This week, several US clients have contacted us at French Connections HCB for help with acquiring a driving record to prove to the French authorities that they hold a valid licence.
Quite simply, a driving record has to be requested from the transport authority in the country or State that issued your driving licence. It has to be in your own name, confirm that yout licence has not been suspended or cancelled, and must stipulate the date on which you obtained the right to drive. Most of the time, you can ask for your driving record online and print it out yourself.
Unfortunately, there appears to be an increase in fraudulent websites selling fake driving records to US citizens.
Our advice is to make sure you only approach the Department of Motor Vehicles (or an equivalent department) that issued your driving licence. Most of the relevant authorities have secure online areas dedicated specifically to driving records.
While we are on the subject of driving licences, this might be a good moment to recap the rules regarding US citizens visiting or living in France.
1. You must be 18 or older to drive in France.
2. If you are staying in France for less than 90 days, you can drive using a valid U.S. driving licence as long as you also carry with you a notarized translation in French. (An International Driving Permit is not essential but is also good to have.)
3. If you have moved to France, your driving licence is valid for one year only.
You must exchange your US licence for a French one to continue to drive legally. Depending on where your licence was issued in the US, that process will be easy or more complicated because only 19 US States have a reciprocal driving licence exchange agreement with France. These lucky States are:
Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
4. As a general rule, if your issuing State is not included in the list above, you’ll need to take a French driving test. (There are some exceptions, and we can help with those.) Like the American driving test, the French one is comprised of two parts, written and practical. The written part is arguably the more challenging if your language skills are not strong. It requires you to answer questions not only about road law, but also knowledge of different types of vehicles, how to use GPS and even some basic first aid. On the plus side, you can study for the test way ahead and there’s plenty of material available to help you, including ‘le code’ which is available in hard copy or as an app. And if you are applying independently (as a ‘candidat libre’), the cost of taking the written test is only 30 euros.
The other option is to affiliate with an official French driving school, which you will find in any town. One or two specialise in getting English speakers up to speed – but you will pay up to 1000 euros for the privilege!
If you are already worried about sitting such an important test in French, here is some good news; you are allowed to have a translator. Your test would be taken under special sessions called ‘séances aménagées’. You will need to find and pay for your own translator and the test sessions are much less regular but being accompanied can be very comforting if language is the only thing holding you back.
The written test is made up of 40 multiple choice questions and you need 35 to pass. If you fail first time, you can retake the test as many times as you need, paying the 30 euros fee each time.
When you pass your written exam, you can move on to the practical. It’s a good idea to book a few driving lessons with a local driving school before taking the test. This will better prepare you for the ‘hazards’ the examiner will be testing for because it might not be the same as back home. Lessons cost 45 -50 euros, but the driving school will book your driving test for you as soon as they believe you are capable of passing it. On test day, you need to score a minimum of 20 out of 30 points. However, any ‘faute éliminatoire’ (illegal or dangerous manoeuvre) is an instant fail.
Here at French Connections HCB, our friendly and experienced team can help with every aspect of driving licence exchange, vehicle purchase, vehicle import and car registration. Don’t hesitate to get in touch about any of our Moving To France services, including visas, residency, health and succession advice. If you would like to book a 30 minute face to face video consultation click here . The consultation costs 90 euros but the total amount is refunded on any service you purchase.
We look forward to making your life in France easy!