Guide to Driving in France
- Driving Offences and Penalties
- Importing and Registering a Vehicle
- Vehicle Registration Process & Transfer of Ownership
- Vehicle Registration Taxes
- MOT Vehicle Tests
- Applying for a French Driving Licence
- Use of Vehicle Accident Forms in France
- Crit'Air Emissions Sticker
6. Applying for a French Driving Licence
- Do You Need a New Licence?
- Exchanging an EEA Driving Licence
- Exchanging a Licence Issued Outside of the EEA
6.1. Do You Need a New Licence?
If relocate to France and you hold a driving licence issued from within the European Economic Area (EEA) you are not required to change it for a French permis de conduire.
In relation to Brexit, the French government have stated that a UK driving licence remains valid in France until 31st Dec 2021, by which time you must have made an application to exchange your UK licence for French one.
So from 2022 UK nationals resident in France prior to 2021 must be either in possession of a French driving licence or hold proof they have made application to exchange their UK licence.
Those UK nationals relocating to France from 2021 onwards will have a year to exchange their UK licence for a French one (subject to reciprocal agreement being reached).
Before you can make an application to exchange your licence you will need to demonstrate at least six months residence in France. You need to provide proof through your income tax notice or French health certificate (attestation).
Until 2021 you will only need to change your existing licence if:
- You have an old licence with an expiry date that has passed;
- You lose or deface your licence;
- You commit an endorsable driving offence in France;
Whatever restrictions that apply to your home country licence apply equally in France. So if there are medical restrictions on your licence, these apply in France.
For those visiting France an International Driving Permit (IDP) may be required and you will need to be in possession of Green Card insurance cover. We await a decision of the French government.
An IDP can be obtained from the RAC or AA for a small fee if you wish to obtain one for travel around Europe, where it may be needed.
Driving licences issued outside of the EEA need to be exchanged within one year of arrival in France.
We published an article about driving licences for older people in France in our Newsletter, which you can find at Older Drivers and French Driving Licences.
6.2. Exchanging an EEA Driving Licence
In order to exchange your existing UK driving licence for a permis de conduire, since March 2020 applications for a French driving licence by UK driving licence holders must be made on-line.
The French government have stated: "The procedure for exchanging a driving licence obtained in a country of the European Union, the European Economic Area or the United Kingdom will be online on the ANTS website from 3 March 2020. Pending the opening of this online procedure, requests for exchange should no longer be sent by post."
The 'ANTS' Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés website is used for a range of registrations and applications. The site is not without its technical problems and if you do not have a French social security number or tax number you are likely to find that it will not accept your registration.
You need to go on-line at Permis de Conduire, which is part of the ANTS system.
The application is processed by CERT (Centre d'expertise et de ressources des titres) based in the prefecture in Nantes.
You will need to supply at least the following, although other documents may be demanded:
- A copy of your driving licence, printed in colour, reverse and back;
- A copy of your main passport page;
- A recent utility bill as proof of address;
- A copy of proof of residence in France for at least six months, eg, visa, tax return, social security certificate, employment contract, business registration certificate;
- Copy of penalty decision concerning your licence if this applies.
It is not unusual for documents submitted to be rejected, either because they are not clear enough, the date range is not satisfactory, or they are not adequate proof.
You will also need to supply a digital signed photo taken through an accredited photo booth - which can be organised through Où faire ma photo et ma signature numérisée? You will receive a 22 digital code, which you use to upload the photo on the ANTS application site.
You should later be requested by the authorities to supply the original driving licence. You should do only by recorded delivery letter.
As a result of Brexit the authorities have been inundated with demand from UK nationals to exchange their licence, and there are delays in processing applications. See our article UK Driving Licence Exchanges Suspended.
Accordingly, you might be best advised not to make application at this stage, unless you are required to do so as a result of a penalty.
Indeed, since the beginning of 2021 the French authorities are no longer processing change of licences for UK nationals until a reciprocal agreement has been reached.
The UK government website states: 'The rules for exchanging your licence have not been confirmed. '
6.3. Exchanging a Driving Licence Issued Outside of the EEA
In terms of other nationals, if you hold a non-EEA licence, and you become resident in France, you are required to obtain a French driving licence within 1 year of you becoming legally resident.
Accordingly, if you relocate to France and hold a carte de séjour, your licence will become invalid after one year.
After this period has expired in order to obtain a French driving licence you will be required to sit a driving test to obtain a permis de conduire.
France has a mutual recognition procedure with most other countries on the planet, so the process of exchanging your licence for a French one is normally fairly straightforward.
Indeed, there is widespread concern within France that the process is not rigorous enough, due to the ease with which a driving licence can be obtained in some countries, and the corruption that sometimes surrounds the issue of such licences!
You need to make application to your local prefecture.
You will need to supply the documents as given above, although you will need to supply your original driving licence, not a copy, in addition to a certified translation (traduction assermentée) of your driving licence.
The service is provided without charge.
The form to use is Demande de permis de conduire par échange, which you can find on the ANTS website, where you need to make the application.
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