Driving Licences, Residence & Magical Unicorns

The British embassy and UK government websites advise everyone to swap their UK driving licences for an Italian one. Whilst the UK is a member of the EU, that is generally a fairly straight forward process.

So yes, if you can you should – before 29th March or any extension to B-Day.

However, life within the ambit of Brexitland is never that simple.
You can exchange your existing British license for an Italian subject to 2 rather obvious conditions –

1. That the licence is still valid, and
2. That you are legally resident.

And there’s the rub.

If the unicorns and magical thinking in Westminster manage to get the Withdrawal Agreement passed in parliament, any British resident in Italy (and the EU) will have until the end of the Transition period, namely, until 31st December 2020 to exchange their British licence for an Italian/EU country licence.

But if the unicorns have another bad hair day – and they have had a lot recently – then the No Deal scenario arrives (whether on 29th March or a month or so later). You can no longer simply swap one licence for the other. It will mean taking a new test, including the written one. So best of luck.

As ever, there is another twist in this tail (or tale?).

Many British would-be residents will not have managed to get through the various bureaucratic hurdles prior to 29th March or its extension – for a variety of reasons such as not being able to obtain the appointment with the local comune before B-Day. But BiI has been assured by the Italian government that so long as they can prove that they were resident on or before 29th March or its extension, their applications for residence should be approved and back dated.

There is however, no similar leeway for applications to switch driving licences. So at the moment you go to request the change, you will have to show proof of residence – a Carte d’identità usually. And if that is after B-Day, it seems likely that it will be too late.

Your UK licence will no longer be valid for driving in Europe after B-Day and to stay on the road, you will need to acquire an International Driving Permit (IDP). But you can only acquire an IDP if you still have residence in the UK. Another unicorn bad hair day. For those that can get an IDP based on their British licence, there are 2 different ones required for European countries so check out which one you need for whichever country or countries you wish to drive in; and you need the magical ‘green card’ (it must be green, not blue, not pink or even white). It is your insurance for driving with your IDP type 1 or 2.

Nor are cars immune from current shenanigans

For those of you who drive your UK registered car here, there is another new little snare. You now need to apply to re-register it in Italy within 60 days of your arrival! So which ‘arrival’ do you claim for that one? And while it is being re-registered you might try to find a friend with a spare car or two because yours will be off the road for, well, for however long it takes.

If you can persuade your friend to lend you theirs for a while, its probably cheaper than re-registering a Uk car. Wait for the next ‘rottomazione’ (a more or less 5 yearly event when the Italian car industry needs a little help), see if you can hand over the redundant UK registered vehicle and get a massive discount on the brand new Italian one.

Ps. Remember to take the spare house keys out of the glove box prior to its rottomazione; its not easy to find them once the car has been crushed!