Driving in France

If you have obtained a driving licence outside of the European Union and are permanently based in France, as a general rule you will need to exchange it for a French licence. Many countries have an exchange agreement with France. If you don’t have a licence or cannot exchange yours, you can also take a driving test in France.

Verified by Ouarda Sadoudi on 29/11/2023

Driving in France with a foreign driving licence

The conditions for driving in France with a foreign driving licence depend on the country that issued it. 

You can run an online check to find out whether you can drive in France with your driving licence and under what conditions.

For example, you can drive with a foreign licence without having to exchange it:

  • if you obtained your licence in a member state of the European Union
  • or if you are studying in France and have a residence permit or “titre de séjour” bearing the word “étudiant”, or student.

Exchanging your foreign driving licence

When you permanently settle in France and if obtained your driving licence in a non-European country, you normally have to exchange your licence to continue driving in France within a very strict timeframe.

  • You can exchange your driving licence if you meet all of the following conditions:

    • The country where you hold your driving licence must have signed an exchange agreement with France. A list of these countries can be found on this website.
    • The driving licence must be valid and issued by a country in which you ordinarily resided, i.e. where you were staying for at least six months per year. 
    • If you are not a citizen of the European Union, you must have a document authorising you to stay in France, known as a residence permit or “titre de séjour”. 

    To find out whether this applies to you, you can run a check on this website.

  • The deadlines will vary depending on your nationality:

    • If you are a citizen of a member state of the European Union, you must apply for an exchange between the 6th and 18th month following your arrival in France.
    • If you are a citizen of a country outside of the European Union, you must apply within one year after the start date of the validity of your first residence permit or “titre de séjour”.
  • In order to apply for a driving licence exchange, you will need the following documents:

    • an identity document, such as your identity card or passport
    • a document proving your address, known as a “justificatif de domicile” or proof of residence, which is less than six months old, such as a rent receipt, a gas or electricity bill or a certificate of accommodation
    • a full copy of your birth certificate
    • your driving licence.

    If your documents are not in French, they must first be translated by a sworn translator or “traducteur assermenté”:

    • Translation costs 30–80 euros per page on average.
    • You can search online or ask the embassy of your country in France for a list of “traducteurs assermentés” in your language. If you are a political refugee in France, you must not contact the authorities of your home country. Instead, you can contact an organisation offering free services called an “association” specialised in the rights of refugees.

    You will also need a photo that meets the required standards. It is recommended that you have one taken by an accredited photographer who will give you an e-photo code.

  • The procedures are then carried out online on this website by following the steps below:

    • Create an account, log in to your profile and choose the reason for your request.
    • Fill in the form with the requested information and upload a photo and your signature.
    • Upload the other documents requested before confirming your request.

Getting a driving licence in France

In some cases, you will need to take or re-take your driving test in France. The most common license is called "Permis B". It allows you to drive a car and a van.

The French driving test includes:

  • A theory test that tests your knowledge of the highway code. This must be passed first. Registering for this test costs 30 euros.
  • A practical test that can be taken within five years of passing the theory test. Registering for this test is free.

If you do not speak French, you can be assisted by an interpreter during both parts of the test.

  • To get started, contact a company specialised in preparing people for the driving test, known as an “auto-école”, or driving school, near you. You can search for one online; for example, on Google Maps, which will allow you to check the reviews it has received. 

    The driving school will inform you of the steps to take and the documents to provide. 

    They will provide you with a quote detailing the rates for: 

    • Theory test preparation courses, if you want to take them. You can also choose to sit the test without doing the preparation course, but it is not recommended.
    • The driving courses that you will need to take depending on your level:
      • If you already have a foreign licence, you may not need to take any driving lessons. This depends, among other things, on the country that issued it to you.
      • If you have never driven before, you will usually need to take 20–30 hours of driving lessons before taking the test.

    If you do not speak French well, ask them what steps you need to take to be assisted by an interpreter during the tests.

  • Financial help is available to obtain a licence under certain conditions. You can run a check on this website to work out whether you can benefit from it.

Find support

In France, there are many services that can support you, give you advice, and assist you with procedures and paperwork. Most of them are free of charge.

  • The "PIMMS Médiation" are organisations that inform, guide or support in administrative procedures in many areas: access to public services, access to health care, applications for state financial assistance, tax declarations, declarations to “France Travail”, etc.

    • This service is free of charge.
    • Languages available: mainly French.
    • Contact: you can find a “PIMMS Médiation” near you in this directory.
  • Social workers or “travailleurs sociaux” and “assistants sociaux” are professionals who support people in their administrative procedures and help them find solutions according to the difficulties they are faced with.

    • These services are free of charge.
    • You can make an appointment to receive personalised advice according to your situation and help you with the next steps, for example: applications for state financial assistance, applications for social housing, registration with the French unemployment office “France Travail”, etc.
    • Available languages: mainly French.
    • Contact: you can request an appointment with a “travailleur social” with: 

While the utmost care has gone into providing you with the most accurate and up to date information, this page is not intended to replace legal or professional advice. Laws and procedures change regularly so it is important to consult qualified professionals.

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