Expats in France: Obtaining a Carte de Séjour (Residency Card) in France

Assistant/Lecteur - Visiteur | Travailleur Temporaire | Etudiant | Salarié | Visiteur | Vie Privée et Familiale | Contrat d'accueil et d'intégration

*New Procedures for Long-Stay Visas & Residence Permits as of June 1st, 2009*

From the 1st of June 2009, long-stay visa holders will be allowed to reside in France for up to 12 months according to the validity of their visa and purpose of stay. They will no longer be required to obtain a residence permit (carte de séjour) from the French local authorities (préfecture) as long as their visa is valid. However, they will have to apply for a carte de séjour at the préfecture if they intend to stay for more than a year or if they are renewing a resident permit such as vie privée et familiale.

Long-stay visa holders will have to register to the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) during the first three months of their stay in France. These visa holders will be able to travel freely within the Schengen area during the valid duration of their visa, with a maximum duration of three months outside of France.

These terms apply to the overseas French departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and La Réunion as well as Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. However, they do not apply to New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis & Futuna, or Mayotte.


As soon as you arrive in France, you will have to send the local offices of the OFII, by registered mail:

A. the residence form, that you included with your visa application, stamped by the consulate when they granted your visa and completed with

* your visa number,

* your date of entry in France or the Schengen area,

* and your address in France.

B. a copy of the ID pages of your passport and of the immigration stamp received at the border.

You will then be requested to appear for an interview and medical examination with :

* your passport,

* a proof of accommodation in France,

* one ID picture,

* means of payment for the processing fees of 55 € for students, 70€ for salarié, or 340 € for visitors/conjoint de français. However, if you are an assistant or lecteur (or any temporary worker) there will be no fee.

When the file is complete, a registration stamp will be added to your passport. You will not be eligible for CAF until your visa has been validated.


These new regulations only concern :

* long stay visa to work in France (assistant, lecteur, salarié, travailleur temporaire)

* long stay visa to study in France (student, au pair, internship with a "convention de stage")

* long stay visa for visitors

* long stay visa for spouses of French nationals (NOT spouses of other EU nationals, who do not need visas to settle in France)

* If the purpose of your stay is extended, you should apply for a renewal of your residence permit at the local French administration called "préfecture" two months before the expiration of your visa.

* If the purpose of your stay in France has ended, you should leave France before the expiration of your visa.

* If the purpose of your stay has changed, you should contact the local French administration called "préfecture" to apply for a residence permit according to your situation two months before the expiration of your visa. Please be aware that a change of status might be refused.

A carte de séjour (CDS) or titre de séjour is an official residency card in France. You must have a long-stay visa (Type D) in order to receive a CDS. There is a new law that states you cannot move to France and obtain a CDS without a long-stay visa even if you are married to a French citizen (either before or after entering France.) This law went into effect a few years ago, and not very many people know about it. So do not come to France with the intention of obtaining a CDS without a visa, unless you don't mind wasting money on a plane ticket to go back home just to get a visa.

If you are an EU citizen, or have dual citizenship with an EU state, then you do not need a visa or a CDS, unless your EU citizenship is with Bulgaria or Romania. Sarkozy announced that as of July 1, 2008, EU citizens from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia will have the same working rights in France as the previously accepted EU citizens. Furthermore, if you are married to an EU citizen (but NOT a French citizen), then you do NOT need a visa in order to obtain a CDS in France.

Spouses of French citizens have a legal right to a visa, so if the embassy/consulate denies your request, here is the official wording of the law. (You can view this law on LegiFrance by searching for Loi as nature du texte and 2006-911 as numéro de texte.) Some consulates do not consider PACSing the same as marriage for visa purposes, so you may have to apply for the regular long-stay visa instead of the spouse visa, which usually requires you to prove that you have enough money to support yourself for an entire year in France.

Loi du 24 juillet 2006 ("La loi Sarkozy"), Article 3:
« Art. L. 211-2-1. - La demande d'un visa pour un séjour d'une durée supérieure à trois mois donne lieu à la délivrance par les autorités diplomatiques et consulaires d'un récépissé indiquant la date du dépôt de la demande.
« Le visa mentionné à l'article L. 311-7 ne peut être refusé à un conjoint de Français qu'en cas de fraude, d'annulation du mariage ou de menace à l'ordre public.
« Les autorités diplomatiques et consulaires sont tenues de statuer sur la demande de visa de long séjour formée par le conjoint de Français dans les meilleurs délais.

The expiration date on each CDS seems to be randomly chosen by a fonctionnaire. It could be one year, it could be the last day of your work contract, or it could be a week or two after the last day of your contract. You won't know until you receive it. Your local Préfecture collects the paperwork needed to apply for a CDS, and then sends your file to Paris, where your card is actually made. Then Paris mails it back to your local Préfecture and you are notified that you can pick it up. However, if you live in a smaller town, you'll probably have to go to your town hall (mairie) to apply for your CDS. This usually adds on a few weeks to the process, and your card can be lost in the mail since the French government does not pay extra for secure shipping. Unfortunately, I know this from experience as my CDS was lost in the mail last summer (somewhere between the Préfecture in Annecy and the suburb I was living in...) Here is a timeline of all of the CDS I have received in France.

You will probably receive a récépissé (valid for 3 months) from the Préfecture that proves you are in the process of applying for your CDS. It can take anywhere between 4-8 weeks (perhaps longer...) to receive your CDS if you cannot apply directly at the Préfecture. If you have to apply at your town hall, you will not receive a récépissé right away, but just an attestation that you have applied. Then you'll have to wait for your récépissé, and then wait for your CDS. For my very first CDS, I had to wait almost 6 weeks just to receive my récépissé, and then it was another 2 months before I received my actual CDS. This can be a huge pain since you are technically not allowed to leave France anymore with just a récépissé for your first CDS and you cannot receive low-income benefits (CAF) or sometimes be eligible for a job without the actual carte instead of the récépissé.

The Service-Public.fr site has the official information about cartes de séjour in French. The following is my experience in getting different types of CDS and what the prefecture in Annecy has told me, as well as information from Bordeaux. (There are a few other types of residency cards, such as "profession artistique et culturelle" or "scientifique" but I have no experience with these types of cards.)

Please keep in mind that every Préfecture in France seems to be different with regards to their requirements for each CDS, so you must ask for the list of required documents at your local Préfecture. I cannot tell you what you absolutely need or don't need because I just don't know. In addition, Sarkozy keeps changing the immigration laws, so a lot of fonctionnaires really don't know what the current laws are! If you receive an answer that you don't like from your Préfecture, just go back another day and ask someone else.

Assistants do not have to pay for their visa validation - it is paid for by the rectorat. In fact, all travailleur temporaire visas are free. You are supposed to pay 55 € for the status of étudiant, 70€ for salarié and 340 € for visiteur or conjoint de français. To renew your card each year, the price is now 110 € (the fee for continuing to have the right to work in France). Remember to bring originals and photocopies of every document to the préfecture. Usually they just need to see the originals, and they will keep the copies.

For most cards, you will need to present your passport and visa, birth certificate (that is less than 3 months old) and official French translation, 3 or 4 identity photos, your arrêté de nomination (work contract details) and procès-verbal d'installation (signed work contract), proof of residence in France (official bill or lease), and proof of medical visit. In some cases, you will also need to prove that you have sufficient funds for the duration of your stay in France.

Assistant/Lecteur - Visiteur

If you are an assistant de langue in the public school system or a lecteur/lectrice at a university, you should receive the "assistant/lecteur-visiteur" CDS. It will only be valid until the end of your work contract, or shortly thereafter. You cannot renew or change this type of CDS. However, please note that I have heard of assistants receiving every CDS below except vie privée et familiale, so anything is possible...

Documents required at the Annecy Préfecture for the assistant de langue CDS:

Travailleur Temporaire

If you have a short-term work contract in France (up to one year), you will receive the "travailleur temporaire" CDS. It will be valid until the end of your work contract, or shortly thereafter. You may be able to renew or change this type of CDS. The Annecy préfecture has given me a travailleur temporaire CDS twice instead of the assistant/lecteur one.


If you are a student in France, you will receive the "étudiant" CDS which allows you to work part-time (about 20 hours a week). French law allows foreign students to work under the following conditions : a maximum of 964 hours per year can be worked ( during the school year : part-time / during vacation periods : full-time within the 964 hours yearly limit). You may be able to change another type of CDS into an étudiant CDS, but sometimes you will have to return to your home country and get a new student visa.


If you have a work contract that is one year or more, you should receive a "salarié" CDS. It is renewable and you may be able to renew it for another year and get unemployment benefits if you lose your job before your CDS expires.

Cas particulier des chômeurs
La carte de séjour temporaire "salarié" est renouvelée d'un an, si son titulaire se trouve involontairement privé d'emploi, à la date de sa première demande de renouvellement. Si, aux termes de ce délai d'un an, l'étranger est toujours privé d'emploi, la DDTEFP statue sur sa demande au regard de ses droits à l'allocation chômage. La carte est alors prorogée le temps des droits à l'allocation de chômage restant à courir.


If you have enough money to support your stay in France OR if you are PACSed but cannot prove un an de vie commune (one year of living together, which can start BEFORE you get PACSed) with your partner, then you can receive the "visiteur" CDS. It is valid for one year and may be renewed and/or changed into a "vie privée et familiale" CDS once you can prove the un an de vie commune. You do not have to pay for this CDS and usually there is no medical visit is required. You can receive low-income benefits (CAF), but not unemployment. You do not have the right to work in France with this CDS. As long as you have a long-stay visa and are PACSed to an EU Citizen, you have the legal right to a CDS visiteur. Here is an official circulaire from the Ministere de l'Intérieur to help your case if the Préfecture refuses your request.

Documents required at the Annecy Préfecture for the visiteur CDS due to being PACSed (this list may have changed and both partners must be present when turning in the paperwork!):

Documents required at the Bordeaux Préfecture for the visiteur CDS (not necessarily due to PACSing):

Vie Privée et Familiale

If you are married to an EU citizen or are PACSed to an EU citizen and can prove un an de vie commune, you can receive the "vie privée et familiale" CDS. You will have the right to work in France at any job with this CDS. It is valid for one year and can be renewed. You may have to do the medical visit again. Your récépissé for this card will state that you have the right to work, but this does not mean that an employer will hire you without the actual card...

Usually only holders of this type of CDS are allowed to apply for ASSEDIC (unemployment benefits). As long as you have a long-stay visa, are PACSed to an EU Citizen and can prove the un an de vie commune, you have the legal right to a CDS vie privée et familiale. Here is an official circulaire from the Ministere de l'Intérieur to help your case if the Préfecture refuses your request.

Documents required at the Annecy préfecture for the première demande of a vie privée et familiale CDS due to being PACSed (both partners must be present when turning in the paperwork!):

Documents required at the Bordeaux Préfecture for the première demande of a vie privée et familiale CDS due to being PACSed (both partners must be present when turning in the paperwork!):

For the recent certificat de PACS (to prove that you are indeed still PACSed), you have to request it from the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris as of January 2008. Just send a letter including your name, current address, your situation familiale, and why you are requesting it. You will need to include a copy of an ID that has your city of birth on it (passport, carte de sejour, national ID card, French driver's license, recent copy & translation of your birth certificate, etc.) and a self-addressed envelope that is not stamped. The address is:

TGI de Paris
Annexe Brabant
Service du PACS
4, Blvd du Palais
75055 PARIS CEDEX 01

This certificat will only be valid for one month, so don't request it too early.

Contrat d'accueil et d'intégration

Since January 1, 2007, foreigners who receive a vie privée et familiale CDS must sign this contract (CAI) and go through a welcome to France orientation, as well as have their level of French tested. You may be entitled to 200-400 hours of free French instruction. It does not matter if you have already lived in France for a while and had different types of CDS, as soon as you receive your first vie privée et familiale CDS, you may be required to do this. Some préfectures require it and some don't. I did not have to do this.

For reference, citizens of the following countries (and the EU & EEA countries) can stay in France for 3 months as a tourist and do not need a carte de séjour unless their stay is over 3 months: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, United States, Uruguay, Vatican and Venezuela.


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