You can drive to France with a foreign driver’s license, but some nationalities have to exchange it for a French driver’s license after a certain period. How to get a French driver’s license
The good news is that France has recognized the driving licenses issued by several countries, whether you’re traveling to France or simply visiting.
France also has agreements that allow certain drivers to swap a French driving licence easily.
Unless you are from the European Union (EU), the EU, the EU and Iceland, Norway or Switzerland, the majority of foreigners in France will have to use their foreign licenses only for the first year after their residence. They will not use the EU, Europe and Liechtenstein.
Before then, you must get a French license either by exchanging your foreign license or by taking the French driving test.
Who can drive in France?
Any foreigner who has a full driver’s permit over the age of 18 may drive for at least one year in France upon arrival.
Young licensed drivers can’t drive in France until they turn 18. Until they’re 18. How to get a French driver’s license
You can use your license in France indefinitely if you have a driving license issued by an EU/EEA member state or by Switzerland.
Within the first 12 months of arrival, each one must obtain a French licence.
One year since the date of residence, foreign driving licenses are invalid.
EU/EEA citizens driving in France
You may drive in France for an unlimited period of time if you hold a driver’s license issued by an EU/EEA country.
- The license will be valid and will not be approved, limited, or suspended.
- You are in accordance with all legal medical restrictions above the minimum English age for vehicle category drivers (e.g. 18 for cars) (e.g., prescription glasses)
If you like your license may be exchanged for a French licence.
However, you must exchange your license for a driving offense and get points.
Non-EU/EEA citizens driving in France
You can drive in France for up to a year without the need for a French license if you have a complete non-European licence.
However, some conditions must be fulfilled:
The license is valid and has not been issued in your previous country of residence, any approval, restriction or suspension, and you must have livened there for at least 6 months must be accompanied by an official translation of the license in English or by an International Driver Permit (IDP) above the French minimum driving age (e.g., prescription glasses)
Students and diplomats
Students and foreign diplomats can drive for the duration of their stay without exchanging their license.
Exchanging a foreign driver’s license in France
The two countries of France, including Switzerland, Australia, South Africa, USA and Canada, have mutual agreements with them.
This enables the citizens of other countries living in France for less than a year, without testing in France, to exchange their existing drivers’ licenses for their French counterpart.
A list of countries with agreements in place is available here.
In addition, you can confirm your country with the French Consular Authority.
You must get a French license after 12 months if your country has no agreement with France.
Practical and theoretical French driving testing must be carried out by applicants.
Check with your region for certain licenses if it is excluded and a test is necessary for obtaining French equivalent.
A policy with a non-EU driving license can be issued by many insurance companies.
You may be held liable for any damages if you have an accident and the company finds that you were on an invalid permis.
How to exchange your driver’s license
Applications can be made in your local Police or Town hall for the exchange of your driver’s licence.
Request for the driver’s license exchange form request.
You can also make a request at the police headquarters when you are in Paris.
Certain sub-prefectures do not exchange licenses; please check before going to avoid any problems.
It is worth bringing a copy of the list of countries if you exchange your license under a reciprocal arrangements in the event that the local office is unaware.
This is a list of countries with existing agreements.
Documents required include:
- color photocopy of your foreign driver’s license, with official translation if necessary;
- official translation of the license or the International Driver’s Permit (IDP) if you have one;
- recent passport photographs;
- if you are a non-EU/EEA or Swiss citizen, a photocopy of your visa;
- if you are an EU/EEA or Swiss citizens, proof of six months’ residence in France.
Required documents are:
- color photocopy, with official transmission if necessary, your foreign driver’s license, official license translation or an International Driver’s License (IDP) if you have one;
- A photocopy of your visa if you are a non-EU/EEA citizen, or Swiss citizen; a proof of residence in France of six months for you, if you are EU/EEA citizens or Swiss citizens.
Delivery time and costs for exchanging a driver’s license
There are costs to exchange a French driver’s licence, which vary from place to place.
Depending on the county, your français license can be obtained between a few weeks and several months.
The license itself is in rosy format with a credit card.
As they deal with larger numbers of applications, Busier Prefectures will take longer.
Every 15 years the driving licence must be renewed.
You will receive a newly issued French license until a period of 3 years is elapsed, the same conditions that apply for french drivers when you are licensed to drivers who are less than three years old.
Getting a French driver’s license: French driving test
If your country has a non-French agreement, after a one-year driving and theory test you must receive a French driver’s license in the same process as French nationals.
For a driving test, you must go to the prefecture or a driving school to obtain a Cerfa 14866 * 01 registration form that must be presented together with proof of identity or permission to reside, two new passport photo, two envelopes and a medical certificate confirming your fitness to drive.
The test consists of a theory test (the Code de la Route (the French Highway Code) and a practical test.
The theory exam must first be passed.
Then you have to pass the practical test five times over three years.
The trial takes 25 minutes in normal conditions of traffic.
Knowledge from first aid is included in the test.
In 48 hours, you’ll find out the test result; if you pass, you’ll receive a temporary license until your formal license comes in four months.
It may take many months to resume if you fail the test; ask at your test center.
For both theory and practical areas of the test, you can have a translator.
Tips for taking the French driving test
You can study the Code of the Route and test yourself in writing.
Even in English, that’s not always easy.
In most prefectures, you have to register for the driving test at a driving school in which you can pay for a course or packages.
We also have several online tools for preparing you for a written test, which are fee based.
Even experienced drivers should be aware of very special criteria for test managers.
It might not be sufficient to conduct prudently or even legally; you could expect to lead the French way.
Although the road rules are the same all over France, certain conditions can change depending on your place of residence.
If you live in Paris, there are a number of language schools; you could take the test in English, too.
Other than Paris, you can ask your prefecture for a translator, although it may not be possible anywhere.
An automated transmission car can also be requested, although availability is dependent on your location again.
The French driving licenses are supported by a point penalty scheme which punishes driving offenses by reducing points on top of fees. Your license will be suspended if you lose all your points. How to get a French driver’s license
Road rules, speed limits and drink driving in France
- Drive right on the road. Right.
- Traffic from the right priorities; traffic from the left is a priority of roundabouts.
- Keep traveling with you on your driving licence, vehicle registration and insurance documents.
- Unless there is room in the back, children under the age of 10 are not permitted in the front seat.
- You must have an unused and up-to-date auto-test breathalyzer kit that complies with French safety NF standards by law.
- Boundaries for drink drives are strict:
50 mg per 100 ml blood of alcohol.
For new drivers with less than 3 years driving experience, the limit was reduced to 0.02 percent in July 2015.
For beginners with less than three years of driving experience, up to 0.02 percent.
- When driving in France, you should also wear a reflective triangle and jacket.
- Driving headsets and headsets – for telephones or music – are not permitted.
- Driving, don’t eat or drink.
- Heavy fines or deposits on the spot and cars for some speeding offenses may be confiscated.
- For dry and wet weather, there are different speed limits.
Dry weather: 50km/h urban areas, outside
- City areas of 90kph, dual carriageways and highways of 110kph, and max. 130kph.
Wet weather: city areas 50km/h, outside city areas 80km/h, two carriageways and 100km/h non-taxis roads and 110km/h highways.
Note: Limits of urban speed begin at the town sign.
Conductors with less than two years’ experience meet the lower limits.
- Many speed traps exist in France (including hidden in undetected vehicles), and any device able to detect speed cameras in your car is illegal – disable alerts if your satnav has this option.
Driving your own car in France
You may use a car registered in your home country during this period if you’re from the EU and only live in France for up to six months.
Stay for 30 days after registering your stay and pay a French vehicle registration tax to register your car in France.
In the Expatica guide on driving and parking in France you can read more about importing a car and registration.
Office for information and forms (DREAL, Regional Directorate of Environment, Planning and Housing). How to get a French driver’s license
Road signs and signals in France
Click here for a list of all the French road signs and what they mean.
Road and traffic conditions in France
Bison Fute provides up-to-date information on road conditions and traffic around France.
For more information
Securite-routiere: French government website on all aspects of driving, licenses, and road safety in France.
Service-public: information (in French) on driving in France on an EU/EEA license.