France’s love of paperwork is well known among expats and property buyers, and your birth certificate or “acte de naissance” is one of the key documents required for official applications and contracts. But this isn’t always as simple as it may seem, and depending on your nationality, you may need to request an additional document, get an official translation, or be asked for a birth certificate “issued within the six months” (yes, really!). Here’s everything you need to know.
When do you need a birth certificate in France?
First things first: let’s take a look at the many situations in which you might be asked to provide your birth certificate in France. It’s a good idea to assume that you will need your birth certificate for any official government application or legal contract, but here are some of the most common reasons you might be asked for your birth certificate.
- Applying for a Carte de Séjour/Residency permit
- Signing the Compromis de Ventre when buying a property in France
- Taking out a French mortgage
- Exchanging your foreign driving licence for a French permis de conduire
- Getting married, PACSed or divorced in France
- Making any updates to livret de famille (the family record book issued if you have a child in France)
- Applying for French nationality
- Applying for your Carte Vitale and social security number in France
- Applying for benefits with the CAF
What type of birth certificate is accepted in France?
In France, there are two different types of birth certificate that may be requested. An “extrait avec indication de la filiation” means a full-length birth certificate that includes the details of both parents (i.e. a long-form birth certificate), while an “extrait sans filiation” means that the parental details are not required. If the type is not stipulated, it’s best to assume that the full-length birth certificate is required.
For countries such as the UK and the United States, where both short-form and long-form birth certificates may be issued, it’s important to check which kind of birth certificate you have – you may need to apply for the long-form version.
The process for doing this will depend upon your country of birth (in the United States, this may also depend on the state where you were born). For example, in the UK, you can apply through the General Register Office, while in the United States, you should apply to the Vital Records Office in the state or territory where you were born.
You may also be asked to submit either an extrait – an official version issued directly by the authorities – or a copie intégrale – which can be a simple copy or photograph of the original.
Do I need to get my birth certificate translated?
If your birth certificate is issued in a language other than French, you may also be asked to submit a certified translation. This isn’t always required, but it is likely that you will be asked to do this for official procedures such as applying for your social security number and Carte Vitale and applying for French nationality.
If you are asked for a translation, this must be carried out by a certified translator or traducteur certifié listed on the official CEDESA list and be adorned with an official stamp – it can’t be carried out by any translator. Read our guide How to Get Documents Officially Translated in France.
Why am I being asked for a birth certificate issued within the last six months?!
One final thing to be aware of is that in France, you will often be asked to submit a copy of your birth certificate that is “less than six months old”. This might sound strange to most expats, who are used to having a single birth certificate issued once – at birth! But in France, the birth certificate is an amendable document that is issued at birth but updated throughout the person’s life to include any changes to the person’s civil status. A new, amended birth certificate is issued if the person gets married, divorced, or has a child.
French birth certificates are therefore reissued frequently, and a new copy can be requested quickly and easily at any time. It makes sense, then, that most French administration procedures stipulate that a birth certificate must be issued within the last three months. Luckily, this is typically extended to six months for foreigners, but it still means that you may need to time the application of your long-form birth certificate and (if required) the certified translation.
Moving to France?
From applying for your visa and opening a French bank account, to integrating in your new community – FrenchEntrée is here to help! Let our Essential Reading and Visa & Residency articles guide you through the whole process, then visit our Owning Property, French Tax, Healthcare, and Life in France zones for everything else you need to know.
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