EXCHANGING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE

EXCHANGING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE

UPDATED 19 october 2012

France only allows licenses exchanges from certain States and Provinces in the US and Canada and within those States and Provinces only certain categories of licenses. Pourquoi? I have no idea. Best not to ask these types of questions; there’s never a rational answer.

Don’t forget, only people with carte de résidence (you are residing in France long term) need to exchange their licenses. Students can drive in France with their student carte de séjour and their home license.

So, first off, see if your license fits into the exchangeable category:

USA: Arkansas catégorie B, Caroline du Sud, Colorado catégorie B, Connecticut A et B, Delaware catégorie B, Floride catégories A et B, Illinois, Iowa catégorie B, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio catégorie B, Pennsylvanie catégories A et B, Texas catégorie B, Virginie catégorie B.

Canada: Alberta catégorie B, Colombie britannique catégorie B, Ile du Prince Edouard catégorie B, Manitoba catégorie B, Nouveau-Brunswick, Ontario catégorie B, comtés du nord et du sud du Québec catégorie B, Terre-Neuve – Labrador catégorie B.

If you fit into one of these categories, you MUST exchange your license within the first year of your carte de résidence. If you do not, you will have to take the French test, and you will lose your opportunity to exchange. There’s a catch: if you have a carte vie privée, you have to wait six months after the issuance of your carte de residence to make the demand. This means 6 months after the date on your carte de résidence, you should go do the exchange. As always, the paper work is rather cumbersome, so get your documents ready well in advance of the date when your carte de résidence turns 6 months old.

If you have a carte vie privée, once your carte de residence is 6 months old and you’ve collected all the documents that you will need, go to the Prefecture at 92 boulevard Ney 75018 Paris (yes, same place as the student carte de séjour) only on the 2nd floor.

If you have a work carte de sejour, you do NOT have to wait the six months. Go as soon as you can.

You do not need a rdv.

Wait in line at the Accueil to get a ticket, you’ll have to show the clerk all your documentation for verification, and then wait some more in the waiting area until your number is called. This procedure can take several hours. Plan to use the whole day to get this done.

The documents you will need to supply include:

  • Carte de residence (more than 6 months old, less than 1 year old for carte vie privée) and 2 copies front and back
  • If your license is from a country of which you are NOT a citizen, you will need proof that you lived there during the period when your license was issued (e.g. school report cards, report from Department of Transport showing when you received your license and your address). And an official translation of these documents if not already in French.
  • In the latter case, you will also need an Attestation from the country that issued your license stating your status in that country. Plus an official translation of these documents if not already in French.
  • Form Certa No 11247*02, you can download it here:  Date this form on the day you will be going to the Prefecture.
  • The original driver’s license
  • 2 COLOR copies of the license front and back (Note there is not a color copier at the Prefecture).
  • The official translation of your driver’s license. (Canadians don’t have to worry about this).
  • 4 ID photos.
  • 1 justification of residence plus a copy (gas bill, electricity bill, rental contract); I’d bring all three.

For more information, read here.

30 thoughts on “EXCHANGING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE”

  1. Good information.

    I am not certain that you have to wait 6 months to do the exchange. We just went to do ours and our carte/titre de séjour was less than 5 months old. It was never mentioned in any of the documentation I read on the Préfecture website. You also need to do the exchange if you have a “titre de séjour” which is the equivalent of the “carte de séjour” but doesn’t allow you to work.

    We went early in the morning (arrived a little before 8:30am when the office opens) and we only waited for about 1h30 to get everything done – being called for the first review of our documents and then being called to get the date when we can come to get our French driving license. The prefecture website has a calendar of period of time when it is less busy during the day and during the month so we picked a time that was showing as green which was a Monday morning.

    • Hi there, your situation is different because you are not here permanently. The agents consider work dossiers in another category. The entire process, both for the carte/titre de sejours and for the driver’s licenses are more complicated when the French realize you won’t be leaving. Your case is easy for them. :) You are here for a period with work (your husband) and then are likely going home or will transfer again. And your husband already has a job. They like those kind of applicants. Of course, to be fair, I think all immigration systems prefer them. Hope you are enjoying Paris. Take care.

      • Thanks for your reply…very interesting. And yes, we are thoroughly enjoying our stay in Paris and taking advantage of proximity to tons of nice places to travel extensively.

    • Well, the titre de sejour and the carte de sejour are issued for different purposes. Students, for instance, get a carte de sejour but are allowed to work up to 19 hours only. Every status is different. But thanks for sharing with regards to a work transfer.

      Of course, you are right: It is ALWAYS best to arrive early for any official French business.

    • I should clarify:
      If you have a student carte de sejour – you do not need to exchange your driver’s license for a French one. You drive with your home license and your carte de sejour.
      If you have a vie privée carte de sejour or titre de sejour (in this instance it is the same thing) – you must wait six months after you receive your carte but not more than 1 year after it was issued to start the exchange process.
      If you have a work carte, then, as it mentioned in this comment, you can go directly to the Prefecture to do the exchange. (Which makes sense, given that the time you will be staying on France greatly varies depending on the work contract.)

  2. hi evey body,pls i have some question to ask about changing driving licence here in france,,,,,i am from nigeria and want to know if i can change my driving licence with recipt for demande for carte de resident, i have called the sous preferture and explain the situation but they ask for translation of the driving licence and attestation,she say is better i start early that is normaly take long time but i dont what means long time for her,,,,thanks in advance for ur reply.

    • Hi there,

      Yes, you can on your recépissé de demande de carte de sejour. You will have to have the license translated by an official translator. This takes time. It took me almost 4 months to complete this process. All the documents you’ll need are on this page. Hope this helps!

  3. i went to sous preferture 2 days ago to ask them again to be sure but i discovered that they was thinking that is niger after a long discussion before they understand that nigeria and niger are totaly different country but finaly they said that i will have to attend driving class that nigeria driving licence is not changable with french one and i have to wait for my real resident permit before to begin any process.

    • Oh well, I’m sorry your experience was so difficult. I know… trust me. But it’s true that not all countries have the exchange with France for driver’s license. Good luck with the French test!

  4. Hello,
    I’m starting this process, and one thing they also ask for is your driver’s records from your state’s DMV translated. Big pain!
    I just don’t understand how they have know knowledge of how American driver’s license’s expire every 5 years, therefore all my documentation says it was issued in January of THIS year… but I got it originally in 2006! Wtf!
    Trying to stay sane during this process.
    Any tips on this matter are welcome!!!!

    • Hi Meg, sorry for the late reply. When I was doing this process, I went online and ordered a summary of my licence and driving record from the DMV. You’ll have to get it translated by a professional, recognized translator. This worked for me. it was a record and status confirmation of all my driving years. And it showed all my addressed since i got my licence in the 90s. I’m not sure if every State has this service, but you might try there. Otherwise, call your local DMV and ask them what kind of documentation they can provide.
      I had a really hard time with this process myself. I hope yours is better! I had to appeal their decision to reject my application for an exchange…. pain in the butt! All my best.

  5. Hello,

    I found this site after doing some Googling trying to resolve an issue. My wife is a dual-US and UK citizen (with passports from each). We moved to France from the US, so she tried to exchange her US drivers license (from NH, a reciprocal state) for a French one. The problem she’s having is that the prefecture is insisting on her carte de séjours since it’s a US drivers license. However, she’s here on her British passport, so she doesn’t have/need (and isn’t entitled to) a carte de séjours. But the procedure is that a US license needs a carte de séjours, and the prefecture refuses to issue one without it. Any suggestions on what to do about this?

    Thanks,
    Peter

    • Anyone run into this problem before?

    • Hi Peter, I’m sorry I didn’t reply to you before. I must have missed this comment…
      I had a very similar problem and it is really a pain. My license is from Ontario, Canada and I’m here on my US passport. I have a carte de sejour, but I had to prove residency in Canada. I had to get documents from the Ministry of Transport in Ontario proving that I lived in Ontario throughout the time I had my license until I moved to France.
      To exchange the US license, it seems your wife is going to have to get a carte de sejour and all the proof she can that she had residency in the US while she had the license. She must have renewed it every 5 years or so… try seeing if you can get a document from the DMV stating all the addresses and that the status of the license is in good standing.
      To be honest, this is a particularly difficult situation. I was at the Prefecture 8 times (a half day each time) to deal with this and then they denied my application and I had to appeal. Finally, almost a year later, I got the exchange.
      The other option is perhaps to exchange in Britain? Not sure if that possible?
      Let me know if you’d like more clarification on what I did, process, etc. We can discuss over email, if you’d like: becomingmadame@gmail.com
      All my best!

      • Hi, thanks for your reply.

        Ugh.

      • Peter said:

        By the grace of god, 15 months after originally applying for the switch, and well after our appeal seemed to have been rejected, we got a letter saying that yes, of course the swap could be done. No idea why, but we lucked out!

  6. Hi there, I also have a question!! I have a carte de sejour (actually, I’m picking it up on Friday from the Prefecture de Police). How do they determine the one year period? I ask because technically I’ve been here over a year, but not necessarily have had established residency. My carte de sejour should have a date de deliverance which will be from February of this year, so should I assume that it will be ok to get my French permis as long as its within the 1 year mark from this carte? I’m a bit stressed because the original visa that I had to arrive is no longer in my current passport. My passport was going to expire (much later this year, but the French authorities insisted I get a new one before giving me my carte for residency), so now I have a new passport with no visa/OFII stamp inside. Kind of complicated, I know, but any thoughts would be a great help!

    Cheers, and thanks for all your great info!

    • Hi there, yes, what should matter is the date on your carte de séjour. And yes, you have to renew your passport before they will renew your carte de séjour. They want to make sure your own country doesn’t have any problems renewing your ID/Status; etc. before doing so themselves. All my best!

  7. Same problem here. My wife is a dual-US and Spanish citizen EU(with passports from each). We are moving to France from Spain, Now can she exchange her US drivers license (from Florida, a reciprocal state) for a French one. Thanks

    • Hi there, yes, she should have no problem. The process is a pain, as most of the administration stuff is in France, but a priori, your wife should have no problem. She’ll need to use her US passport and Florida license for the exchange and have all the documents translated professionally. I’ve written the process on this page. Best of luck!

  8. I have just received a competencies et talents visa (good for 3 years) and I and my family will be moving to France in the next 3 months. Does it make sense to move to one of the accepted states like Florida long enough to get a license so that it could be exchanged for a French driver’s license? What is meant by a translation of the license and how does one find an official translator?
    Also note your link for Form Certa No 11247*02 does not work.
    Thanks so much!

  9. Benjamin said:

    Hi! I just move to France and have US and UK passports. I had a Connecticut license but recently exchanged it for a New York license (both have always been valid and in good standing)–BUT I have a physical duplicate of the Connecticut license (I lost it then found it) and a pdf copy of the driving record. I also have an officially translated and notarized copy of my license.

    1. Will I be able to exchange the Connecticut license for a French one? Basically, with the French Police contact Connecticut to verify that I am in good standing, even if I provide them with a printout of the driving record?

    2. Since I have a UK passport, do I need a carte de sejour or carte de residence?

    I am really, really hoping that the exchange works. If it doesn’t, it is going to cost a ton to get a French license!!

    Thanks!

    • Hello Benjamin (or anyone who can answer),

      Can you tell me if you were able to exchange without a Carte De Sejour based on being an EU citizen?

      I too have an EU passport, US passport, and a USA (Florida) drivers license.

      Are there any other problems you encountered?

    • Hello Benjamin (or anyone who knows),

      Were you able to exchange your license without a carte de sejour?

      I too have an EU Passport, Florida (USA) license, and live in France.

  10. Margaret Stanley said:

    I have dual nationality with France and U.S. (I have a passport from each country). I am from New York which is NOT on the list of reciprocity states for getting a French driving licence. My question is does my dual nationality status (since I am a French citizen) give me some special exemption to this rule? ANY HELP on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

  11. About a year ago, we moved to France on a competencies et talents visa (good for 3 years). About a month prior to leaving, we moved Colorado and obtained Colorado driver licenses. About 4 months after arriving in France, we received our titres de sejour. When we applied for them we were told we had to wait until we received them before we could apply to exchange our driver licenses. Shortly after receiving our titres, we went to the Prefecture (we were staying in Bretagne), and submitted the paperwork. Some time later we received a note saying we needed to make an online appointment to return. We assumed then we’d be getting our licenses, but instead they asked for more paperwork, which fortunately we had with us. Shortly after that we received our licenses in the mail. The process has changed, as the licenses are made in Paris now, instead of at the Prefecture. They are EU licenses with microchips and are good for 15 years (the older ones were good for life). In all of this, no request was ever made for DMV records or translations of anything. The DMV records were only useful for acquiring car insurance, so we could get decent rates based on our driving records.

  12. I definitely have an issue. I got to France on a long term student visa in 2012. I changed this status to “scientifique” on my Carte de Séjour about a year later since I am doing some of my PhD research in France. I have never had the need to drive until now (I would like to rent a car and perhaps drive my BFs car) and so I didn’t even think to research the rules for driving in France (other than to obtain the USA’s AAA “international driving” translation booklet).

    I am not sure what to do here … I don’t necessarily want to exchange my license since my time in France will finish in about a year. I just want the right to drive in France for the remainder of my time. (ps. I have had my American driving license for 12 years already!)

    • As long as you have a student Carte de Sejour, you don’t need to exchange your driver’s license. Now that you have a scientifique one, I’m not sure it matters either. That is, as long as you have a non-resident visa (not the 10 year resident card), my thinking would be that you’d be okay to drive on your US license. If you’re really worried, I’d check with the Prefecture up in the 18th (it will take hours up there !) to be certain. Since you are a PhD student, I don’t think its a big deal. You should be able to rent a car using your US license. I did this for years on my student visa. Hope that helps.

      • Thanks for your reply ! Your blog is a wealth of knowledge on all things French paperwork/frustration related. I really appreciate your help!

        I think I will just drive as you said … if I run into troubles, I feel that I would have a good enough defense. If I ever intend to settle here in the future, I’ll do the exchange then. For now, it just doesn’t make sense!

        Thanks again!

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