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. Obtaining a French Driving Licence
  7. Use of Vehicle Accident Forms in France
  8. Crit'Air Emissions Sticker

6. Obtaining a French Driving Licence

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.

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;

Some expatriates choose to retain their home country licence precisely because it does sometimes makes life a little more difficult for French gendarmes in the event that you are stopped for a motoring offence!

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.

If you do decide to retain your existing licence the UK licensing authority (DVLA) will not change the address details to a foreign residence.

6.2. Application Procedure - EEA Driving Licence

In order to exchange your existing EEA driving licence for a permis de conduire you will need to download and complete a Demande de permis de conduire par échange.

You will also need to download and complete a similar form, called Demande de Permis de Conduire - Format de l'Union Europeen. This form must be printed off in colour.

You will need to supply:

  • A copy of your driving licence, printed in colour, reverse and back;
  • A copy of your main passport page;
  • A copy of 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 number, employment contract;
  • Four identity photos, two of which should be stuck onto the forms.
  • One stamp returned envelope 50g format 'prêt à poster'.

You will later be requested by the authorities to supply the original driving licence.

You should then obtain your new licence within two to three months.

You need to send recorded delivery to the Centre d'expertise et de ressources de titres (CERT) (Échanges de permis de conduire étrangers) whose address is:

CERT EPE, TSA 63527, 44035 NANTES, CEDEX 01

As a result of Brexit the authorities have been inundated with demand from UK nationals to exchange their licence, and given the uncertainty over Brexit they are reluctant to do an exchange unless it is completely necessary eg driving offence, expiry. See our article UK Driving Licence Exchanges Suspended.

Accordingly, you would be best advised not to make application at this stage.

6.3. Licences Issued Outside of the EEA

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!

The application procedure is the same as above, although it takes place through the prefecture.

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