USA Reciprocal Drivers License process

Hi. I’ll be moving to France this fall from the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m going to want to own a car to explore my new country and have been reading about the French Drivers license test. Hard!! I was told that certain states in the US have a reciprocal arrangement regarding the drivers license so no test required. Colorado is one such state. I’m thinking of moving there for three months, my son lives there, but before I do, wondered if anyone could speak to this. Thanks!

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No personal experience as I am not American, but Google suggests this:

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)

The classes above refer to the French license equivalent that you can receive in exchange for your American license:
Class/Category A: motorcycle
Class/Category B: car

For example, the standard driver’s license in Connecticut is a Class D license which allows me to drive a car. In exchange, I received a French Class B license.

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.

@Kim may be able to help with this question - if Kim doesn’t know then no one will know ! :smiley:

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You called … lol

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You can exchange a Colorado licence but only a car up to 3500kg will be transferred, B category.

You say you considering moving for 3 months, do you mean in 3 months or only for 3 months.

If the later then you can’t exchange your licence, it’s not like the USA where you move to another state and give them a utility bill and obtain a new state licence.

In France you have to be a registered resident, to be able to exchange your licence.

If you are going to be a resident, you have 12 months from validation of your visa to start the exchange or if you have an EU passport you must live in France for 6 months with entry into the official system, then you have 12 months to start the exchange.

Edit: If you are moving to Colorado to get a licence with a reciprocal agreement you will still need your previous DMV record of what licence you currently hold to show you have held a licence for more than 3 months.


Ensure that you book a hire car with an automatic transmission unless you can drive a stick as 90% of regular and compact French cars are manual.

I read it that @Nhobson was planning to move to Colorado for three months in order to obtain a CO driver’s licence (so as to avoid having to take a French driving test), before moving to France, but maybe they can clarify?

Re-reading it, yes I think you’re right.

Do the French test, it’ll be an incentive to get your French up to speed and you will feel ( and be) safer on the road. If my numpty pupils can do it so can you!


Yes and especially where roundabouts come into play as they don’t exist over there, well at least they don’t in Texas.

Thank you all for your advice. I’m planning on moving to France with my long term visa in Sept or Oct. I hope it all comes together!! :pray::joy:

Good luck, my daughter did it the other way round several years ago. Just also remember to have a bit of patience with the french bureaucrats and paperwork, it does get weary but you have to bite your tongue and go with the flow and eventually all comes good.

Hi, I’m from MA and diid the exchange in 2017 and if my memory serves me well (doesn’t always!) you can apply after 3 months residency and, as someone mentioned, within 12. Might be an idea to get driving record just before you move - which must be translated by an approved (assermenté) translator as well as your driver’s license. Was very easy to apply. You must send the original license as well and will get a letter in return that you can carry with you. I also got an international driver’s license before I left just to be on safe side. May take a while to receive French license (mine took 9 months) but that can vary. In any case was quite painless! Good luck!

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A couple of people have said the process was easy and/or painless. I couldn’t disagree more strongly.
I was already living in Paris, with my French wife, on an EU passport but my drivers licence was from a Canadian province with the reciprocal agreement. It took about five months, with 8 visits to the prefecture of up to 4 hours each of waiting on a hard plastic chair.
After getting all of the 10 ‘justificatifs’ ( required documents) on a printed list, the next clerk I got hand wrote an 11th on the bottom. ‘Il faut’ was all he said; ‘you must’.
Now, I didn’t actually get one of the original ten documents because it doesn’t exist in my province. The staff seemed to think it was either impossible that a French bureaucratic document didn’t exist elsewhere; they kept insisting that I must have an official document to prove I was a resident in the province when I got the licence at 16. Actually, getting a drivers licence is ONLY possible if one is resident at the time so it is direct proof. No, I don’t have any tax records from when I was 16, in another country 40 years ago. No, the federal government doesn’t keep tabs on where we live and give us a document to that effect.

My advice is to get hold of the current list of required documents NOW and start accumulating them; it was be far easier to get a ‘certificat de scolarité’ while you are still at home!

I’m originally from MA as well and moved to France in 2018. I did the same as Monti, I arrived with an international driver’s license.

Then I got the reciprocal license, and my process was the same. If I recall correctly I had to have a permanent address before being able to apply. All the info is available via your prefecture. So once you settle in, you can look it up.

The only thing I can add is if you ride a motorcycle, the exchange is not equivalent. You will only be allowed to ride A2 motorcycles: 35 KW or 47.5 hp… Prolly TMI anyway. If you want to know more just let me know.

But as Vero says, it’s a REALLY good idea to get lessons for driving in France. How good is your French??


I think there are fewer states that can exchange with France. I read an article about it somewhere, a couple of years ago…

Also, the exchange equivalent isn’t equal for motorcycles. I only got an A2, not A class. It means I can ride a a 35 KW or 47.5 hp motorcycle. After 2 years I can take a course and be certified to ride A class (all sizes). My original motorcycle class in the states was for any motorcycle.

It’s especially important to learn NOT to use indicators, to drive as close as possible to the car in front on the motorway (that takes courage) and to change lanes at the last minute and overtake a slow lorry just as someone is coming up your outside - that too takes a certain bravura.


…and to screen pedestrian crossings out of your vision. They only cause interruptions.


That’s the special section of the test for Audi drivers.