December 2012 – update French driver’s licenses:
The French Ministry of Transport announced this month that the French driving license will have a new, more modern and safer format, valid not for life as the current license is but for 15 years.
The new license will be issued progressively starting in September 2013.
Current license holders can begin to exchange their licenses for the new format in 2014 – and no later than 2033.
For new licenses issued after 19 January 2013, the license holder will be given a temporary document, pending the new licenses being available towards the end of 2013.
Driving license exchange:
Foreign residents of France are allowed to drive in France for up to one year with their foreign driving license.
– European license holders can drive indefinitely with their European license (unless the French authorities wish to deduct penalty points, at which time they must exchange their European license for a French license so that points can be deducted from their license).
– If your driving license was issued before your arrival in France by a state which has an exchange agreement with France, the exchange must be made within your first year in France (see below a list of states with agreements with France). Your license must be valid at the time of the exchange so if you are planning to move to France and your license is about to expire, you should renew it. You should request the exchange as soon as possible after your arrival in France (and once you have your resident permit) because it can take the authorities several months to proceed with the exchange and after the anniversary of your arrival date in France you should not use your home country driving license.
– A new requirement in requesting the exchange of your driving license is that you provide your driving records from the authority which issued your driving license. The records should show your name, your driving license number, the date you first began driving and confirm that your driving license is still valid. If you have not yet moved to France, it would be advisable to request those records prior to your move.
– A special twist in the exchange procedure: if you are not a national of the country which issued your driving license which you plan to exchange, then you will be required to provide that you were both a legal resident and physically present in that country over a six month period at the time that you obtained the license. Documents such as payslips, statements from employers, university transcriptions, local tax returns would be typical of the proof to provide – as well as copies of your resident permit from that period. Again this is documentation that might be easier to obtain before you make your move to France.
– Note that exceptionally, in the exchange procedure, those who have U.S.licenses, South African licenses and Japanese licenses do not have to relinquish them.
– If no exchange agreement exists between the state which issued your license in France, you must either renounce driving in France at the end of your first year or residence or take the French driving test (written and practical).
Driving license exchange agreements exist with the following countries. The license must be obtained BEFORE arriving in France and be valid at the time of making the exchange:
Antigua and Barbuda
Armenia (if the license was issued before 1/1/1992 in the name of the Soviet Union)
Azerbaijan (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)
Belarus (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil (Exchange limited in the following States or territories: accredited, Amapa, Amazonas, federal district, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, Roraima, Tocantins, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Esperito Santos, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo)
Canada (Exchange limited to the following provinces: Alberta, British Colombia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Northern and Southern Quebec, Newfoundland – Labrador)
Central African (Republic)
China (Exchange limited to licenses issued in Hong Kong)
Djibouti Dominica (La)
Georgia (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)
Isle of Man
Kazakhstan (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)
Kyrgyzstan (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)
Moldova (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)
Tajikistan (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sao Tome and Principe
Turkmenistan (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)
Ukraine (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)
United Arab Emirates
United States of America (Exchange limited to certain States: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida , Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia)
Uzbekistan (if the permit was issued prior to 1/1/1992 on behalf of the USSR)