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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,
Just arrived from California a couple of weeks ago to live with my French wife. So far so good. I have a long stay visa (1 year) and am about to start the process for a Carte de Sejour (assuming I need one). I have a valid CA drivers license and have been driving for over 30 years, with much of it in France. So far so good. I am entitled to drive for a year while working on obtaining my French license. The question is what am I entitled to drive?

Now the problem. We just leased a new car. When my wife tried to insure it for both of us to drive, she was told that I could not be insured until I obtain a French drivers license. Not so good. Being from CA, I must take the full battery of written and practical. Not being fluent in French, and living in Reims, who knows how long it will take to obtain, not to mention the time to acquire a Carte de Sejour. She spoke with Axa and Ford assurance, plus one other. The same story from all of them.

My question is this, has anyone found a way to insure a car leased or purchased in France, for driving in France before obtaining a French driving license?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Ron
 

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Don't worry about the time to acquire a carte de séjour. In your shoes, you won't get one for the first year you're here. The drill these days is to go to the OFII office with your visa and entry stamp (plus some other papers and forms you should have gotten when you got your visa in the US). They do a sort of validation in your passport that serves as a carte de séjour for your first year here.

As far as the car insurance goes, it sounds like you just have a lazy agent there. If your wife is adding you to her car insurance (i.e. to get the 50% bonus) I don't believe you have to have a French license. Admittedly it was a while ago, but my husband added me and my car to his car insurance when I first arrived - and I was here illegally (as it turns out - didn't know it at the time).

OK, I had a German license when I arrived. But I had car insurance in Germany when I still had my California driving license. I had to provide driving record information and some indication of how long I had held a driving license. Because they couldn't figure out the blank accident report I managed to get from the state of California, they couldn't give me the full reduction for however many years without an accident, but they insured me.

I'd at least ask a couple different insurance companies about the car insurance. There are also some online car insurance companies these days in France. Maybe have your wife check a couple of those (and let the current insurance carrier know that you're looking around - sometimes that's all it takes for the agent to figure out how to insure you based on your US license).
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the advise Bev. I will check the online insurance companies and hopefully come to an understanding. As it happens they allowed me to drive occasionally (whatever that means), for 3 months. So now it's off to driving school.

Great forum. Very timely.

Regards,
Ron
 

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Ron,

My wife just had to send her insurer an email and submit a copy of my Omani driving license and boom I was covered. Then the changing of the drivers license I had to submit copies of my license, passport, vingette etc to the prefecture along with envelopes etc and wait 4 months (Lyon) but can drive vehicles in the same class. Don't know how it works with permits in the states, but I'd assume that is is a class B automatically and assume that is I could change my Omani or my Emirates license but not my Zimbabwean one, that the process for you would be just as simple, i.e. completing a form from the prefecture, filling it out and sending it in... Also a lot cheaper than redoing your license
 

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Hi there, I also had a US license when I bought my car. They didn't hassle me for the license, but if you want the discount is a bit difficult obtaining documentation from US insurance companies. I was lucky since our agent is my husband's uncle. I think they normally will not accept US docs. Anyway, you are allowed to drive for one year on a US license, but will eventually need to take the auto ecole classes and pass both the written and driving tests. I believe that some ecoles have the test in english, but you will need to check. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hi,
Thanks for the feedback.

I've checked with the Préfecture and have been told I will need to take both tests. California is not a state with reciprocity. My wife has contacted an auto-ecole which will allow me to take a couple of driving lessons and access to their on-line and written material for a modest fee. There is an accredited translator in Reims, so I have the option taking the written test with the translator and the practical with someone speaking english in the back seat. My goal is to take both without this aid, but have it if I need it.

I will need to obtain the license within a year, so might as well knock it off now.

We managed to get insurance coverage for a limited duration, but will continue to work on something more permanent.

Chitty, what assurance company are you with?

Thanks again,
Ron
 

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Good idea to try and get through the licensing tests asap. In Germany I let it go too long and lived to regret it. Though I have to admit, I'm actually rather glad I took the driving lessons there. There are just enough peculiarities of the law that are different from the US that it pays to actually have it all explained to you. (Priorité à droite being the main thing it takes a while to get used to.)

You know, for insurance, one place to check (at least) is your bank. They're always wild to sell you insurance. See if they can make you a better deal than some of the bigger insurance companies. But check with "the usual suspects" depending on who's available locally: AXA, Groupama, MAAF and all the other ones you see advertised on the television.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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