Guide to Driving in France

  1. Driving Offences and Penalties
  2. Importing and Registering a Vehicle
  3. Vehicle Registration Process & Transfer of Ownership
  4. Vehicle Registration Taxes
  5. MOT Vehicle Tests
  6. Applying for a French Driving Licence
  7. Use of Vehicle Accident Forms in France
  8. Crit'Air Emissions Sticker
  9. Grants for Electric Cars
  10. Scrapping a Vehicle

6. Applying for a French Driving Licence

  1. Do You Need a New Licence?
  2. Application Process
  3. 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.

Since the UK left the EU, the rules have changed for holders of a UK licence, with the issue in a state of flux since this date.

Many UK nationals living in France have attempted to change their UK licence for a French one, but the ANTS application centre has been unwilling (unable) to process their application.

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreeent made no provision for driving licences, as a result of which the British and French governments have been required to negotiate an agreement.

Nevertheless, on 24th June 2021 the British government announced that an agreement with France was now in place.

Under the terms of the agreement:

i. If your UK driving licence was issued before 1 January 2021.

Your UK licence is recognised in France for as long as it is valid. Paper licences are usually valid until you are 70. For plastic photocard licences, the expiry date is on the front. Check the expiry date.

If your UK licence has expired, or has less than 6 months’ validity remaining, you must exchange it for a French licence from Monday 28 June. You do not need to take a driving test. After you have applied you will receive your ‘attestation de dépôt sécurisée’. You can use this document to drive in France until you receive your new licence.

You can only exchange your licence if it is due to expire within 6 months. If you do not have a valid reason to request an exchange, your application will be rejected.

ii. If your UK driving licence was issued on or after 1 January 2021.

Your UK licence is recognised for 1 year from the date of issue of your residency permit (carte de séjour). If you intend to stay in France for longer than 1 year, you must exchange your UK licence for a French licence during this first year. You do not need to take a driving test.

The agreement is also set out by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Permis de Conduire and was confirmed in response to a parliamentary question on 24th April 2022 .

NB: The 'issue date' of your licence is not the renewal date of an existing licence, but the date you passed your driving test.

Accordingly, unless otherwise required to do so, most UK nationals should not need to change their driving licence.

You are only required to change your licence if:

  • Your licence has expired or it expires within 6 months, eg 70 years of age;
  • Your licence has been lost, stolen or badly defaced;
  • You are required to exchange your licence due to a driving offence in France;
  • Your driving licence was issued after 1st Jan 2021.

Unless you meet at least one of these criteria your licence you will not be able to exchange your licence. That said, since summer 2022 we are aware of a number of UK nationals with a valid UK licence who have been able to exchange it for a French licence, although the merits of doing so are unclear. It is possible this is being permitted as the backlog is being reduced.

Neither can you renew your UK driving unless you are resident in the UK, although once again, some readers are finding ways around this obstacle. Be aware, however, it is illegal to make application for a renewal if you are not UK resident.

A report in our newsletter 'France Insider' of a British national who escaped a prison sentence when her new UK licence was recognised as legal might interest you, which you can read about at Validity of New UK Driving Licence.

UK tourists and visitors to France can also use their UK licence, with no International Driving Licence required. 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.

On 30th June 2021 the European Commission also agreed that no 'Green Card' insurance would be necessary for UK drivers visiting Europe. This document is issued by your insurer to confirm that you hold a valid insurance policy.

The change did not formally come into effect until later in July, following publication of the regulation.

The relaxation of policy was agreed in order to ease implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

6.2. Application Process

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).

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.

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.

In order to exchange your existing UK driving licence for a permis de conduire, applications for a French driving licence must be made on-line.

The 'ANTS' Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés website (called 'France Titres' since March 2024, but with no change in the url) 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.
  • A copy of your marriage certificate (female applicants);
  • A certificate of entitlement (driving history record) from the licence authority in your home country under 3 months old.

For those who hold a UK licence, there are several way of obtaining a certificate of entitlement from the DVLA.

i. You can make application by completing Certificate of Entitlement (driving record) and sending it to the DVLA. This is often the slowest route.

ii. You can use the DVLA Web Chat service, although some patience and slight cunning is needed to get through.

iii. An even quicker way of getting your DVLA licence summary using the UK government 'check code' service provided your licence has not expired. It gives access to your driving licence record, which you can download. You can do that at View or share your driving licence information. You need to have licence number, national insurance number and post-code on licence ready. You need to click on the tab to share your licence information and then click "create a code", which then goes to a link to access your driving licence record. At the top of the page you click on 'Save or print this licence'. Save it and upload it to your driving licence application. You can also use the Chat service to get a code.

Bear in mind however that in theory, DVLA rules in the UK don’t allow licences to be registered to foreign addresses . However if you are resident in France and don’t have an official address in the UK, and can’t swap your licence as the above criteria don’t apply you can/should contact the DVLA and let them know that you have left the country.

You may be required to undergo a medical examination, as the (older) UK driving licence normally covers vehicles where such a medical examination is obligatory (C and D). You will be sent a form for this purpose. You will need to find a doctor accredited by the prefecture to undertake the examination, who cannot be your local GP. Your local GP surgery should be able to point you in the right direction, or contact the prefecture. The exam is fairly routine and quick - an eye test and blood pressure. Cost €37 not reimbursable. It is also possible to avoid the examination by making a declaration that you will not drive heavy goods vehicles.

It is not unusual for application 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 are likely to find that the list of booths given on the above website is not entirely up-to-date, so you may need to search for one that offers this service.

You should later be requested by the authorities to supply the original driving licence. You should do only by recorded delivery letter. ANTs will communicate with you via e-mail and phone message.

Some female readers have reported their French licence being issued in their maiden name, but this is how it works in France.

If you applied to exchange your driving licence before the new agreement was reached, the French authorities have stated that you should take no further action, but wait to hear from them. Indeed, the ANTs system will not allow you to make a further application whilst your existing application is pending. There are delays of six months or more in the processing of exchange of licences.

Only those with an Attestation de Depot de Permis de Conduire are permitted to continue to drive if their licence has expired. This is also only valid in France. You will only receive the attestation once the application has been approved. Not to be confused with the receipt acknowlegement Justificatif de dépôt de demande'

The processing time for a new licence can be substantial - often many months, although it is improving. You will be notified by SMS of any developments, but as the system does not always work, you are strongly recommended to regularly check the website for messages on your account. The status will often say 'En cours d'analyse par le service instructeur', but you sometimes need to tick on the application form to make sure they are not waiting for new documentation from you.

In May 2023 the government announced the introduction of digital driving licences, which you can read about in France Insider at Digital French Driving Licences.

If you are encountering difficulties we can assist you with your application for a modest charge. You can contact us at French Driving Licence.

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. That is to say, from the date of your carte de sejour.

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!

The complete list of countries (including US States) with whom a reciprocal agreement exists can be found at Liste des États et autorités dont les permis de conduire nationaux sont susceptibles de faire l’objet d’un échange contre un permis de conduire français.

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 online.

You will need to supply the documents as given above, including your original driving licence, not a copy, in addition to a certified translation (traduction assermentée) of your driving licence, and legally verified.

The service is provided without charge.

If you are encountering difficulties we can assist you with your application for a modest charge. You can contact us at French Driving Licence.

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