An American citizen is resident in the UK and has not driven since her arrival. She has lived in the UK for long enough that she no longer qualifies as a visitor allowed to drive in the UK on her American driving license.

She would like to visit France for a short vacation. In France, would she be allowed to drive on her current and valid American driving license?

Does the temporary allowance for visitors to drive on their native license start over when visiting different EU countries? Or does this allowance apply to EU as a whole and not to the separate countries?

3 Answers 3



According to this official site, for visitors staying 90 days or less, there is no requirement for the licensing jurisdiction to be the place where the driver resides. That may be an oversight, but still, if there's no such rule, it should be fine.

You might want to double check with the issuing state, however, to make sure the license hasn't been invalidated by the driver's having moved out of state. Most states have restrictions on incoming residents, but it is conceivable that there might be rules governing outgoing residents as well.

  • 1
    In fact, the requirement also exists for short-term visits but it's not exactly that described in the summary. The licence must have been issued in a state where the holder was a resident when the licence was issued.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 14, 2015 at 5:48
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    OK, and what happens if she will now get a new driving license in UK from scratch (and still has a valid American one). Can she freely choose the driving license between UK and US to rent a car in France? Sep 11, 2015 at 9:40
  • @AndreySapegin I doubt that there's a rule controlling that, but if there is, I doubt it is enforced.
    – phoog
    Sep 24, 2015 at 22:25
  • One more question, let's imagine that she gets a new UK driving license from scratch, and goes by car from UK to France, and she has UK insurance for her car, and insurance is registered with the UK driving license, and this insurance also covers her and her car in France. Now she want to use her American license for driving her UK car in France. How is this regulated then? Does she need an additional insurance? Jan 20, 2016 at 16:35
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    @AndreySapegin I suppose the terms of the insurance would be relevant. In general, I think insurance covers people as long as they are licensed. If she shows the insurance to police with her US license, they might be able to see from the docs that she has a UK license and ask to see that. But if she files an insurance claim I doubt it could be denied because she holds a US license in addition to the UK license.
    – phoog
    Jan 20, 2016 at 17:21

All the rules regarding non-EU licences are still defined country-by-country. The main piece of EU legislation regarding driving licences is directive 2006/126/EC and it says absolutely nothing on equivalence or recognition of non-EU licences.

In the case of France, the relevant rules are defined in Arrêté du 12 janvier 2012 fixant les conditions de reconnaissance et d'échange des permis de conduire délivrés par les Etats n'appartenant ni à l'Union européenne, ni à l'Espace économique européen.

The one-year delay runs from the moment someone becomes a resident in France, not the EU:

Tout permis de conduire délivré régulièrement au nom d'un Etat n'appartenant ni à l'Union européenne, ni à l'Espace économique européen est reconnu sur le territoire français jusqu'à l'expiration d'un délai d'un an qui suit l'acquisition de la résidence normale en France.

Another important requirement is that the licence must have been issued by the country where the holder had his or her “habitual residence” at the time the licence was issued (the goal is to make sure French residents don't go abroad to get a licence to circumvent a driving ban or another requirement of French licences). In practice, if you are a citizen of the country that issued your licence, you don't have to prove this:

Apporter la preuve de sa résidence normale […] Les ressortissants étrangers qui possèdent uniquement la nationalité de l'Etat du permis détenu ne sont pas soumis à cette condition.

(The text reads “Foreign nationals who have only the citizenship of the state that issued the permit” but if your friend shows her US passport and the licence, I doubt she will be asked anything else.)

Note that the licence must in principle be in French or accompanied by a certified French translation.

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    +1, and confirming that the rules are the same in Germany and Latvia (held both of these permits at one point).
    – Gayot Fow
    Jun 14, 2015 at 12:31

I'm not convinced there is a general rule for this that could be applied across all EU members, as different member countries have different rules and exemptions. The EU is not a collection of states in the same way that the US is.

In your specific case I don't think she would be allowed to use her American license. From the French Licensing Guidelines if using a license issues outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) it can be used for up to 12 months and must meet the following requirements

It must be valid;
It must have been issued by the country in which you normally resided before moving to France;
It must be written in French or be accompanied by an official translation.

From your question I think point number 2 could not be meet.

Additionally point number 3 would be a problem unless you have an international driving permit http://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html

Whilst I am aware the above web page refers to moving to France, I can't find any mention of other rules for visiting so I think they come under the same category as such a trip would by definition be under a year.

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    the contrast you draw with the US is inaccurate. These kinds of rules are set by each state, and can and do vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Also, point number two appears to apply to residents of France, and therefore not in this case. The relevant rules would be those for visitors.
    – phoog
    Jun 13, 2015 at 20:31

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