Once you’ve had your French long-stay visa approved and are nearing the end of your first year in France, you may be eligible to apply for a Carte de Séjour or Titre de Séjour — a French residency card. This is the second step on the road to becoming a permanent resident in France, but the process can seem daunting for first-time applicants. Here’s what you need to know.
IMPORTANT: Please note that this article is designed as a reference point only. You can find the official details of all visas and carte de séjours on the French government site here, and this should always be your first port-of-call for official information and the latest fees/requirements.
When and Where to Apply for Your First Carte De Séjour
Non-EU citizens that come to France to live, work, or study on a long-stay visa have the opportunity to renew this visa and apply for a Carte de Séjour or Titre de Séjour. You can start the application within two months of the end of your long-stay visa and must apply before your visa expires. It’s a good idea to make the application sooner rather than later, to leave yourself enough time to acquire all the necessary documents.
Applying for your Carte de Séjour can be done online here (click ‘Je demande ou renouvelle un titre de séjour’), and you can use the same account which you created when validating your long-stay visa (read more about that here). You will also need to attend a meeting or ‘interview’ at your local prefecture. The application process is carried out in France; you don’t need to return to your home country.
What happens if I don’t apply for my Carte de Séjour on time?
If your long-stay visa expires before you’ve applied, you will incur an extra fee of €180 (on top of the standard application fees), as well as risking being refused for overstaying your visa.
TIP: A Carte de séjour and Titre de séjour are essentially the same thing – the ‘titre’ refers to the permit, and the ‘carte’ refers to the card that is issued as proof of the permit – but you can’t have one without the other, so it’s easiest to assume they mean the same thing.
Which Type of Carte de Séjour Do I Need?
There are two main types of Carte de séjour available – a Carte de séjour temporaire, which is valid for one year, or aCarte de séjour pluriannuelle, a multi-year card, typically valid for four years.
Most applicants will initially apply for a Carte de séjour temporaire, after which they will apply for a Carte de séjour pluriannuelle. (Under certain circumstances, such as those on a Talent Passport visa or some study programmes, it may be possible to apply directly for a Carte de séjour pluriannuelle).
There are also several different categories of Carte de séjour available, and typically, you will apply for the same kind of Carte de séjour as your long-stay visa. For example, if you arrived in France on a ‘visiteur’ visa, you would apply for a Carte de séjour “visiteur”.
Here’s a list of all the Carte de séjours currently listed on the French government website:
Carte de séjour “vie privée et familiale”
‘Private or family’ – typically issued to spouses, children, or direct and dependant family members of a French national, permanent resident, or holder of certain visas.
Carte de séjour “salarié” ou “travailleur temporaire”
‘Salaried worker’ or ‘temporary worker’ – typically issued to recipients of a French work visa who have a permanent or contracted position with a French employer.
Carte de séjour “passeport talent”
‘Talent Passport’ – issued to recipents of France’s Talent Passport visa. This is one of the few visas which allow for a 4-year Carte de séjour to be issued upfront.
Carte de séjour “passeport talent (famille)”
‘Talent Passport (family)’ – issued to the spouse, children, or direct dependant family members of a recipient of France’s Talent Passport visa. This is one of the few visas which allow for a 4-year Carte de séjour to be issued upfront.
Carte de séjour “travailleur saisonnier”
‘Seasonal Worker’ – issued to seasonal workers who are not resident for tax purposes in France but work for between three and six months a year in France. This is also one of the few visas which allow for a 3-year Carte de séjour to be issued upfront.
Carte de séjour “salarié détaché ICT”
‘Salaried Inter-Coportate Transfer’ – issued to workers of international companies who have been posted in France. This is also one of the few visas which allow for a 3-year Carte de séjour to be issued upfront (depending on the duration of the work contract).
Carte de séjour “visiteur”
‘Visitor’– issued to those who have entered France on a visitor visa without the intention to work in France.
Carte de séjour “retraité”
‘Retired’ – this is issued to non-French nationals who have previously held permanent residence in France and are in receipt of a French pension, and wish to return to France to retire. This is one of the few carte de séjours that can be applied for directly (no visa necessary). NOTE: This visa is not applicable for foreign nationals who wish to retire to France – you must go through the typical route of applying for a long-stay visa first.
Carte de séjour “étudiant”
‘Student’ – issued to students undertaking higher education programmes in France. This is one of the few visas which allow for both temporary or multi-year Carte de séjours to be issued upfront (depending on the duration of the study programme).
Carte de séjour “étudiant – programme de mobilité”
‘Student – Mobile Programmes’ – same as the above, but issued to students undertaking part of their studies in France.
Carte de séjour – Recherche d’emploi/création d’entreprise
‘Searching for Work/Creating a Business’ – issued to recipients of a long-stay visa of the same name. Typically for graduates of masters programmes or entrepreneurs.
Carte de séjour “stagiaire”
‘Intern’ – issued to recipients of a long-stay visas of the same name.
Carte de séjour “stagiaire ICT”
‘Intern Inter-Coportate Transfer’ – issued to recipients of a long-stay visa of the same name.
Carte de séjour “jeune au pair”
‘Au pair’ – issued to recipients of a long-stay visa of the same name, or to young people between 18 and 30 years old working as an au pair in France.
Carte de séjour pluriannuelle “générale”
‘Multi-year visa’ – valid for four years and issued to applicants who already hold a carte de séjour temporaire.
Before Applying For Your Carte De Séjour
In almost all scenarios, in order to apply for a Carte de Séjour, you must already hold a long-stay visa (VLS-TS) and have resided in France for just under a year.
In order to apply for your first Carte de Séjour:
- You must have validated your long-stay visa within three months of arrival in France (you can do that online here) and paid the state tax of €200.
- You must also have taken a medical carried out by the OFII (French Office for Immigration and Integration) to carry out a medical (see below)
Once you have validated your visa, the French Office for Immigration and Integration will contact you to attend a medical examination, which will be carried out at your local OFII office. The appointment typically takes around an hour and you should bring details of any pre-existing conditions as well as your vaccination record, your passport and current visa or carte de séjour, and your glasses if you wear them.
The medical includes a general clinical examination, a lung x-ray, a vaccination check, and a blood glucose test for those at risk of diabetes. The doctor may request additional examinations depending on your individual circumstances. You will be issued with a medical certain that must be presented when applying for your Carte de Séjour.
Your Carte de Séjour Application
Once you are ready to apply for your Carte de Séjour, you can start the application process online here (click ‘Je demande ou renouvelle un titre de séjour’), and you can use the same account which you created when validating your long-stay visa.
You will be asked to submit a number of documents (many of which you will already have had to submit for your original long-stay visa, but you will have to re-submit them) and pay the application fee of €225. In order to receive your first Carte de Séjour, you will also need to attend an interview at your local prefecture, where you will be asked to submit documents and have your biometric data taken.
Required documents for your Carte de Séjour application
The exact documents required will depend upon the type of Carte de Séjour – you can view the published lists of requirements here (in French). Below is a list of potential documents you may be asked to provide, including some possibilities for different visa types.
- Your long-stay visa or current carte de séjour
- Your passport
- Your full birth certificate (translated into French)
- Proof of address (dated less than six months old)
- 3 x passport-style photos
- OFII medical certificate
For a ‘visitor’ Carte de Séjour:
- Proof of financial resources of a minimum of € 15,098 per year (for example, a minimum of three months’ bank statements or pension receipts)
- Handwritten attestation that you will not work in France.
- Certificate of health insurance covering the duration of your stay
For a ‘Family’ Carte de Séjour:
- Your marriage certificate and proof of registration on the French marriage registry.
- Passport or National Identity of your spouse proving that they are a French national.
- Declaration of honour from your spouse
- Documents proving a minimum of six months of your residence together in France.
For a ‘Work’ Carte de Séjour:
- Your work permit
- Your work contract
Attending your Carte de Séjour interview
Once you have filled in your application online, you will be invited to attend an appointment at your local prefecture. You will also be issued a list of documents to bring, such as the one above.
During the interview, you will be asked to present all your documents and your photos, sign various documents, and – assuming your application is accepted, you will be given a Récépissé De Demande De Carte De Sejour. Hold onto this document as it is the official ‘receipt’ of your application and will serve as your proof of residency up until you receive your carte de séjour.
After the interview, your carte de séjour will either be sent to you or will be available for you to pick up from the prefecture. This may take anything from three weeks to a few months, depending on the prefecture – you should be given an idea of the timeframe at your appointment.
Tips for Attending Your Carte de Séjour Interview
It’s important to point out that having a long-stay visa is not a guarantee that you will be granted a carte de séjour. If your circumstances have not changed and you can provide all the required documentation, there is every reason to expect your request to be approved. However, it is important to treat this step with just as much importance as that of your initial visa application – this is the first real step to permanent residency, and you should expect your dossier to be scrutinised. Here are some tips to make your application easier:
- Get organised: you will likely have a LOT of documents that make up your ‘dossier’, and it’s a good idea to invest in a file with plastic wallets to keep all of them safe and presentable. A good tip is to have two files: one for your own copies and originals, and one that can be presented to the prefecture.
- Be sure that your ‘dossier’ includes all required documents (don’t expect to ‘get away’ with any missing, incomplete, or alternative documents!). You may be asked for additional documents if those presented are not sufficient, so bring any backup documents, too. For example, to prove your finances, you might bring copies of your current account statements, but also bring details of your savings account, pension, or other income.
- Bring any extra personal documents that may be relevant, even if you haven’t been asked for them (divorce certificates, for example, if you have been previously married, your expired passport if you have recently renewed it, or details of a previous address if you have moved house during your stay in France). The more relevant documentation, the better wherever French administration is concerned!
- Make photocopies in advance of all the documents you will need to present. Bring the originals to the interview too.
- Dress smartly and be on time for the appointment at the prefecture. Be sure that you also bring the ‘convocation’ (the email or letter with your appointment details on it) – you will need to show this to enter the building.
- All requested foreign documents (such as your birth certificate, foreign income statements, international health insurance certificate, etc.) will need to be translated into French, and you must use an official French Court of Appeal Translator – find a full list here.
- Bring a pen to the appointment – they are not typically supplied, and you may have extra forms to fill out as you wait.
- Brush up on your French. Appointments will generally take place in French and there is no guarantee that officials will speak any English. While French language speaking skills are not a prerequisite for every type of visa, they are required for most permanent residency cards. Either way, making an effort to speak French will go a long way at the prefecture.
Have you applied for a Carte de Séjour/Titre de Séjour in France? Get in touch and let us know your tips and advice.
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.
Disclaimer: Our Essential Reading articles are designed to give an overview of the visa requirements and procedures for moving to France. We always check our information against the official government information made available to the public, however, please remember that all visa applications are considered on an individual basis and the exact requirements, fees, or application procedure may vary. Unless you are an EU citizen, obtaining a French visa is not a right, and we cannot guarantee that your visa will be approved.
Lead photo credit : Photo courtesy of Nicole Wilkins via Flickr.