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Last Updated: August 22, 2022

As an American coming to France, whether you are moving here or just visiting, you can drive using your US driver’s license for a limited period of time. In the case of a long stay or establishing residence in France, it is important to note that your American license will typically only be valid for the first year of your residence.

Fortunately, France has agreements in place with certain countries, allowing eligible drivers to swap their foreign license for a French one. If you are not eligible for this exchange and would like to continue driving after your first year, you will need to pass the French driving test (written & practical). Both of these processes, the exchange and the tests, are time-consuming. Therefore, it’s important to plan ahead in order to complete all requirements and file your paperwork within your first year. Otherwise, you might find yourself unable to drive when your initial year comes to an end.

Read on to find out for how long your US license is valid in France and how to exchange it for a French driving permit (permis de conduire).

French driver's license, permis de conduire

Is an American driver’s license valid in France?

Yes, you can drive on a valid US license in France as long as you are at least 18 years old. If you are coming to France as a tourist and/or for a short stay of less than a year, your American license, accompanied by an official French translation or an IDP, should be recognized.

An International Driving Permit (IDP), which is a translation of your license into multiple languages, is the safest best! You can quickly and easily attain an IDP from your local American Automotive Association (AAA). It costs $20 and is valid for one year.

Read more: Tips for Americans Driving in France

US International Driving Permit

After one year, an American driver’s license is no longer valid on French territory.

Students, however, are exempt and can continue driving on their American license for the duration of their studies. If they change to another type of titre de séjour, their one-year countdown begins.

Who is eligible for the exchange?

Your American license is only valid for one year in France. If you are eligible to exchange your driver’s license, the request must be submitted within your first year. After this window of time has passed, you will no longer have the option to apply for a French license through the exchange program. To be clear, the application likely won’t be processed and completed within your first year of living in France, but the application needs to be submitted by that deadline.

The one-year countdown starts from when you establish your residence in France. Establishing a résidence normale in France generally means that you intend to spend more than 6 months of the year in France. As an example, if you arrived in France on a long-stay visa, the year starts from the date of your online visa validation with OFII

There are a number of conditions to meet in order to be eligible for the driver’s license exchange. Namely, you can exchange your valid foreign driver’s license for a French permit if it was issued from a country that has a reciprocity agreement in place with France. An expired license is not eligible for the exchange, so be sure to renew your license before leaving the United States, if needed.

Which states have driver’s license reciprocity with France?

Unfortunately, France does not have a reciprocity agreement with the United States of America as a whole. France has reciprocity agreements with only 18 states.

Driver’s licenses from the following states are eligible for the exchange: Arkansas (Class B), Colorado (Class B), Connecticut (Classes A & B), Delaware (Class B), Florida (Classes A & B), Illinois (All Classes), Iowa (All Classes), Maryland (Class B), Massachusetts (All Classes), Michigan (All Classes), New Hampshire (All Classes), Ohio (Class B), Oklahoma (Class B), Pennsylvania (Classes A & B), South Carolina (All Classes), Texas (Class B), Virginia (Class B), Wisconsin (Class B)

Class/Category A: motorcycle
Class/Category B: car

This list can and does change. Be sure to check the French government website to access the most recent PDF list of countries and states eligible for the driver’s license exchange.

How do you exchange your license?

Driving license requests are handled through ANTS (Agence nationale des titres sécurisés). Since 2020, the license exchange process is done completely online. All forms and paperwork are uploaded to the ANTS online portal.

There is a fantastic Facebook group where you can get step-by-step guidance. The creator of this group has written out the basic directions with screenshots of each section of the application. As I am not one to reinvent the wheel, I will gladly invite you to take a look at the work that has already been done: Applying for a French Driving Licence. (Note: This Facebook group is paused/archived on weekends and holidays to give the admin a break.)

As for the rest of this blog post, stick around as I detail out exactly what I included and uploaded to my application specifically as an American from the great state of Connecticut.

Required Documents

While the application process is undoubtedly streamlined since going online, it is still a bit clunky and outdated. You need to upload each of your documents separately in the right spaces.

For each line item, there are a certain number of pages you can upload. I typically filled however many slots I was allotted. More is usually better when it comes to French bureaucracy.

Here are all the documents I gathered for my driver’s license exchange as an American living in France with a immediate prior residence in the United States (Connecticut), in the order in which they appear on the application:

  • Photo-signature numérique
  • Attestation de droits à conduire
    • Driving History document should show that you have a clean driving record (not cancelled or suspended) as well as the date when you first attained driving rights (not all states include this date on this document, so you may need to ask for multiple documents or ask for proof in another way)
    • Request this document through your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV); each state might have a different name for this
    • If your state’s driving record/history doesn’t show when you first passed your driving test, you can try requesting a driver’s license history or specifically ask your state’s DMV to provide evidence from when you first passed the test. As a last resort, you can try submitting an “attestation sur l’honneur,” in which you explain that the record does not exist and you swear that you passed your driving test on XXXX
    • Documents must be dated less than 3 months
  • Justificatif de domicile
    • Proof of residence, dated within 6 months
    • There were 5 page slots available for this one, but I only used 2: mobile telephone bill & electricity bill
    • Other options: income tax return, residence tax (taxe d’habitation), rent receipt (quittance de loyer), etc
  • Permis de conduire actuel
    • Color photocopy of American driving license (front & back)
  • Pièce d’identité
  • Justificatif de résidence normale en France
  • Traduction (par un traducteur agréé) de l’attestation de droits à conduire
  • Traduction (par un traducteur agréé) du titre de permis de conduire
    • Driving License translation in French, by a sworn translator

You might need other documents according to your unique situation.

➡️ Note: Your French driver’s license will be issued in your last name from birth even if you’ve indicated a nom d’usage.


Still have questions?


Timeline & Next Steps

Before the online submission process was put in place, most people were left waiting a year or two to receive their French license. Since the application became digital, the process seems to be moving along more quickly, with many people receiving their French license in a matter of months to a year. However, the timeline can still vary greatly, especially since the system is particularly overloaded with an influx of license requests from British folks who, prior to Brexit, did not generally have a need to request a French license.

Related: French Bureaucracy: Tips for Tackling Paperwork in France

Try not to get too caught up in predicting how soon you’ll get a license based on other people’s experiences. The process may move at a different pace for you! It might seem like there is no rhyme or reason to why certain applications are moved along quicker than others. Spoiler alert: you’re not crazy, there really is no rhyme or reason 😅

  • Submit online application via ANTS portal
    • Immediately receive an email & an SMS text confirming submission
    • 10 minutes later, a second notification confirming the transmission of the application to the proper authorities
  • Receive text & email asking for the original driving license to be mailed (permis physique actuel)—2 months to a year after submitting the application
    • Print two documents: 1. Attestation de dépôt sécurisée (ADS) (This document along with a photocopy of your original permit allows you to drive temporarily and is valid for 12 months.) 2. Courrier d’accompagnement du titre 
    • Mail your American license via registered mail (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) & accompanied by second document mentioned above
      • Use the address they give you; it will be different based on whether you are in Paris or outside of Paris
      • Receive receipt back confirming delivery—a few days later
  • Receive French driver’s license—2 weeks to a month after sending in your US license

When you’ve been notified to send in your original US license, you can generally breath easy. This is the last step! Your application has been accepted, and they’ll likely send your French license within a week or two of receiving your American license. Indeed, most people receive their French driver’s license within 2 weeks to a month after sending in their US license. (This was not the case for me as you can read in the Troubleshooting section below.)

If at any point in time your application remains unchanged for 6 months in a row, you will receive a notification letting you know that your request is still being processed. The message is, “Votre demande en ligne XXX est toujours en cours d’instruction. Vous serez tenu informé si des pièces complémentaires étaient nécessaires.”


Did this guide help you? Say thanks with a cup of coffee!


Can you keep your American license?

You are expected to give up your American license during the exchange. (That’s why it’s called an exchange 😉) The French authorities will not be returning your original license to you.

woman smiling and holding a Connecticut driver's license

Furthermore, most states in the US have a requirement that in order to hold a driver’s license for a certain state, you need to be a resident of that state. This is the case for Connecticut. As such, I did not request a replacement license. I do not anticipate having any problems driving in the States with a French license (accompanied by an international driving permit issued by France, if needed). If you move back to the United States later, you can reexchange, as long as you’re in a state with an agreement in place with France.

What should you do if there is an error on your French driver’s license?

You waited months to get your French driving permit, and there is an error on it! Fortunately, there is a process to correct errors to a French driving permit that has been recently printed and mailed out. You must submit this paperwork within 6 months of receiving the French license. Errors that can be reported in this way include spelling mistakes, missing or incorrect categories, incorrect validity dates, and unjustified restrictions.  

To report an error, log into the ANTS portal and start a new request, just like you did when you requested the driver’s license the first time. Then you will select, “Je souhaite signaler une erreur sur mon permis de conduire reçu il y a moins de 6 mois.” Fill in the required information, upload any supporting documentation, and submit your request.

You’ll receive an SMS text message notifying you that your request has been successfully submitted, and you can follow its progress on the ANTS website.

Troubleshooting & Anecdotes

I submitted my application on October 12, 2020 and received notification that they wanted my original driver’s license on December 31, 2020. After promptly sending in my American license in January 2021 and receiving notification that it had arrived, my application seemed to come to a screeching halt.

From my numerous calls and emails, it seems that they had a problem with my license because it was very new. I had no choice but to renew it right before moving to France as it was set to expire. Supposedly, my recent license wasn’t in their database, so they had difficulty verifying its authenticity.

I eventually got my French driver’s license in January 2022. Yes, the French authorities were in possession of my American license for so long that my year-long temporary paper license expired.

But it gets even better! Unlike an American license which only shows an issuing date of the card itself, a French driving permit displays the date when driving rights were first granted in addition to the issuing date of the card. Instead of using the date when I first started driving in 2006 (which was on the driving record I supplied them), they used the issuing date of my latest driver’s license, making it seem like I’ve only been driving since 2019.

back of French driver's license (permis de conduire) with categories list and dates that driving rights were acquired

As a result, I was given a probationary license. This type of license is generally reserved for new drivers. The probation period of a French license lasts 3 years total, but the consequences of being an “inexperienced” driver last longer than those three years. On a probationary license I might have a harder time renting a car. Later on, even when the probation period has ended, I will have higher insurance to pay for rentals as well as for our own car.

I have submitted a request for this error to be fixed mid-January 2022 and am awaiting a response. I will update this blog article accordingly when I hopefully get this sorted and they send me a corrected driver’s license. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

UPDATE (May 2022): I have my new, error-free French driver’s license. Believe it or not, I have a voicemail recording on my cellphone in which they admit that they made an error and will be correcting it. (And I will never be deleting this voicemail evidence!) I received this message mid-April and finally had the new license in hand one month later. Although I had to wait a few months for this application to be processed, everything got sorted out in the end!

Contact Information

CREPIC
If you are in Paris, the driving license exchange is processed through CREPIC (Centre de ressources des échanges de permis de conduire étrangers et permis internationaux de conduite), located in the Paris préfecture.

Telephone: 3430, Monday-Thursday 9-12
Email: pp-dpg-permisdeconduire@interieur.gouv.fr
Update (March 2022): Email address was recently changed to: pp-dtpp-permisdeconduire@interieur.gouv.fr

If you need to change your address while your application is being processed, send an email along with a proof of address.

CERT
All driving license exchange requests outside of Paris are sent for processing to CERT EPE (Centre d’expertise et de ressources des titres) at the Préfecture Loire-Atlantique in Nantes.

CERT Contact Form

ANTS
This is the platform through which you apply as well as the center that actually prints and mails your French license. It is unlikely that they will be able to help you with much unless your license gets erroneously sent to the wrong address.

Telephone: 3400, Monday-Friday 7:45am-7:00pm
ANTS Contact Form

How to Exchange Your American Driver’s License in France
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22 thoughts on “How to Exchange Your American Driver’s License in France

  • February 6, 2022 at 7:17 am
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    I do miss the French bureaucracy and all accompanying fees… Not!! Hey, you can’t have everything… The food, a beautiful country, and no bureaucracy… That would be too easy!! Haha

    Reply
    • February 6, 2022 at 2:41 pm
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      Wise words, Éric, to keep things in perspective!!!

      Reply
  • March 2, 2022 at 1:07 pm
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    Not sure where to get the original DL issue date…my most recent licenses were from CO (current) and CA…had ordered Driver’s history from both…and neither list my original issue date which was in 96 ( I believe…)…Also because of the pandemic I couldn’t switch to CO until fairly just before I ended up getting my LSV to France and moving here…I am assuming your CT history listed the original issue date? If not, what form did you give them to show this date…or what advice you might have for me? Thanks and congrats…

    Reply
    • March 3, 2022 at 9:43 am
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      Hi Ila,

      Yes, my CT driving history shows when I obtained my first driver’s license. The driving records that you’ve obtained will hopefully suffice to show that you have a clean driving record. I’ve added some suggestions in the Required Documents section that I hope will help you regarding the issuing date of your first license.

      Thanks for your question!

      Best,
      Ellen

      Reply
  • March 5, 2022 at 3:34 pm
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    Thanks Ellen. I dug deeper into CO DMV site and I think (touchwood) it is possible to get one issued with original date…am hoping it is orginal driving license issue, and not CO license issue date…So stressful to think of the timeline…rquesting things there, getting it there, having it sent here, translating and submitting and all in a 3 months span…omg! Getting all the papers sorted in the first year here seems a full time job…lol but I am glad to be here and hope to be here for a few years at least.

    Reply
    • March 7, 2022 at 9:07 am
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      There is definitely a lot to get done in the first year! Indeed, I did make a full-time job out of French administration 😉😂

      Best of luck to you as you get this part sorted. If you think of it, please do give another update. There is not a lot of information out there describing the particularities of certain states in regards to the French driver’s license exchange. I am certain that your experience exchanging a Colorado driver’s license will help someone!

      Ellen

      Reply
  • April 27, 2022 at 4:36 pm
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    Hello Ellen,

    About my situation, they notified me that i need to upload my original documents which is in English plus they need the exact date where i passed my drivers license examination in the Philippines. My document only showed the year. I just stumble on your page just now and didn’t think of requesting for a new document with month and date before sending it. ( this is the certificate of no apprehension) In short i just sent the english version of my documents. I thought they just missed the part where it was written “holder of license since 2012”.

    Now i have the new document with the complete month, date and year where i passed my driver’s license examination in my country. My only worry is that my driver’s license will expire April 2023. I just applied March 31,2022. You think i can still make it if in case they get back to me asking again for the exact date and month where i passed my DL exam?

    Bu the way, your informations are really helpful :).

    Thankyou:)

    Reply
    • May 2, 2022 at 6:09 pm
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      Hi there!

      I’m glad to hear that my blog has been helpful to you 🙂

      If your application is missing any documents or information, they will generally let you know and you’ll have the opportunity to submit further documentation. Unfortunately, there’s not really much you can do at this time except wait for them to take a look at your application.

      Best,
      Ellen

      Reply
  • May 19, 2022 at 4:27 am
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    How long must you have had your license from an exchangeable state to apply? (Can someone return to the States in the first year and get a license from an exchangeable state and then apply?)

    Reply
    • May 19, 2022 at 12:35 pm
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      Hi DJ,

      There is no official legislature on how long you need to have a license from a state with reciprocity (unless your nationality is different than that of your driver’s license). Many Americans move states when possible before moving to France for this very reason. In these cases, it’s very important to obtain driving records from previous states in order to show that the applicant has an established driving record.

      However, the driver’s license must be obtained before residency in France in order to be eligible for the exchange. If you already have a visa or residence permit and are living in France, you cannot got back to America and get a new driver’s license from a different state for the purpose of exchanging it.

      I hope that answers your question!

      Ellen

      Reply
      • October 3, 2022 at 3:40 am
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        This is great information. You touched on something that I hadn’t thought about, but applies to me. I’m a dual US/Italian citizen with a US license (PA – exchangeable). I’m contemplating a move to France, but that would be as an Italian. So my license and citizenship are from different countries. You mentioned that there is different legislation on how long you must have your license prior to exchanging it in this case. Could you let me know about that? Or where I can find information relevant to that? Also, are there any other specific considerations with a license from the US, but citizenship from elsewhere? Thanks so much!

        Reply
        • October 6, 2022 at 5:50 am
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          Hi Lenny,
          If someone’s nationality is different from the nationality of the license, then they must prove that they had established “résidence normale” in the country where they obtained the license. This means showing proof that one lived there for at least 6 months. ( https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1460 )
          You have American nationality. If you apply for your license with your American license and show your EU nationality as your second nationality, then you’ve established the fact that your nationality matches your driver’s license.
          I hope that helps 🙂
          Ellen

          Reply
  • May 19, 2022 at 5:28 am
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    Hi Ellen,

    I can’t thank you enough for all of your posts. Coincidentally my situation is almost identical to yours (American from Connecticut married to a Frenchman) so all of your advice has been spot on! This blog is a real public service – thank you!!

    Liana

    Reply
    • May 19, 2022 at 12:36 pm
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      Thank you so much for your kind words about my work, Liana! I’m so happy to hear that my blog has been helpful.

      Best,
      Ellen

      Reply
  • May 30, 2022 at 4:07 am
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    Hi Ellen,

    My license is from Australia and I do hold an international driving permit just like your above photo. Technically, it’s already “translated”, so for the last requirement, did you just scan the IDP or did you translate your license with a sworn translator?

    Your page has been very helpful ! Thank you 🙂
    Amy

    Reply
    • May 31, 2022 at 8:41 am
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      Hi Amy,

      Nice to hear from you again! I’m glad that my blog has been a helpful resource for you 🙂

      As mentioned under the Required Documents section of this post, I included a “Driving License translation in French, by a sworn translator.” The French are quite strict about who qualifies as a sworn translator and as far as I know, an IDP would not meet this requirement.

      Good luck with the process!

      Ellen

      Reply
  • July 17, 2022 at 7:41 am
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    Hi Ellen,

    Thank you for your excellent detailed information! I will be starting the DL exchange process soon. Unfortunately, my state does not provide any documents that show the date I first obtained my driving privileges (I’m too old – ha ha) so I will be attempting to clarify the date by submitting an attestation. You stated ” As a last resort, you can try submitting an “attestation sur l’honneur,” in which you explain that the record does not exist and you swear that you passed your driving test on XXXX.”

    Do you have an example that you could email/share so I get the wording correct?” (I did see the general attestation format with your link provided.)

    Thanks so much and please continue your great work 🙂

    Best,

    Shawnelle

    Reply
    • July 22, 2022 at 9:19 am
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      Hi Shawnelle,

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my work on the blog. I’m glad it’s been helpful to you 🙂

      At this time, I do not have a resource with more specific wording, but that’s a great idea and I will consider creating a downloadable PDF. Thanks for the idea!

      Best,
      Ellen

      Reply
  • August 20, 2022 at 6:30 am
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    Hi Ellen,
    Thanks for the blog! I was trying to get to the Facebook group with the step by step instructions, but it looks like the link is not working for me. Do you know if this group still exists or if it’s private?

    Reply
    • August 22, 2022 at 8:26 am
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      Hi Michelle,
      The Facebook group continues to be very active but it is paused/archived on weekends in order to give the admin a break. Thanks for your question—I’ve just updated my blog post to reflect this information.
      Best of luck to you with your exchange!
      Ellen

      Reply
  • November 15, 2022 at 8:26 am
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    Hello. I am currently holding a récépissé for tds vpf (change status from student) and will be soon converting my DL. Would that be sufficient enough? Or shall I need to upload the physical card?

    Reply
    • November 17, 2022 at 10:39 am
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      Hi Rose,
      A récépissé is generally only valid when accompanied by your most recent titre de séjour (visa or card). As such, it would be wise to upload the récépissé and the student visa/card.
      I hope that helps!
      Ellen

      Reply

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