Saturday, May 28, 2011

Carte de Sejour Day!!!

My visa and Carte de Sejour live happily
next to one another in my passport.

Salutations my most excellent friends!

This week is EXTRA special in that I received my Carte de Sejour, which is effectively my residency permit.  With this card (in the form of a sticker in my passport rather than a laminated card), I need not apply for more visas and can henceforth live in France so long as I have an address and some income.  Oh the Kafkaesque stack of papers I’ve been carrying around may soon be a relic of my past.
The following is the list of steps it took to acquire this handy little addition to my passport.  It was surprisingly simple when compared with the acquisition of a visa:

  1. You have 2 months to acquire your Carte de Sejour after arriving in France.  If you do not, then you will have to leave the country at the end of your visa and re-apply for another visa if you wish to stay past one year.  Do NOT let these 2 months slip by.  I let 6 weeks pass and in hindsight, should not have.  I even retained a lawyer who advised me at 4 weeks to get the heck on top of this.  Had there been a problem, I would have been doomed.

  2. At first, I tried calling the OFII office (immigration office) in Paris ( to set up an appointment.  This was a dead end since there is an answering machine that rambles in French at an unintelligibly fast pace.  Then I tried to email them, I felt good about myself for having been proactive.  They did not answer the email.

  3. Then I went to the OFII office in Bastille.  I found it right away, since one of my favourite restaurants is very close.  I had every paper I’ve ever collected with my name on it over the past year in a huge envelope.  The reception desk was crowded with people of almost every nationality you can imagine.  Alas, the receptionist only spoke a few words of English.  They asked me if I understood French… in French.  I said that I did not, but perhaps a little, because I understood the question.

  4. They took my passport, and this official looking piece of paper that I was given with my visa.  The asked that I fill out my current address, phone number and other sundry information.  After about 2-3 minutes, the explained that I’d receive something in the mail for my appointment.  They didn’t ask for any papers.  I was free to go.  It was that easy.

  5. About 4-5 days later, I received about 5 pages of unintelligible instructions in French with the OFII office labelled all over the top.  In the center, there was the office’s address, something about radiology, something else about 340 Euros and a date and time.

  6. On the date, which was 2 days after receiving the letter, I arrived at the office.  Almost everything was conducted in French.  I only had the papers they sent on hand, having left my Kafka-pile at home.  They directed me to the doctor who asked me a few things in French, tested my eyes, blood pressure, and then sent me for an x-ray.  The x-ray came back while I waited and another doctor explained that I had no infections in my lungs and that I should get a tetanus shot.  Oh, I got to keep the chest x-ray!

  7. When I was done with the doctor, I was directed to the reception desk where they had my Carte de Sejour sticker.  The receptionist asked for papers and 340 Euros in “stamp” form.  WTF?  She said that I can get the stamps at the tobacconist across the street and that I’d need my Kafka pile of papers… or at least my water bill (if you've been following my blog, you know how important a water bill can be here).

  8. On the same day, I fetched my Kafka-pile and before returning, went to the tobacconist and asked for 340 Euros in… and I didn’t know the French word for stamps… or even what kind of stamps that they were.  I showed the cashier my letter.  She nodded in understanding.  Before I knew it I had a stack of stamps in convenient 15 euro and 55 Euro denominations totalling 340 Euros.

  9. I returned to the office, presented my Kafka pile, of which she only took my lease agreement (and kept it), licked the many stamps and stuck them to my application, and she stuck the Carte de Sejour in my passport.

  10. Lastly, I went for a glass (several glasses) of champagne.

Thanks for looking in on my story.  I hope that for a few of you, this will come in handy.

Your Friend,

P.S. If you have a few extra mouse clicks for your humble friend and Paris blogger… please “follow” my blog, or “like” it, or “tweet” it, or “share” it or whatever you young kids do on the Internets these days. Many thanks in advance.

P.P.S.  For Clarification:  Once you have a Carte de Sejour you can stay in the country indefinitely.  You must get it "renewed" each year before it expires by going to the local police station and letting them know your proof of address and I've heard, though not confirmed, your financials... basically... bring your Kafka-pile.

Specifically for the Carte de Sejour, for the visitor's visa, I needed my proof of address, one passport picture, photocopies of my passport and visa, my passport and visa and that was it.  I had all of my other papers handy, however, just in case.

If you can survive the visa process, you will have many many papers.  You will have no troubles with the Carte de Sejour, and unlike the visa process, you can go back again and again if you make a mistake.


  1. how long can you stay in france with your carte de sejour and what documents did you need specifically? i'm hoping to do the same thing and this process is mind boggling... thank you!!!

  2. Once you have a Carte de Sejour you can stay in the country indefinitely. You must get it "renewed" each year before it expires by going to the local police station and letting them know your proof of address and I've heard, though not confirmed, your financials... basically... bring your Kafka-pile.

    Specifically for the Carte de Sejour, for the visitor's visa, I needed my proof of address, one passport picture, photocopies of my passport and visa, my passport and visa and that was it. I had all of my other papers handy, however, just in case.

    If you can survive the visa process, you will have many many papers. You will have no troubles with the Carte de Sejour, and unlike the visa process, you can go back again and again if you make a mistake.

    1. Hello Sir Robyn,
      Thank you for sharing your personal experience with everyone! May I ask the name of your lawyer?
      I have a long-stay visa, I have an appointment with OFII for a medical apt.. I went to the prefecture of police today in Paris to start the process for my Carte de Sejour using regroupment of the family. I waited for 6 hours outside in line (I got there at 8:30 AM) and they closed at 4:00 PM. I didn't get in, too many people. A person suggested getting a lawyer is the only practical way to go. Thanks JS

  3. It's interesting that when you applied for your visa, your consulate didn't give you the paper then and inform you to go to the OFII. When I got my visitor visa (a year ago), my consulate stapled the form in my passport and told me (or the letter/form told me) to mail it to the OFII within x amount of weeks upon my arrival in France. As soon as I arrived, I mailed the form to the OFII and received the letter you got. The only difference with my OFII experience was that I brought my big file and (although I don't exactly remember) I'm pretty sure the guy looked at all of it (but maybe just because I brought it all).

    On the other hand, I have a friend who also has the visitor visa (now a CDS) and did not go to the OFII the first time, but the prefecture and did not get the little sticker in her passport, but got the plastic card right away.

    However, as a word of advice for anyone who's thinking about this. My intention of the visitor visa was so that I could enter France long enough to get PACSed and change my status. That cannot be done (changing your status before the year is up). The same is true for getting married (yes, weird as it is, we got married and PACSed within the same year). Both attempts, they basically made me wait until the renewal period to change my status (although we were given conflicting information each time we went to the prefecture).

    Summary of all this is: information and procedures apparently differ from consulate to consulate and prefecture to prefecture.

    1. So, Sarah, you had to wait till the expiry date in the end? No way they changed the status of you Titre de Sèjour?

  4. @Sarah, Yes I think that the procedures differ from individual to individual to be honest. And I imagine that even the same individual will have a different experience if they get a different person handling their situation... at least slightly different. As the applicant, I recommend that one be ready for anything and carry around a case with 3 copies of every conceivable document.

  5. Hi Robyn, and thanks for this intriguing and informative post. One question- you say you signed a lease on a place immediately-was that was a criteria for applying for a carte de sejour? Cheers,

  6. @Dominique, Yes they have a requirement for a lease or other accommodations. You must have a guarantee that you have a place to live. It can be a lease, a purchased property or a guarantor who offers a place for you to stay. They do have hearts, however (albeit small ones) and a 3 month lease with a vacation rental company is good enough... particularly in Paris, since a one year lease is very difficult to find, even for long term Parisians.

  7. Hi Robyn,

    Thank you very much for your postings, I find it extremely useful and helpful. Could you please kindly share your stories on the renewal of the Carte de Sejour, I was told that I need to apply 3 months before the expiry date. I arrived in Paris in June 2011. Really need to know if I need to make an appointment with the local police station before going there.

    Many thanks

  8. Yes, keep an eye on my blog Anna. I will be posting something about it very soon as I have to renew my own Carte. I don't think that the renewal is anywhere near as big of a deal as getting the Carte in the first place, but rather more of a formality. Still, I'll be bringing every manner of paperwork and documentation I can imagine to bring.


  9. Hi Robyn,

    Thank you very much for your prompt reply, I will keep an eye out for it.

    Enjoy the rest of your week.


  10. Robyn i love your blog. I am canadian as well, currently on sabbatical with my family on visitor visas. got the CDS and is interested to know the process (or difficulty) or renewing for persons like myself who do not work in france. My kids are attending school here and loving the experience, and i am weighing turning it into a multi-year experience for them. please share your experiences on the renewal process (requirements, etc).


  11. Hi Robyn!
    I just found your blog and happened upon this post. I went through that process last year and I have such fond memories! I will be renewing mine in a couple months too and I can't wait.

    One thing to point out to your readers is the bit about the renewal. In Paris you can go to the police office for the renewal but oustide of Paris you may need to go to your Préfecture or sous-préfecture (or sometimes even the mairie, depending on the size of the town/commune you live).

    My visa and CDS process was very painfree but, as I am married to a French man, I had the skinny on ensuring that I have my paperwork in order, copies of said paperwork, having extra photos, purchasing the tax stamps, etc.

  12. Sir Robin, you cannot work with that Carte de Sejour, can you?

    1. I would not likely take a job in France, Wellington, but the short answer is no, I would have to change my status by means of a solid job offer.

  13. Hey Sir Robyn, I have a Nigerian passport,too bad of course. I live in united state, what do the think my best option is in getting to France and settling down.

    1. Sorry Nikky, I have no idea. The easiest way to settle in most countries is to either get a job offer, enroll in a school or marry someone from that country. :) If your heart is set on France, look at the French consulate site and decide what visa path is best for you.

  14. @Nikky. From all the ex-pats that I've met here there are three major ways to become French. Through work, school and/or marriage. If you study in France and then later take work in your vocation , after 5 years (so I understand) you can get permanent French residency.

    In certain professions (which generally require a degree), all you need is a job offer. You can put in your 5 years behind a desk and voila.

    Those methods generally require an advanced understanding of the French language, however, so marrying a French national is another way. I would not do this for any reason other than true love, but this blog serves all kinds. :)

    Bonne chance!

  15. Really enjoy reading your blog and of your experience with your CDS. I'm a Canadian writer living in the southwest of France..about to embark on the dance of the CDS 'Visiteur' renewal (4th time). The process was moved from my local mairie two years ago to the local prefecture. Down here it seems the rules change every year with respect to do the 'fonctionnaires' whose job it is to interpret said rules. My understanding is yes, a CDS Temporaire 'Visiteur'...which is what I renewable annually, with appropriate (hah--there's the 'lost in translation' clause) documentation. Whether renewable forever remains a little wobbly....I understood at one point you could apply for a 5 year residency CDS after 5 x 'one year' CDS's, but that rule I've been assured by someone who presently works at the prefecture (albeit in another capacity than CDS visas), has been changed/cancelled. In the end I really don't think the right hand and left hand are terribly connected...and that one fonctionnaire may be well informed and another not so much. No consistency...but ahhh...c'est comme toujours, n'est-ce pas? Toujours des 'exceptions'....
    How is it going this year for you? Sounds way easier in Paris!

  16. Robin,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. We go for our medicals this Thursday and I appreciate having an idea of what to expect.

  17. hey, i was wondering if you could help

    my girlfriend who is also canadian is having problems with her carte de sejour, any advice?

    we have been together 2 years and its proving to be just as hard to get pax...
    we thought we had the sufficient amount of paperwork but now we are having second thoughts.....
    does it make it easier to have her name on the lease, edf, gdf, and all the other official documents?

  18. Dear Robin,

    Did you investigate if it is possible to travel within EU with this type of visa?

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