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Driving in France

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Looking forward to apply for a driver's license? Or do you simply have to exchange your? Find out how to proceed in this article.

Obtaining a driving license abroad can be a real adventure. But if you are planning to move to France, it should not be too complicated. In general, expatriates in France are required to exchange their national driver's license into a French one to be allowed to drive. Those who do not yet have a driver's license may also apply for a driver's license in the country if they intend to make a long stay. In all cases, it is best to be aware of relating conditions beforehand.

Converting your driver's license

The following are required to convert their driver's license:

  • the non-European applicant with a resident permit less than a year following the start of the card's validity period
  • the non-European applicant holds a long-stay visa serving as a resident permit less than a year after the visa validation date by the OFII (Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration)
  • the French national having a foreign driver's license since less than a year following his relocation in France
  • the European or Swiss national is allowed to exchange his driver's license as from his 6th month and before the 18th month of his residence in France.

Note that fees applied vary from one region to another.

Procedures

If you have moved to Paris, the application has to be made at the nearest police department to your place of residence. Make sure to call at the police department before actually dropping by. Some of these may request you to print and fill an online application form beforehand. Others will allow you to perform an online application. Finally, a few of them only accept application forms sent by post-mail.

In general, the following documents have to be produced:

  • the Cerfa Form No. 14879*01 for driver's license exchange
  • the 06 Cerfa Form No. 14948*01 printed in color
  • 2 color copies of your foreign driver's license, along with an official translation if needed
  • a recent driving certificate issued in your home country, specifying its origin, conditions and validity, along with an official translation if needed
  • proof of residence
  • two passport-size identity photos
  • a stamped envelope addressed to your name and address (requested by some prefectures).

 Warning:

Other documents may be required, depending on your nationality. Find more information in the useful links below. 

Types of driver's license

You may choose from the following categories of driver's licenses in France:

  • the A license for two-wheelers
  • the B license for four-wheelers (allowing you to drive as from the age of 16 but under certain conditions for less than 18 years old people)
  • the C license for professionals
  • the D license for professionals
  • the E license for categories B, C and D vehicles coupled with a trailer.

 Good to know:

Foreign nationals who wish to apply for a French driver's license, regardless of the type of license, are required to pass driving tests beforehand. Adults may enroll in driving schools. 

Driving tests

You must be at least 18 years old to be able to pass the driving test in France. However, you are allowed to pass the first part of the examinations as from 17 years old. You may choose whether you prefer to enroll with a driving school or to hire an accredited tutor with a specifically equipped car (with a brake pedal and a clutch pedal front passenger side, etc).

The following steps will then apply:

  • registration at a driving school
  • learning the highway code
  • oral examinations
  • driving lessons (a minimum of 20 hours is compulsory)
  • driving test.

Fees

The whole process should cost an average of 1,200 euros. Besides the 20 hours driving lessons, you may also want to take additional lessons which will cost around 35 to 50 euros per hour, depending on the driving school and region, etc.

In case you have failed the driving exams, you will have to wait for three months before making a new legal attempt. Some driving schools thus offer additional driving lessons for around 500 euros.

In all cases, driving in France remains a serious issue which requires appropriate planning. 

 Useful link:

Expat.com – Transports in France Forum  
Service Public www.service-public.fr
Cerfa Form No. 14879*01 – Exchanging your driver's licence www.service-public.fr/particuliers
Cerfa Form 06 No. 14948*01 (to be printed in color) www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits
Code Route www.coderoute.com 
Official directory of administrations and nearby public service lannuaire.service-public.fr

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