What are the regulations and the application process to change your existing driving licence for a French version?
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 expats 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 there is no need to inform your licensing authority (eg DVLA) of your new address in France, as they will not change the address details to a foreign residence.
In order to apply for a French permis de conduire you will need to contact your local préfecture.
The application form is a Cerfa n°11247.
You can complete it directly online, but it is probably easier if you print it off and complete it in black ink. This is because you may need to discuss your application with the préfecture.
As usual, you will need to present a range of information and documents to officials. The requirements do vary marginally between different departments, but unless you know precisely what is required in your own department, we would recommend you are able to produce at least the following:
- Your original driving licence
- Your passport
- Recent utility bills as proof of address
- Two to four identity photographs
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
Some préfectures request that the licence is translated, but this would be unusal for an English licence.
You may also be asked for a certificate of entitlement issued by the DVLA and a certificate from the tax office that you are up to date with the payment of your French taxes. The form you need from your local centre d’impots is a P237. In both cases it is not a normal requirement.
Normally no fee is payable, but this not always the case.
There is no set period for issue of the licence, which make take several weeks to several months.
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 rigourous 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!