Anne Sacoolas has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving over the death of teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn, who died in a road crash in Northamptonshire in August.
Sacoolas, the wife of a US intelligence officer based at the nearby RAF Croughton base, left the country for the US shortly afterwards, claiming diplomatic immunity.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed it had begun extradition proceedings via the Home Office.
“Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving,” said a CPS spokesperson.
“The Director of Public Prosecutions has met with Harry Dunn’s family to explain the basis of the decision we have made following a thorough review of the evidence available.”
Speaking to reporters, Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles said: “We feel like we’ve taken a huge step in starting to achieve that promise we made to Harry.”
Father Tim Dunn described it as “a great day” for the family.
The US State Department described the CPS’s decision to charge Sacoolas as “dissapointing”.
“We are disappointed by today’s announcement and fear that it will not bring a resolution closer,” a State Department spokesperson said.
“The United States has been clear that, at the time the accident occurred, and for the duration of her stay in the UK, the driver in this case had status that conferred diplomatic immunities,” they added.
Following news of the charges, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said Sacoolas returning to the UK would be “the right thing to do”.
“I welcome the taking of a charging decision which is an important step towards justice for Harry and towards solace for his family, but it is not the end,” Raab said.
“I hope that Anne Sacoolas will now realise the right thing to do is to come back to the UK and cooperate with the criminal justice process,” he added.
Raab had said earlier on Friday that he had instructed officials to begin talks with the US on how to address the “anomaly” that family members had “greater protection from UK criminal jurisdiction than the officers themselves”.
“I have instructed my officials to begin discussions with the US on the most effective way to address this anomaly,” said Raab.
A previous statement issued on behalf of Sacoolas said she was “devastated by this tragic accident” and had “fully co-operated with the police”.
“No loss compares to the death of a child and Anne extends her deepest sympathy to Harry Dunn’s family,” it said.