Obtaining a French driving license for foreign nationals

21 February 2022 | Immigration in France

Driving with a foreign driving license in France may be possible under certain conditions. However, obtaining a French driving license proves to be compulsory in some cases:

  • Any person residing in France and holder of a driving license issued by a EU country may drive during the period of validity of the latter, but shall exchange it for a French driving license in the event of traffic violation leading to a loss of points, any restriction, suspension or cancellation of the driving license. This is also applicable when applying for a new category of driving license.
  • Any person residing in France and holder of a driving license issued by a non-EU country may drive in France over a period of one year maximum upon their arrival in France.

Beyond that time-limit, either they must have applied for the exchange of their driving license for a French one – provided that bilateral agreements so allow – or havetaken the French driving test.

Exchanging a foreign driving license for a French one

The file consisting of the application for the exchange of a driving license obtained in the EU shall be sent by only post mail to the French Centre d’expertise et de ressources de titres(CERT) or to the Centre de ressources des échanges de permis de conduire étrangers et des permis internationaux de conduite(Crepic) if it is in Paris.

For more information, please visit the concerning webpage of the French Service Public website.

When the driving license has been delivered by a non-EU country, the application has to be filed with the competent prefecture (French Administrative center) of the petitioner’s place of residence (in some French departments, with the sous-prefecture).

You may find all the necessary information on the French Service Public website.

Warning: it is only when the country where the driving license has been issued has reached a reciprocity agreement with France that the exchange process may only be allowed, and the application file must have been filed by the end of the first year of residency in France.

Obtaining a French driving license

When the driving license is non-exchangeable, one must take the French driving test.

The test consists of a theoretical (the “Code de la Route” available online or in bookstores) and a practical part.

The theoretical part needs to be passed in the first place. The practical part may be taken within the 5 following years. That one lasts 25 minutes and takes place under normal trafficking conditions and since March 2015, it also consists of a “Basic First Aid” part.

During those 2 stages of the test, you may be assisted by an interpreter.

The results are then issued within the 48 hours following the exam, either by email or post mail. When passed, a certificate of achievement (“attestation de réussite d’examen”) is provided pending acquiring the official driving license which is usually issued within the 4 following months. If no traffic violation is committed within 3 years, the driving license may then be credited with 12 points.

Warning : in case of failure and while their Code de la route is still valid, one has the right to 5 attempts. However, it usually takes about several months before being able to retake the test. After 5 failures at the practical test, one will have to retake the theoretical part of the Code de la route.

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Driver’s license exchange