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

6. Applying for a French Driving Licence

  1. Do You Need a New Licence?
  2. Exchanging an EEA Driving Licence
  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.

A UK driving licence remains valid in France until at least 31st Dec 2020, and probably after this date. A final decision is awaited from the French government when the transition period ends, but it does appear that your UK licence will remain valid after Brexit. The French government have already experienced a rush in 2018 by British nationals to exchange their UK driving licence, and it is likely they will not be keen to repeat the experience.

Nevertheless, it may well be that it will not be possible to use a UK driving licence in other countries of Europe. As it is not possible to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) without a UK address, it poses a potential problem for someone holding a UK driving licence who wishes to travel elsewhere in Europe.

In addition, second-home owners and other visitors to France holding a UK driving licence may well require an IDP, which can be obtained from the RAC or AA for a small fee.

If you do decide to retain your existing licence the UK licensing authority (DVLA) will not change the address details to a foreign residence. Although if you relocate within the UK you are required to change your driving licence, this does not apply to those who relocate overseas. It is, however, illegal to make application for renewal of a UK licence once you have relocated (by, for instance, using a UK address). The advice of the DVLA is: 'You cannot register your new address on your British driving licence. Contact the driving licence authority in your new country of residence'.

For the time being 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;

However, 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.

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.

That said, since 4th August, the ANTs service has reopened for service.

They have similarly indicated that British nationals will continue to be permitted to drive in France on their UK licence. It remains to be seen if that advice changes, but there does not appear to be any urgency for UK nationals to seek a French driving licence, unless for the reasons outlined above.

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.

The Guides to France are published for general information only.
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