Getting our vehicles re-registered in France had been a bit like wading through mud. First we needed to get the requisite documentation, then the tax clearance and now we were at the stage of actually submitting our application to import and re-register. All of this is quite time-constrained but the deadlines take no account of the time it takes for the administrative wheels to move – and they ‘grind exceedingly slow’.
Our next step was to access the website of the French ‘Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés’, the National Security Agency, who deal with (amongst other things) the registration of vehicles. Now, we already knew that to log in to this we needed a nationally recognised form of ID (a bit like the UK Government Gateway login or Verify). Typically in France this is your income tax reference number, and as we haven’t yet been tax resident here a full year to do a tax return and get this number, we needed to find another way.
The garage owner in the next village, who had saved our bacon when our van broke down, two days before our major kitchen-collection trip had agreed to act as our intermediary for the application, so we set off with the bulging file of paperwork as soon as the last bit of paper was in place. We had a nice chat and he explained that his colleague who dealt with all the car registrations didn’t work Fridays but he would pass on our phone number and the afore-mentioned colleague would ring us when he was back on Monday. Monday came and went (as did the rest of the week) with no contact from the garage. So on Friday we ‘just popped in as we were passing’ and were told that his colleague had been off all week with ‘flu, but would be in touch on Monday, when he was due to return. The following week the phone remained stubbornly silent, and although Colin was sure that there was a good reason for the lack of contact, I wasn’t so confident. I didn’t want to spoil the good relationship we had built with the garagiste, (not knowing when we might need his help again), but it seemed pretty clear that he didn’t want to get involved with our application. So we decided to try elsewhere.
That Friday (being a day off for both of us) we took our shiny red dossier into town, to the local Renault dealer (as one of the vehicles was a Renault). The two ladies in the office were lovely and friendly but apologised, saying they were only allowed to register brand new cars on the ANTS site.
Undeterred, we moved on to the next garage/showroom on the local shopping area – this time a brand new Renault used-car dealership. Once again I explained our predicament to the salesman in the showroom. He listened sympathetically and suggested we ask at the Renault garage we had just visited. When I told him that we had already tried there, he jumped onto his mobile phone and I heard him tell the person on the other end that he had a ‘nice English couple that needed assistance – let’s see if we can help them’.
We hadn’t realised that this was actually the same company as the garage we had just visited and the guy we were talking to was the owner of both. Having thanked him profusely we went back to the original garage and the ladies there immediately set-to, photocopying all our paperwork and explaining that they would do their best – maybe not today , but definitely on Monday. We suddenly realised that their initial reluctance ( and almost certainly the same went for our local garagiste) was that they had never had to deal with a foreign import before and weren’t sure how to go about it. They took our phone number in case there were any queries and we left feeling quite positive. A week later and no news. I’d suddenly realised that we would actually need something to show the gendarmes, if we were stopped, that we had actually applied to re-register the car and van, so I went back to the Renault dealer the following week to ask for a copy of the attestation, confirmation of application) The ladies at first looked nervous, saying it would take quite a while for the cartes grises to come through but that there hadn’t been any additional requests for information so they were hopeful… Then looked relieved when I explained why I needed the photocopies, confirming my suspicions about their original reactions.
Two weeks later, our lovely post-lady arrived with a sign-for letter – Yes! it was the carte grise for the car! Straight down to the local auto centre for some new registration plates – riveted not stuck (!) and we no longer stick out like a sore thumb when driving round the local lanes. Yay!
Still waiting to hear about the van, though.