Last update : August 2023

These pages of the “Welcome2Europe” guide for France have been written by the Welcome to Europe network, formed by activists who, since 2009, have provided direct support to migrants, exiles and refugees. The network also promotes free movement and equal rights for all.

The aim of this guide is to provide practical, administrative, social and legal information for people experiencing migration in France, as well as contacts for services and organisations providing support on different topics, in various towns and regions across France.

This guide is free of charge. None of us who write or distribute it are representatives of governments, the police, the United Nations or government-funded organisations. We are all activists, members of independent groups and organisations. This version of the guide was written in early 2019 and will be updated in mid-2023. By the time you read it, there may have been some changes. In any event, your fundamental rights remain the same.

The rights of foreign nationals in France are constantly evolving. Despite politicians’ promises to simplify processes, it is nevertheless becoming increasingly complex, making the law less and less accessible to foreign nationals.

In our opinion, this guide is all the more important as many people who are migrants, asylum seekers and refugees receive little assistance with their material needs and little administrative or legal support. Some people are sent to centres where, for the most part, they have no access to assistance. Others remain in a vulnerable situation, some living on the streets, as accommodation is only available to a limited number of people.

The aim of this guide is to provide the information you need to make day-to-day life easier, to help you with topics such as administrative formalities, claiming asylum, things to know about life in France, how to assert your rights and how to avoid some of the pitfalls created by the French authorities.

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. Several options are possible (e.g. making an asylum claim or applying for a residence permit) and which one is best for you depends on your situation. The information in this guide will help you to understand the steps to take, but it is no substitute for the advice of a specialist lawyer who can assess your personal situation. What worked for someone you know may not work for you.

The first section (“01. Contacts”) will give you access to the main contacts at national level, at the French border and in major French cities). Here you will find contacts for organisations that can give you everyday advice.

It is very important to take photos and make photocopies of all documents and letters addressed to you that you receive during your stay in France. Keep these copies in several places (e.g. with a friend or an organisation) and on the internet (in e-mails, etc.). Remember to do this as soon as you arrive, and ideally to arrange your documents by subject (health, employment, schooling, etc.). This may be useful for your asylum claim or, in the event of arrest, could help to demonstrate your presence on French territory, and to enable any organisations assisting you to better understand your situation. Evidence of your presence in France will be compulsory if you apply for a residence permit.

If you have any questions, please contact us by email.