Driving in France
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Updated 6 months ago

The process of converting a driving licence can sometimes be a long and complicated one, but this is not the case in France. For many drivers, the process is simply administrative, but it is essential that you request the change within a year of your arrival in France. Otherwise, you will be required to go through the long and excruciating process of obtaining a fresh French licence. If you do not already have a driver's licence, you will have no other option than to sit for the theoretical tests and take driving lessons.

As with other EU countries, EU nationals can drive in the country using the licence of their home country if they are of age and it is valid. This can be converted to a French licence. However, it is not obligatory.

Converting your driver's license in France

Conditions to be met

The procedures for converting a licence vary depending on your nationality. In most cases, the process is smooth and automatic, as long as you remember to request a French driving licence within the prescribed timelines of the French authorities. The following residents are required to convert their licences if they wish to drive in France:
Non-European applicants with a residence permit less than a year following the start of the card's validity period
Non-European applicants holding a long-stay visa serving as a residence permit less than a year after the visa validation date by the OFII (Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration)
French nationals holding a foreign driver's licence for less than a year following a relocation to France

Note that European or Swiss nationals are allowed to exchange their driver's licence from their 6th month and before the 18th month of residency in France. The fees applicable to the conversion process vary from one region to another.

Procedures

The application for conversion has to be made at the police department nearest to your place of residence. It is advisable to call at the police department beforehand as the procedures (as well as the times during which officers are available) can vary. Note that some may ask you to print and fill out an online application form beforehand. In other cases, an online application may suffice. Some stations still only accept application forms sent by mail.

In general, the following documents are required, but do check beforehand whether there are specific requirements in the area in which you reside:
Cerfa form No. 14879*01 for driver's licence exchange
06 Cerfa form No. 14948*01 printed in colour
Two colour copies of your foreign driver's licence, 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).

Types of driver's licenses in France

There are different types of licences in France, based on the type of vehicle you wish to drive:
A licence for two-wheelers
B licence for four-wheelers (allowing you to drive from the age of 16 but under certain conditions for those younger than 18)
C licence for professionals
D licence for professionals
E licence 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 licence, regardless of the type of licence, are required to pass driving tests beforehand. Adults may enrol in driving schools (this is usually the simplest way), but it is also possible to rent an instruction car and to follow lessons with someone who already holds a licence.

Driving tests in France

You need to be at least 18 to pass the driving test in France. However, it is possible to pass the first part of the examinations from the age of 17. You may choose whether you prefer to enrol with a driving school or hire an accredited tutor with a specifically equipped car (with a brake pedal and a clutch pedal front passenger side).

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

Obtaining a driver's licence is not cheap. 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. The fees charged in large cities are typically higher than those of smaller towns or villages. Be sure to check websites such as Groupon, which often have deals on driving lesson packages.

In the event that you fail the driving exams, you need to wait three months before starting the process over. In this event, however, driving schools often offer additional driving lessons for a reduced fee, which amounts to around 500 euros.

Useful link:

Service Public
Cerfa Form No. 14879*01 ' Exchanging your driver's licence
Cerfa Form 06 No. 14948*01 (to be printed in color)
Code Route
Official directory of administrations and nearby public service

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