If you have a national, non-European driver’s license, you can drive with it as soon as you arrive in France and for one year after acquiring your normal residence in France. To ensure that your license is recognized during this period, it must be valid and accompanied by an international driver’s license. If you come from a country that does not issue an international driver’s license, you must have an official translation of your national driver’s license.
If you want to drive in France beyond one year, you must apply to exchange your national driver’s license for a French driver’s license within the year following the date of acquisition of your normal residence. This date corresponds either to the start date of the validity of your first residence permit or to the date of the stamp affixed by the OFII on your first long-stay visa acting as a residence permit.
It is strongly recommended that you apply for the exchange in the weeks following your arrival, as once the one-year period has elapsed, this exchange is no longer possible, and you will have to pass the French driver’s license examination to be authorized to drive. Driving in France with a foreign license that is not recognized is subject to heavy sanctions, even if it is still valid and accompanied by an international driver’s license.
To be exchanged, your license must:
- be valid
- have been issued before your entry into France
- have been issued by a country with which there is a reciprocal exchange agreement of driver’s licenses.
To exchange your driver’s license, you must consult the website of the prefecture closest to your place of residence, which is responsible for this service, to know the required documents and the modalities of the exchange of your driver’s license. You must provide the originals and photocopies of your documents. The supporting documents must be in French or accompanied by an official translation made by a sworn translator in France. The list of these translators is available from the prefecture or sub-prefecture.
If you meet the requirements for the exchange, a French driver’s license will be issued to you in exchange for your foreign driver’s license. The date of obtaining your French driver’s license will be the date of obtaining your original driver’s license.
If you do not meet these conditions, you will have to pass the French driver’s license examination to drive in France once the period of recognition of your license has expired.