Driving Licence Issued Outside the EU or EEA

What happens if you want to drive in France but carry a licence issued in one of the major English-speaking countries outside the EU? Find out here what to do if you have an American, Canadian, Australian or other driving licence...

Drivers 18 years and over may drive in France on a valid foreign licence for up to one year. It then becomes obligatory to hold a French driver's licence obtained either through a licence exchange (where permitted) or by taking a French driver's test. At one year from the date marked on the carte de séjour or residency permit, any foreign driving licence becomes invalid. As a result, the driver is uninsured. Agreements exist with certain countries and states (including Australia, South Africa, and some US states and Canadian provinces), whereby an exchange may be made providing that it is done within your first year of legal residency in France. This is where a reciprocal agreement exists between France and that country or state. The list of countries with which France has a reciprocal agreement does change.

Australian, South African driving licences

Holders of valid South African and Australian (all States and Territories) licences are entitled to exchange them in the same way as holders of valid EU licences provided the application is made within the first 12-months months of residence. Australians note: As the Australian licence does not have a "valid from" date noted on it, a document from the Australian authorities stating when the licence was issued may be required.

Canadian licences

Drivers holding licences from Quebec, Newfoundland, Labrador and Ontario may exchange their licence for a French one within the first year after arrival in France. A driver with a licence issued in Ontario must have held that licence for at least 24 months in the previous three years. Canadians are advised by the Consulate to report this exchange to the provincial authority that issued the driver’s licence in Canada. If the exchange is not made within one year, a full French theory and practical driving exam must be taken to obtain a French licence. Canadians with licences from provinces other than Alberta, Manitoba, New-Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edward Island or Quebec may drive on their Canadian licence for three months, but must register with a French driving school and take a French driving test within that time.

New Zealand licences

Holders of a valid New Zealand-issued driving licence who have been resident in France less than one year may exchange their licence for a French one. This is done in the same way as holders of valid EU licences provided the application is made within the first 12-months months of residence. New Zealand licence holders who have been resident in France longer than a year must take a full French theory and practical driving exam to obtain a French licence.

American-issued licences

A driver 18 years and over may drive in France on a valid US driver's license for one year from the time of receiving a residency permit. It is recommended to attach a French translation by a sworn translator (traducteur expert-juré) to the US driver's license. Contact details of translators available at the Mairie and Préfecture. If the licence was issued by any of the following states it may be exchanged in the same way as EU and EEA member licences provided application is made within nine months of being issued a residency permit:
  • Delaware, Maryland,Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Connecticut (check with a US Consulate or Embassy as this list is subject to change)
Not all classes of license can be transferred from the above states. If the driver's license is not from one the states mentioned above, the French driving examination must be taken within the first year of residence in France. US students: The US licence is valid for the full duration of the studies. US temporary visitors: Visitors on a holiday visa (under 90 day visit) may use a valid US driving licence, an International driving licence is recommended but not essential.

When a Licence Exchange is Not Permitted

If the licence may not be exchanged, a full French theory and practical driving exam must be taken.