"Residence permits" and regularization

Last update : December 2023

At the time of writing in 2023, the government is in the process of passing a new law. All the information in this section is therefore subject to change. The information presented below is valid until the new law is voted on.

If you are a foreign national and wish to stay in France: to obtain the right to live in France without risking deportation, you need to obtain a residence permit (“titre de séjour”). There are several possible options, including claiming asylum or applying for a residence permit, depending on your personal situation.

Information on claiming for asylum can be found in the section 02 Asylum

There are several types of residence permit for different situations:

  • private and family life residence permit for people whose personal and family ties allow them to obtain a residence permit.
  • residence permit for care purposes for foreign nationals who are ill and cannot be treated in their country of origin.
  • salaried residence permits for people who have been working in France for several years and wish to regularise their situation.

Visit a legal advice centre to assess your personal situation and get help with preparing your application.

The essential points

In France, you can apply for exceptional leave to remain by :

  • Work (which means you have proof that you have worked). You will need numerous payslips and work contracts.
  • Private and family life (children at school, legal spouse, exceptional humanitarian circumstances, if you are seriously ill),
  • If you arrived in France as a minor and are now 18.

In all cases, you will need to prove your presence on French territory (often you need to prove that you have been in France for a very long time), that you are integrated into French society (fluency in the language, professional and social integration) and that you have no personal or family ties in your country of origin. You must hold a passport to regularise your situation in France when you are granted exceptional leave to remain.

If you are the parent of a French child, you can apply for a “parent of a French child” residence permit. You will need to prove this.

If you are married to a French national, you will not be able to regularise your situation, as you need to have entered France on a Long Stay Visa.

General advice

  • It is advisable to only submit an application if you meet the criteria; a negative response to your application will be accompanied by an OQTF (obligation to leave French territory), and you will then be liable to deportation at the first identity check.

  • Contact an administrative and legal aid association before submitting your application. It’s important to think things through and prepare your application. You can find their contacts here.

  • Keep any documents or letters in your name. You will need them to prove your presence in France to apply for a residence permit. Don’t forget to file by year documents relating to:

  • your problems in your country; - your entry into France (visa, plane or train ticket, etc.); - your identity documents - your asylum claims or applications for residency - documents issued by the prefecture, OFPRA, CNDA, the police and the courts; - your tax returns, medical prescriptions, social security certificates, telephone or electricity bills, Navigo pass, children’s school attendance certificates, proof of address, pay slips, enrolment for French courses and diplomas, various letters, etc.

  • Always check that your mail has arrived. If you change your address: inform with a signed-for (recommandé) letter all the authorities where you have a current file (social security, prefecture, etc.).

  • Do not go to the prefecture alone; be accompanied by a French person or someone with papers.

    To find out more about exceptional residence permits

A residence permit does not work in the same way as an asylum application. For asylum, you need to talk about the persecution suffered in your country of origin, whereas to obtain a residence permit it is your situation in France that counts.

Most residence permits are applied for from the country of origin, at the French consulate. You then need to apply for a long-term visa (visa D), which gives you the right to a residence permit (for example, for family reunification, to study in France or to work in France). The long-term visa is different to the tourist visa, which lasts a maximum of 3 months (C visa). However, if you are already in France, you can apply for certain residence permits in order to have the right to stay in France. This is known as “regularisation”.

Some residence permits are more secure than others. There is a difference between ” full entitlement residence permits ” and ” discretionary residence permits “. The criteria for obtaining a full entitlement residence permit are laid down in law. Normally, if you meet these criteria, the residence permit should be issued by the prefecture. If you get a refusal, you can contact a lawyer to lodge an “appeal”. The majority of “private and family life” residence permits are issued as of full entitlement (parent of a French child, marriage to a French national, close links with private and family life). This is also the case for health residence permits for very serious illnesses that cannot be treated in the country of origin. But beware: the conditions for obtaining them are numerous and sometimes “vague”.

Discretionary residence permits are riskier and more difficult to obtain because, as their name suggests, they are “at the discretion of the prefect”, i.e. subject to his or her goodwill. This means that even if you meet the criteria for a residence permit, the prefect can still refuse to issue it. The work permit is discretionary. Meeting the conditions (even for a full entitlement residence permit) does not mean that you will automatically be granted a residence permit. There is always a risk of refusal and of a decision to deport you. Don’t start this procedure on your own: ask for help from an association specialised in residence permits.