Your French Driving Licence: Permit Types, Points, & Validity
Non-EU citizens living in France will be required to apply for a French driving licence within one year of becoming resident. Our article on getting a French driving licence will talk you through the process – here, we look at what you need to know once you have received your French licence.
Your French Driving Licence: The Basics
A French driving licence or ‘Permis de conduire’ is a credit card-sized photo card, in line with EU regulations (note that holders of an old-style pink paper licence issued before this date must now exchange it for a photo card licence – however, the deadline for doing this is 2033).
French law states that you must have your driving licence, your insurance documents and your car registration papers (carte grise) with you at all times when driving.
Types of French Driving Licences
There are a number of different licences available in France, but the standard licence is a ‘Permis B’. Here’s a quick rundown of the most common permits available:
A Permis A is a motorcycle licence. There are different categories available: drivers 16 years or older can apply for an AM licence (to drive a moped), an A1 licence (to drive light motorcycles), or a category B1 licence (to drive quadricycles). Category A2 licences are available to drivers over 18 years (typically with a minimum of two years experience with an A1 licence), and permits you to drive standard motorcycles. For heavy motorcycles, you will require a Permis A.
A Permis B (for drivers who passed their test on or after January 1st, 1997) allows you to drive vehicles up to an MAM (maximum authorised mass) of 3,500kg with up to 8 passenger seats. You may also tow a trailer up to a MAM of 750kg, or a larger trailer providing the total MAM of the trailer and vehicle is not more than 3,500kg. This permit is available to drivers aged 18 and older.
A Permis BE (issued after 2013) allows you to drive a vehicle with an MAM of 3,500kg and tow a trailer with an MAM of up to 3,500kg within the towing limits of the vehicle. This permit is available to drivers aged 18 and older.
Permis C and D
There are various categories of Permis C which permit you to drive medium and large-sized vehicles, while a Permis D is required for minibuses and buses.
How Long is My French Driving Licence Valid?
A French driving licence is valid for 15 years from the date of issue (this may be different for drivers with certain medical conditions or ‘heavy’ vehicle permits). Unlike some other countries, French licences do not expire after the age of 70 and older drivers are not required to take a medical in order to maintain their licence (unless requested to do so for legal or insurance purposes).
Driving Penalties and Points on French Driving Licences
In France, a full clean licence has 12 points (an initial probationary licence is issued with 6 points – you thengain 2 points for each year of driving to reach the full 12 points). Anything from 1 to 6 points can be deducted for driving offences (up to a total of 8 points at one time if multiple offences occur) – find out more in our article on Driving Offences and Penalties in France.
All lost points are reinstated after a certain period of time provided no further offences are committed, which can vary from six months to three years depending on the nature of the offence. You may also reinstate 4 points to your licence by taking a two-day driving awareness course (stage de sensibilisation). If you lose all 12 points, you will lose your license to drive for at least six months, after which time you may be expected to take further examinations before regaining your license. Consult the official rules here or learn how to find out how many points are left on your French driving licence.
Driving in France
Whether you own a car in France, travel to France in your UK or EU-registered car, or hire a rental car – FrenchEntrée has all the need-to-know info about driving in France. Our Essential Reading articles will take you through buying, registering, and insuring your car, as well as offering tips and advice on driving and car ownership in France.
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