Disclaimer: The below article was posted by Expatica; however, laws are constantly changing, so this information may change.
“What you need to know about getting a French residence permit. 20/11/2012
A residence permit in France is called a carte de séjour. To obtain one, you must apply to your local préfecture, the French administrative region responsible for local administration of policing laws and regulations (This is also where driving licences are processed).The service that delivers residence permits is called le service des étrangers. In the provinces, the préfecture will be situated in the administrative capital of your département, while if you live in a rural area, you can often process your application to the préfecture through the local town hall, mairie.In Paris, you must apply to the préfecture de police de Paris.EU / EEA nationals and Switzerland (excl. Romania and Bulgaria)
Citizens from EU and EEA (EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) member states or Switzerland can live in France without requiring a residence permit. Please note, some restrictions apply to Bulgarian and Romanian citizens – see section below.Nationals from the above countries can live and move freely within France but must carry a passport or valid proof of photographic identity at all times. This is both in case you are stopped by the police, but also for writing cheques as many stores no longer accept driver’s licenses for this purpose.EU citizens are permitted, but not obliged, to apply for a residence permit (carte de séjour). Additionally, after living in France for five years or more, citizens from EU, EEA and Switzerland can apply for permanent residence.Living in France but not working
If an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen (incl. Bulgarian and Romanian) plans to live in France for longer than 3 months but is retired or not planning on working they must provide proof of adequate financial resources to support themselves and their dependants so that they avoid becoming a burden on the French welfare system and additionally, that they have health and maternity (if applicable) insurance.Non-European family members
Family members of EU/EEA/Swiss nationals but who are non-Europeans can move freely as long as they:
- Carry a short-stay visa for France or a residence permit from another EEA country or Switzerland.
- Carry valid identification.
- Have documentation supporting their connection to the European national.
Family members can include extended family, dependant grandparents and children who are dependants or under 21.
Please note if a family member wishes to work, they must hold a residence permit.
For up-to-date information on particular employment sectors, the government advises applicants to contact their local préfecture or sub-préfecture or call the Europe Direct information line: Tel: 00 800 67 89 10 11
Bulgarian or Romanian Citizens
Some restrictions on residence and working currently apply to Bulgarian and Romanian citizens. A residence permit is not required for stays of up to three months but must be obtained for longer periods when the individual wishes to work. After living in France for five years or more, Bulgarian and Romanian citizens can apply for permanent residence.
Applications for residence permits are made to the sub-prefecture, city hall or police station of residence. The following documents must be provided:
- 3 passport photos
- Proof of employment
- Work permit (if employed)
The person then receives a receipt (récipissé), which allows for a temporary stay while an application is being assessed.
The process here is more complicated and may depend upon particular agreements between France and the country concerned.
Generally speaking, any non-EU national over the age of 18 who wishes to stay in France for more than three months to work, study or reside without employment must have a residence card. There are different categories of residence card:
- Temporary residence permit – usually valid for up to one year
- Skills and talents residence card – valid for three years and also renewable
- Resident card – valid for 10 years and conditionally renewable on a permanent basis
- Retired residence permit – valid for 10 years and renewable
You must submit your application for a residence card in person within 2 months of arriving in France. Start by asking at your prefecture, sub-prefecture or police station in your place of residence.
If you are living outside of France you should contact the French consular office if you are one of the following categories:
- Retired residence (application or renewal)
- Residence for the purpose of performance – commercial, industrial or artisan
- Temporary residence permit as a “long-term resident – EC” granted to you or your family by another EU country
Non-Europeans who are staying for between 3 months and 1 year also have the option of applying for a long-stay visa rather than a residence card. This must be applied for within 3 months of arriving in France and through the French Office for Immigration and Integration.
You will need the following documents:
- A valid identity card or passport.
- Three passport-size photos, photos d’identité (full face and bareheaded)
- A recent document providing evidence of where you live (this can be a utilities or rent receipt) - justificatif de domicile.
- Proof of adequate resources, or in the case of a student, proof of enrolment in an educational establishment recognised by the French Ministry of Education.
- A medical certificate issued by a French doctor. Check with your prefecture for a reference to a doctor or a clinic authorised to provide such certificates or, outside of France contact the French consulate in your country to find an approved doctor.
- A full translation (from an registered translator – traducteur assermenté) of medical insurance.
It is worth noting that, under the new immigration law intended to attract immigrants with special skills or education, the procedure has recently been simplified for certain categories including:
- Executives working for multinationals with gross monthly earnings of at least EUR 5,000
- Those working in the entertainment industry
- Seasonal workers
- Regulated professions (healthcare professionals, architects, lawyers, teachers, etcetera)
Proving adequate resources
In all applications for a residence permit, to justify personal financial resources employees must have a certificate of employment from their employer (contrat de travail), and your three most recent salary slips, (fiches de paie orbulletins de paie).
A self-employed person must provide evidence of their status, such as membership of a recognised professional body or inclusion on a trade register, a VAT number and/or work payment receipts.
If you are retired or unemployed, you must provide proof that you have adequate financial resources to support you and your dependants to avoid becoming a burden on the French welfare system and that you have health and maternity (if applicable) insurance.
Once you submit an initial application for a residence permit you will receive a temporary residence permit, called a récipissé de carte de séjour. This will allow you to remain in France for a minimum of one month while your application is being assessed. This is a kind of receipt that will prove your legal residency while you’re waiting for the real thing. You will be notified to appear in person at the préfecture when the real card is printed and asked to exchange the récipissé for your permanent card.
Once you have the récipissé and then the permanent card, please note that you’re supposed to always carry it in public just as a French person always carries the carte d’identité; the police have the right to stop you at any time and ask for your identity papers.”