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I originally took my driving test in Ohio at the age of 16 and received an Ohio license. While I was in college in Arizona, I converted that license to an Arizona one. Last year, I converted the Arizona license to a German license per the reciprocity agreement. Now I have license cards for Germany and Arizona as well as a card for Ohio with a hole punched in it.

Now I have lived in France for almost 1 year so I need to get my license figured out. I see that the prefecture websites all say that if you have a license from a country that has reciprocity with France then they distinguish between a license that is actually from that country and a license that has been converted from elsewhere. In this way, if my German license was converted from an Arizona license, and considering that Arizona does not have reciprocity with France, I must take a test to get a French license.

However, it seems to me that my Ohio license may be relevant, as Ohio does have reciprocity with France. As France treats the states basically as separate countries for the purpose of licensing, it seems that I could perhaps show my records regarding the conversion of the original Ohio license. From the wording on the French websites, I believe the inverse would be true. If I had an Ohio license that was converted from an Arizona license, it seems I would be required to take a new test (if the French had a good way to verify the origin of the Ohio license, as they likely do with German licenses).

Is there any mechanism by which I can provide documentation for the entire chain of licenses to prove that I was originally licensed in a state with reciprocity and thus eligible for a free conversion to a French license? I also realize it is possible that my German license may not even be relevant. Perhaps I can just show them the Arizona license and convert it, given that I can get documentation proving it is exchanged for an Ohio license?

  • On the back of your licence there are some codes, like 101 meaning you cannot use your licence for making profit. One of the others should start with 70 (which means an exchanged licence), which specifies how your licence was exchanged. What does your licence say? – SztupY Jun 23 '14 at 12:56
  • Mine says "70.USA" in the rows corresponding to classes B, M, and L. In the row for class(?) T/S, it says "70.USA, 181". In row 12 (the last row), it says "70." followed by my Arizona license number. Note I'm fairly confident that this license points to AZ, because I never told the Germans about Ohio (never saw a reason). I think the only way I can get by without taking the test is if I can additionally show documentation that the AZ license was also an exchange (I don't believe the card itself will say). – Eric Marsh Jun 23 '14 at 13:02
  • My desired outcome seems to satisfy the spirit of the law, as for whatever (likely political) reasons France having reciprocity with Ohio means that they "trust" the Ohio test and licensing process. The question then is if the letter of the law matches this spirit. – Eric Marsh Jun 23 '14 at 13:06
  • Is there no way to get the Ohio license reissued based on your earlier test? – Gala Jun 23 '14 at 18:08
  • I don't think any of this has much to do with trust or politics, at least not on the French side. It's just that France and Arizona would need to conclude an agreement (and France will want it to be reciprocal obviously) and they probably simply didn't bother until now. The rules depend on the state only because US states are also free to recognize French licenses or not, I am pretty sure France would have no problem negotiating something with the federal government if that was possible in the US context. – Gala Jun 23 '14 at 18:11
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I had a resolution to this matter a few months ago, so I thought I'd post the answer. The short answer: it is possible to use the original license state as the source of reciprocity.

The long version: When checking with the prefecture I learned that 3 out of 4 employees (literally) did not know the rule regarding licenses transferred to the EU. Those 3 told me that a German license is a German license. I knew this was untrue, but I thought I'd try my luck just exchanging the German license straight up. I figured if they let me do it, then I was home free. However, one way or another they did do the research and figure out that the license was exchanged for one from Arizona. Apparently the employee who does the exchanges does know the rule.

When they sent back my rejection, I appealed it on the grounds listed above. I said that my Arizona license was converted from an Ohio license and I provided evidence of that. After several months, the tribunal in Dijon decided that I was right and that the reciprocity should link to the original licensing locale. So now that I have this ruling, I decided not to bother exchanging the license, because if I have a German license with proper reciprocity then an exchange isn't actually required.

Note that I don't necessarily know if the tribunal made the correct decision or if that decision will be consistent in other regions. In fact, I tend to doubt that the people who crafted this reciprocity law really intended this sort of stepping back through one's driving past to find a state with reciprocity. But, the tribunal's decision is all that matters, so hopefully this information can help somebody else. Because of this concern though, I would recommend to anybody else that it is a good idea to attempt an exchange the way I did and let it go to the tribunal, because I think it's too risky to get pulled over with a license that the local tribunal may think is expired.

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To the best of my knowledge, the combination of countries and various exchanges you did shouldn't matter much. The original license should. The only problem is getting it back in a form that would be acceptable to the French authorities.

I don't see anything in the rules that implies that a license that has just been issued should not be exchanged. What is required however is to show that you were a resident of Ohio at the time you obtained it. You do need to get this sorted out quickly, as you must apply for a new license within one year of moving to France.

I only have first-hand experience with EU licenses (which is generally much easier) but the way this works in this case is that the various licenses I got over the years always referred back to my original license. For example, when my license was stolen, I had to ask for a specific document from the place I originally took the test and got a new license in my country of residence based on that document. This license was issued recently but does mention the fact that I held a driver's license since 19xx. It's only valid for ten years but after that I can renew it without retaking the test and the next one will still mention the date I passed the test. So if you could get an Ohio license with that date mentioned somewhere (even if it was issued recently), I think it could work.

  • "What is required however is to show that you were a resident of Ohio at the time you obtained it." This will be a problem, as I'm a resident of France now. I do think maybe just giving them documentation from Ohio proving my old license information would be an idea. Based on what you say regarding EU licenses, maybe they will be OK with this sort of working backwards. – Eric Marsh Jun 23 '14 at 20:07
  • @EricMarsh Yeah, I meant the date you obtained your first license but since Ohio licenses don't mention it, that's not going to work. Getting some proof you passed the test might work but I think it could be much more difficult than within the EU. Still, I know someone who somehow managed something like that in Australia so it's worth a try. – Gala Jun 24 '14 at 8:33
  • I wrote up my own answer below because I felt it answers with greater certainty now that I've completed the process. Also the thing about renewing the Ohio license is unlikely to work because the Ohio license was expired so long ago. – Eric Marsh Jun 8 '15 at 21:49

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