No more paperwork headaches for a while

I accomplished two major things today! First, I was right about the préfecture losing my new carte de séjour. Of course they blamed it on the post office, but the fact remains that it was lost more than 6 weeks ago and no one told me. But I did get a new récépissé valid for 3 months. Second, I managed to turn in all of the paperwork to exchange my driver’s license. It was honestly the easiest thing I have done in France.

Part 1: Staying Legal in France

David & I arrived at the préfecture at exactly 8:30 this morning, only to find out the hours on the website were wrong and they open at 8:45. Anyway, the man helping us was actually rather nice and he searched through several files trying to find my new card. Then he noticed that there was a note on my file that clearly stated my card had been sent to the mairie of Meythet on June 20. (We had lived in Meythet until June and I filled out my paperwork for renewal there, but now that we live in Cran, we have to go directly to the prefecture instead of the local mairie.) However, we had called the mairie two days ago and asked if it had arrived yet. The answer was no.

The man was “absolutely certain” that the card was in Meythet, so we drove there to find out the card had never arrived (we suspected this). Either the prefecture screwed up on sending it to Meythet, the post office lost it between Annecy and Meythet, or the mail people in Meythet are morons and misplaced it. Or perhaps someone stole it from the post office and my card is now being sold on the black market (that’s David’s idea). The woman in Meythet even told us they somehow lost 7 cartes de séjour in one year (and this is just for the tiny town of Meythet) because “the post office never delivered them.”

So we returned to the préfecture where the nice man apologized for the card being lost. But he did mention that whenever the cards are sent in the mail, they are always sent in regular envelopes (not registered or insured or anything) because the government is too cheap to pay for that. So it’s no wonder how/why the cards are lost all the time. Anyway, he quickly made me another récépissé so that I will have another 3 months of being legal here. I should receive my new card within 6 weeks and it shouldn’t get lost this time since I will pick it up at the préfecture instead of it being sent to the mairie of another town. Plus the expiration date on it will be March 27, 2008 which is perfect since I can apply for the carte de séjour vie privée et familiale in February.

So the moral of the story is to live within the jurisdiction of the préfecture, otherwise your card will most likely get lost in the mail on its way to the mairie.

Part 2: How to Exchange an American Driver’s License for a French License

Even after the pleasantness of my experience at the bureau des étrangers and getting a new récépissé, I was still afraid to try to exchange my license. I was so afraid they would tell me that a récépissé isn’t good enough and that I’d have to wait for my actual card, which I might not receive until after the one year grace period is up. Luckily for me, they had no problems accepting the récépissé and I was able to turn in all the required paperwork this afternoon.

If your American driver’s license is from one of the 14 magic states (Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Virginia), you can exchange your American license for a French license without having to take any written or road tests. You just need to exchange it before you have been living in France for one year. However, if you have a carte de séjour étudiant, you won’t be able to exchange your license because students already have the right to drive in France regardless of how long they’ve been here. If you stay in France after you’ve finished your studies and change to a different carte (salariée, visiteur, vie privée et familiale, etc.), you can exchange your license within the first year of that carte de séjour’s validity. I have no idea how this exchange works for other countries, so check your embassy’s website for information on driving in France.

Then you will need to bring these papers to the Circulation department of your préfecture, as well as fill out one very short paper just asking basic information (name, address, place of birth, etc.):

1. Photocopy of your carte de séjour (front and back)
2. Photocopy of your passport
3. Two photographs
4. DISTINGO envelope bought from post office for 1,66 €
5. American driver’s license (yes, this means you won’t have it anymore when/if you visit/move back to the US)
6. Certified French translation of American license

You should receive an attestation, valid for 2 months, proving that you are in the middle of exchanging your license, though I’m not sure if this actually gives you the right to drive yet. The woman did mention it was valid in France and Switzerland, but I was so amazed at how easy this whole process was that I forgot to ask what exactly the attestation was for.

It should take about 30 days for the license to be sent to your address (in that DISTINGO envelope). And the best part? Besides paying for the photos and envelope, exchanging my license was FREE.

I feel great now. I don’t think I’ve ever accomplished this much in one day in France!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
0saves
If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed.
  • Samantha

    Wow, congratulations on such a successful day! And I have a few comments to make here – it really pisses me off that the French postal service cannot be trusted. Considering how much we are paying for stamps (almost $0.75) to mail things in a country the size of Texas, I find it absolutely ridiculous that they lose so much mail. Personally, I think it’s all a conspiracy – they “lose” the mail on purpose so that it forces people to pay more and send all their letters as registered mail.Second of all – that’s so awesome that your cds will be valid through next March! You might not be able to find a job, but at least you’ll be legal!Third, in case any students are reading this, they won’t let you exchange your license for a French one if you have a student carte de séjour, because you are not considered a long-term resident, and plus, students have the right to drive in France on their normal license anyways. In this case, the whole “exchange before your first year is up” doesn’t apply, and you’d need to exchange within the year after you stopped being a student, if that makes sense.And lastly, this is for you Jennie – most of the people that I know who’ve been able to exchange have just called their DMV back home and reported their license stolen. They were then sent a new one, and were able to have a valid license for both countries. I mean, seriously, what are the chances that the préfecture would bother contacting your local DMV back in the US? One, they don’t even speak English, and two, they can’t even manage to pass things along from préfecture to préfecture, let alone to another country!

  • Samantha

    Wow, congratulations on such a successful day! And I have a few comments to make here – it really pisses me off that the French postal service cannot be trusted. Considering how much we are paying for stamps (almost $0.75) to mail things in a country the size of Texas, I find it absolutely ridiculous that they lose so much mail. Personally, I think it’s all a conspiracy – they “lose” the mail on purpose so that it forces people to pay more and send all their letters as registered mail.

    Second of all – that’s so awesome that your cds will be valid through next March! You might not be able to find a job, but at least you’ll be legal!

    Third, in case any students are reading this, they won’t let you exchange your license for a French one if you have a student carte de séjour, because you are not considered a long-term resident, and plus, students have the right to drive in France on their normal license anyways. In this case, the whole “exchange before your first year is up” doesn’t apply, and you’d need to exchange within the year after you stopped being a student, if that makes sense.

    And lastly, this is for you Jennie – most of the people that I know who’ve been able to exchange have just called their DMV back home and reported their license stolen. They were then sent a new one, and were able to have a valid license for both countries. I mean, seriously, what are the chances that the préfecture would bother contacting your local DMV back in the US? One, they don’t even speak English, and two, they can’t even manage to pass things along from préfecture to préfecture, let alone to another country!

  • L’Étrangère Americaine

    Congrats on a successful day. I wonder how they came up with the list of the magic 14. I used to live in CT but never changed my NY license for a CT one. Who would have thought I would have saved myself from potential headaches in the future. You live and learn I suppose.

  • L’Étrangère Americaine

    Congrats on a successful day.

    I wonder how they came up with the list of the magic 14. I used to live in CT but never changed my NY license for a CT one. Who would have thought I would have saved myself from potential headaches in the future. You live and learn I suppose.

  • Penny

    Wow, that’s great (well, not that they lost your carte de séjour but that it all turned out so well). I think you deserve to celebrate :)

  • Penny

    Wow, that’s great (well, not that they lost your carte de séjour but that it all turned out so well). I think you deserve to celebrate :)

  • Leah

    Yay! Here’s hoping the new CDS gets there soon!

  • Leah

    Yay! Here’s hoping the new CDS gets there soon!

  • Jennie

    I agree the post office is so ridiculous here, Sam. But I suppose that’s just another facet of the French “I don’t care/it’s not my problem” attitude when something goes wrong or gets lost! And I didn’t even think about trying to get a replacement driver’s license in the US! That’s a good idea… ;)Those 14 US states also allow French citizens to exchange their licenses for American ones. It is really unfair that some states allow it and others don’t though.Thanks Penny. And I’m so happy that I’m no longer afraid of the prefecture. I always assumed the people there would be so mean and unhelpful. Thank goodness they weren’t!

  • Jennie

    I agree the post office is so ridiculous here, Sam. But I suppose that’s just another facet of the French “I don’t care/it’s not my problem” attitude when something goes wrong or gets lost! And I didn’t even think about trying to get a replacement driver’s license in the US! That’s a good idea… ;)

    Those 14 US states also allow French citizens to exchange their licenses for American ones. It is really unfair that some states allow it and others don’t though.

    Thanks Penny. And I’m so happy that I’m no longer afraid of the prefecture. I always assumed the people there would be so mean and unhelpful. Thank goodness they weren’t!

  • Mlle Smith

    I don’t know if I’m posting this twice…but I just wanted to thank you for posting all of that great information about the driver’s license process. I’m hoping to do that (that is, if I actually decide to remain in France), with Connecticut. I actually changed my address from NYC to CT to enable me to get a CT license and trade it over…should I desire to remain in France. I didn’t even realize this thing about the right to work for student visas…so now I’ve learned something new about the process, thank you! :0)

  • Mlle Smith

    I don’t know if I’m posting this twice…but I just wanted to thank you for posting all of that great information about the driver’s license process.

    I’m hoping to do that (that is, if I actually decide to remain in France), with Connecticut. I actually changed my address from NYC to CT to enable me to get a CT license and trade it over…should I desire to remain in France.

    I didn’t even realize this thing about the right to work for student visas…so now I’ve learned something new about the process, thank you! :0)

  • steve

    Hi can anyone help me , i am a Indian & i have married a french girl & living in france with valid Carte sejour , but now i want to drive in paris , i have a valid indian licence , so can i exchange my indian licence & get a french licence , if yes can u help me how to do the process ,

    Thanks

  • steve

    Hi can anyone help me , i am a Indian & i have married a french girl & living in france with valid Carte sejour , but now i want to drive in paris , i have a valid indian licence , so can i exchange my indian licence & get a french licence , if yes can u help me how to do the process ,

    Thanks

Search this Site

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In January 2010, I started focusing more on teaching and learning languages in general. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at the university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling (though now my trips are usually in Australia) and being an American abroad.

Stay Connected

Facebook

Buy My French Books

My Say it in French phrasebook and Great French Short Stories dual-language book (both published by Dover Publications) are available at Amazon.com.

The 2nd edition of French Language Tutorial is now available as a PDF book. It has been updated with much more vocabulary, sample sentences, and cultural information, plus extended vocabulary lists, cross-referenced topics, and an alphabetical index.

Visit the Store to buy the PDF e-book for $14.95 or paperback book for $29.95.

Languages

     

Google Ads