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Importing a Vehicle

France - Importing a Vehicle

When you import a vehicle into France you must register it with the French authorities. This is known as ‘immatriculation’ and the details are given in the ‘certificat d’immatriculation’, which is also known as the grey card – ‘carte grise’. You are legally obliged to ensure that the registration details are correct and are kept up to date.

In order to be able to register the vehicle you must ensure that it conforms to the standards set out by the French Ministry of Transport. The process will vary depending upon the age and country of origin of the vehicle.

It is not essential to register a foreign vehicle in France unless you are living in France. If you are in the country for a period of six months or more you are considered to be resident and you need to register the vehicle. If you are a resident in the country you cannot legally drive a vehicle which is registered in another country.

If the car you are bringing into France is coming from another part of the EU then there is no duty paid, provided you are only using the car for social and domestic use. The vehicle must be at least six months old and have at least 6000km on the clock. New vehicles will incur a duty unless the owner can prove that the VAT has been paid in another country and that the vehicle has been registered already in another country.

In order to register the vehicle you will need to take your original registration documents to the local ‘centre des impots’. They will give you a tax clearance form and tell you if there are any customs charges to be paid. If the car is already more than four years old it will need to undergo the ‘contrôle technique’, the bi-annual vehicle inspection test which is compulsory in France for all cars four years and older. Once the car has passed the inspection you can then go to the prefecture for the ‘demande de certificate d’immatriculation d’un véhicule’, the form for the application of registration. When the prefecture issues this form they will open a file on your vehicle.

You will also need to bring with you a certain amount of documentation. This includes proof of identity, proof of residence in the country which may be a utility bill or tenancy agreement, a copy of the registration certificate from your country of origin, the copy of the ‘certificat de conformité Européen’ which is issued by the manufacturer, the certificate of customs clearance and the vehicle inspection certificate if needed. The fee which is payable upon registration will depend upon the engine power of the vehicle. You will be given the details of where to send the documentation. When the process has been completed you will be contacted by the prefecture so that you can go and collect your new registration documents. You must then order your new number plates and have them fitted to the car.

If your car is from a non-EU country you will also not be liable for duty providing you use the car for personal use. You must have been a resident of a country outside the EU for a minimum of 12 months and been the owner of the car for at least 6 months. The process for registering and the documentation that is required is the same as for an EU car but in addition you will need to complete a form known as a ‘déclaration de mise en circulation’ which provides information on the car. This information is sent to the DREAL centre and you will be asked to present the vehicle at one of their testing centres for additional inspection. DREAL will issue an approval statement and then you will be given your new registration documentation.

DREAL is the Directions Régionales de l’Environnement, le l’Aménagement et du Logement – the regional directors of the Environment and Housing. When you go to the DREAL you will also need to take with you your driver’s licence. The inspection will include checking that the make, year and the chassis number of the vehicle meet the ‘fiche d’homologation’. You may find that this can take several weeks. They may recommend changes before they will pass the vehicle for registration.

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