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Making It Official: French Residence Permits
At a Glance:
- Those moving within the EU don’t require a visa or residence permit. If you’re moving from outside the EU or want to stay longer, you’ll need to apply for a carte de séjour.
- All non-French nationals will have to register their new address with the local préfecture. This is also where residence permit applications are processed if needed.
- If you need a residence permit, the carte de séjour is the most common one for expats. There are several different types and all are renewable. Costs vary from 79 EUR for students to 269 EUR for employed adults.
- There is also a carte de résident which is for spouses of French citizens, parents of a French-born child, expats retiring in France, or those who have renewed their carte de séjour for more than three consecutive years.
- Expect to provide a lot of paperwork: as well as your ID and birth certificate, you’ll need proof of income, proof of address in France, and marriage/birth certificates if you have a spouse and/or children.
For those moving within the EU, there’s no need to worry about visas or residence permits. However, if you’re moving to France from outside the EU or are staying for a longer period of time, you’ll need to apply for a carte de séjour (CDS) — the official residence card.
Registration or Residence Permit?
Many expats in France don’t need to apply for a carte de séjour (CDS). As well as people from the EU, long-stay visa holders are also not required to get a CDS for the duration of their visa. Those on a short-stay visa will not have enough time in the country to complete the application process. You can find out more about the different visa types available in this InterNations article.
Check your visa to figure out whether you need to apply for residency: long-stay visas marked with “carte de séjour à solliciter” need to visit the local authorities and apply for a CDS within two months of their arrival; long-stay visas with “CESEDA R.311-3”, need to contact the Office Francais de l’Immigration et de l’Integration (OFII) as soon as they arrive.
All long-term visa holders from outside the European Economic Area as well as Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Andorra, Vatican, and Algeria that plan on staying in France for more than six months will need to register with the OFII within three months of arriving.
Types of Residency Permit
The carte de séjour
If you need a residence permit, the carte de séjour is the most common one issued to expats. There are two different types:
- carte de séjour temporaire: valid for up to a year, this is inserted into your passport. Some prefectures will require you to take a language test. You’ll need to renew the CDS on a yearly basis, but you can request the ten-year carte de résident after three years.
- carte de séjour compétences et talents: awarded based on your special skills and talents, this card is valid for up to three years and is renewable.
The carte de résident
For spouses of French citizens, parents of a French-born child, expats retiring in France, or those who have renewed their carte de séjour for more than three consecutive years, there is also a carte de résident. There are also two types of carte de résident — the regular carte de resident and the carte de resident rétraité for those who have retired in France. Both are valid for ten years and are renewable.
Navigating the Préfecture and Application Process
From applying to receiving your CDS can take up to three months depending on your préfecture and the time of year — make sure to apply several months before your long-stay visa expires.
To apply, you’ll need to visit your local préfecture or Sous-préfecture. If there isn’t one in your area, pay a visit to the local town hall who will be able to help, though the process may take a bit longer. Costs vary from 79 EUR for students to 269 EUR for employed adults. You can find a full breakdown of costs per applicant and card type on service-public.fr (website in French).
After submitting your application, you’ll be given a récépissé which proves you’re allowed to stay in France while it’s being processed. If it’s your first CDS, you’re not allowed to leave the country while you only have a récépissé. Some jobs will also require you to have received your CDS before you can start.
If you leave France for three or more consecutive years, your residence permit will expire and you’ll have to begin the application process again.
Getting Your Paperwork Together
We’ve pulled together a checklist of the documents you’re most likely to need when applying for a carte de séjour, but be sure to check with your local préfecture if they have any additional requirements. For documents that are not in French, you’ll need to provide official translations. Your local consulate or préfecture should be able to recommend a court-certified translator.
For your CDS application, take the originals and two copies of the following items:
- long-stay visa (usually in your passport)
- birth certificate
- proof of address in France, e.g. a signed lease or electricity bill
- three recent ID photos
- proof of income, e.g. pay slips or copies of your accounts if self-employed
If you’re married or have children, you will also need to provide your marriage certificate and birth certificate(s) for your kids. In some cases, officials may ask about your parents or mother’s maiden name, so it’s a good idea to take this information with you.
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