Some general advice
- During the procedure, you will have to show that any danger is real to you personally. You will be interviewed and, as part of this, you will have to tell your story. It is therefore very important to prepare for these interviews.
- Contact an organisation that can provide you with legal, administrative and moral support both before and throughout the asylum process. This is especially important when you receive an official decision or a document.
- It is important to surround yourself with friends and people who know about the asylum process in France.
- Always remember to provide copies of the documents you are asked to have (with the exception of your passport, for which Ofpra will ask for the original version).
For legal advice, you can contact an organisation called “La Cimade”. This organisation is present in many towns in France. You can find your nearest office at the following link (French only):lacimade.org/regions
On the Gisti website (French only), you will also find the legal and administrative support services for people in exile: gisti.org/spip.php
Applying for asylum in France
Applying for asylum means requesting the protection of a country because you are in danger and have suffered persecution or been the victim of serious threats in your country of origin because of your religion, nationality, political opinions, race or membership of a social group.
As soon as you arrive in France, you must go to an office called “SPADA” (Structure de Premier Accueil des Demandeurs d’Asile) to begin your asylum application.
You cannot go directly to the prefecture or to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra).
SPADA offices are run by an organisation working on behalf of the French state. It has a multi-faceted role: it must provide you with information about asylum, give you the documents you need to apply for protection, and help you with your asylum application, especially if you are not staying in an accommodation centre.
A. Appointment at SPADA
There, you will be given information about asylum in France and asked questions about :
- Your personal details: surname, first name, age, family situation.
- The dates of your departure from your country and date of arrival in France. Please note that if you say you have been in France for more than 90 days, you will be placed under the “accelerated procedure”, which is unfavourable to you.
- The route you took to get to France.
- The language you wish to use throughout your asylum procedure.
The SPADA will then enter this information into the computer system so that it can be sent to the prefecture. If you give false information and the prefecture realises this, you risk being placed under the accelerated procedure, which, as mentioned above, is unfavourable to you.
You will then be given a summons to go to the “guichet unique” (GUDA) at the prefecture, to register your asylum application.
B. GUDA appointment
At the “guichet unique” (GUDA) , you will meet with:
- The prefecture, which will register your asylum application.
- Following this, you will meet with OFII, who will assess your vulnerability during an interview (your accommodation situation and medical needs).
N.B.: do not lose the documents you receive from the prefecture and OFII. Take photos of them, make photocopies and keep copies (paper and/or digital) in several places.
- At the prefecture counter, an officer responsible for registering your asylum application will :
- take your fingerprints,
- check that you have not already applied for asylum in France or in another European Union country,
- give you a guide to the procedure in your mother tongue,
- ask you in which language you wish to be heard throughout the procedure,
- give you an asylum application certificate (“récépissé”) informing you whether your asylum application will be examined under the Normal Procedure, Accelerated Procedure or Dublin Procedure,
- give you an OFPRA file to complete. It is very important to complete this correctly. Read the advice carefully and ask a specialist organisation for help.
You will also be given log-in details to access your personal OFPRA space online.
- At the OFII counter, an agent will:
- ask you questions about your personal situation. You must tell them if you have any special needs (if you have a disability, are pregnant or ill, or if you need to see a psychologist, etc.).
- give you a form called “Offre de prise en charge au titre du dispositif national d’accueil”.
This will enable you to obtain accommodation and a financial allowance (ADA).
To receive the assistance offered by OFII, you must sign the form by ticking the box “Yes, I agree to benefit from the material reception conditions” (at the bottom right of the form).
N.B.: You cannot receive financial allowance (ADA) if you do not request accommodation. It’s a package deal: either you request accommodation and financial allowance together, or you don’t qualify for anything.
N.B.: very often, accommodation facilities are full and it can take a very long time before you are offered accommodation.
OFII may offer you accommodation in a region other than the one where you submitted your asylum application. They must provide you with a transport ticket and the address of the allocated SPADA or accommodation. You must report to this new location within 5 days. You are required to remain in this region throughout your asylum procedure. If you refuse to go there, you will not be entitled to either accommodation or the financial allowance (ADA).
Finally, after the appointment at the “Guichet Unique”, you will need to return to the SPADA to register your address (this is your postal address and you should check your mail there regularly). This step is essential in order to benefit from the material reception conditions and to submit your application to OFPRA.
C. The different asylum procedures
The prefecture can place you under the “normal”, “accelerated” or “Dublin” procedures.
Important! The accelerated procedure is not favourable to you (due to a rapid and more superficial examination of your application).
The normal procedure
Your asylum application will be examined by “OFPRA” (L’Office Français de Protection des Réfugiés et Apatrides) without any special provisions. You are entitled to the general social rights granted to asylum seekers (social security, etc.), as well as financial and accommodation assistance if you have answered “Yes” to the OFII form. You must complete the OFPRA file given to you at the GUDA and post it back to OFPRA with all the documents requested within 21 days.
If your file is complete, OFPRA will send you a registration letter.
This letter will allow you to renew your asylum application certificate for a period of 9 months.
Please note: it often takes several days to renew your asylum application certificate (récépissé), so remember to go to the préfecture a few days before the expiry date, with a recent proof of address, to make sure there are no problems. If your asylum application certificate is no longer valid, you may be arrested during an identity check.
The accelerated procedure
This procedure is not favourable to you:
The time taken to examine your case is reduced, and you may be refused accommodation and financial support.
Ask the prefecture for a document justifying the decision to place you under the accelerated procedure. This document must be added to your OFPRA file. You will need it in your file.
To renew your asylum application certificate (récépissé), follow the same steps as for the normal procedure (above).
You may be placed under the accelerated procedure for the following reasons:
- if you refuse to give your fingerprints or if your fingerprints are not legible
- if you have concealed information about your journey or your identity
- if you have been issued with an obligation to leave French territory (OQTF)
- if you have already applied for asylum and your application is being re-examined (page 55)
- if you have applied for asylum more than 90 days after arriving in France, without justifying this delay. This is considered to be a sign that you are not in urgent need of protection
- if you come from a so-called “safe country”: Albania, Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Georgia, India, Kosovo, Macedonia, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Serbia.
If you think that your application should be in the normal procedure, you can tell OFPRA (in your story or during the interview) the reason why you disagree with the decision. OFPRA may then place you under the normal procedure. If OFPRA does not do this, you can present your arguments to the “CNDA” (The National Court of Asylum).
The Dublin procedure
If the prefecture places you under the Dublin procedure, it may be because your fingerprints were detected in another European country where you claimed asylum or for which you obtained a visa. Usually, it is this country that is responsible for your asylum application. The Prefecture will ask this country to take you back so that it can examine your application.
While awaiting the reply from the responsible country, you have the right to remain in France and benefit from the material reception conditions for asylum seekers, such as the allowance for asylum seekers (ADA), access to healthcare (PUMA), etc. The prefecture will schedule several appointments which you must attend if you wish to continue to be entitled to accommodation and financial support.
Please note that at one of these appointments, the prefecture will issue you with a transfer order. From that point onwards, you risk being placed in a detention centre and being transferred to the country responsible for your asylum application. France initially has 6 months to transfer you from the date on which the country responsible for your application has agreed to take you back.
It is possible to lodge an appeal requesting that France will be responsible for your asylum application and that you should not be transferred (deadline for appeal: 48 hours in the case of house arrest, otherwise 15 days following the transfer order). The chances of winning this type of appeal depend on your individual situation (health, family, countries through which you have passed, etc.) but are generally very low.
Warning: if you lose your appeal, the waiting time before you can register your asylum application in France will increase by a further six months, during which time you may still be transferred.
Go to a legal advice centre as soon as possible for advice and help with any appeal. If you have not been transferred to the country responsible within the transfer period (6 months or more depending on your situation), France will normally become responsible for your asylum application.
Please note that every Dublin situation is different; what worked for one person will not necessarily work for you. If you have been transferred but have returned to France, you must re-register your asylum application with the prefecture.
If you do not attend the appointments given to you by the prefecture, or if you refuse to be transferred, you risk being considered “on the run”. In this case, you will no longer be entitled to accommodation as part of your asylum application, or to the ADA allowance. The transfer period will be extended to a total of 18 months. At the end of this period, France will become responsible for your asylum application.
Please note that it is very complicated to calculate the time limits, so you should seek legal advice.
In all cases, go to a legal advice centre with all your papers to obtain more information about the Dublin procedure and your personal situation.
D - The OFPRA file and interview
The Office Français de Protection des Réfugiés et Apatrides (OFPRA - French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) is a public body responsible for applying French legislation and European and international conventions relating to the recognition of refugee or stateless status and admission to subsidiary protection. It examines the asylum application and decides whether to grant the person international protection or to reject the application. Its decision may be appealed to the National Court of Asylum (CNDA).
OFPRA’s decision regarding your asylum application is based on the OFPRA file and your interview. Read the information on compiling your file and preparing for the interview carefully.
- Through your story, you must convince OFPRA that you are really in danger in your country and that you cannot return there without fearing persecution, torture or death. We strongly recommend that you seek the help of a specialist organisation or a lawyer when writing your story.
- The interview at OFPRA is the most important part of your asylum application. An interpreter will be present if you do not speak French.
*Please note: if you have family whom you wish to bring to France, you must mention them at all stages of the procedure.
E- The decision
- If OFPRA recognises you as a refugee: You are entitled to obtain a 10-year renewable residence permit from the prefecture.
- If OFPRA grants you subsidiary protection: You will be entitled to a 4-year residence permit, then a 10-year renewable residence permit. You can appeal against OFPRA’s decision and try to obtain refugee status (see following pages). This appeal will not affect the subsidiary protection decision.
- If OFPRA rejects your application: You can appeal to the CNDA (the National Court of Asylum). Contact a specialist organisation and a lawyer as soon as possible to lodge an appeal.
F - If you are recognised as a refugee
At the end of your asylum procedure, if OFPRA or the CNDA has granted you international protection: refugee status, subsidiary protection or stateless person status:
- You are protected by France,
- You have the right to stay in France,
- You will benefit from many of the rights granted to French nationals.
- As soon as you receive the decision, you must go to the prefecture with a certificate of residence and the decision to obtain a récépissé. The récépissé is a provisional document that attests to the “recognition of international protection” and allows you to start taking steps while you wait for your residence permit.
OFPRA will issue you with civil status documents, i.e. they will draw up documents in your name that will be recognised by the French authorities (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.). You are no longer allowed to contact the authorities in your country of origin, otherwise you will lose the protection of France.
In addition, as soon as you receive the decision from OFPRA or the CNDA, you are entitled to social and family benefits (RSA, application for social housing, etc.).:
- You have the right to work in France
- You can resume your studies
- You can exchange your driving licence for a French driving licence
- You can bring your family to France under the family reunification procedure.