With just days left in 2021, many readers have contacted The Local to ask whether Italy and the UK will agree a deal on recognising driving licences.
Since Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, British residents of Italy who hadn’t converted their UK licence to an Italian one were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to use their British licence in Italy.
It provided breathing space for residents in Italy with UK licences, as they had initially been warned they may need to take an Italian driving test immediately.
But now those 12 months are almost up, ending on December 31st 2021.
A growing number of readers have told The Local they are concerned about being able to drive in Italy from January and have asked for updates about an agreement being reached in time – and what it means if one isn’t.
A spokesperson for the British government told The Local on Wednesday that negotiations are still ongoing.
“We very much recognise the concern felt by many UK nationals regarding driving licences. Please rest assured our engagement with the Italian government on this continues at pace,” the spokesperson said.
Many hoped that Italy and the UK would have made a decision by now, which would allow drivers to continue using their British licence in 2022. As things stand, there is no time left start the process of sitting an Italian test, should UK licences not be recognised from January 1st 2022.
Although they confirmed no agreement is yet in place, the UK government spokesperson said that negotiations are continuing with the Italian government on the right to obtain an Italian licence without the need to re-sit a driving test.
The British Ambassador, Jill Morris, provided the latest update on a possible deal at a meeting in Naples last week, according to the UK government.
Both the Ambassador and the UK authorities confirmed they have requested an extension to the December 31st 2021 deadline, but there are still no further details on when this could come into effect or for how long it would last.
Wendy Morton MP told The Local in September that making a deal on driving licences before the end of this year was “our absolute priority”.
The current advice on the UK government’s Living in Italy guide continues to be that you can use your UK driving licence until December 31st 2021.
If no agreement is reached by the end of 2021
So where does that leave you if you hadn’t started the conversion of your licence by December 2020 and no agreement is reached on a reciprocal agreement by the end of next week?
It looks likely that you would need to retake both the theory and practical tests and, from January 1st 2022, you wouldn’t be allowed to drive on Italy’s roads until you do.
The British ambassador Jill Morris stated on the British Chamber’s latest update, “Until an agreement is reached you will need to re-sit your driving test to obtain a local licence.”
“Both governments share the same objective of having the agreement in force as soon as possible in order to minimise disruption and limit the impact on daily life,” she added.
Residents in Italy will end up only having an Italian driving licence, as you can’t hold two licences at the same time – so you’ll surrender your UK one when you get your Italian patente.
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.
If Brits are eventually required to re-sit an driving test in Italy, there are other implications such as the type of car you’re allowed to drive as ‘new’ drivers or neopatentati.
According to the Highway Code, there are limits on the engine power of the car you may drive, as well as tighter speed restrictions in place for those recently certified in Italy.
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Extra time for those who obtained Italian residency in 2021
Not all British citizens living in Italy are against the clock. Some have a little more leeway, depending on when they got residency in Italy.
“If you moved to Italy after January 1st 2021, you can use your valid UK licence for 12 months from the date you became resident,” state the official guidelines.
Therefore, those who moved to Italy in 2021 and officially became a legal resident this year have 12 months from the date of residency. In theory, that means some UK nationals will have until the end of 2022 before needing to get an Italian driving licence.
These were the rules before Brexit – the only difference now being that you may need to sit an Italian driving test after 12 months, whereas before Britain left the EU, you could exchange your permit without the need to take the Italian driving theory and practical exams from scratch.
Does Italy have reciprocal agreements with other countries?
Although the authorities have indicated a deal between Italy and the UK is planned, albeit potentially slower than scheduled, it isn’t necessarily a given.
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 though, including Switzerland, Brazil, the Philippines and Turkey (full list here), which allow holders of these licences to swap their permits without taking an Italian test.
We will continue to post updates on this issue as soon as we get them. 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.