Category Archives: Carte de Séjour

Staying Legal in France: More Residency Card Crap (for lack of a better word)

La Préfecture, the love of my life. Immigrants in France must have a very close relationship with the préfecture. It’s the place where we have to go – every 3 months, in some cases – to obtain our residency cards and make sure we are not sans-papiers. France doesn’t exactly have a “permanent resident” status for most people, so almost everyone starts out with a carte de séjour that must be renewed every single year. Well, those of us who were already living in France before the visa rules changed this past June. For the newbies, the visa serves as the carte de séjour for the first year, and then every year after that, it may be changed into a carte de séjour depending on if your préfecture likes you or not.

Anyway, it’s a rather annoying process because the préfectures are usually too inept to put the list of required documents on their website, so you must first go the préfecture and wait in line for an hour just to pick up this magic list. And then when you do return to the préfecture with all of the documents, they usually require something else that wasn’t on the list and that you had no idea you would even need, so of course you didn’t bring it with you (or its photocopy since you must have originals and photocopies of everything.)

Even if you do have all of the documents, it can take months and months to get your actual carte de séjour, so you have to keep going back to the préfecture to find out why you haven’t received it yet, or to request a new récépissé – the receipt that proves you did apply for it – or to apply again when the post office loses your carte in the mail (been there) or when you move to a different département and your old préfecture refuses to send your dossier to the new one (done that). In the 3.5 years I’ve been in France, I’m already on carte de séjours #6 and #7.

Carte de sejour
Why does it take so long to make these little cards?

I’ve already explained the first three years of my CDS adventures in the Love Affair with the Préfecture post, so here’s an update:

Technically, I applied for CDS #6 way back on June 16, 2009, right after David & I moved to Chambéry. I needed to change the address on it, which involves making a whole new card, so even though I had just renewed it in Annecy, I had to apply all over again. I did receive a récépissé on July 1st, which was good until September 30, but of course that date came and went and no word from the préfecture. I used to return every month and bug them about it, but they just kept telling me that Annecy hadn’t sent my dossier to Chambéry yet and that I would receive a new récépissé soon. That never happened. The card with my Annecy address on it is actually still good until May, so I wasn’t too overly concerned about it – especially since the only real reason I would need to have the correct address on my CDS would be for CAF, which I’m not eligible for since France thinks I’m so rich now with my 13k a year.

So, I gave up and stopped bugging the préfecture about it. Then March came and I needed to gather documents to renew my card for yet another frickin year of temporary status, and I was a little worried that they’d yell at me for something. Luckily the woman was really nice and discovered that Annecy had FINALLY sent my dossier to Chambéry a few weeks ago and CDS #6 was in the process of being made. I should receive it soon, even though it expires in less than 2 months. How amazingly useful.

Since I had all the documents and David was able to go to the préfecture with me this morning, I told the woman I was just going to do the renewal process today and get it over with since CDS #6 would basically be useless to me. She agreed. She didn’t dispute any of the documents, even though some of my “originals” were color copies of older documents (I love my printer) and some were a lot older than 3 months (2007 anyone?) and she actually remembered the communauté de vie paper that they tried to forget the last time. But it was all of the same paperwork I had given them in June, and that card was actually being made – albeit NINE MONTHS LATE – so my documents must be good enough for them.

Though of course I won’t stop feeling stressed out about it until I receive CDS #7 (that’s my renewal card, not my change of address card; are you still following me?) since we are flying back to Geneva from Croatia, which is NOT in the EU or Schengen zone yet, on May 8 – exactly one day after my current CDS expires. Plus the university cannot and will not give me my salary for the remaining months of my contract unless I have a valid CDS.  So it’s not only the fact that I could be “illegal” in France; it’s also a matter of being let back into France and being able to pay rent.

I can start applying for citizenship in October, and hopefully get it by the end of 2011 or early 2012. I will feel so relieved to finally have  a permanent status in this country. Except apparently even French citizens have their citizenship questioned nowadays, so that’s not very comforting.

David said that people joke about the fonctionnaires who work at the préfecture. Ceux qui ne réusissent pas le concours de la Poste travaillent à la Préfecture. I wonder how true that is…

New Long-Stay Visa & First Residence Permit Procedures for France

As of June 1st, 2009, holders of long-stay visas no longer have to obtain a carte de séjour after arrival in France or the DOM-TOMS* for students, assistants, lecteurs/lectrices, visitors, salaried workers, temporary workers, and spouses of French nationals (but not other EU nationals – then you don’t need a visa at all).

The visa will be valid for the entire duration of the stay, and visa holders simply need to register with the Office of Immigration and have the medical visit within 3 months after arrival. Then they will receive a registration stamp next to the visa in their passport that will serve as their residency permit.

This also means that traveling throughout the Schengen Space will become easier as there is no longer a restriction against those who have not yet received their first residency card. Free circulation throughout the Schengen Space is allowed during the entire duration of the visa, with a maximum duration of three months outside of France.

Obtaining the visa will become slightly more complicated though as many consulates are changing over to the new biometric visas, which require a digital photograph and all 10 fingerprints to be taken. So very few consulates continue to allow mail-in applications, and the time to receive the visa will increase to 2-3 weeks.

In order to renew the residency permit, a trip to the préfecture two months before the visa expires is still required. A change of status (such as assistant to student) may or may not be granted; it will still entirely depend on the préfecture. And if the renewal or change is not granted, you are supposed to leave France before the expiration date on the visa. I’m not sure what this means for those wanting to travel after the expiration of their visa… But I do think this means that those who successfully renew their residency permit will receive an actual carte de séjour.

For those of us already in France with a carte de séjour, I don’t think anything is changing. These new procedures seem to be only for new visa holders who are staying less than a year.

* New Caledonia in French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna Islands, and Mayotte Island are NOT included.

Renewing Carte de Séjour Vie Privée et Familiale

We went to the préfecture in Annecy this morning to renew my Carte de Séjour Vie Privée et Familiale. Of course there were already 5 people waiting in line ahead of us when we arrived 5 minutes before the place  opened. We didn’t have to wait too long though, and I had all of the necessary paperwork, so I should receive my new card within 4-6 weeks. They didn’t even make me a récépissé since I should receive the new card before the one old expires in May.

I was actually a little worried when I saw that the nice man was not working today. Of all the 4,921 times I’ve been to that prefecture, it was always the same man who helped me and he distinctly remembers David & me because of the lost card fiasco of 2007. But this new woman was really nice too, and she works fast which is odd for the préfecture.

The only documents they actually took from my huge stack of papers was the new certificat de PACS, David’s birth certificate, our income tax returns from 2007, the last 3 pay stubs for both of us, and the water bill (dated December 29, 2008). Then we filled out another déclaration de communauté de vie which is just a crappy photocopy they provide (write your names and address and sign it because the water bill isn’t real proof that we live together??) and that was it. I’ve even got 2 photo IDs left over since they didn’t need them for the récépissé.

That’s one less thing to worry about. Now it’s on to worrying about when we’ll find out where the heck David will be working as a fonctionnaire (probably mid-April), when and where we’re going to move (probably beginning of May, but who knows where), making sure everything is ready for my trips to the Dominican Republic (need something to wear to the wedding!!!) and the south of France (should I buy a GPS?), and figuring out when to see Martha in Istanbul (June?) and how long to go back to the US for my sister’s wedding (2 weeks? 3 weeks?).

But I am en week-end now and still getting over this cold, so I’m just going to rest and relax for the next 4 days.

The ever-changing and often-confusing PACS laws

One of the lovely aspects of French bureaucracy is that when a law or rule changes, only some people seem to know about it. So while you try to stay informed and act according to the law, more often than not, you will be wrong when it comes to dealing with fonctionnaires and what they believe is the law… or the new law… or not a law at all. Let’s illustrate with some examples pertaining to PACS.

Example 1: Until June 30, 2008, both partners of a couple intending to get PACSed needed a certificat de non-PACS (or non-pacte). Many official Tribunal websites explicity say this, such as Macon‘s: “Jusqu’au 30 juin 2008, les candidats au PACS doivent fournir un certificat attestant qu’aucun d’eux n’a préalablement conclu de PACS. Ce document s’obtient auprès du greffe du TI de son lieu de naissance, ou, en cas de naissance à l’étranger, au greffe du tribunal de grande instance de Paris.”  You may infer that this means neither partner needs this certificat in order to get PACSed as of July 1, 2008. But you would be wrong, because Macon forgot the second paragraph.

From the Ministère de la Justice’s site: “En outre, le candidat de nationalité étrangère, qui n’a pas d’acte de naissance français, doit produire une attestation de son ambassade ou de son consulat, qui indique quelles sont les pièces qu’il doit produire pour justifier,  qu’au regard de la loi de l’Etat dont il est ressortissant, il est majeur, célibataire et qu’il n’est pas placé sous tutelle.  Il doit fournir un certificat de non PACS (délivré par le TGI de Paris) et un certificat de non inscription au répertoire civil annexe (délivré par le service central de l’état civil) s’il réside en France depuis plus d’un an.”

Even more confusing was this paragraph that used to be on the site: “Jusqu’au 30 juin 2008, les partenaires nés en France doivent également fournir un certificat attestant qu’ils ne sont pas déjà liés par un PACS (certificat de non-pacte). Ce document est délivré par le greffe du tribunal d’instance de leur lieu de naissance, ou, en cas de naissance à l’étranger, au greffe du tribunal de grande instance (TGI) de Paris. Il ne sera plus nécessaire de le présenter à compter du 1er juillet 2008.”

That last sentence only applies to the partenaires nés en France, but it’s not very clear, now is it? Today their site has a box on the right for instructions on how to obtain a certificat de non-PACS and it states: “depuis le 1er juillet 2008, ce formulaire n’est utilisable que par les personnes étrangères nées à l’étranger.” In short, French citizens born in France no longer need a certificat de non-PACS in order to get PACSed, but foreigners still do.

Example 2: When applying for or renewing a carte de séjour due to being PACSed, a recent certificat de PACS (no more than 3 months old) is usually needed to prove that you are indeed still PACSed. If your partner is French, this information will also be on his/her birth certificate, but it depends if your préfecture will actually accept this as proof.

Previously, you were required to go the Tribunal where you got PACSed in order to get this certificat. However, the law changed in January 2008, and now all requests must go through the TGI de Paris. My prefecture obviously did not know that last year when I renewed my CDS in April, and they instructed me to go to the Tribunal in Annecy. So I went there and was able to obtain the certificat even though the law (that I didn’t even know about) said I was supposed to go through Paris. But I was out of luck this March when my Tribunal apparently started observing the new law and refused to give me the certificat.

I wrote to the TGI de Paris for my certificat and received it within 10 days. Even though their website is still down and no one ever answers their phone, they will respond to mail. If you need to write to them for either the certificat de non-PACS in order to get PACSed or the certificat de PACS in order to renew your carte de séjour, here is the address:

Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris
Annexe Brabant
Service du PACS
4, boulevard du palais
75055 PARIS CEDEX 01

Write a letter explaining your état civil and why you are requesting the certificat. Include a copy of your passport or CDS or even your birth certificate and official translation in French for the certificat de non-PACS or a copy of your current CDS and original récépissé de l’enregistrement du PACS for the certificat de PACS, plus a self-addressed envelope that is NOT stamped. (It is important that they know your city of birth, instead of just the state or country.)

As with everything in France, this information could change tomorrow, but you might not hear about it until next year. And then it will change again.

The Joys of French Administration

I am in the process of gathering paperwork to renew my carte de séjour vie privée et familiale. I thought I had everything I needed, but no, of course not. David & I were running all over Annecy this morning so I could take my stupid ID photos and get a recent récépissé de PACS to prove that we are in fact still PACSed before handing in all the papers to the préfecture.

The préfecture told us to go to the Tribunal d’Instance in Annecy to get the récépissé de PACS. No problem, we did that last year and it worked out fine (after going to the wrong building first, then finding out it had moved to Rue Parmelan.) I had checked out their website beforehand to make sure it was still in the same place, and what do you know? It tells me that the Tribunal d’Instance has moved to the Palais de Justice on Rue Sommeiller.  Ok, we can go there instead, it’s not far away or anything.

“Oh no no, this is the Tribunal de Grande Instance. You only come here to get PACSed, not to get the récépissé de PACS. You need to go to the Tribunal d’Instance on Rue Parmelan for that.”

“Then why does the website say that the Guichet Unique de Greffe, which includes both the TGI and the TI, has moved to Rue Sommeiller?”

“The website doesn’t say that.”

“Oh really?” (Pretending to be surprised, but secretly wishing I had printed the website to shove in their faces and prove that I was right and their stupid website was wrong.)

So off to the TI, wait 30 minutes, and…

“Oh no, we don’t give récépissés de PACS. You have to get a new copy of your birth certificate if you are French because the PACS is mentioned on it, and you have to request the récépissé de PACS from the TGI in Paris if you are a foreigner, as of January 2008.”

“Then how were we able to get a récépissé de PACS here last year in March 2008 when I had to renew my carte de séjour? And why in the world did BOTH the préfecture and the TGI in Annecy tell us to come here???”

“The law has changed and they are not informed. You need to tell them that their information is not correct.”

(Laughing on the inside. Yes, the préfecture will certainly believe me when I tell them that they are wrong.)

Race to the mairie of Annecy to get David’s birth certificate. It took about 10 seconds and the ladies were so nice.  I want to go back just to talk to that adorable lady at the accueil again.

Then come home to figure out how to request my récépissé de PACS from the TGI in Paris and…


their website is DOWN!!!

But really, did I expect it to be that easy? Nothing ever is in France.

So, has anyone had the pleasure of requesting a récépissé de PACS from the TGI in Paris in order to renew a carte de séjour? How exactly do I go about it?

PACSing and the right to a Carte de Séjour in France

I get a lot of e-mails about PACSing and Carte de Séjours in France, so I wanted to clear up some things. These two are completely separate from one another – the Tribunal d’Instance takes care of PACSing and the Préfecture takes care of the carte de séjour. If you ask the Tribunal about the CDS, they will most likely give you wrong information, and if you ask the Préfecture about getting PACSed, they will most likely give you wrong information as well.

You can get PACSed whenever you want (similar to marriage – except marriage is still not an option in France for gay or lesbian couples.) Any two un-related people over the age of 18 can get PACSed in France, regardless of their nationality. (Two non-EU citizens – such as 2 Americans – are allowed to get PACSed as long as one of them has a carte de séjour already.) You may or may not have to prove that you live in France, so if you plan on getting PACSed soon, make sure both of your names are on an EDF or France Télécom bill. Check my PACS/Marriage page for more information on the paperwork needed to get PACSed.

You do not need to have a visa in order to get PACSed, but you need a visa in order to receive a carte de séjour due to being PACSed (or even married – the laws are the same). You must obtain a long-stay type D visa in order to stay legally in France, but it doesn’t matter if you obtain this visa before or after you get PACSed/married. If you obtain the visa before getting PACSed/married, you only have 40 days to actually do so after your arrival. If you obtain the visa after you get PACSed/married, then obviously this costs more because you have to return to your home country, but it might be easier to get because you can prove that you are indeed PACSed/married (with your certificat de PACS or livret de famille) which makes your application stronger than just having the intent to do so after your arrival in France.

If you are a PACSed foreigner, your partner is an EU citizen and you have a long-stay visa, you are entitled to the CDS visiteur – which gives you the right to stay, but not work – if you cannot prove un an de vie commune in France. This year of living together can definitely start before you get PACSed, as long as you were living in France legally at that time. (If you’ve been in France for more than 3 months without a visa, thereby surpassing the tourist limit in the Schengen space*, this time will NOT count towards your un an de vie commune. The year starts upon your LEGAL arrival in France, after you get the visa.)

If you can prove the un an de vie commune, regardless of when you got PACSed, then you are entitled to the CDS vie privée et familiale, which gives you the right to work in France. (This is the same carte you will receive if you are married to an EU citizen and have a long-stay visa.) I’ve heard horror stories of foreigners being denied a CDS even though they fulfill these requirements because some Préfectures don’t know the rules or don’t want to follow the rules. Even though PACSing has been around for almost 10 years, some fonctionnaires are still clueless as what it really means for foreigners in France.

I have found one organization, ARDHIS, that tries to help PACSed foreigners with their legal status in France. It’s actually an organization for the rights of homosexual and transsexual foreigners, but they have some legal information that is pertinent to any PACSed foreigner. (A few other helpful organizations for immigrants are GISTI and FASTI.) If you have been denied a CDS even though you are PACSed to an EU citizen and have a long-stay visa, here are some official documents that might help your case:

A circulaire from the Ministère de l’Intérieur (Villepin) dated October 30, 2004, specifically states your right to a CDS vie privée et familiale if you can justify un an de vie commune or to a CDS visiteur if you cannot. The PACS section starts on page 4.

Another circulaire from January 2007 reminds the préfectures that the first circulaire from October 2004 is still effective and PACSed foreigners should not be denied a CDS.

*Just a reminder about the Schengen space tourist visa: You can stay for 3 months, but then you must leave for 3 months! You can no longer leave for one day and come back without a visa. The original Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. As of December 2007, the eastern countries were added: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Switzerland & Liechtenstein (2008-9), Cyprus (2009) and Bulgaria & Romania (2011) will be fully implementing the Schengen laws during the years noted. Notice that the UK & Ireland do not implement the Schengen laws!

My Love Affair with the Préfecture: A Timeline

October 2006: Apply for first Carte de Séjour at Seynod mairie
December 2006: Receive récépissé #1 in Seynod
February 2007: Receive first CDS travailleur temporaire due to being a language assistant; but need to change adress on it already since I had moved. Since I stayed within the same département, a sticker with the new address is placed on the back of the card.
March 2007: Apply for second CDS at Meythet mairie
May 2007: Receive récépissé #2 in Meythet
June 2007: CDS gets lost in the mail (uknown to me)
August 2007: Re-apply for second CDS at Annecy préfecture; receive récépissé #3 same day
October 2007: Receive second CDS visiteur due to being PACSed, but not having lived together for one year
December 2007: Apply for third CDS; receive récépissé #4 at Annecy préfecture same day
January 2008: Discover that Paris sent the wrong CDS; re-apply for third CDS, receive no récépissé
March 2008: Receive correct third CDS travailleur temporaire due to being language assistant again
April 2008: Apply for fourth CDS at Annecy préfecture; receive récépissé #5 same day
June 2008: Receive fourth CDS vie privée et familiale due to being PACSed and having lived together for one year; and finally have the full right to work in France!


March 2009: Wander all over Annecy trying to find out where to request a recent récépissé de PACS that is needed in order to renew my CDS vie privée et familiale for another year. Finally discover that I need to request it from the TGI Paris, but their website no longer exists and they never answer the phone. (Address & Info on what to do is here.)  Finally get the stupid récépissé de PACS and hand in all the paperwork to the préfecture in Annecy. No récépissé though since they assured me I would receive my new CDS before the old one expires.
May 2009: Pay 70€ to a tabac to buy OMI timbres which the préfecture requires. My new CDS vie privée et familiale is actually there with the correct information so I am set for another year in France!
June 2009: Moved to Chambéry, which is in a different département, so instead of just putting a sticker on my current CDS to change the address, I have to re-apply from scratch! Same exact papers that I just gave to the préfecture in Annecy a month ago. ::sigh:: (Luckily none of them were too old, so I didn’t have to get any new documents.)  Find out the préfecture in Chmabéry does not give out récépissés immediately.
July 2009: Receive a convocation to go pick up my récépissé, which is good until September 30.
September 2009: Return to préfecture to ask if my CDS has arrived yet and what to do when my récépissé runs out in a week. No CDS because Annecy has not yet sent my file to Chambéry and I’ll be sent another convocation when my new récépissé is printed so I can go pick it up.
December 2009: Still waiting for a new récépissé and new CDS with my Chambéry address on it. Something tells me I will not receive either one…. My CDS (with my old address in Annecy on it) is good until May 2010, so I’m not that worried about it. I have to do the renewal process in March anyway, so I don’t bother going back to the préfecture to ask what’s going on. I’m sure the answer is: Annecy has not yet sent your file.

March 2010: Still no news about CDS with Chambéry address, but it’s time to renew it anyway. Turned in all the paperwork on the 9th and was told my change of address card (that I applied for in JUNE) would arrive in a few days.  A few days meant 16 days later, on the 25th. Chambéry just said Annecy never wanted to send my dossier so that’s why it took so darn long.