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Driving documents in France - a licence to frustrate

Two more letters on the occasional perils of dealing with French bureaucracy

HEARING about some French civil servants being paid over the last 25 years for doing nothing, perhaps the administration could lend some of these “under-employed” people to the section that deals with vehicle registration documents.

Before the recent leap forward in technology in issuing of vehicle documents, I would visit our local prefecture, be treated with courtesy by the staff and receive my carte grise, no fuss, no problem.

In fact, I timed it from receiving the ticket from the machine at the entrance to walking out the door at 11 minutes.

Everything now has to be online. In general, I have no problem with that. I obtained my French passport online, no problem, but obtaining vehicle registration documents is an entirely different matter.

For a collector car, for example, it is necessary to contact an association (FFVE) in Paris to request a certificate of proof that your vehicle is eligible for a carte grise de collection. This association is run entirely by volunteers and, under the circumstances, they do a magnificent job but often quote 13 weeks to supply this certificate. 

The government having to rely on volunteers for basic administration is madness.

Once this certificate is obtained, it is necessary to then apply online for a carte grise.

So far, my application has taken seven months and I still have not received a carte grise.

I propose that the politicians should overnight have an untried and untested software programme take over their salary payments and an understaffed group of volunteers become responsible for payment of expenses. Now that might focus politicians’ minds.

Tony Hillyard, by email

The situation for UK expats holding UK driving licences and wishing to exchange them is getting worse.

My wife lodged her application to exchange her UK licence for a French one several months ago but no acknowledgment has been received.

The UK licence expires in a couple of months but we have no knowledge whether the application is being processed or languishing in a huge pile of unprocessed applications.

If it is not accepted as having been lodged in time, the licence will expire and cannot then be exchanged.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the DVLC will not deal with any UK driving licence matter for expats unless a UK permanent address is given, so expats cannot renew their UK licences to tide them over until the French system is up to speed. 

I have written to UK MPs, the Department of Transport and the DVLC to point out the stupidity of the permanent UK address rule but have never received a reply.
This creates the bizarre situation that an expat may have a UK licence, which they can use in the EU, but runs the risk of incurring penalties in the UK for having a licence bearing a UK address which is not their permanent UK address, or with an expired photo ID, neither of which can be rectified.

A French friend’s son, who is a high-powered Parisian lawyer, says that he expects all expat driving licence and carte de séjour applications to be held over until after Brexit, when they will be rejected and the applicants told they must re-apply as non-EU citizens – Perfidious Marianne?

Malcolm Brown, by email

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