All scientists and PhD students (except those with a student visa) carrying out a research stay of more than 3 months in France and whose driving licence was issued outside the EEA must exchange their licence in order to be able to legally drive in France. This exchange is obligatory and must be carried out during the first year of the scientist’s/student’s stay in France, at his/her local prefecture.
If your driving licence is not exchanged for a French licence during this first year, you will not be allowed to drive in France, unless you take the French driving exam.
Please note: this procedure does not apply to people holding a "student" visa. These people can drive in France with their original driving licence translated into French by a sworn translator recognised by a French Appeal Court without exchanging it.
procedure for exchanging your driving licence for a french licence
To exchange your driving licence for a French licence, you must go to your local prefecture in order to submit a dossier d’échange de permis de conduire (driving licence exchange dossier).
Procedure and list of required documents (Rhône Prefecture)
Download the list of required documents (Loire Prefecture)
Upon submission of your exchange request, you will be given a receipt justifying your incapacity to present your driving licence (during a roadside check by the authorities, etc.); this document will remain valid until you obtain your new French licence.
The processing of your request can take several weeks or even months. If your request is approved, the prefecture will send you your new driving licence by post. Your new French licence will be valid for a period of 15 years from the date of issuance.