April 12, 2010

Moving to France Tutorial - Part Four


In Part Four of the Tutorial I would like to introduce you to the Residency Card, the Carte de Séjour.

The Carte de Séjour rules have changed since we arrived in France seven years ago. If you're staying in France less than one year, i.e., the length of a Long Stay Visa, as long as that visa is valid, you're fine. Once the clock strikes midnight on the 365th day however, you will need a Carte de Séjour in hand.

If you have one of the following visas and want to reside in France for only 12 months, then you will not need to apply for a Carte de Séjour. Lucky you!
  • long stay non-working visa (visiteur)
  • long stay visa to work in France (assistants, lecturers, full time and temporary workers)
  • long stay visa to study in France (students, au pairs, interns)
  • long stay visa for spouses of French nationals
However, that doesn't mean that you are exempt from a little meet and greet with a French fonctionnaire. You are still required to register with the Immigration Office.
Upon your arrival in France you will need to send a registered letter with return receipt (une lettre recommandé avec demande d'avis de réception) to your local offices of the OFII: the Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration.
The letter will need to include the following:
  • the application form, stamped by the French Consulate when they granted your visa
  • your visa number
  • your date of entry in France or the Schengen country
  • your address in France
  • copies of the ID pages in your passport and the immigration stamp received when you landed
You will then be requested to appear for an interview and medical exam with the following:
  • your passport
  • proof of accommodation in France
  • one ID picture
  • payment for the processing fees - 55€ for students, 70€ for workers, 300€ for visitors
When your dossier is complete, a registration stamp will be added to your passport.

If your plans change and you need to stay longer than one year, you need to apply with your local Préfecture, Sous-Préfecture or Préfecture de Police (if residing in Paris) at least two months before your visa expires.

If your plan is to stay for more than a year, then you will need a Carte de Séjour. You should apply in person within two months of your arrival in France at the Service des Étrangers section of your local Préfecture, Sous-Préfecture, or the Préfecture de Police (if residing in Paris).

You will need the following, in their original form, plus two photocopies of each, just to be safe. Also, any certificates (such as marriage and birth) not in French will need to be translated by an official, court-certified translator (names of translators are available from Préfectures, Consulates and police stations). When we had ours translated it was 40€ a page, so make sure that your bank balance is healthy!
  • a valid passport
  • a valid long stay visa (which is in your passport)
  • birth certificate with parents names listed (sometimes it must be issued within the previous 3 months)
  • marriage certificate
  • birth certificates of dependent children if applicable
  • proof of permanent address in France (EDF bill or the house deed of sale (acte de vente) for a house bought in France or a signed lease agreement for the French address)
  • recent medical certificate issued by the OFII- they will send you a notice of where and when your medical exam is to take place and the certificate will be added to your dossier
  • three recent ID photographs
A few additional items to have ready:
  • details of your parents places of birth and your mother's maiden name
  • two stamped, self-addressed envelopes are sometimes, but not always, asked for
There will be extra requirements for different types of Cartes de Séjour and your local government office will give you a list of any additional documents you must provide. Just don't be surprised if, when you arrive with everything they have asked for, all bundled in a nice little folder, they demand yet another random piece of paper. C'est normal.

There are several different types of Carte de Séjour - assistant/lecteur-visiteur, étudiant, travailleur temporaire, vie privée et familiale, visiteur, salarié, compétences et talents - and the fee for the application depends on what type you are applying for.

Once an application has been made, you will be given a temporary, renewable receipt, a récépissé. This is valid for three months and allows you to stay in France while your application is being processed.
We were never issued a récépissé for some reason. We applied for our Cartes and waited. And waited. They finally arrived several months later and every year we went through the frustrating process all over again.

One of the important things to remember is that, even though there is a basic list of documents that France requires, each Mairie, Préfecture, etc., seems to have its own rules and way of doing things.
So you learn to be flexible, to cajole the powers-that-be with some homemade brownies, to enjoy another glass of wine and another morsel of French cheese. While you learn the art of patience. Infinite patience.

Stay tuned for Part Five of the Tutorial in a couple of weeks. We've got guests arriving and I'm off to Paris for six days, so the Tutorial is going to have to wait!

If you live in France and have a Carte de Séjour story to share, bad or good (do good CdS stories even exist?) please feel free to share them in the comments.


*Please note that the information given here, while believed to be as accurate as possible at the time of writing, is general information only, and no liability can be accepted. Before acting on the information, please ensure that you take expert advice from the relevant authorities.

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46 comments:

croquecamille said...

I would amend that CDS application to three or four months before it expires. Granted, for my last renewal, I was a bit late getting the paperwork in - I sent it in at the beginning of December, it expired at the end of January - but I only just got my recepissé a couple of weeks ago, and the actual card won't be ready until the end of April. (Let's see... that's nearly 5 months! Ridiculous.)

For my first CDS, back in 2000, which was actually just a full-page sticker they put in my passport, I did manage to get the better of the receptionist at my medical visit. I arrived into Clermont-Ferrand after an our on th etrain, with another to catch in several hours. I didn't have my chest x-rays, and the receptionist didn't want to let me see the doctor, despite the fact that I had an appontment. I asked when I was supposed to have gotten the x-rays, and she told me that I was told over the phone to do so. My response? "Bof, j'ai pas compris," with a perfectly French shrug. And it worked! She let me in to see the doctor, who signed my papers, and I even caught the correct train out of there!

katiez said...

Hmmmm I could share mine - but I think it covered 6 or 7 full posts in my own blog.... not quite right for the comments section... Bu I like doing things in a big way LOL

maria said...

i had a cds back in 1990 and it was not that hard to get back then. i was a student, au pair and my boss worked at for the assamble national - i guess i was pretty luck for three years. bonne chance a tous.

Meg said...

I actually had a surprisingly painless experience when I applied for mine in 2003. Granted, I'd been living in France for ten years under a "carte spéciale" through my former employer, but I really was surprised. That said, I showed up with every conceivable piece of paper (or so I thought) in triplicate and paper-clipped, so I looked like a girl who knew what she was doing. The only thing I was missing was the proof of residence (a rookier error - amazing I let that slip), which I brought to my second appointment. And three months later, to my surprise, I picked up a ten year CDS. My advice in short: look super organized and don't forget an EDF/GDF bill!

Dale said...

so for a 3-4 mo stay our passports would suffice?

Barbra said...

This is VERY thorough - Thanks for laying it out! Lesson: Be prepared for anything and everything.

(ps - have fun here in Paris!)

Anonymous said...

You can stay up to 90 days out of 180 with just a passport; any longer and you will need to apply for a visa before entering France.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Jennifer, it sounds like applying for that new registration stamp in your passport, to validate your long-stay visa, is the moral equivalent of the first Carte de Séjour.

Walt and I never had any problems getting our Carte de Séjour. I did my own translations -- there are no government-certified translators in our département. Nobody ever questioned our paperwork. We had Cartes de Séjour Temporaires for 6 years, and now we have the 10-year Cartes de Résident.

Loulou said...

Camille
Yes, that is good advice, so I will amend the post. Our renewals were always at least 6 months late which meant we had them for a mere 4 months before starting the process all over again.
Our first CdS was also a sticker in the passport, then cards after that.

katie
I often thought of you while I was writing this post because your experience has to be one of the worst I've heard of by far! I'm glad that this new département seems to be a bit easier?

maria
I'm always happy to hear good stories! Thank you for sharing yours.

Meg
Another good story and good advice. Merci!

Dale
You don't need a Long Stay Visa if you are staying in France for less than 90 days. If you are staying any longer, and you want to be totally legal, then you must apply for a Long Stay Visa before leaving for France.

Ken
I agree! I don't know why they have bothered changing the previous rules. :)
We did our own translations in the States to get our Long Stay Visa then in France they said that they had to be "official" and sent us to the Official Translator. It was quite expensive! Then my husband's birth certificate didn't have his parents names on it so we had to order a new one from NYC which held things up for a bit.
It seems that every département/préfecture has their own little rules. You just never know what they'll ask for!

daslin said...

What's the current word/wisdom on CDS for EU citizens? I know they are not strictly necessary, but do people still find them useful to have, especially in some rural locations where the 'new' rules may not have caught up with their local fonctionnaires?

Loulou said...

daslin
I'm not aware of any EU citizens who have found having a Carte de Séjour beneficial these days.
If you have knowledge of the current laws, you can usually convince a fonctionnaire that you are in the know. Photocopies in French help.

Dale said...

think we will keep it to 89 days!!

thanks Loulou for very informative blog - really helps one plan on what we want to take on!

Loulou said...

Dale
I think that's a good idea! Much fewer headaches.
Glad the tutorial is helpful.

Loulou said...

Barbra
(your comment was inadvertently moderated so I just now saw it!)

That is the lesson, summed up perfectly. :)

Loulou said...

Anonymous
Exactly. Thanks!

L said...

Do Cds stories do exist! The last time I renewed my carte, I forgot my passport and just had 3 photocopies of it. Luckily the fonctionnaire was feeling nice and just accepted the photocopies without seeing the original.

Loulou said...

L
That is amazing. Truly. You must have some nice people in the office at your préfecture!

Megan said...

I would really appreciate some advice from people. I am going to be doing research in Paris from September 2010 through May 2011, BUT, I am going to be in Paris for 6-8 weeks and then back in the US for 2-3 weeks. This cycle will continue the entire time so I'll never be in Paris for more than 90 days at a stretch. Can I get by with just my passport or do I need to apply for something else???

Loulou said...

Megan
Had a look at the French Embassy website and they state that you must apply for a Long Stay Visa if you are in France for more than 90 days in a 6 month period.
"A short stay is a stay in the Schengen area under 90 days or multiple stays totalling less than 90 days in a period of six months."
So it looks like, if you want to be totally legal, you'll need a visa.

abainfrance said...

Our first CDS process took 6 months, before we had it in hand. Friends of ours acutally stayed 9 months and never recieved their CDS. What kind of process is the 10 year Carte de Residence?

Chez Loulou said...

abainfrance
Ours took about 6 months to get, every single time we renewed it! And I've heard stories like your friends as well.
I plan on writing a post about the 10 year Carte de Résident, so stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

I have a visa visiteur de long sejour, plus that yellow card from the OFII that I suppose made my visa official after my doctor's visit. My year in Paris is coming up, and I'm starting to look into renewal. But would this be renewal? (And of what? A residence permit?) Or applying for a FIRST carte de sejour? I'm fairly worried about what French officials will ask to see - technically, I am a "writer" who "doesn't work" but I actually support myself as a freelance journalist for american companies...any insight/advice on how to present myself? Will they ask to see my US tax return?

Chez Loulou said...

Anon
If you need to stay longer than your one year visa stipulates, you need to apply with your local Préfecture, Sous-Préfecture or Préfecture de Police (if residing in Paris) at least two months before your visa expires.
Once you get the 2nd visa then you will have to apply for a Carte de Séjour.
Not sure if they'll ask to see a tax return, as each office is different in their requirements.

visirina said...

Hi, I got accepted to University while in France on a short stay (no visa for US-citizens), can I apply for carte de sejour etudiant without leaving France to apply for a student visa?

Chez Loulou said...

visirina
Not exactly sure. You'll have to ask your local French préfecture.
Good luck!

Older but still terrified said...

Can someone direct me to a more detailed description of the medical exam requirements?

Chez Loulou said...

Older
All they did was check to make sure we didn't have TB.

daphne said...

Any idea if the entry, stay and CDS paperwork works differently for the spouse of a EU-citizen? I read somewhere that I´m entitled to the same rights as he is for being a EU citizen, at least to stay with him for as long as he does?

thanks!

Daphne

Chez Loulou said...

Daphne
I wish I could help you but I've not researched the rules for your situation. Hope you find the information that you're looking for with some more searching. Good luck! :)

daphne said...

Thanks Lou Lou! I consulted with the french consulate in my city and it is as I suspected. As the spouse of a EU citizen I can reside for more than 3 months (duration of tourist visa) showing up in the precture with our passport and proof of marriage.
I´m posting this in case there´s anyone in the same situation.
love,

daphne

Chez Loulou said...

Thank you Daphne! I'm sure there are many in your situation who could use this advice.

Tanya said...

Daphne/LouLou: as I've had to go through the process for my visa I thought I would add my 2cents here.

It may depend on the passport you hold. As a Canadian married to a French national I still could not reside in France for longer than 90 days. I had to apply for a Type D/Long-stay Visa. The process, however, can be a whole lot easier.

Chez Loulou said...

Tanya
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Hope it helps Daphne and others!

Anonymous said...

After nearly two years I received my CDS in late August. I am married to a French national and have two small children, but the process was long and tiring and very often frustrating. It included a trip to Los Angeles before our departure, a trip to the OFII, two horrible classes one of which was supposed to be on civics but mainly just stated that as a women you don't have to sit at the back of the bus and such, and numerous trips to the prefecture in the very early hours. In total I had a one year visa and three recepisses. It was much more easy for my husband to get his greencard in the US. I'm lucky it could have been worse. When living in the US we always kept up the livret de famille. Thank you Loulou for the info on how to get you citizenship, that's my next step!

Jennifer said...

anon
Wow! Thanks for sharing your story and wishing you all the best on getting your citizenship.

John said...

Thanks for the description of the process, but my question is how does one become eligible for a carte de sejour in the first place, short of marrying a french national. I'm American and would like to move to France for a year or two and work, but don't have any "in." Anyone know how I could get eligibility to work in France? Thanks.

Loulou in France said...

John
To work in France you either need to be hired by a company, which will give you the right to a permit to work (they have to submit papers on your behalf) or be a student, which will give you the right to work part time for a certain period of time. (or that was the law the last time I checked)
To get the first Carte de Sejour, you need to first have a Visa from the States, but that isn't a working Visa.

Damian said...

Hello, I am not sure if this is still active. I have a question regarding travel and the CDS. Am I allowed to travel outside France while I wait for my CDS? I have my receipt to say my application has been submitted.

Loulou in France said...

Damian
I believe that if you have a récipissé, then you are allowed. I would ask the préfecture/sous-préfecture that you have been dealing with directly though, just to be sure.

Anonymous said...

My husband is considering a job move to Europe, as the European rep for the company, working with ocustomers in Germany, England and France. I am wondering...how to decide where to live? Which is the easiest to handle? We can pretty much choose anywhere since he will be travling and not having one office.

Loulou in France said...

Anon
Well, I've never lived in either Germany or England, so really can't offer an opinion. Though in England there wouldn't be a language barrier. (for the most part)
France is not an easy place to live, so unless you're really up to the challenge, or have someone taking care of all of your paperwork for you, I wouldn't choose to move here.

tony hull said...

Loulou, if you have a long-stay visa and need to apply for a carte de sejours, because you wish to stay for more than 12 months, are you required to show proof of international medical insurance? As you know, medical insurance is a requirement for a 12 month "visiteur" long-stay visa coming from Australia. I was wondering if the authorities check up on this every year.

Jennifer Greco said...

tony
I wish I could give you an answer, but I can't. The rules have changed since I applied, and they change often, so I would check with your consulate for the current laws. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Loulou. All the best. I really have appreciated your blog.

Graham Roberts said...

Loving the Blog. My wife and I are Australian and we have found the process so far to be not unreasonable. We have recently applied for the renewal of our first CDS at Perigueux and are now awaiting the issue of our actual Carter. Process was reasonably straight forward so far, but time will tell. Common sense prevails and you need to have everything ready in triplicate just in case, In response to tony.hull, we found that we required evidence of continuing private Health Insurance cover. As expensive as it maybe, it remains a necessity at least in the Dordogne. Love the blog and keep up the good work.

Silva

Jennifer Greco said...

Anon
You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

Graham
I appreciate your input and for offering some advice to Tony. You have the right attitude about it all...something I don't see very often. Bravo! :)