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Neil has changed the UK plates on the campervan to French plates. Sounds simple. Buy a new number plate?
If you have experienced French beaurocracy first hand, you will appreciate that this is an occasion worthy of a big party and is far more noteworthy than, say, a wedding. This is the streamlined process. Please rely on dubious expat forum posts for more detailed and accurate information.
1. First you need a provisional insurance certificate, then order headlamps pointing the other way on the Internet, and change the headlamps.
2. Obtain by force or stealth (or just by paying a lot) a certificate of conformity for the chassis and sometimes also another certificate for the cab, usually from another country, for us Fiat in Italy.
3. Visit the tax office to obtain a VAT exemption certificate because it’s an imported vehicle for private use. Possibly you need to do 5 before 3, depending upon who you talk to, but we did 3 before 5.
4. Try to ignore all dubious but scary forum posts which say you can’t register a van with a door on the right and you may as well kiss water resistance goodbye when you have to saw a hole for a door to the left.
5. Take all of these pieces of paper to a car garage to book and then get an MOT equivalent done, and armed with this final piece of paper, visit another office in another town to get the registration document.
6. Buy and fit registration plates.
7. Convert provisional insurance to permanent insurance (the exciting part here is that you have a time limit from 1 to 7, so it’s a bit like being Jack Bauer in 24 hours).
It is significantly more complicated if the vehicle is older or is longer than 3.5m, because this justifies a new department, sometimes in a new town, carrying out extra tests.
But we can see the reasoning behind this rigmarole. The authorities are just testing to see if we really really really want a campervan. Because we can’t have one if not. That is why all campervan drivers motor round Europe with inane smiles on their faces. They have made it.