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Obtaining a French Driving Licence

What are the regulations and the application process to change your existing driving licence for a French version?

POSTSCRIPT: Article updated August 2017

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.

Application Procedure

In order to apply for a French permis de conduire you will need to contact your local préfecture. You may be also able to visit a local sub-prefecture office, but in many departments the application is merely transferred on to the central office for processing.

The application forms you need to complete are Cerfa n°14879*01, which is the main application form, and Cerfa n°14948*01, which seeks complementary (the same!) information for a driving licence in the standard EEA format. Your should run both forms off in their original colour and complete at home.

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 and residence
  • Two to four identity photographs 3,5 x 4,5 cm
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate, particularly where licence in maiden name
  • Taxe d'habitation

Take photocopies of all your licence and passport, although the process may well be undertaken again at the prefecture.

Some préfectures request that the licence is translated, but this would be most unusual for an English licence. You should resist the demand.

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 and you should once again resist.

Normally no fee is payable, but this not always the case as in some cases a taxe régionale is payable, around €30. A small fee is, however, payable in the event of loss or destruction of your French driving licence.

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 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 form you need to complete is Cerfa n°14879*01.

This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 04/10/2012

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