Look out France, the Shane’s officially have a car! We have had a rental car, a Citroën C3 Aircross, since we moved here in February, but it’s largely sat idle since Jordan hasn’t been going into the office. We were able to go to the Volkswagen dealership before the lockdown started to scope out some options, and Jordan has been working with an employee remotely to determine the best option for him.
We chose to lease a new 2020 Volkswagen Golf. We rented a Golf for our 10-day trip to Iceland in 2017 and loved it. It was a smaller car than we were used to, but very spacious on the inside and extremely comfortable for long drives. We wanted to make sure Jordan had something comfortable for his 6’2 frame since he will be the primary user of the car. It has an automatic transmission, which is rare for Europe! We had originally looked at purchasing a used car but did not want to have to deal with selling it at the end of our expat journey. Europe is also heavily pushing electric cars and we weren’t sure what the market would look like in 2022 for a used automatic car. A lease was more expensive than purchasing a car, but will give us peace of mind after two years that we can drop it off when we no longer need it.
In France, we are able to exchange our South Carolina driver’s license without having to take a driving test. However, the process to do so is long and tedious. There are a number of steps that we have to take to exchange our driver’s license, and the process could take the entire two years that we are in Lyon. Yes, the entire two years! Here’s what the process looks like for us to exchange the driver’s license.
First, we need our “carte de séjour”, which is our residence card. Getting our residence card is a whole different story, one that we originally thought would be a nightmare due to COVID-19. Essentially, we need an appointment at the prefecture in order to get our carte de séjour. Seems easy, right? Unfortunately, everyone’s appointments at the prefecture from March – November have been cancelled and are waiting to be rescheduled, which means we have to get in line behind everyone else for an appointment… or do we? We just heard from the company Jordan is working with that our carte de séjour appointments are at the end of June. We aren’t sure what magic the relocation company did to get us in front of the line, but we aren’t complaining!
Once we have our carte de séjour, then the process to exchange the driver’s license can begin! We have to make another appointment at the prefecture and have the following items:
- Original copy of our driver’s license… check!
- An original document from the South Carolina DMV giving the number of the driver’s license, where we obtained it, when we obtained it, and the details of the driver’s license. However, this document cannot be dated more than three months old. What? The French love their documentation.
- Translation of document above
- Original carte de séjour
- Four ID photos
- Proof of address, like an electricity bill. Like before, this document cannot be dated more than three months old
Once we have all those documents, we can go to our second prefecture appointment. The prefecture will keep our U.S. driver’s license and then we will be able to drive only in France, unless we have an international driver’s license. This also means that we will have to go back to the DMV when we move home to get a new South Carolina driver’s license…joy! We will be given a temporary driver’s license in the interim and will receive our new French driver’s license two to fourteen months after our prefecture appointment. Yes, between two and fourteen months. When all is said and done, we may get our driver’s license just in time to put it in a memory box before we head back to the USA! Thankfully, we will still be able to drive while we are waiting for our French driver’s license to arrive.
In the meantime, if you are in France keep a look out for our Volkswagen Golf. With these decals on the back, you won’t be able to miss it!