When & How to Exchange Your US Driver’s License in France


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When & How to Exchange Your US Driver’s License in France

If you’re planning a move to France and wondering about the status of your American driver’s license, there’s good news and some essential steps to consider. Initially, you’re allowed to drive in France with your foreign license for up to one year from establishing “normal residence” in the country; this is from the start date of your visa, at the latest. However, if you plan to continue driving beyond this period, exchanging your foreign license for a French one becomes mandatory, subject to specific conditions.

Can I exchange my US driver’s license for a French one?

The process of exchanging your driver’s license for a French one depends on your previous state of residency in the US. It’s important to note that not all states have agreements with France. You can use this driver’s license simulator to check this. Currently, 18 states in the US allow this exchange:

  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • South Carolina
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Wisconsin
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Connecticut

What can I do if my state doesn’t allow US-France driving license exchanges?

If your previous place of residence before moving to France is not on this list, you won’t be able to exchange your license. However, if you have the opportunity to establish residency in one of the listed states BEFORE moving to France, you can get a new US license in that state and then validate the exchange in France. This could involve arranging residency with friends or family, but be aware that P.O. boxes are not accepted.

Alternatively, if changing your place of residence is not feasible, or if you’ve already arrived in France, then you will be required to obtain a French driver’s license by retaking the exam in the country.

The importance of forward planning

Understanding these procedures is crucial, especially before making any vehicle purchases or soon after arriving in France. Having a French driver’s license is essential if you intend to insure and drive a vehicle purchased in France. Failure to obtain the necessary license before the end of the year will result in difficulties securing insurance, and if not obtained by the end of the year, it will result in your policy being terminated.

Not all French insurers will accept a US license even if it is legally valid to drive in France, as they see your situation as temporary, so make sure you work with an insurance company that is used to dealing with US expat, such as Fab Car Insurance.

Next steps: exchanging your US license in France

It’s strongly recommended that you start the paperwork as soon as possible, ideally upon activating your visa, to ensure a smooth transition and avoid any complications. If you’re unsure where to begin, you can ask us or our partners to assist with your driver’s license exchange, and we’ll be happy to help.

Put your question directly to Fab during our live webinar!

Fabien will be joining us on our upcoming webinar Visas & Residency in France: Making the Move in 2024 on Thursday 18th April 4pm UK  / 5pm France time. Find out more here or sign up now!

Fabien is the founder of Fab Insurance, an independent insurance broker dedicated to helping the English-speaking community in France, Spain and Portugal since 2015.
Tel: +33 (0)5 33 06 29 78

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  •  Katharine Koch
    2024-04-09 06:39:47
    Katharine Koch
    Is a French drivers license necessary to rent a car if you are a resident of France, eg, using a non-EU passport to rent - what are the pros/cons, pls? Thank you


    • Zoë Smith
      2024-04-10 20:52:42
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Katharine, Providing you are within the rules of being resident in France, then you should be able to rent a car with a foreign licence, as long as it's accepted in France. If you have failed to exchange your driving licence within the timeframe required as a French resident, then this may present problems, but you would have to enquire with the individual rental agency to be sure. You can check the rules regarding changing your licence for a French one here: Getting a French Driving Licence: What You Need to Know Kind regards, Zoe