The Overseas Driver’s License Conundrum

With my visitor for marriage visa, I decided to get an international driving license. It cost me about $15 from AAA and is basically a translation of my current driver’s license into many different languages. It’s a very cool thing that could come in very handy in a foreign land were I ever pulled over. Ironically, I never got to use it while I was visiting…mainly because Stuart has, like most of Europe, a manual transmission, and I don’t know how to drive one (which apparently to many Europeans means I don’t know how to drive). So Stuart did all the driving. Still, if and when I do return to France, I will be bringing my international license with me as it won’t expire for a whole year, and I can learn to drive a stick shift fairly quickly…so he tries to convince me (while I try to convince him an automatic is sooooo much easier so let’s get one)! But as my international license will expire next August…

…here’s what I’ve learned so far about driving overseas as it pertains to my situation:

About France. Everything I’ve read online has confirmed that the French driving test, which must be taken in order for a US citizen to get a French license (unless they have a license from a limited number of states who have an exchange agreement with France), is a very challenging, time-consuming, and euro-eating process–a “racket” if you will. The tests, of course, are in French…which I have yet to learn…and the passing rate is abysmal.

In the UK, things aren’t much different than in France. The plus is that the tests are conducted in English. Of course, in the UK, they do that funny little “other side of the road” thing, but I’m pretty sure I can hack it.

The rub is that if things proceed as we are now planning, I’ll be going to France to be with Stuart. That means, within one year, I will need to have my French driver’s license. But if we later decide in that first year to go to the UK to settle, I will also have to get my UK driver’s license within a year of landing there. You see, it seems I can’t exchange my current US license in France or the UK, nor can I exchange my future French license in the UK. That means two packages of driving lessons and really difficult driving tests in the next couple of years, and I can think of a very long list of things I’d rather be doing with my time and money…especially as someone who has been driving for 30 years without a single ticket!

So here comes my inspiration to relocate to Florida. Florida is one of the states that has an agreement with France. I can swap my FL license for a French one! There are at least two other reasons to relocate to Florida…the weather (since I’d be moving in winter) and the lack of income tax (which as a US citizen, I will still be required to file whether I owe taxes or not–oh, the joys of the expat).

Hmm…Jacksonville is only 6 hours away. I would just have to sell my house and close my business…which I’m doing anyway…pack all my stuff…which I’m doing anyway…but somehow keep out certain stuff I’d need in FL…drive to Florida, find a place to live…probably furnished…submit my change of address to everyone, open a bank account, register to vote, get my license, find a short-term job, hang for a while and…voila!

…then pack everything again, have all my things shipped overseas, have my mail handled by an international mail forwarding service, sell my car, get on the plane, arrive in France, and do a victory dance.

Is nothing ever a piece of cake??? Mmm…cake.