Reader Question: I have seen cars with number plates starting with ‘WW’ – what does this mean?
‘WW’ plates relate to a temporary registration in France, which is valid for four months and non-renewable.
This registration can be given in several scenarios, one of which is where a resident of France buys a car abroad and brings it back to the country with foreign plates.
In such a case, the owner should not then drive the vehicle on French roads without new French plates.
One option is to apply for a definitive certificat d’immatriculation (often referred to as a carte grise) registration document with the required paperwork.
Applicants should be sent a provisional carte grise (CPI) valid for a month, allowing them to buy normal French plates while waiting for the final certificate to be sent.
Alternatively, applying for ‘WW’ registration is quicker and is possible even if you lack certain papers related to the car’s conformity for French roads.
You obtain a different CPI, which allows you to put on special temporary plates.
Proof of conformity can be difficult to obtain for some vehicles
Obtaining proof of conformity can be complex for non-EU cars, which might need an inspection and adaptations.
Some EU-bought cars have a standardised registration document that suffices.
For others, you need a conformity certificate from the manufacturer in France.
You need to change the plates again once you apply for, and obtain, full registration.
'Carte grise' specialist Fabrice Diximus, of Cartegrisefacile in Nice, said since all procedures went online instead of in person at prefectures, there can be months of delays for full re-registration, and the ‘WW’ route is now usual for people wanting to rapidly drive a foreign-bought car legally in France.