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Driving LicensesBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
France - Driving Licenses
There are a number of vehicle types for which you do not need a drivers licence in France. These include mopeds which have an engine size of up to 50cc, although you must have insurance for it, ‘micro-cars’ which have 2 seats, an engine size of up to 50cc and insurance and tractors, providing the vehicle is on farmland and not on the road.
There are different categories of driver’s licence in France. These include the standard class B licence, which give the holder the right to drive a vehicle of up to 3.5 tonnes and which carries no more than 9 people. This licence also gives the holder the right to tow a trailer providing this does not take the total weight of the vehicle over 3.5 tonnes. This is the licence that most drivers will apply for.
There is no expiry date on this type of licence unless the driver is convicted of a driving offence. In order to apply for the licence (if you do not have one already issued in another country) you can do so at the local Préfecture or through your local driving school. The application form must be completed and sent with proof of ID such as your residency permit, two recent passport-sized photos, two stamped, self-addressed envelopes, a medical certificate which shows you to be in good health and details of the licence that you wish to apply for.
You will then need to take the theory exam, which you can study for by obtaining a copy of the book ‘Code de la Route’ which is only available in France. You must pass this exam before you can take the practical test. The result of the theory test is valid for two years and you are permitted 5 attempts at the practical during this time. The theory test is taken in French but you may have the assistance of an approved translator.
Once the practical exam has been passed you will be issued with a provisional licence ‘la feuille rose’. This is valid only for 2 months and you must collect your new licence from the local prefecture. This can be done 2 weeks after you take your test but must be done before the 2 months are over. To collect you must take the ‘feuille jaune’ – the yellow sheet issued by the inspector, proof of ID and money to pay the fee. You can send all this by post if you prefer to have the licence sent to you.
If you already have a licence issued in another country there are a number of options available to you. Some countries have agreements with France so that their licences are valid for an indefinite period of time in the country, but some must be exchanged for a local licence.
If you have a driving licence issued by an EU member state you do not need to have it exchanged for a new one. Drivers must meet French regulations though, so if you have your licence issued in another country and are not yet 18 years old you are still not permitted to drive in France.
If your driving licence was issued outside the EU you may drive on this in France for a period of one year only. You must then obtain a French licence and depending upon the type of licence you have, you may have to undergo the standard French driving tests. Without a valid licence you will not be able to obtain insurance.
Those with an Australian or South African licence can apply for an exchange. This also applies to Canadian nationals from certain provinces although if you wait for longer than a year you will have to take the French driving tests. Those from provinces other than Quebec, Ontario, Labrador and Newfoundland will have to take a French driving test within 3 months of arriving in the country. New Zealand nationals can apply for an exchange within one year and those who have a US licence need to check with the French embassy in France as the regulations vary from different states.
The International licence can only accompany the French licence and is not considered to be a replacement for it.
In order to obtain an exchange of licence you need to apply to the prefecture. The application form should be completed and presented with a number of documents, including proof of ID, proof of address, your original driving licence (which may need to be translated into French), proof of no driving penalties, 2 passport-sized photos and photocopies of all the relevant documents.
France does have a system of penalty points for driving offences. Drivers have 12 points to begin with on their licence and if they are caught speeding or committing any other driving offence, points are deducted. This can be between 1 and 6 points depending upon the type of offence. Points can be reinstated after three years of clean driving and if you prefer you can opt for a driving awareness course that can give you back 4 points. Once all 12 points are gone you will lose your licence for 6 months and you will need to take further tests before you are permitted to drive again.
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