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BREXIT

Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence

Amid ongoing uncertainty and confusion about Italy’s rules for drivers with a UK-issued licence, many readers have contacted The Local to ask for updates and clarification. Here are your questions answered.

Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence
Your questions on a possible UK-Italy driving licence agreement answered.(Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

When Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, no reciprocal agreement on driving licences had been reached between Italy and the UK.

Italy however granted UK licence holders with Italian residency a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This was then extended for a further 12 months until the end of 2022.

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

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.

Many British readers of The Local have been in touch to ask for updates and what would happen should no deal be made, as well as for clarification on other aspects of driving and car ownership as a foreign national living in Italy.

Below are answers to the specific questions readers have asked most frequently about the UK-Italy driving licence agreement and general rules on driving in Italy for British nationals, based on the British and Italian authorities’ current advice.

Q: Have there been any updates on a UK-Italy agreement on driving licences?

A: Not since the new year, when Italy allowed a 12-month extension to the grace period in which British residents could continue to drive on their British licences.

In response to The Local’s most recent request for an update on Wednesday, April 20th, the British Embassy in Rome stated: “The Embassy continues to prioritise the issue of UK driving licence validity in Italy and we continue to engage with the Italian government on this issue.”

The embassy also 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 Local will continue to ask for updates on the issue.

Q: Will I need to sit an Italian driving test or not?

A: It’s not clear whether this will be necessary, but at the moment it appears to be the course of action recommended by the British government.

Although the embassy’s latest statement says that they are working on a deal so that residents can exchange their UK licences without the need to sit a test, it adds “it is important that you currently consider all your options, which may include looking into taking a driving test now.”

The British government’s ‘Living in Italy’ webpage meanwhile recommends obtaining an Italian driving permit.

“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 reads.

“If you need to drive in Italy, you should not wait for negotiations to conclude before exchanging your valid UK licence,” the authorities added.

Q: If I have to sit an Italian driving test, can I do it in English?

A: No. To get your Italian driving licence, you’ll need to sit both the theory and practical exams in Italian.

You can also take the tests in French and German, according to a circular by the Italian Ministry.

Read more about taking your Italian driving test here.

READ ALSO: Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test

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, the government has confirmed. Photo by PACO SERINELLI / AFP

Q: Do I have time to take an Italian driving test if no decision is made until the end of the year?

A: Taking the Italian driving test is known to take months – at least six months is recommended for practicing for the theory tests, taking mandatory driving lessons (even if you already hold a UK driving licence), plus the time to sit the final tests and any re-tests.

If no agreement is reached, it would mean you can no longer drive in Italy from January 1st, 2023 – a huge inconvenience for those who rely on private transport for work or those who live rurally.

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

Therefore, the gamble is whether to start the process of sitting your Italian driving test imminently or hold on for a reciprocal driving licence agreement.

It’s unknown when the authorities will make a decision and whether this will be adequate time to begin taking your Italian driving test. The latest 12-month extension was only announced on December 24th, with just days to go before the same possible scenario.

Q: How long can I drive in Italy on a UK driving licence?

A: 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.

This only applies to British nationals who got residency before 2022, however.

As things stand, the latest 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.”

On the other hand, if you became a resident in Italy this year, you can use your licence for 12 months from the date of becoming a resident. After that, you would need an Italian driving licence to continue driving in Italy.

It is still unclear whether you would benefit from any reciprocal driving agreement, should one be made, or whether this is reserved for those who obtained residency before January 1st, 2022.

Q: I have been living in Italy for years. Can I convert my British licence for an Italian one?

A: No. Just because you’ve been a resident of Italy for many years, doesn’t mean you can still exchange your UK driving licence for an Italian permit.

As noted above, you have a maximum of 12 months from the date of residency to exchange your UK driving licence to an Italian one. Therefore, if you never did so and continue to drive on a British driving licence, you face getting fined should you get stopped by the police.

According to Italy’s Highway Code, article 116 states that fines range from €2,257 to €9,032 for driving on an expired (or invalid) licence. If you’re caught doing it again within a two-year period, there are sanctions of up to one year’s imprisonment.

READ ALSO: ‘Expect the unexpected’: What you need to know about driving in Italy

(Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Q: I got my UK licence last year. Is this accepted in Italy?

A: No. 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.

That means if you got your UK driving permit in 2021 and are a resident of Italy, it is not valid for driving in Italy.

Q: I started exchanging my licence before January 2021. Would I still need to sit an Italian driving test?

A: Based on a circular from the Italian Ministry of Transport, the UK government states, “If you started exchanging your UK licence before 1 January 2021, you do not need to take a driving test.”

However, if you are still stuck in the bureaucracy of exchanging your UK licence for an Italian permit, it might be difficult to complete the process now. Ensure you have proof of when you started the exchange if you are still trying to convert your UK licence to an Italian one.

Q: If I obtain an Italian driving licence, will I forfeit my UK one?

A: Unlike exchanging your licence, where you surrender your UK licence for an Italian one, if you sit the Italian driving test, you can keep your UK driving licence and hold both permits concurrently.

This is “less certain for those who split their time between the EU and the UK,” according to the UK Parliament, which states that drivers can only hold one licence at a time.

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

The type of licence you choose to keep is the driver’s decision, “although it may depend on the number of days each year they live in each country,” the guidance reads.

However, remember that if you have residency in Italy, that ultimately makes your decision for you as you can only use your UK licence for 12 months after registering as a resident in Italy.

Q: Do I need an Italian driving permit for short visits to Italy?

A: No. The rules above apply to UK nationals who are resident in Italy only. People visiting Italy for short periods can continue to drive on a UK licence.

You’ll need to carry your UK driving licence with you when driving in Italy for short stays or holidays.

You don’t need an international driving permit (IDP) to visit and drive in the EU and Italy too, therefore.

However, if you hold a paper driving licence or a driving licence from Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, you may need an IDP. You can check with the Italian Embassy here.

The question on a UK-Italy driving licence agreement rolls on. (Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP)

Q: If I get an Italian driving licence, can I drive in the UK with it?

A: Yes, you can use your Italian licence to drive in the UK. Keep an eye on the latest rules of the UK Highway Code here.

To drive in any other country, you may need to apply for an IDP, which you would need in addition to your Italian driving permit.

See here to see if you need one and to apply (in English).

If you leave Italy to return to live in the UK, “you can exchange your Italian licence for a UK one without taking a test,” states the UK government.

Q: Does getting an Italian driving licence change the car I can drive?

A: Yes. You are considered a new driver (neopatente) for three years after getting your Italian driving licence and face certain driving restrictions in that time.

Limitations for novice drivers include tighter speed limits on motorways and main roads, harsher driving penalty points and limits on car engine capacity and power.

This might mean that if you already own a high-powered vehicle, you can no longer drive it once you’ve obtained your new permit.

Q: Can I bring my UK registered car to Italy?

A: Yes. If you do this, you’ll need to register your vehicle and swap your licence plates. Here’s a guide on the latest rules on what you need to do if you move to Italy with your car or motorbike.

Note: there are time limits from the moment you get residency to complete this process.

Q: Can I buy a car in Italy?

The answer depends on your residency status. If you are a resident in Italy, then yes, you can buy a car in Italy.

As a general rule, if you don’t have residency in Italy – even if you own property in Italy or have business interests in the country, you are not legally allowed to buy a car in Italy.

READ ALSO: How you can claim Italy’s auto bonus for a new car

According to the Italian Highway Code, you need to have registered your residency with an Italian municipality to be able to buy a new or used vehicle in Italy.

Have you got any further questions on the UK-Italy driving licence agreement? Let us know in the comments below or contact us with your questions.

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. This article states “As a general rule, if you don’t have residency in Italy – even if you own property in Italy or have business interests in the country, you are not legally allowed to buy a car in Italy.”
    Are there any situations where it would be possible to buy a car in Italy? I am a UK resident and have a property in Italy and a car bought when I was resident some years ago.

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DRIVING

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.

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