02 June 2023

Passeports et permis de conduire

I went and got professionally taken and printed photos for my passport renewal and for a new French driver's license the other day. When I got home, Walt asked me what the expiration date on my current passport is. I told him I thought it was March 2024, but I hadn't really looked at it in a while. I'm not traveling these days, you know, and I don't carry my U.S. passport around with me unless I'm going to Paris or other places far from home. I have a French carte de résident, issued by the authorities in Blois, that I do carry. It is the size of a credit card and fits in my wallet.

I opened my passport and saw that its expiration date is in December. So you see, I said to Walt, I have six months to get it renewed before it expires. No you don't, he said. It expires in December 2024, not 2023. He was right, of course. I had it in my head that it expired sooner. This kind of thing happens to me a lot these days.

My French driver's license is a different story. It never actually expires. I got it when I lived in Paris in 1981. At that time, I just had to turn in my North Carolina driver's license and I was given a French one. I guess I had to have a picture taken, but I don't remember having to pay any kind of fee. Now, only licenses from a few U.S. states can be exchanged for a French permis, and neither North Carolina or California is one of them.

When Walt went to get a French permis back in 2005, he learned that he had to enroll in a driving school and take lessons until the teacher decided that he was ready to take the written test for a permis de conduire, which fully half of the candidates fail to pass on the first try. If he passed the written test, he'd then have to take a driving test. The whole process cost him several hundred euros, and a lot of worrying. He passed it pretty easily, as it turned out.

About 10 years ago, I asked for a new, updated license at our village hall (la mairie). At that time, the mairie was where such requests were made and the immigration people in Blois would send the new license to the mairie, saving me a trip to Blois to pick it up.

I got the new driver's license, with a more current photo that actually looks like me these days, and with my current address on it, in 2012. That was after the clerk at our mairie told me she was sure my request for a new copy of the license would be rejected, and that the only grounds for getting a new copy of the license reporting a stolen, lost, or damaged French license. The permis is a big triple-fold paper thing that's about the size of a U.S. passport but not as thick. You can see it here and read about the process of having it updated.

French licenses are being downsized and the new ones are laminated cards the size of a credit card, like the carte de résident. I want one that will fit in my wallet. The old one is valid until 2030, I think, but if I wait until then everybody else in France will be trying to get the new license and who knows how long the process might take. My current French license is in pretty bad shape Too often, I stick it in the back pocket of my jeans, or just leave it in the car. Problem is, we have two cars, so sometimes I'm out driving around without it. It started to tear along one of the folds in the paper, so I fixed it by applying some Scotch tape. I think I'll have to pay 25 euros for the new one.


  1. In my opinion, the French permis is still antiquated.
    I have seen better mugshots! You’re right it’s unrecognizable. Of course, the last time I saw you was four years ago, mon vieux!
    There aren’t many vehicles you can drive.
    What happened le 22 février 2012?
    As I recall, I just had to show my French permis de conduire to be delivered a DC driver’s license. No driving school, no driving test, no questions, nothing!
    In fact, I never had any driving test, just driving questions when I renewed my license from Virginia to California.

    1. My driving days came to an end in 2012, at age 87 yo, when I left California.

    2. I just noticed I just answered your 08 March 2012 post. LOL !

    3. Did you not have to pass a driving test in Paris to get your first license? I remember your telling me that you owned a 2CV at some point. When Walt and I moved to California, we had to take the written test to get California licenses, but not the driving test. Walt had to take the driving test in France in 2005, even though he had been driving for decades in the U.S.

  2. I understand why you need a new driver's license- I remember seeing your large one in the past. I really enjoy driving in France because the other people on the road seem to be better drivers than the ones here in the USA. I have to be careful remembering dates and appointment times these days also.
    Your passport photo will be a good one since you have a nice haircut.

    1. I remember once with my mother I arrived from France one day in March and in the evening my mother was looking at some paperwork and said, oh, I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, March 15. It was an early appointment so we scrambled the next morning to get there on time, and I had bad jet lag. When we walked into the doctor's office, my mother handed over the appointment slip, which I hadn't looked at. The receptionist laughed and said that the appointment was actually not that day but the same day a month later, April 15. "You two should go get some breakfast somewhere, and make sure you have a cup of coffee to clear your heads."

  3. Oh, that's great that they've switched to a smaller version, of more durable material. I would imagine the paper ones were pretty easy to make fake versions of, too.
    Your photos will still work whenever you send off for the passport renewal, right?


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