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settlinghere cararticle

By Aislinn Delmotte, Settling Here

Are you driving in France on foreign license plates, with a foreign drivers license and insurance? If so, the question many expats ask is: Does a foreigner have to re- register his/her car in France with French plates?

According to the French government information website (https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F10519), the answer is a clear YES, and within a month of bringing the car here if you are a French resident.

What constitutes a French resident then? Basically it's somebody living here at least 8 months of the year. There are of course some exceptions to this status (aren't there always!).

So what to do?

Contact your local prefecture, or sous-prefecture if you're living in the Gex catchment area.

Or ask somebody to do it on your behalf by signing a "procuration".

You will need to procure a number of documents, fill out an application and possibly carry out mechanical procedures in order obtain your French "carte de grise" car registration document. You will need to include a customs clearance certificate, proof of road worthiness, "control technique"  etc. There is also a cost involved to register the car in France and that will depend on the horsepower of the car, the car emissions and also the department where the car will be registered. If you have a powerful engine, then you can be hit by an ecotaxe at the time of registration and also be requested to pay an annual tax.

And what about my drivers license, is it valid?

If you are driving on a foreign drivers license and take up residence in France, then you must exchange your foreign drivers license or obtain a French license within a year of taking up residence in France.

The exception to this is if you are already driving on an EU license. An EU license holder may continue to drive on that license until it expires, at which point they will have to obtain a French license. Be sure to start the process of exchanging your non-French EU license well before the expiry date. There are exceptions here too for the EU license holder, if you have a British EU driving license that has no expiry date then you must exchange that to a French License if you have normally been resident in France for 2 years. A second exception is in the case of a driving violation, you may be made to exchange your license for a French license.

For non-EU driving license holders, there are some reciprocal agreements for the exchange of your license for a French one. Countries included in these agreements are Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and some US states. Details again can be found on the French government information site.

Remember too that your car insurance may only be valid if you are driving on a valid license. If you need assistance in relation to these matters please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


aislinn delmotte

Aislinn Delmotte runs Settling Here, a company which aims to provide practical help and advice to individuals, couples and families relocating to or indeed already living in the Pays de Gex, a region where some of the customs are similar to those in neighbouring Switzerland, but where many aspects of living are entirely different.

Settling Here aims to bridge the gap between France and Switzerland and provide information which is specific not only to France but to the Pays de Gex region too. Settling Here provides individual assistance to clients and runs regular information sessions, bringing along regional experts to discuss certain topics which include, for example: taxes, house purchase and selling, health care in France, driving laws: job hunting in Switzerland and cross-border issues.

Settling Here
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