French driving licence - how to apply

I would be grateful if anyone could point me in the right direction for applying for a French driving licence. Prepared to follow the paper trail but not sure where it starts off. Can it be done on line? Any info much appreciated.

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Many thanks for all the very helpful comments. First stop the Mairie and we will then take it from there. They have been very helpful with other matters so far.

I meant the same thing - driving licences with photos or passports are generally used for ID (plus in some cases the need for evidence of address) but if the name on the driving licence is different from that in the transaction it may cause complications. At its simplest, if you collect a parcel from la Poste they will want ID but it will, presumably, need to tie in with the addressee on the parcel

The utility bill is proof of adress, I'm talking about ID. A proof of adress is not a form of ID. One form of ID AND a proof of address is often asked for.
For something like a driving licence, or bank account, you need both. To carry out a "trivial transaction" in most places only requires ID. Even sending parcels has become less strict, in the sense that going back 5 years, you would have to fill out a form and show ID, but these days you just pay for postage and off you go.

I know it sounds like I'm being pernicketty, but try showing up at the triage section of the prefecture with a notion that a proof of address is ID, or vice versa, and you'll be sent packing.

Re not needing to change your UK license, you could have difficulties hiring a car if you don't. (NB We recently managed to persuade the Prefecture person we dealt with to let us keep our UK licenses since we need them for a holiday rental though they were very much making an exception for us.)

It seems you need to be resident here six months before you can change it.

Our prefecture wanted us to contact them first with certain copy docs; they then clarified exactly what docs they would want and made an appointment for us to go in; they deal with these license transfers all together on one afternoon each week. We had to wait nearly two months for the appointment!

Nowadays because of the money laundering regulations that apply here and in the UK (and most other countries) it is becoming normal even for quite trivial transactions to need two forms of ID, one with a photo (typically driving licence or passport) and one with an address (usually bank statement or utility bill). A driving licence with a photo is unlikely to work if the driving licence is in a different name from that being used for the transaction.

Johnathan, when I came here first a driver's licence wasn't considered a formal form of ID, but it seems to be now. I've used it from everything to opening bank accounts, to creating an SCI, to changing phone operator.

Our UK licences ran out last year and we, therefore, needed to exchange them for French ones. The process had changed a bit from what various friends told us but was straightforward - basically filling in a form available from the internet, and taking it, our UK licences and various other bits and pieces stipulated in the form to the Préfecture (not now the sous-préfecture). They took the UK licences, gave us a temporary French licence (valid for two months but only in France) and the proper ones arrived about three weeks later. If you have a non EU licence or no licence it may well be different.

One thing we discovered was that on the new French plastic licences they only put birth names which may make it less use a form of identity (e.g. for UK bank accounts). Until last year they put both married and birth names if requested.

Actually I had the pink paper licence for 5 years. I exchanged my Ontario Canada licence for the French pink paper licence when I moved here in 2010 at the suggestion of the Mairie. The Mairie helped me deal with the the process but I am certain that the paper work went to Toulon. I picked up the French pink paper one a few weeks later at the Mairie. The Mairie was a welcome and helpful intermediary. When the plastic card became available I went back to the Mairie, they completed the documents for me and sent it off to Toulon. I picked up my new plastic licence in Draguignan 6 weeks later. God bless small town fonctionairres.

David, that has all changed and even sous-préfectures are gradually ceasing to be part of the process. The new EU driving licence involves as special machine to copy in the picture and signature, add the text then register the issue number to all EU countries and to the two central points in France and one in the EU. Presumably the big machine costs and arm and a leg, probably more than the budget of many communes. There are no more paper licences now, not in France, the UK and only remaining in a few member states. The plastic EU card the only one issued. No more help from maires...

I do everything through The Mairie. They are the best. I have the new plastic photo DL. I moved from Canada and had a limited time to change to the French paper licence 6 years ago. People that I know that have neglected to change their licence are now having to go to French driving school and it is a nightmare.

Do you have a License from anywhere else? If you do the process is different.

We are close to Angouleme, so looked up all the papers required and visited the Prefecture. One handy tip, do a set of photocopies of the paperwork for the Prefecture. They have to photocopy everything anyway and it saves them time, which they REALLY appreciate. Our lady just checked the passports and birth certificates against the photocopies and had a little joke with us. We did have to pay a small amount for the new licence but that seems to be different from departement to departement. Our licence arrived within 5 days.

If you already have a licence issued by another EU country & it is still within date you do not have to change to a french one unless you have been told to because you have committed a traffic offence here. I sill have a paper, non photo licence issued in the UK - perfectly valid here until I am 70!

Licence, sorry, not passport... obviously you have a passport, haha.

Before going to the prefecture with your forms, you'll need to pass the code de la route, most likely. This usually gets done through a driving school, where oyu revise the questions and they set up your exam, or you can go as a "candidat libre", do the revision in your own time, and apply by yourself. It's a question of how good your French is, because it can be complicated setting it up as a candidat libre.

Do you hold a passport from another country? If so, it could help, as any European licence should get automatically transferred.

We did it all by post, after starting on line, but no visit to the prefecture at all. When all was ready we simple had to send in our UK ones and then the French ones were sent out. We did it two in a registered enveloped, got an emailed message each that it was ready, sent in our cards and paper together then received the new ones individually. No hassles whatsoever.

This website tells you what you need to do. You can print the forms you need from here. Once you have all the documents listed then you need to take the forms, the documents and the photos to your Prefecture. Some people have found this to be a really simple process and others (like me) had an absolute nightmare. It seems to depend largely on the Prefecture that you visit. This topic has been discussed many times on here so I suggest you try to find previous discussions and you should get everything you need from those.

Hi Thanks for the helpful info. I want to change my British licence for a French one what bits of paper do you need to show and where? Is it free?

Sorry not to have replied sooner, and you may have the answers. If you download the form from the French government website it tells you what you need. I don’t think there was any payment needed. One point is that the temporary licence they give you until you get the proper one - maybe a month or two later depending on the préfecture, only covers driving in France, while of course the full license is valid everywhere