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France - Driving Licences

You most likely already have a driving permit and you need to find out what are your obligation in this respect to be allowed to drive in France; in this case read the paragraph Foreign Driving License.

To find out how to obtain a new driving permit in France read the paragraph Getting a French Driving License.

Useful addresses at the end of the document give you a headstart of where to look and find driving schools or the French institutions dealing with the driving licences (Préfecture).

Foreign Driving License

NON-European Union/Non-European Economic Area - If you hold a valid driving license issued by a State that is neither a member of the European Union nor of the European Economic area you must request a license exchange within one year of acquiring residence in France. The exchange of your driving permit is subordinated to the existence of a reciprocal agreement between France and country which issued the permit (Beware that in the case of the United States, some states have agreements in place and others do not, so someone from California may exchange the permit, while another person from Texas cannot). Since the agreements are constantly reviewed, renewed, cancelled or updated it is important that you should contact the Préfecture about your status regarding your driving permit.

As soon as you get your first residence permit you have to go to the Préfecture and ask for the exchange, taking with you:
- your driving license (which need to have been issued before your french residence card)
- the French translaation of the driving licence
- your residence permit

After one year you can no longer exchange or use it for driving in France and you have to take your French driving licence by sustaining all the necessary tests and examinations.

European Union/ European Economic Area - If you hold a driving license issued by a State that is either a member of the European Union or of the European Economic Area:
Driving licenses issued by member states are considered to be valid on French soil as long as they have not expired and they fullfill the same requirement as the French permit (for example that is used by someone who has reached the minimum driving age (in France is 18 years old).
You can also register your driving license at the Prefecture. The registration will facilitate procedures if your licence is lost or stolen and also with insurance companies, to obtain a French car insurance.
To register your driving licence you need to have been resident for at least six months and you need to bring to the Préfecture or Sous-préfecture of your department:
- a valid ID (passport or french residency card which avoid the need of brining another document as a proof of residency) and its photocopy
- the driving licence issued to you by the EU member state or the EEA you come from
- a proof of residency (a utility bill or a haous rental agreement), if you do not have yet a french residency card.

Getting a driving licence in France

Over 18 - For people above the age of 18, the French driving licence test is divided in two parts :

  • highway code: only five mistakes maximum allowed. If you make more mistakes, you will have to try again! Here is a site for  testing your knowledge on the French highway code:
  • driving: you will have to drive with an officer beside you. He will see if you drive correctly, not too fast, respect the codes etc. If you pass this exam, the officer will give you a paper called "papier rose". Send this paper to the Préfecture. They will than send you your driving license!

The driving school can sell you the highway code book. You willl have to take approximately 20 hours of driving lessons. The costs are around 760 euros.

Under 18 - If you are 16 years old, you can obtain a driving license B which is called 'conduite accompagnée'. You will have to take some 20 hours of driving lessons. After this training, you will be given a certificate called 'conduite accompagnée'. With this, you can drive with somebody beside you who has a driving license B. You must drive for 3.000 kilometers in a period of a one-year minimum and three years maximum. After this period, your trainer will see how you drive and than decides,  if you are ready to pass the examination (highway code and driving).

Application - You can ask the application for the driving license at your driving school or you can do it yourself directly at your Préfecture.

In both cases, you need to have:
- The document "Cerfa n°11246*02" completed by yourself (to obtain this document ask the Préfecture or your driving school, or download it from here or from your department Préfecture website)
- Your identity card or passport, two passport photographs (write on the back your name and address)
- Two envelopes with stamps and your name and address (in order to send you your driving-license after passing  your exam).

You must know that...

French driving-licenses are normally given (that means if you drive correctly!) for life. All the information written it CANNOT be changed, even if you get married or change your name or if you move. You will keep the document like that for the rest of your life!

All French driving licences have 12 points. You can lose points if you are stopped by police for breaking the road code like speeding or not respecting the traffic lights etc. (i.e. for 'going through a red light' you lose 4 points!). You will have also to pay a fine that depends on the infraction. If you want your points back, you must behave for a period of three years or go back to driving training.

Useful addresses

For more information about where to find the Préfecture in your area, check out the Préfecture de Police website. The request to fill in the department number is misterious (which number?), but the map of France split in departments which is right below is self-explanatory and you can click on the area you live in and be delivered all the addresses of the offices in your area.

Driving Schools

To get the list you can use this link:
In the field:
- activité write auto école
- Localité write the name of the city you are living in.
- Département ou région write the postal code
Then click on: Rechercher

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