Getting a French Driving Licence: What You Need to Know
Do you need to change your driving licence when you move to France and is it possible? Whether you are an EU citizen living in France, a British citizen resident in France after Brexit, or an American, Australian, or other non-EU citizen – here’s what you need to know about getting a French driving licence.
Do you need to change your driving licence for a French one?
Whether or not you need to exchange your licence for a French one depends on two things:
- How long you intend to stay in France
- Where your driving licence was issued
Driving on holiday or a short visit
If you are only staying in France for a short period and have no intention of living or becoming resident in France, you do not need to exchange your driving licence for a French one. This applies to most travellers, second-home owners, and some students.
If you have an EU or British driving licence, or your licence is in French, you may legally drive using your current licence (an international driving permit is not required). If you have a driving licence from a non-EU country and it is in another language other than French, it must be accompanied by an official translation or an international driving licence. Read more about that here
Moving to France: Exchanging Your Driving Licence
If you are moving to France, it is likely that you will need to exchange your licence for a French one. Here’s a rundown of the legal requirements.
EU-Issued Driving Licences
If your licence was issued in the EU or EEA, you are not required to exchange your licence for a French one. An exception to this may be if you have picked up points on your licence (e.g. a speeding fine or other offence) – in this instance, you may be asked to exchange your licence in order for the relevant points to be deducted from your licence. Read more about the procedure here.
British and Northern Ireland-Issued Driving Licences
Those with a British or NI-issued driving licence that was issued before January 1st, 2021, are not required to exchange their licence until the licence or photocard expires. You can apply for a new licence within six months of the expiry date of either the licence or photocard (whichever is first).
If you have a British or NI licence issued after January 1st, 2021, this is not covered by the reciprocal agreement, and you must exchange your licence for a French one within one year of becoming resident in France.
Read more about how to change your UK driving licence for a French one.
Non-EU Issued Driving Licences
If your licence was issued by a country outside of the EU, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, you must exchange your licence for a French one within one year of becoming resident in France. Whether or not you can exchange your licence or need to re-take your driving test in France depends on the country, and sometimes state, in which your licence was issued (more on this below).
Can I Exchange My Driving Licence for a French one?
Now that we’ve covered whether or not you need a French driving licence, the next question is whether or not you can exchange your licence for a French one.
For those with a driving licence issued outside the EU/EEA (excluding British and NI licences, as mentioned before), this depends on where your driving licence was issued and whether a reciprocal agreement is in place with France. You can see a full list of the countries that do have a reciprocal agreement here.
Countries with a Reciprocal Agreement (including Australia/New Zealand)
For those with licences issued by a country with a reciprocal agreement in place, it is possible to exchange your driving licence for a French one. This is a relatively straightforward process (although expect a fair amount of paperwork – this is France, after all!), and most of it can be done online.
How to apply for a French driving licence
You can make your application via the ANTS website here – click ‘echanger un permis étranger pour un permis français’. You will need to provide the following documents:
- Passport or National Identity Card
- Proof of address less than 6 months old (e.g. an electricity bill)
- A full, recent copy of your birth certificate
- Your current driving licence OR an official declaration of loss (in the instance of a lost licence) OR an official police report (in the instance of a licence theft)
- Your French Carte de Séjour (residency permit) OR equivalent
United States and Canada-Issued Driving Licences
Licences issued in the United States and Canada are also dependent upon the state in which the licence was issued. Currently, the only US states with reciprocal agreements in place are Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Connecticut.
Exchanges for motorbike licences (Permis A) are further limited to Pennsylvania, Florida, and Connecticut, and other licences depend upon the individual agreements.
Currently, the only Canadian states with reciprocal agreements in place are Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland et Labrador, Québec, Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. These exchanges are for Permis B (standard vehicle) licences only – different rules apply for heavy vehicle and/or trailer licences.
Countries without a Reciprocal Agreement (including the US and Canada)
For those with a driving licence issued in a country or US or Canadian state which doesn’t have a reciprocal agreement in place, the situation is vastly more complicated. Once you move to France, your driving licence will be valid for one year only – after this period, you will no longer be able to legally drive in France on your current licence and risk a court summons and/or fines if you do so.
If you wish to continue driving in France, the only option available is to take a French driving test and apply for a French driving licence. You can read more about the requirements here.
Your French Driving Licence
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). The most common French licences are ‘Permis A’, a motorbike licence, and ‘Permis B’, the standard driving licence which allows you to drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes.
New drivers who have passed their test within the last three years will only be issued a provisional licence. All licences are issued with a full 12 points, which may be deducted in the case of speeding or other traffic offences.
Read our guide to Your French Driving Licence: Permit Types, Points, & Validity
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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