Your interactive family guide to France as recommended by local mums | Last updated 7 months ago

Moving to France

Driving in France

If you are moving to France and you have a non-European driving licence, you can use this for up to one year after your residency in the country is confirmed. Make sure you change your driving licence for a French one within the one-year period allowed.

Conditions of using a foreign licence in France

If your driving licence was issued by a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA), this non-European driving licence must meet the following three conditions for you to be able to drive in France, regardless of your nationality:

  • It must be valid;
  • It must have been issued by the country in which you normally resided before moving to France;
  • It must be written in French or be accompanied by an official translation.

You must meet the following conditions:

  • You must be over the minimum driving age in France (18);
  • You must not have had your right to drive suspended in the country where your licence was issued;
  • You must not have had your right to drive in France cancelled or revoked before obtaining your foreign licence;
  • You must comply with any medical notes listed on your licence (must wear glasses, etc);
  • If you are European, you must have obtained your non-European licence while residing in the country of issue;
  • You must have obtained your non-European licence before your visa was validated by the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII, or French Office for Immigration and Integration).

Warning: if you drive in France with an invalid foreign licence, you are committing a 4th class contravention.

Validity period of a foreign licence in France

For a non-European holder

If you are moving to France, your non-European licence is valid for a maximum period of one year after the date your Visa de Long Séjour Valant Titre de Séjour (long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit) is validated by the OFII.

For a European holder

Your non-European driving licence is valid for a maximum period of one year after you acquire your residency in France: in other words, up to a maximum of 18 months in total, i.e. the first 6 months of your residency in France + 12 months.

For a French holder

Your non-European driving licence is valid for a maximum period of one year after you arrive in France: in other words, 12 months.

For a non-European holder who is also a student

If you are studying in France and you have a driving licence that was issued by your home country (or by another non-European country), you can drive with this foreign licence for the duration of your studies in France.

Exchanging your foreign licence for a French one

After one year in France

You must apply to exchange your non-European licence for a French licence (at your local prefecture or at the Préfecture de Police de Paris(Prefecture of Police of Paris) if you live in Paris).

If your licence is not exchangeable, or if you do not apply to exchange your licence within the maximum period of one year (see above), you will lose the right to drive in France. In order to start driving again, you must take the French driving test (theory test on the French highway code + practical driving test).

For a non-European student

At the end of your studies, and following your change in status (Carte de Séjour "Vie Privée et Familiale" ("private and family life" residence permit), Carte "Salarié" ("employee" permit), Carte "Compétences et Talents" ("skills and talents" permit), etc), you must apply at the prefecture to exchange your driving licence for a French licence within one year after the date your new residence permit commences to continue to drive in France.

Issuance of your French licence

Exchanging your licence

Upon issuing your French licence, the prefecture will withdraw your foreign one.

Delivery time

The time it takes for a licence to be delivered varies, and it can take anything from a few weeks to several months.

  • If there is any doubt on the authenticity of the licence being exchanged, the procedure can take more than 6 months.
  • If there is no response from the authorities who issued the licence within 6 months, you will be denied a French licence.

Date of issue

The date of issue printed on your French licence will show the date your original licence was issued. If you have had your foreign licence for less than 3 years, the French licence you are issued with will be a probationary licence until the end of the 3-year period.