Driving in France

Driving in France

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A few rules for driving in France

Pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists must comply with all the traffic regulations in force when using public roads. Failure to adhere to the highway code can lead to penalties ranging from a fine to imprisonment.

In France, traffic drives on the right. It is mandatory for all passengers, in front and rear seats, to wear a seatbelt. Wearing a helmet is mandatory when riding a motorized two-wheeled vehicle.

The speed limits for light vehicles are 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas, 90 km/h (56 mph) on non-urban roads and 130 km/h (81 mph) on motorways, which is reduced to 110 km/h (68 mph) in wet weather. Motorways usually require payment of a toll.

Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited. The use of hands-free kits is tolerated.

The driver’s blood alcohol content must be less than 0.5 g/l, and less than 0.2g/l for young drivers (holding a license for less than three years).

 

Driving in France with a foreign license


Driving in France with a license issued by a foreign country is permitted in the following cases:

  • Driver’s licenses issued by member states of the European Economic Area are valid in France indefinitely.
  • Regardless of the country in which their driver’s license was issued, holders of a “Student” residence permit will continue to be covered by their foreign license for the entire validity period of their “Student” residence permit.
  • Driver’s licenses issued by non-European countries are valid in France for up to one year:
    • As of the start date of your first French residence permit.
    • If you have a VLS-TS visa, as of the date it is approved by the French Immigration and Citizenship Office (OFII) with a sticker and stamp on your passport.

 

For a driver’s license to be recognized in France, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

  • The driver’s license must be currently valid.
  • It must be used in accordance with the medical instructions displayed on the license (e.g. mandatory use of spectacles).
  • The license holder must be above the legal driving age (at least 18 years of age for a “B” license).
  • The license must still be valid in the country of issuance (i.e. not suspended, not revoked, no usage restrictions).

 

In addition, for non-European nationals, the license will need to have been:

  • Issued in the holder’s usual country of residence prior to their arrival in France.
  • Drafted in French or accompanied by an official translation.
  • Obtained before the start date of their first French residence permit or before their visa was approved by the French Immigration and Citizenship Office (OFII).

 

Exchanging a non-European driver’s license

 

Helpful tip: Holders of a European driver’s license are not required to exchange their foreign license for a French license as long as they have not contravened the French highway code. Holders of a European driver’s license can drive with their European license after their first year of residence in France.

To exchange a European license for a French license, click here.



Foreign nationals with a non-European driver’s license, and whose country of origin has signed a bilateral agreement with France, must exchange their foreign license for a French license after their first year of residence. 

To view the list of countries whose citizens may exchange their driver’s license, click here.

 

Where to apply

Driver’s licenses must be exchanged at the Préfecture or Sous-Préfecture of the département in which the holder resides. In Paris, license exchanges take place at the local police headquarters (Préfecture de police).

Locate the relevant Préfecture

You must exchange your driver’s license before its expiry date, or one year after the start date of your first residence permit, or one year after the date on which the French Immigration and Citizenship Office (OFII) approved your long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (VLS-TS).


List of documents to be provided

It is recommended that you check the detailed list of documents to be provided, which is available from the Préfecture or Sous-Préfecture that deals with this procedure. Depending on the authority in question, these formalities may be performed by mail, online or in person.

  • Cerfa form no. 14879*01 to request a license exchange.
  • Cerfa form no. 14948*01 for color printing.
  • Two color copies of each side of your foreign license and, if applicable, a certified translation.
  • An official document attesting to your right to drive, recently issued by the country in which you obtained your license. It must specify the origin, scope and validity period of your right to drive and should be accompanied by a certified translation, if applicable.
  • A copy of a proof of address.
  • Two passport photos (some Préfectures require three or four).
  • A self-addressed stamped envelope (required by some Préfectures).

If you are a non-European national, you must also provide:

  • A copy of your residence permit or, if you have a visa equivalent to a residence permit, a copy of your passport with the French Immigration and Citizenship Office (OFII) sticker.
  • If your license was issued by a country other than your country of origin, documentary proof that you resided in this country for at least six months. This period of residence must include the date on which you obtained your foreign license. You may also be asked to provide a document attesting to your position as a diplomatic representative in the country in which your license was issued.


The French 12-point driver’s license supplied to you will be valid for 15 years. If you obtained your foreign license less than three years ago, you will receive a provisional license. Provisional licenses are issued with six points. If you commit no driving offenses for a period of three years, you will be awarded a 12-point license.

You will receive a French license in exchange for your original driver’s license. The latter will only be returned to you in exchange for your French license.


Licenses issued in countries located outside the European Economic Area and which do not appear on the list of countries that have signed a bilateral agreement with France will no longer be valid in France after a period of one year. Holders of such licenses will need to take the French driving test.

Individuals who do not speak French can take the driving theory test (the code) with the help of a translator.