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‘Negotiations ongoing’ on driving licence agreement between UK and Italy

Italy is now the only EU country not to have reached an agreement that will allow Brits living in Italy to swap their driving licences without resitting a test, but the UK government says that talks are underway.

'Negotiations ongoing' on driving licence agreement between UK and Italy
A traffic stop in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Since the UK’s exit from the European Union took effect at the end of 2020, holders of a UK driving licence have been warned that they will have to apply for an Italian licence from scratch once they have been living in Italy for longer than a year.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about getting an Italian driving licence post-Brexit

While most other EU countries have already announced that they have come to reciprocal agreements with the UK that will allow driving licences to be exchanged without the need for a test, no such arrangement has yet been confirmed with Italy.

And even though not all other countries have finalized their agreements, according to a statement in the UK parliament, Italy is further behind than anyone else.

“All EU/EEA Member States, except for Italy, have confirmed reciprocal arrangements for exchanging licences, confirming that a retest will not be required for resident UK nationals,” wrote Conservative Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Transport, in response to a recent question from another peer.

“Most of our agreements are permanent arrangements and a small number require formal agreements which will be concluded before the end of this year. Where these agreements are needed, the UK has secured interim arrangements with the relevant Member States. All EU/EEA countries have confirmed that International Driving Permits will not be required by UK visitors.”

A reciprocal agreement between Italy and the UK is still on the table, the British Embassy in Rome has confirmed.

Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP

“Negotiations with Italy are on-going on a future agreement for UK nationals living in Italy to be able to exchange their UK driving licence for a local one without re-sitting their test,” a spokesperson told The Local in early April. “UK nationals should consult our Living in Guide for updates.”

The representative also stated: “UK Driving Licences continue to be recognised without additional documentation for visitors and diplomats. UK nationals with over 12 months residency can no longer use their UK driving licence and are required to re-sit their test when obtaining an Italian one.”

The Embassy did not give an indication of when an agreement might be reached.

Holders of a UK licence who live in Italy thus face a quandary: either they embark on the challenging process of retaking their driving test in Italian, or wait an unknown length of time for a future reciprocal agreement – while driving either unlawfully or not at all in the meantime. 

READ ALSO:

People who move to Italy with a non-EU driving licence need to get an Italian licence within one year of obtaining residency.

If you started the process of exchanging your UK licence before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st 2020, you will not have to re-sit a driving test. But if you hadn’t started the conversion by then, as things stand you will need to retake both the theory and practical tests.

The requirement only applies to UK licence holders who have their full-time residence in Italy. Tourists and second-home owners can continue to use their UK licence when they visit and do not need an International Driving Permit.

While residents with licences from other EU countries – formerly including the UK – can swap their documents without retaking a test, Italy does not exchange licences from most non-EU countries, including the United States, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand and currently, the UK.

Italy does have reciprocal driving licence agreements with around 20 non-EU countries, including Switzerland, Brazil, the Philippines and Turkey (full list here), which allow holders of these licences to swap their permits without a test.

Elsewhere in the EU, an agreement between the UK and France is reportedly “in the final stages“. In Sweden, UK licence holders are still waiting for the deal to be ratified by the Swedish parliament before they can begin the swap process, while in Spain UK licence holders who did not register to swap before December 31st 2020 face having to take a Spanish test

Find all The Local’s Brexit updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

Member comments

    1. Just to add if you are an Italian going to or living in the UK you can exchange your Italian driving licence without any problems. It such a shame that Italy has not done the same straight away without causing a lot of people problems.

      1. Hi Paul,
        Not sure if you are on the Facebook group, “uk citizen rights beyond brexit” there is a new post about driving licence. We are now allowed to use our UK licence until the end of the year!!!!

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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