Foreign driving licenses in France

CERN/IR-REL-RH/20044
Replaces CERN/DSU-RH/14756
First published in the CERN Bulletin no. 7-8/2020 of February 12, 2020 - last update February 13, 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.

1. Persons residing in France

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

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.  
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).

b) Exchange for a French driving licence

Please note that the delays may be up to 12 months. When possible, it is therefore recommended to renew one's driving licence before arrival at CERN.

Holders of a driving licence issued by a member state of the EU or by a state within the EEA or United Kingdom until December 31, 2020 can request to replace it with a French driving licence only in the following situations :

  1. expiry of the driving license;
  2. extention to a new category;
  3. for a driver who has committed a traffic 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.

The procedure must be made online, following the instructions on the relevant Service-Public page.

Note : a French driving license may also be applied for in case of loss or theft. The applications must be made by post.

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, provided that it is accompanied with an official translation (e.g. international driving permit). No exchange is possible for holders of such a special residence permit (cf. 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 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) (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 permit.

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 prefectoral 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 the prescribed periods (see https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1460). 

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).