The plan to make getting a French drivers’ licence quicker and cheaper

A bill aiming to make the process of obtaining a French driver's licence more affordable and smooth is making its way through France's parliament. Here is how it could impact would-be drivers in France.

The plan to make getting a French drivers' licence quicker and cheaper

French lawmakers are looking to make it less expensive to get a driver’s licence, in a bill that gained unanimous support during a vote on Monday in the country’s Assemblée Nationale. 

Originally tabled by Sacha Houilié, a member of French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, the initiative is intended to improve the slow and notoriously expensive process of getting a licence in France.

Here’s what the bill proposes;

One youth, one licence

This online platform would be managed by the French government, and it would help future drivers be able to locate financial aid that might help them pay for their driving test.

As things stand currently, getting a driver’s licence in France is a lengthy, and expensive process – particularly as many people have to take the test more than once, and thus wait a significant amount of time in between test dates.

On average, the average candidate for a French driver’s licence pays about €1,800 for the whole process, including lessons and the theory and practical tests.

READ MORE: Four years and €1,800: What foreigners should know about the French driving test?

Allowing CPF budgets to fund licences

The proposed text would allow for one’s personal training account (CPF) to help fund all types of licenses, including motorcycles and small cars. Currently, only the B licenses – for standard cars – are able to do so.

In 2021, CPF budgets helped to finance 322,000 driver’s licences in France – about 28 percent of the licences issued that year. This would help extend it even further.

READ MORE: How to claim the cost of language or driving lessons from the French government

Contracted test examiners

With the goal of being able to offer more testing slots, the bill would extend the authorisation that exists in some parts of France for contracted workers to be authorised as test examiners for the practical (road test) aspect of the French driver’s licence to be nationwide. This would allegedly help to make the process faster, particularly for those who need to take the test more than once.

Houlié, the député who brought the bill forward, said that this will not be “outsourcing” the role of test examiners, but some members of the French political left have contested this part of the bill. This is not “outsourcing”, Mr. Houlié assures us in the face of inspectors’ concerns. The left has protested against the use of contract workers.

What about foreigners in France?

If you’re a foreign national living in France, you may need to exchange your licence for a French one.

If you’re lucky, the country that issued your licence will have an agreement with France, so then the process is a simple swap.

If you’re unlucky, there is no agreement in place and then you will need to take a French driving test in order to legally drive in France – even if you have many years of driving experience.

Full details on the swap process here.

This particularly affects Americans in France, as only some US states have agreements with France.

The European Union has proposed legislation that would create a list of countries that have ‘comparable’ driving standards to the EU, and allow people who have a licence from those countries to simply swap their licence for a local one, whichever EU country they live in.

Essentially, this could allow Americans from any state to simply swap their licence, rather than having to go through the testing process again. 

READ MORE: Americans in France: What you need to know about proposed changes to EU driving licence rules

Unfortunately, the plan will likely take many months, potentially years, to come into fruition. 

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France in ‘close talks’ over debt rating

France is in "very close talks" with debt rating agency Standard and Poor's, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Sunday, after a downgrade from rival Fitch reignited government finance concerns in the EU's second-largest economy.

France in 'close talks' over debt rating

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had offered “detailed explanations to Standard and Poor’s of everything we’re doing to get our public finances under control” ahead of their rating decision in early June, Borne told Jewish community broadcaster Radio J.

Citing “relatively large fiscal deficits and only modest progress with fiscal consolidation,” Fitch last month downgraded France’s debt rating to AA-, several notches below the top AAA class awarded to countries including Germany and the Netherlands.

Such ratings help determine borrowing conditions when governments go to financial markets to raise money.

France’s debt hit almost 112 percent of annual output by the end of last year, driven by a “whatever-it-takes” response to the coronavirus crisis and generous support to households and firms through the energy price crunch provoked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We’ve introduced reforms, we’ve recently revealed a path for government finances into 2027… reducing our deficit to 2.7 percent of GDP” from its present level closer to 5.0 percent, Borne said.

The finance ministry hopes controls on government spending combined with faster growth can bring overall debt levels down to 108 percent of GDP in the coming five years.

With less optimistic assumptions, Fitch last month forecast France’s debt-to-GDP ratio would in fact grow to more than 114 percent over the same period.

“We are acting to support our firms and economic growth, to support activity,” Borne told Radio J.

“We are not simple spectators waiting to see what economic conditions will be like,” she added.

In its April note, Fitch did praise a stronger labour market in France thanks to reforms introduced since President Emmanuel Macron took office in 2017, with historically stubborn unemployment now down to 7.1 percent.

Macron’s widely contested pension reform raising the retirement age to 64 — resulting in mass demonstrations and intense opposition in parliament — “could further support the labour market and possibly improve growth prospects in the medium to long term,” Fitch added at the time.