Foreign driving licenses in France

CERN/DSU-RH/14756 Published in the CERN Bulletin no. 58-02-03/2009 - modified on September 8th, 2014

The following information is provided subject to possible amendments decided by the competent French authorities. Those wishing to undertake the necessary steps with the prefectural services of the Departments of Ain and Haute-Savoie may obtain information by calling the following numbers: +33 4 74 32 30 00 (voice server, #2) for Ain and +33 4 50 33 60 00 for Haute-Savoie. Information may also be obtained from "Allô Service public" at 3939 (from France only) or +33 1 73 60 39 39.

1. Persons residing in France

1.1 Driving licences issued by a state belonging to the EU or the EEA

a) Recognition on French territory

All currently valid driving licences issued by States belonging to the European Union (EU) or to the European Economic Area (EEA) are generally valid for driving on French territory.  
However, if the licence was originally obtained in exchange for a licence issued by a State not belonging to the EU or to the EEA with which France has not concluded a reciprocity agreement, it is recognised only up to one year following the date of establishment of normal residence in France (date of the first special residence permit issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs or residence permit issued by a Prefecture).
N.B.  The EU member states are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  
The EEA comprises the EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

b) Registration and exchange for a French driving licence

Holders of a driving licence issued by a member state of the EU or by a state within the EEA may request the prefectural services of the Department in which they normally reside:

  • to register their driving licence (in this case a registration certificate will be issued to the driver, drawing his attention to the procedure to be followed if his original licence contains provisions differing from those of a French driving licence);
  • to replace it with a French driving licence (this is compulsory for a driver who has committed an offence on French territory which has resulted in a restriction on, or temporary withdrawal, withdrawal or cancellation of, the entitlement to drive, or in the withdrawal of points).

1.2 Driving licences issued by a State belonging neither to the EU nor to the EEA

a) Recognition for holders of a special residence permit

Any valid driving licence held by a person who is in possession of a special residence permit issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is recognised for driving on French territory during the period in which the special residence permit is valid. No exchange is possible for holders of such a special residence permit.

b) Limited recognition for holders of a residence permit issued by a Prefecture

All driving licences issued by States belonging neither to the European Union (EU) nor to the European Economic Area (EEA) are generally valid for driving on French territory up to one year following the date of establishment of normal residence in France (date of issue of the first residence permit by a Prefecture). In order to be recognised, such driving licences must specifically:

  • be currently valid;
  • have been issued by a State on whose territory the driver normally resided;
  • have been obtained prior to the date of issue of the residence permit;
  • be accompanied, in certain cases, by an official translation in French or an international driving licence (information can be obtained from the French embassies and/or consulates).

c) Exchange for a French driving licence

Holders of a special residence permit delivered by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may not exchange their driving license issued by a State belonging neither to the European Union (EU) nor to the European Economic Area (EEA), as it is recognized during the period in which the special residence permit is valid. When the driving license expires, their holders must either renew it in the country where it was issued or take the French driving license tests.

Holders of a residence permit issued by a Prefecture must apply to the prefectural services of the Department in which they normally reside to exchange their driving licence issued by a State belonging neither to the EU nor to the EEA for a French driving licence, within one year of the date of establishment of the first residence permit issued by a Prefecture. 

However, a driving licence may only be exchanged if the issuing State has a reciprocal arrangement for French driving licences to be exchanged. If this is not the case, the person concerned has to take the French driving tests.

2. Persons not residing in France

A current driving licence duly issued by a State is generally considered to be valid for driving on French territory. In certain cases, it will have to be accompanied by an official translation in French or an international driving licence (information can be obtained from the French embassies and/or consulates).

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