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How to Swap your UK Driving License for a French Permis du Conduire

If you’re living in France and have been here more than six months, you’re legally obliged to swap your UK license for a French one. I’d say that’s a little known fact. Most people don’t bother and while I’ve heard that that’s not usually a problem (and not something the gendarmes pulled me up on when I was stopped a few months back) it is a requirement, so could cause problems. So how to go about it?

The process of transferring your non-French license to a French one is actually pretty straight forward. The only complication, as with all things French, is collating all the paperwork involved and filling out the forms.

The two forms you need are Cerfa form No. 1487901 and Cerfa form No. 1494801. Both can be downloaded from Service-Public.fr, as with all these forms.

Along with the two completed forms you also need the following paperwork.

  • A double-sided colour copy of your current driving licence
  • Proof of identity, such as a copy of your passport or other ID card.
  • Proof of residence, such as an Attestation de Domicile, which you can get from your local mairie, or a carte de sejour.

If you are European, Swiss or Monegasque you must also provide proof that you have been resident in France for at least 6 months. Examples of this include a rental contract, employment contract, avis d’impôt, etc.

If you are not a European citizen, you must provide your residence permit or the Ofii sticker affixed to your passport.

You need three photos, two of which you are required to attach to the Cerfa forms.

If you live in the departments of Corse du Sud, Haute-Corse, Réunion, Guyane, Martinique, Mayotte, a cheque for the amount of the regional tax payable; otherwise no payment is needed.

In order to receive your license you must include one of the pink pre-stamped 50g prêt à poster lettre suivie envelopes (available from your local La Poste) labelled with your name and address.

That’s it!

So, what about these forms.

Completing the Paperwork

Cerfa 14948

As with so many French forms, there are a lot of boxes and it looks intimidating, but it’s actually fairly straight forward and standard stuff of an official document.

Give your surname (nom) and first name (prenom), address, etc.

Sign it.

Then there are the two extra fields common to all French administrative document:

  • Fait à is for the name of the town you are when signing; and,
  • le is the date.

For example, if you’re in Carccasone on 18th August 2018 you’d write:

  • Fait à Carcassone, le 18/08/2018

The lower part of the form is only necessary if a legal guardian or representative is completing the form on your behalf. In which case the information required is almost identical to that required in the first part of the form but with the other person’s details.

Attach your photograph to the space provided, and it’s ready.

Next, Cerfa 14879*01.

Cerfa 14879

This it the one where you need to provide details from your current non-French license.

First select from one of the following:

  • Échange d’un permis délivré par un État appartenant à l’UE ou l’EEE
         Select this if you are a resident of an EU country.
  • Échange d’un permis délivré par une collectivité d’Outre-mer ou par la Nouvelle-Calédonie
         Select this if you are a resident of French overseas territory or New Caledonia
  • Échange d’un permis délivré par un État n’appartenant ni à l’UE, ni à l’EEE, ni à une collectivité d’Outre-mer ni à la Nouvelle-Calédonie
    Select this option if you are none of the above.

Nationalié(s) au moment de lóbtention du permis is your nationality at the time your current license was issued. For me that means English (anglaise).

Nationalité(s) atuelle(s) is your current nationality. That’s English (anglaise) again for me as this hasn’t changed since my license was issued.

État de délivrance du titre à échanger means the country that issued your license.

Date dóbtention ou de deliverance means the date your current license expires.

No du permis de conduire is your current driving license’s number. On the UK license this is a long number starting with alphanumeric characters taken from your surname. It can be found on your driving license. On the UK card license it’s the field numbered 5.

The rest of the form involves completing the vehicle categories. When I first looked at this and compared it to my paper license my heart sank because there was no correlation. Then I flipped the card license over and, hey presto! There is a very similar looking table with matching categories. Copy them over one by one. The first columns are for the start dates and the second column for the end dates, with jour, mois, and année the day (e.g., 01), month (e.g., 02) and year.

Examples of UK driving license cards are on the Government website.

Card_01_960x640_01
A Sample Photocard License showing the Categories (From the Gov.uk Website)

When you’ve got all this information together, affix your photograph in the appropriate places and then send off the forms along with your supporting documents and, if needed, payment.

Then you wait. How long you wait will depend on many factors. Word on various Expat forums suggesting anything between 8 weeks and 8 months!

We sent our forms off in August and are waiting to hear back. A feature of French life is that things move slowly, especially when paperwork and the postal service are involved, so watch this space!


Main photo by Christa Dodoo on Unsplash

 

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What, no Carte de Sejour?

We left the UK almost two years ago to the day, running from the island I had called home for my entire life. With the cataclysmic din of the Brexit vote still ringing in our ears our departure was not entirely the celebration we had hoped it would be. Instead of starting a new chapter full of hope and excitement our hearts were heavy with uncertainty. If we set up our new home, if we find what we are looking for, for how long will it last? Will our rights be lost, taken away? Not knowing, not having anywhere to look for or find the answers, was a huge burden on our shoulders during this time.

Aside from introducing uncertainty to our move, the Brexit vote has taken it’s toll in other ways. First it made the period from June to September incredibly frought emotionally. One of my parents (the insolent and Daily Mail reading one) voted FOR Brexit, which was the most fucking stupid thing she’s ever done given exactly one half of her family was planning to go and live within the EU in the six months that followed. In my opinion. Maybe it was some wierd passive-agressive thing where she didn’t want us to go and thought we’d be forced to stay if the UK left the EU? Who knows. Or maybe she thinks the 1950s were some sort of glorious hay-day (washing machines? fridges?!!) and has forgotten about things like outside toilets, caravan holidays in bognor, and tinned spam.

Whatever her reasons, “her decision” (nothing at all to do with Daily Mail brainwashing, of course) to vote the way she did caused a huge upheaval. Never in my life have I felt such rage towards my parents. And never before have I wanted to not talk to them – for weeks. Like so many other families who experienced similar fall outs, we’ve managed to move on but what’s left is a punctured relationship that I hadn’t realised was broken until it was. Now we’re here I think I miss them less than I would if Brexit hadn’t happened. I don’t feel particularly inclined to visit and when they come here it’s more for the kids. I feel apart from them in a way I didn’t before. I don’t care that they think they know better (“We remember how it was before. This isn’t what we voted for!”) As far as I’m concerned they have sold my family and the future of their grandchildren down the river. Part of me looks forward to them being stuck in a 4-hour immigration queue when they visit. If they’re allowed to. If they can afford to. C’est la vie.

Which brings me to the impact on the pound. When we first floated the idea of moving here, staring into estate agents windows 10 years before, the pound was riding high. I think at one point it was 1.5 euros to the pound. Maybe it was more? I don’t remember (and prefer not to think about it.) That would have been awesome. But thanks to Brexit , and in large part also due to the prediction that Remain would sneak through (social media echo chamber, anyone?) we didn’t rush to change our money from sterling to euros before the vote. Big mistake. In the days after we frantically set up a euro account and transferred all our money. That in itself was incredibly stressful: we had an “incident” with the bank where they submitted multiple buy orders on our behalf because when the first transction didn’t show on our account (we tried to do it online) we called and made the order – as it turns out again. We managed to get that sorted out but not without a huge amount of stress.

Given the situation, we got a pretty good rate by today’s standards, at least. It’s scraping the barrel compared to the rate both before the vote and in years past  which means we’re not in such a strong financial position as we hoped. Hey ho, it is what it is. We think about from time to time (like often) but what’s done is done. (Thanks, Mum!)

Then there’s the time pressure. All eyese on the 31st March 2019! What will happen then? If we’d come any other time – what’s Brexit? – we’d still have a whole lot to do but the pressure would be significantly less. We’d just be here, as is our right, happy and relaxed, just enjoying our time here, making a life. With Brexit looming it all feels like a very different proposition. We both feel a sense of urgency. Buy or build a house? Urgent. Set up and run a business (or two)? Urgent. Learn French? Urgent. Integrate? Urgent. Pay tax and be recognised as someone worthy of French citizenship in future? Urgent. The fact that we may run out of money sooner adds urgency to the urgency.

We’ve largely coped with the pressure we feel by focussing entirely on the things we can control and ignoring completely those we can’t. That’s why I’ve not read the news since we came. When people try to talk to me about the news, la, la, la, I can’t hear you (mature). Anything to do with Brexit brings me out in interchangeably rage and crippling despair. Instead we’ve been busying ourselves, learning the language (slow progress but progress nonentheless), setting up a business, registering for a carte vitale, registering the car, submitting our first tax return, paying our taxes – and so on.

All that doesn’t sound like much but anything admin here is a real mind fuck. Seriously, it can take a week or a month to complete a task that in the UK it would take me a day or a week max. That’s partly because the French system is paperwork intensive and also because of the language barrier. Fitting that in around childcare, school runs, client projects, and networking to find new clients – oh, and sometimes sleeping. Add to that searching for land or a house, trapsing around the countryside looking at houses we can’t afford because, well, Brexit.

So now, just when I feel like we’ve almost got on top of the admin and I can finally focus on work so that we can start to relieve some of the financial pressure and maybe even justify a day snowboarding this winter, there’s a noise from the Internet telling me I, we, need to apply for a carte de sejour otherwise we might lose our access to healthcare, be deported, or whatever. I read all this on a Facebook group, Remain In France Together, some time ago and had to turn their updates off because it was wreaking havoc with my blood pressure! The general consensus was that because no-one knew what we should or shouldn’t do, whether Brexit would happen or not, and whether that meant we could stay or we’d be unceremoniously chucked into the channel on April 1st, the best we could do now is something, anything, and there was always the option to PANIC!!! Wait and see seemed to be off the table.

Which is fine if you have nothing else to do all day and feel the need to do something to justify your existence, but I am already 12 hours short of the time I need to do all the things I need to do as it is. Stressing out about Brexit? Running around to the prefecture with my It’s Your Life style dossier of bills, birth certificates (officially translated at a cost of 100 euros, thank you very much) and all the rest of it, then finding a time to actually go to the office that doesn’t clash with school, creche, work, etc. Hah, you have to be joking.

So what to do? I read another blog recently which just about sums it up, and I quote:

What if, post Brexit, you need a special type of card? A card that isn’t a Carte De Sejour but a card that is for someone who was here as an EU citizen but then they weren’t. Just like all the EU residents in the UK. So, if I apply for a Carte De Sejour – it could transpire that I need a different card and what a waste of time that would have been #wails.

What if, they all agree, we don’t need any card for residents pre 2019. Or you just have a card issued that says you don’t need a card, as you were here before you needed a card. It does make sense you just have to re-read it.

– from Our Normandy Life: Why I Won’t be getting a Carte de Sejour

Nail On Head.

That said, I have done some reading about it – today, in fact. Maybe it is a good idea? YOu see, it’s confusing! There was a Government statement about this the other day, which I thought was reassuring. Except the people in the RIFT group assure me (and everyone else of the not-panicking variety) that that very sensible statement is only valid if (big if) an agreement is reached. Because I was struggling to cope with people online telling me what my own eyes were sure was a real thing complete with dates and everything, I decided to email the consulate in Paris, who pretty much told me the same thing as the Goverment. But RIFT (again) assure me that the consulate are also wrong (apparently they’ve now admitted it – to them, as in RIFT) that they, the consulate, mean only in the event of an agreement being reached. So what happens if an agreement isn’t reached? And here we go, around we go, again, again, again. No-one knows – and I Hate That.

So for now, no carte de sejour. If I get the willies about it I may just throw caution to the wind and make an appointment anyway. What the hell, eh? I don’t want to miss out on the ultimate Brexit experience! They say there’s a three-month waiting list, so that will give me plenty of time to gather the necessary paper work or follow the latest news and decide whether it’s necessary at all. Grrr. Fucking Brexit.

Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

 

 

A Trip to the Tax Office

Well, that went pretty smoothly, I thought. After a mix up over the rendezvous, which left me stranded in the foyer, waiting expectantly that the next time the door opened my name would be called (and that I’d recognise it), I managed to see the guy and it was all checked in 15 minutes! It was a bit of a close call: the shutters were about to go down and I was still sitting there but the guy was very gracious (I think he felt it was partly his mistake) and showed me to his office where he patiently took me through the forms.

Two green and white Finance Publiques folded leafletson a green folder

I was worried before going in about my lack of French and his potential lack of English. While waiting I’d noticed there were leaflets in Spanish and Dutch as well as French (none in English though) and overheard some German speakers in the queue so felt sure they were used to dealing with non-natives, but to what extent? To avoid the embarrassment of him starting a proper conversation with me and my just staring blankly back at me my opening shot was very much, “Hi, this is my first tax return. But I’m learning French at the moment.” He asked me if I spoke Catalan. Er, nope. I said English, he smiled and said, oh dear, and from them on it was all about the paperwork which, despite looking ridiculously complicated, turns out to be fairly straight forward. As it was we muddled along with only one or two tricky moments of total incomprehension: thank goodness for Reverso and a good 4G signal!

All good, but it’s not quite done. At least now I have all the info I need to fill in the remaining boxes – once I’ve found the supporting paperwork – then the last job is to pop back to the office, join the lengthy queue, and submit it. Since it’s a pretty solid fined-if-you-miss-it kind of deadline attempting to post it seems like a bad idea. By going in in person I’ll have a receipt and will know for sure that it’s not sloshing around in some sorting office somewhere in France.

In future years I’ll be able to do all that online, however it’s required that the very first return is submitted on paper. One for me, one for James (if we were married our had a PACS then we would submit a joint one) and we’re done. It’s one of those easy when you know how jobs and I’m glad I decided to go down this route rather than do it myself. Of course my tax situation is pretty simple; I don’t have homes in or income from other countries, rental income, subsidies or grants for this, that and the other. I can imagine it can become a proper headache if that’s the case – but for anyone else who has relatively straightforward finances, I say definitely do it yourself. I had help from Kate (Admin Angel) in Esperaza, who went through the main part of the form with me and told me what I needed to get together, then just went in with my dossier of paper so someone official could check it with me. It worked well and saved me a good amount of money. I’ve no idea how much accountants cost here but in the UK I was paying £150 to have my tax return sorted out. I would assume it’s comparable here. All in all, a job well done. And testament to how far I’ve come in the last 18 months that I can now boldly march into the tax office for a meeting! Go me!!

(After writing and posting this I realised that the post I drafted while sitting in the waiting room and couldn’t find was published and not, as I thought, lost. I assumed it had been deleted when I leaped up from my seat to try and get someone’s attention before getting locked in. This one is the replacement – thanks for reading 🙂 If you read the other one, now deleted, you might be comforted do know that it wasn’t long until I found something to eat. I had an apple in my bag all along!

How to check if a French Business is Legit

If you’re living or maintaining a home in France, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to employ someone to do some sort of work for you, whether that’s build or update a website, plaster your living room, fix the roof, or help you with your paperwork. Often we find the people we need through word of mouth or online recommendation, but in order to protect yourself and ensure that the person you hire is legally registered, you need to know their SIRET number. If they don’t have one, they’re not registered, which means they don’t have any insurance and also that their work is not guaranteed; it’s standard that any building work is guaranteed for 10 years but this is only if they are a properly registered business. Even if they do give you a SIRET it’s worth checking that the number they gave you is actually their number, because it’s not uncommon for an unscrupulous trader to give out a bogus number.

Luckily, there’s a really easy way to do this online. Simply visit the Info Greffe website and type the number you’ve been given into the search box.

A search box entitled Recherche with a magnifying glass button
The Search Box on the Info Greffe Site

It’s really that simple. You can also search on the business name, name, postcode, and SIREN. Useful stuff which could help you in the long run, especially with building projects where the “good price” you’re quoted may come at a cost, especially with “seasonal traders” who come for a few weeks or months a year, which seems to be a thing here. Getting your money back should anything go wrong could be a major headache so do your homework beforehand and be prepared to pay more for the real deal. You can’t know in advance that they’ll actually be any good but at least, if they’re registered, if you’re not happy you will have legal recourse to repairs and refunds.


Image copyright iStock/tumsasedgars