Au secours! Dual Passports/Exchanging driver's Licenses

Hi everyone, I'm hoping someone reads this who can give us some advice.

My husband and I recently migrated to France (10months). We are in the midst of trying to exchange our Drivers Licenses to French ones, nothing major. For me, the exchange is no problem as I have a New Zealand passport with a Titre de séjour. My husband, born and living in NZ for the past 35 years has a French mother and hence a french passport (therefore no titre de séjour).

He now needs a Certificat de résidence to prove he lived in NZ.....which he does have, but we only registered him as a french living outside NZ since 2011 (done as part of preparation for our move here.(There had been no need prior to this). BUT.....his driver's license is dated 2000 - when he sat the test initially.....Voilà! The certificat de residence we have is not valid!!

On speaking to the french embassy in NZ to get the appropriate document, they have asked for his passports stamped for departure from NZ or arrival in France.....

The trick is.....My husband left NZ on NZ passport....(NZ customs asked for the NZ passport) No stamp on departure. He arrived in France on French passport (on a one way ticket it is impossible to enter france on his NZ passport without a visa). No stamp on entry. And now, no record of his movements.

On his numerous trips between the two countries this is the same practice that he has followed....on advice and regulation of customs....but now we realise that in fact there is no evidence of where he has been or when (despite the horrible idea of tracking down schooling/university/rental papers from his entire life).

This aside, we have two daughters who also have french passports, they also have no stamps (record of departure/arrival between the two countries). Should I worry that the system doesn't seem to have any idea of where my family is....or should I count my blessings and hope that it doesn't catch up and bite us later. After 12 months of paperwork I have an (ir)rational fear of the French system......and i'm a little nervous about this one!!

Anyone out there experienced this....?? Please help!!

Claire did you keep your stub/boarding cards from your flights ? they have the names the dates and departure and destinations on them, if you don't have them did you purchase the tickets on line ? perhaps you still have the information on your computer, just a thought .

Thanks Howard! You're right about the evidence...I should have really said evidence acceptable for the french embassy in NZ or the Prefecture.....some of the things you have suggested could be a possibility. However I do like the idea of a 'french solution'! With families in countries nearby this may be an option!!!!

Thanks Catherine! This is great news! If all else fails its good to know we may not have to do the entire course with expenses.

Many thanks

Apply for the driving license as a “candidate liberal”. You can study for the Code de la Route exam on your own with a book purchased at a bookstore, with practice tests, and a great website called CodeClic. The driving exam has to be taken in a dual control car which only driving schools have, and they insist on a couple of hours on instruction at 41 euros a pop. And I have been driving for 45 years, on and off in France since 1986. It’s a total scam but there is no way around it. I have tried.

>>but now we realise that in fact there is no evidence of where he has been or when >>

There is always evidence - airline records, bank /credit card transactions. If necessary, can't you swear an affidavit on your movements.

I agree that it looks like an impossible situation but even in France, there are people in the system who help those in extremis. Finding them is the problem.

2 weeks is a little short. Why not try a "french" solution. Take a trip out of France and get your passport stamped on re-entry? Then you have another year. If you are a citizen of the country being entered and exited, the customs/immigration will stamp your passport on request.

Thanks Francis, we did have all the translations and such and for us both...and for me it was a straight swap no problem. Its just my husband who has confused the prefecture with his dual nationality because he doesn't have a carte/titre de sejour. You're right, the Prefecture doesn't like the NZ License or it's dates and lack of reissue date etc and they let us know what they thought of it ....I just repeated that I didn't create the license!!! At the moment we both have international licenses that we came with and they can be renewed for a second year...but if we can't sort the mess in the next two husband is not going to avoid the cost of a french driving course/test!!

PS. I enjoy your blog by the way! Our circumstances are very different (I have two small children in tow and we a very much in the country here) but some of the things you state really hit home! I hope it's okay that I tune in every now and then?!

Thanks everyone. I appreciate the info on this. I do know that to exchange your foreign Drivers License....if france and your country has a reciprocal has to be done in the first year of your arrival in France.....that gives my hubby about 2 weeks to sort this mess! Looks like a possible 1600 euros down the tube so that he can re-sit a Drivers License in France after driving for over 15 years!! I knew the paperwork was tough in France and thought I was super organised with every possible document the system might need......and right at the final hurdle!!!.....Looks like it got me on this one!!

I believe this is the rule NZ goes by too.

I didn't have a passport issue when I went to exchange my NZ license for a French one One passport only) but they clearly didn't know what to do with me. They had no idea what dates they were supposed to be referring to (Visa date or carte de sejour date). You must ask the NZ embassy in Paris to translate your tiny little NZ plastic license - apparently they can't understand dates here. It took 6 months of hassling the prefecture before I got mine and couldn't drive after one year in France while still waiting for my French license so don't leave it too long to do the swap. There is an agreement between NZ and France 2009 allowing a swap.

I travel with two passports when I go to South Africa so I don't have to get a SA visa. I use my US passport everywhere else.

Hi CLaire: did you check this link? It describes in detail the whole procedure for different groups. Just check with (sub-0préfecture what to do after you've explained your situation (including the airport regulations) and ask how you can satisfy their demand for proof of residency / date of leaving NZ.

They gave me also a hard administrative time, but found that a good face-to-face contact eased up things very quickly.

As I wasn’t born in Belfast, Beirut or Bagdad I can’t say for sure what their laws are however below is the text just copied from the Australian government website.

As an Australian citizen you must always leave and enter Australia on an Australian passport. If you also have a passport from another country you can use that for travel once you have left Australia.

I did live in Libya (speaking of Benghazi)for a few years and quite a few Libians have dual passports. I do know that if you are a Libian citizen and you do not present your green Libian passport to customs in Tripoli, you can expect to be spending some time in a not very pleasant jail. Would suggest that anyone who has multiple passports check on the relevant government website to be sure what the particular rules are for that country.

Alas, not twaddle, Roy. Depends on who you are and where you come from perhaps. But when your passports state 'born in Belfast' then you very quickly learn the fine details of international law and just what you may, or may not, do ... as they are grilling you under the bright lights. Goes for Beirut, Bagdad or Benghazi too I imagine.

I hope someone knows. We arrived on UK passports from the USA and they were not stamped. We can exchange our licenses as Florida has a reciprocal agreement. But how do we prove how long we have been here? I can't even find a definitive answer about how long we can drive on our Florida licenses before having to exchange.I also have two passports and neither was stamped. I always use the appropriate one to enter the country as it can speed up the immigration process, I didn't know it was the law. Bonne chance!

Complete twaddle

I have three passports (UK, Canada, France) and quite often travel with two - cuts down the crazy long queues at airports as a rule. Bit difficult to get around the stamping rule though. You could try arguing that your Kiwi ancestors never had their passports stamped when they arrived to liberate France in WWI and WWII , there being no Frenchman to be seen at the time.

I was about to give you advice on this but realised that I cheated when I was 25 and slipped over to Britain for a weekend to change my licence over there using a friend's address. I drove on the UK one for years. I have a French Carte d'Identité though so when I handed over my UK licence they just exchanged it without a problem.

Yes - I cheated. I had an Aussie licence at the time that I was allowed to use and drive with in France for up to two years as long as I was a student!! As soon as I started working, I had to pay 2000 francs (at the time) for official lessons and my licence was no longer valid. The idea that I was apt to drive with an Australian licence as a student, but not apt if I was working so annoyed me that I did a very French thing of working my way around it.

I only swapped the UK for a French one last year...

I'm intrigued about the passport rule as well, being a dual national. I travel with my Aussie passport and my French identity card on me and have never had a problem so far.

You might be able to take an option of repassing the rode code or something…

I’d disagree with you on this I’m afraid. I also have multiple passports and in fact, for most countries, if you have a passport for the country you are traveling to or from you must present that passport at customs. They find me confusing at times if I travel in my case between Australia and Canada as I would leave Australia on my Australian passport and then arrive in Canada on my Canadian one. The confusion sets in when I return to Australia with a passport showing that I have not actually “been” anywhere. In fact though, to do it any other way would be breaking the law.
Still have not swapped my drivers license though as as am still spending as much time in Oz as in France so not much help there.

I don't think I can help you but, having two passports myself, I know one thing: it's quite legal and common to have two passports but you may NOT travel with the two passports on your person. Thus leaving NZ on the NZ passport and arriving in France on the French one suggests that you broke this cardinal rule... hence the confusion and lack of stamps. Had you left and arrived using the SAME passport this would not have happened.

The best thing would be to explain all this to the authorities, make your mea culpa and hope for forgiveness and speedy resolution of problem.