only prove the ownership of a house here which could be just a holiday home. Can you give me a definitive answer as to what the average policeman would accept for this situation so that I can pass this on to the ex-pat community?
Many thanks.

The reply:-
Thank you for your contact however the advice I need to give is to liaise with the DLVA in relation to this matter.

This I shall do on my own as I feel that my MP and his staff have devoted enough of their time on this when there are more serious issues to address.
I shall try and find a legal eagle and see if I can find an answer.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Your UK driving licence – legal here but not in the UK?

Thousands of British Ex-pats are driving in France wth UK licences which cannot be valid according to DVLA, but the FCO says that they are! But who is right?I have to admit that I am a man who is not afraid to express an opinion or state a point of view, even if that view is not a popular one! I do allow (gracefully, I think) others to disagree & hold a different one, but I do get irritated when people talk rubbish when they really should know better. A prime example of this is the BRITISH GOVERNMENT!
Having spent my early years driving around the UK, motoring in France is generally a very relaxing pastime . Certainly the transition from a UK to a French motorist was very easy, with no necessity to change my paper licence when I arrived in 2000. A quick check on the internet a few years ago confirmed my original understanding of European law – from 1997 a UK licence was valid throughout the EC and as a French resident my UK licence would remain so. In view of recent questions posted on some forums I decided to check the official, as opposed to the “Brits in France” websites to get a definitive answer. I wish I hadn’t bothered! The answer was either yes or no, depending on who you contacted! I stepped on to the carousel…

First stop, the DVLA. A few years ago this was their comment:- 

Moving to another country

 "You don't need to notify DVLA of a change of address when moving to live abroad.”

That’s ok then.
But this has now changed slightly to:-

Moving abroad

"If you move abroad, check with the driving licence authorities there to find out how to get a local driving licence.”

Very non committal, thus dumping the question of licences in the lap of the French Government whose website says

“Driver's licences issued by other countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) are recognized in France.

The person who lives in France, holds a European driving licence, may drive. It must meet certain conditions.”

(These conditions are basically that the licence must be in date and must be valid for the category of vehicle driven. It does not mention the address)

So your licence IS valid in France!
This ties in nicely with the current information given by the British Consulate in Paris who, in answer to the question  Is my UK driving licence valid in France? say:-

“A British licence is valid in France. According to the European Community Directive (91/439/EEC), since 1 January 1997, British nationals taking up residence in France for more than a year do not have to exchange their British licence for a French one anymore.”
The UK government, or at least parts of it, further confirm this. I found on the net from the House of Commons library, standard note number SN3060, dated 7/6/2012, written by Louise Butcher. It claims to explain the law on driving licences and I quote a part from it:-

2.2 Second Directive, 91/439/EEC

The Second Directive, as amended, is currently in force across the EU until January 2013, when the Third Directive takes effect.
The two main aims of the Second Directive (91/439/EEC), adopted in July 1991, were to facilitate the free movement of the citizens of the EU and to contribute to the improvement of road safety. To those ends, the Directive:
                    abolished the obligation to exchange driving licences within a year in the event of a change of State of normal residence;
                    adopted the Community model driving licence (established by the First Directive) for ease of use across Member States; and
                    harmonised the categories of driving licence, the conditions for the issue of a driving licence, the minimum ages for the various categories, driving tests, and minimum standards of physical and mental fitness.

So there you have it. You may use your UK licence in France  Even the new directive 2006/126/EC which is now in effect does not change this.

But wait! What happens if you use it when you visit the UK? The address shown on it is not your home, and you cannot put a French address on it or even a new UK one as the conditions to do so are as follows:-
“You’ll need to:
  • have your driving licence (both parts if it’s a photocard licence)
  • be a resident of Great Britain
  • provide addresses of where you’ve lived for the last 3 years
  • have a valid UK passport or other form of identity
  • have your National Insurance number if known
  • not be disqualified from driving
If you need to change your name at the same time, you’ll have to apply by post.
If you’re moving abroad, you can’t register your new address on your British driving licence. Contact the driving licence authority in your new country of residence.”

This leaves you open to a £1000 fine in the UK although in your new country of residence you are apparently perfectly legal!

I decided to speak to DVLA to get to the bottom of all this and the gentleman I spoke to confirmed the legitimacy of my licence here in France but on the question of the address while in the UK he was less convincing. He would think that you would only have to present proof of French residency to a policeman to negate the possibility of a fine. “What document would I need to show?” I asked. He did not know.
I would like something more concrete so I phoned the headquarters of Kent police. My question was a simple one or so I thought! The spokesperson was not aware that my UK licence was valid throughout the EC, as indeed many gendarmes here are not. After putting me on hold he spoke to a Sgt Brown, number 10508, who advised that one must inform DVLA of your French address (which she assumed that they would put on the licence – I was not able to talk to her direct). What about the DVLA’s original statement saying the complete opposite? When did that change? DVLA cannot add a foreign address! Basically, no current address equals a £1000 fine. Perhaps, it was suggested, I should contact the DVLA and get their stand in writing?

Round and round…

This phone call involved quite a wait followed by the startling information that to be valid your licence must have your current UK address on it, which as a French resident you do not have, therefore your licence is invalid. Therefore those of us still using our UK issued licences must be driving illegally as there can be no such thing as a valid UK licence in the hands of a French resident by dint of the fact that it is impossible to have your real residential address on it! So the British consulate and the European Community are wrong??? I have sent a copy of this article to the DVLA in the hope that someone can clear this up! I am currently waiting for a reply from each.

And before any cleverdick says “Just get a French licence” be aware that you can lose certain categories such as caravan and large trailer towing, or require a medical for others, although some have gained categories! It would also be like buying a brand new Ferrari and finding that it cuts out if you exceed 20 mph and the dealer just tells you not to drive it above 20 mph. Sure, it won’t cut out any more…
Round and round we go.

Mark Rimmer. “