Foreign driving licences in France

CERN/IR-REL-RH/20121
Replaces CERN/DSU-RH/20044
Published in the CERN Bulletin no. 30-31/2020 of July 14, 2020

The following information is provided subject to possible amendments decided by the competent French authorities. 
Those wishing to undertake the necessary steps may obtain information on the site service-public.fr or by calling "Allô Service public" at 3939 (from France only) or +33 1 73 60 39 39 (https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F33683).

1. Persons residing in France

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

a) Recognition on French territory

All currently valid driving licences issued by States belonging to the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) or by United Kingdom until December 31, 2020, are generally valid for driving on French territory as long as they have not passed their expiry date. However, if the licence was originally obtained in exchange for one issued by a state not belonging to the EU or the EEA and with which France has not concluded a reciprocity agreement, it is recognised only during the 12 months following the date of establishment of normal residence in France.


Covid-19: validity of European driving licences extended by 7 months

Due to the health crisis, all driving licences issued in the EU card format by a Member State of the European Union and whose validity expires between 1 February and 31 August 2020 are deemed to be valid for an additional period of seven months following their expiry date, in accordance with para. 4 of EU Regulation 2020/698 of 25 May 2020, published in the Official Journal of the European Union of 27 May 2020, provided that the issuing country has decided to apply this provision (NB: driving licences issued by Croatia, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Spain do not benefit from this extension: see https://ec.europa.eu/transport/sites/transport/files/opt-outs-from-regulation20200698.pdf and https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits F1757).

This extension is recognised on Swiss territory, provided that the holder presents an official document, or any document printed from an official site of the issuing country, attesting to this.


b) Exchange for a French driving licence

N.B. Following the introduction of an electronic procedure on the site of the Agence nationale des titres sécurisés (French agency for secure documents) in 2020, holders of a special residence permit issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs are currently no longer authorised to exchange their driving licence for a French driving licence. CERN is in contact with the French authorities with a view to finding a solution.

N.B.: In the event of the loss or theft of a European driving licence, it is still possible to apply for a French driving licence by post (cf. https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F31971).

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

The foreign driving licence of a person holding a special residence permit issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is recognised on French territory for the duration of the validity of the permit, irrespective of the state that issued the licence, provided that the licence is currently valid and is accompanied by an official translation into French (e.g. an international driving licence) (cf. Titre III, article 9 of the Arrêté du 12 janvier 2012 sur les conditions de reconnaissance et d'échange des permis de conduire délivrés par les Etats n'appartenant ni à l'Union européenne, ni à l'Espace économique européen).

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

All driving licences issued by a state not belonging to the EU or the EEA are generally valid on French territory during the 12 months following the date of establishment of normal residence in France (date of issue of the first residence permit by a Prefecture) (cf. articles 2 and 3 of the Arrêté du 12 janvier 2012 sur les conditions de reconnaissance et d'échange des permis de conduire délivrés par les Etats n'appartenant ni à l'Union européenne, ni à l'Espace économique européen). 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 by an official translation in French or an international driving licence.

c) Exchange for a French driving licence

Holders of a special residence permit issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs are not authorised to exchange a driving licence issued to them by a state that does not belong to the EU or the EEA for a French driving licence. CERN is in contact with the French authorities with a view to finding a solution. In the meantime, it is the responsibility of the individuals concerned to renew their foreign driving licence with the authorities of the country of issue or to take a driving test in order to obtain a French driving licence.

Holders of a residence permit issued by a Prefecture who hold a driving licence issued by a state not belonging to the EU or EEA must apply for it to be exchanged for a French licence within the deadlines in force. An electronic application procedure will be available on the site of the ANTS as of 4 August 2020 (see https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1460). However, such an exchange is possible only if the state that issued the driving licence has signed a reciprocal agreement with France for the exchange of driving licences. If this is not the case, the individual concerned must pass a French driving test.

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).