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BREXIT

Driving licences: Is there any sign the UK and Italy will reach an agreement?

British residents in Italy are asking whether a reciprocal agreement on driving licences will be reached in 2022 - or if they should now arrange to retake their test in Italian.

Driving licences: Is there any sign the UK and Italy will reach an agreement?
The question on a UK-Italy driving licence agreement rolls on. (Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP)

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask for updates on the situation with UK driving licences in Italy, after their validity was extended until the end of 2022.

When Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, there was no reciprocal agreement in place but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences in Italy.

This was then extended for another 12 months: the UK government announced on December 24th, 2021 that British residents of Italy who didn’t convert their UK licence to an Italian one could continue to use it until December 31st, 2022.

The last-minute announcement came as a relief to many drivers concerned that they would face retaking their test in Italian in the new year.

But this temporary reprieve doesn’t resolve the issue of what will happen after this latest extension is up – and the situation is now repeating itself this year.

As things stand, the latest update to the driving guidance on the British government’s ‘Living in Italy’ webpage in January states:

“If you were resident in Italy before 1 January 2022 you can use your valid UK licence until 31 December 2022,” however, “you must exchange your licence for an Italian one by 31 December 2022. You will need to take a driving test (in Italian).”

The guidance then states: “The British and Italian governments continue to negotiate long-term arrangements for exchanging driving licences without needing to take a test.”

Many readers have asked whether this guidance means they should or should not begin the lengthy process of preparing for and taking the Italian driving test now, to avoid he risk of being left without a driving permit by the end of 2022.

READ ALSO: How do you take your driving test in Italy?

British residents of Italy can use their driving licenses until the end of this year, the government has confirmed.

British residents of Italy can use their driving licenses until the end of this year – but there are no firm indications on what will happen after that. Photo by PACO SERINELLI / AFP

British reader John, who asked not to share his full name, told The Local: “I live rurally in Italy and I need to drive to work … I’ve been driving for 30-odd years and I wouldn’t be happy about having to pay to retake my test in any language. There should be arrangements made for experienced drivers.”

“At any rate, taking your test and exchanging your licence in Italy is not something that can be done in a week so we need clarity from the British government.”

The Local has contacted the British Embassy in Rome to ask for an update on the situation, but has not received a response at the time of writing.

Shortly after we got in touch, the embassy published a Facebook post acknowledging that “many of you are concerned” about the issue.

“We continue to work at pace to reach a long-term agreement with Italy, so that residents can exchange their UK driving licences without taking a test, as Italian licence holders can in the UK,” the embassy stated.

The embassy did not confirm whether UK licence holders will need to sit an Italian driving test or not, stating: “It is important that you currently consider all your options, which may include looking into taking a driving test now.”

The Local will continue to ask for updates on this.

For now, any UK licence issued before January 1st, 2021 will still be accepted on Italy’s roads, as confirmed in a decree issued by the Italian government on December 30th.

The rules apply to UK nationals who are resident in Italy. People visiting Italy for short periods can continue to drive on a UK licence.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

All other licence holders can use their licences for 12 months from becoming a resident in Italy. 

That means any UK nationals who move to Italy in future would need to take a test to exchange their licence within 12 months of registering for Italian residency.

Most other EU countries have already announced reciprocal agreements with the UK, allowing driving licences to be exchanged without the need for a test, but with eight months left under the latest extension, the clock is ticking on making an arrangement with Italy.

 Italy has reciprocal driving licence agreements in place 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.

Find our latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

Member comments

  1. It’s not just the test. I have no doubt that I can pass the test. However, as a holder of a neopatente, I would have to sell my car – a very nice car – and downsize. Plus, the test costs a fortune and takes an age to complete. I am truly a loss!

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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