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Since I am no longer a US resident, I no longer hold an American driver’s license. This made me wonder… what will I do when I return to the United States to visit family and friends and I need to drive a car? Can I drive and/or rent a car in the USA with my French driver’s license? The short answer… yes!
For all the details and requirements, including how to request an International Driver’s Permit to accompany your French license, read on!
This post is for those who already have a French driving license, are traveling outside of France, and therefore, need an International Driving Permit to accompany their driving license. If you need to exchange your American license for a French license, head to this post.
Is a French driver’s license valid in the European Union?
Yes, you can drive in EU countries with a valid French driver’s license for tourism purposes. This includes if you obtained your French driving license through the reciprocal license exchange program with a non-EU license.
A French license is also valid for driving in the United Kingdom, even after Brexit. Outside of the EU and the UK, you’ll need to check individual country regulations.
Can you drive in the US with a French driving license?
In general, yes, a valid French driver’s license can be used in the United States of America.
It should be noted that each state has its own rules and particularities regarding driving with a foreign license. Check the website of each state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) for more information.
For example, the Connecticut DMV allows visitors to use their foreign license for up to a year. However, if the driver’s license is in a language other than English or Spanish, it must be accompanied by an International Driver Permit (IDP). An International Driver’s Permit is a translation of your license into multiple languages in the format of a small booklet. It is only valid when accompanied by a valid driver’s license.
Can you rent a car in the US with a French driver’s license?
Much like driving in the United States with a foreign license, renting a car is also possible, but it is again dependent on individual state rules and regulations. If you plan on getting a rental car while visiting the States, check the website for each state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) for the most up-to-date information. Researching the requirements imposed by specific car rental companies would also be wise.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard from many people who have been able to rent a car in the USA without any problem using only their French driver’s license. If you have any doubts, it is advisable to get an International Driver’s Permit just in case.
How to Get an International Driving Permit for Your French License
You can request an International Driving Permit (permis de conduire international, PCI) for your French driving license if you live in France.
➡️ Note: If you obtained your French driving license in New Caledonia (like my husband!), you need to first exchange your driving license for a mainland France license before applying for the IDP.
The French International Driver’s Permit is free.
ANTS Online Portal
Like the French driving license itself, the IDP is requested through the Agence nationale des titres sécurisés (ANTS) online portal. The easiest way to log in is through FranceConnect by using a login you’ve already established through health insurance or taxes, etc.
Nouvelle demande ➡️ Le permis de conduire ➡️ Je commence la demande
Je demande un permis de conduire international
Fill in the information regarding the French license you currently hold as well as your personal information.
Upload the following documents:
- Pièce d’identité
- Identification: passport ID page, visa sticker, carte de séjour, etc.
- I scanned the front and back of my carte de séjour. This served as both my ID and my titre de séjour. I only uploaded it once.
- Justificatif de domicile de moins de 6 mois
- Proof of residence, dated with 6 months
- There are 5 pages available for this, but you just need one proof if it’s in your name.
- Examples: quittance de loyer (rent receipt & what I used), avis d’imposition (income tax return), facture d’électricité (electric bill), etc
- Permis de conduire actuel
- Scan of the front and back of your French driving permit
- Copie de votre titre de séjour
- If you do not have French nationality, you’ll need to show your residence permit. This would be uploaded under “Autre type de pièce,” unless you already uploaded it under the identification section.
- S’il s’agit d’une urgence professionnelle, justificatif précisant la date de départ : contrat de travail à l’étranger, attestation de l’employeur, certificat de position militaire…
- If you have an urgent professional reason that requires you to have an International Driving Permit, justify your need by establishing your departure date: work contract, employment confirmation, etc
Mail the following supporting documents within 15 days***:
- Attestation de dépôt
- Download and print the Attestation de dépôt de demande de permis de conduire international
- This PDF is available on the ANTS portal after submitting the online form and it is also emailed to you
- Photo d’identité
- Recent ID/passport photo in the standard format
- Keep the photo loose in the envelope; do not staple, glue, or attach it to the dépôt in any way
- Une enveloppe (prêt-à-poster en lettre suivie 50g)
- Ready-to-mail (postage paid) C5 envelope which can be bought directly at the post office
- This is the envelope they will use to send your IDP, so you should write your address on it
- You will likely need to fold it so that it fits in your second envelope with the photo and the attestation de dépôt
The mailing address depends on where you live. The address will be included on the dépôt. You will either be sending it to the Cert de Cherbourg or the Préfecture de Police de Paris.
To ensure that the documents are received, it is a good idea to send them by registered mail (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception).
***If these supporting documents are not received within 2 months of filing your online application, your file will be rejected and you’ll have to start over again.
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Processing times can vary greatly from a couple of weeks to a few months. This depends on where you live and the current volume of applications. It is recommended that you request your IDP at least 6 months before your intended departure out of the country.
Related: French Bureaucracy: Tips for Tackling Paperwork in France
- Submit online application via ANTS portal
- Immediately receive an SMS text message and an email confirming receipt of your request and reminders to send in the other supporting documents
- The email will include a PDF “Attestation de dépôt de demande” that needs to be downloaded and printed
- Mail supporting documents via registered mail (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) within 15 days of submitting online application
- Receive receipt back confirming delivery—a few days later
- “Demande transmise pour instruction”—You’ll also receive an email indicating that your file has been forwarded for processing.
- Now is the waiting game—a few weeks to a few months…
- “Acceptation de votre demande”
- Email and SMS text message indicating that your order has been processed
- The IDP should be received by you within 15 days of receiving this message
I live in Paris and received my French International Driving Permit a little over a month after submitting the online application.
Duration of French IDP
The French International Driving Permit has a duration of 3 years unless your French permit is valid for less than 3 years. In this case, it will reflect the validity of your French license. When it expires, the process is the same to request a new one.