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!


I went to another “most beautiful village in France” this morning. Yvoire is on the southern shore of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and the city walls built in the 14th century still stand today. The weather was horrible and rainy, so my pictures aren’t as pretty as the ones on the official tourism site. Sometimes […]

Full Story »

Am I really posting about television?

Since I spend/waste a lot of time watching TV these days, I thought I’d give you a sample of my channel choices. I do live in a dégroupée area, so I have 150 “cable” channels. However, when you realize what these channels actually are, it’s not as cool. But since our TV/internet/telephone costs only 30 […]

Full Story »

This one is for Leah.

Dix choses que vous ne saviez pas au sujet de moi… 1. I’ve been working on typing comparative vocabulary lists of the Romance and Germanic languages for, oh, about FIVE years now. And I’m still not done. It’s just so mind-numbingly boring to sit here and type word after word in Excel. But the finished […]

Full Story »

Fromage Facile?

A few months ago, my dad sent me some Easy Cheese in a care package (along with Peanut Butter M&Ms and Paydays, among other American goodies). David was happy to try everything in the box… except for that suspicious spray can full of “cheese.” Cheddar cheese is not as prevalent in France as it is […]

Full Story »

Five weeks and counting…

It has now officially been five weeks since the Prefecture told me my new Carte de Séjour was in Paris and that I should receive it soon. I wonder what the French definition of soon is. My récépissé expires in two weeks. I only have two months left to apply for my French driver’s license. […]

Full Story »


I am back in Haute-Savoie. And I am freezing here, even though it is 20 degrees. (It was 36 in Vaucluse!) I have over 200 photos to sort through and upload. I miss Provence terribly already. Annecy is a beautiful place, but I’m anxious to move somewhere else. David told me he is too. I […]

Full Story »

Vaucluse Photos

I love this vacation. It was so nice to not worry about airport workers rifling through my bags, or going over the weight limit, or bringing too many liquids. After 25 € in tolls and 3 hours of driving, we arrived in Provence. Everyday we get up and go to a new place, return to […]

Full Story »

Les vacances

I am currently in the département of Vaucluse in the région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA). I am in the south of France for a week-long vacation. David & I are staying at his uncle’s house in a small commune of 5,000 people. It’s so quiet and peaceful here. Plus there’s a pool! This place is […]

Full Story »


The US was the only country to prohibit lighters on airplanes. That ban will be lifted on August 4. However, it’s still far too dangerous to bring more than 3 ounces of shampoo in your carry-on throughout most of the world. Everyone knows liquids explode more than lighters do! Cigarette lighters, breast milk OK on […]

Full Story »

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


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

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.



Google Ads