Carte de Séjour – French Identity Card: Round 1


I need to point out that this series of three posts was written in 2013, so if you’re looking for information about how to apply for a post-Brexit carte de séjour, you need to contact your préfecture. Things have changed since 2013.

The SF and I toddled off to the Préfecture in Montauban today. There it is above in its splendour. However, we were round the back in the modern annex.  We wanted to renew our Cartes de séjour (identity cards). When you carry out an administrative exercise like this, you are exposed to French bureaucracy in all its glory. Read about Round 2 here.

When we first arrived in 1997, a carte de séjour was obligatory, even for citizens of other EU states, which we both are. We had to provide evidence of paternity, identity, marital status, income, residence, translations of some of this (especially in the SF’s case, being Swedish) and numerous photographs. They even wanted our parents’ dates of birth. I couldn’t remember my father’s – neither could my mother – except I knew it was in January 19XX. So I made it up. The authorities wanted several copies of all this information. They stopped just short of grandpa’s inside leg measurement.

We jumped through this hoop successfully and were each awarded a shiny laminated identity card, valid for five years. When the five years were up, renewing it was much easier than getting one in the first place. We didn’t even have to go to the Préfecture: it was all done through the Mairie. And, as proof of our acceptance by the French state, the new cards were valid for 10 years.

From 2004, a carte de séjour was no longer obligatory for citizens of EU member states. Fast forward to November 2012. We realise ours run out in early January 2013. However, we have decided we want to continue to have one. They can be very useful, for example if you are stopped by the police or if you want to pay a lot of money for something. They are proof of residence and address in France in a way that a passport can’t be.

This time the woman at the Mairie looked blankly at us but kindly phoned up the Préfecture to ask what we should do. “Come in and see us,” they said. It’s all quite well-organised down there. You tell them at Reception what you’ve come for. They give you a ticket – a bit like at the supermarket fish counter – and you wait until your number flashes up on the screen for the relevant service. The ticket even gives you an estimate of waiting-time.

The woman in the Service des étrangers who dealt with us seemed reasonably human. She even smiled a couple of times. But, since the carte de séjour is no longer obligatory for us, the irony is that to renew it we have to go through even more hoops than we did to get the original one. It’s treated like the first request.

So, we have to provide, all over again, all the information we provided 15 years ago. This time, they want to see the originals as well as photocopies. But that’s not all. You have to bring all these documents in person to a pre-arranged interview at the Préfecture, in addition to supplying a letter stating why you want the card.

Round 2 – the interview itself – will take place in January. I’m wondering if I should learn a bit of the Marseillaise by heart beforehand just to soften them up. Maybe not. Watch this space.

And, of course, the usual disclaimer. While I try to verify my facts, it’s always best to check on your own situation and take advice before doing anything. In addition, administrative rules can be flexibly interpreted between regions and even départements. So don’t assume that what happens in Tarn-et-Garonne applies everywhere else.

Read about Round 2 here.

Copyright © 2012 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. We live in the SW of France, we applied for the carte residence of permanence at the Prefecture Mont de Masan , our application refused on the basic of the carte de séjour being non obligatory, We have been resident now over 10years and it would be nice to know that we had some identity rights in the EU country.


    • It’s a bit worrying isn’t it? You could try applying for dual nationality, which we are thinking about – depending on what your current nationality is.


  2. I had to wheelbarrow my papers (seven sets) into the French consulate in NY for my long duration visa, and repeat the process here (five copies) for my carte. But after five years of annual renewal I was issued a ten-year carte with permission to work! Changing my driving license has been another and extremely expensive story and I still don’t have a French license since starting the process two years ago. There was a program on French television recently about the scandalous driving school mafia in France. But other Americans I know converted their licenses free in five days yet cannot get permission to work here, even though their daughter was born here ten years ago.


    • I remember the saga of your driving licence and am amazed you still don’t have one. But at least you have your visa, unlike your friends. As I said in the post, the rules seem to be flexibly interpreted depending on where you are – and there’s no good reason for it.


  3. It’s the same story in Spain. EU citizens don’t need a residency card anymore, but they can get a certificate of residence stating they are members of the EU. The certificate has the all important NIE number which is basically your ID number you use for important things such as opening a bank account and renting an apartment. I think the certificate is valid for 5 years but there was no expiration date on it when I got mine. They also got a lot of the information incorrect, such as my place of birth which was marked as Princeton, New Jersey, France, and got my address and mother’s name wrong. I didn’t bother getting the information corrected seeing as how Spanish bureaucracy can take about 6 months to resolve. I did not have to provide a lot of paperwork to get it, but they gave me an appointment 5 months from the day I called.

    However for my poor American roommate who had to renew her residency card… that’s a whole other story. It took about 5 months to get the new card, so my roommate was forced to hold on to the expired one. By the time she got the new one, it was only valid for about 6 months.


    • I’ve heard from others that Spanish bureaucracy is as frustrating as the French variety. Your experiences – and those of your roommate – sound painfully familiar.


  4. I received my first carte de sejour in August. It was almost as difficult as you describe, but it only took one visit since I had all the paperwork with me. I checked out the prefecture website before I went to see what they would require, then I added every other little thing I could think of! And of course, it wasn’t enough…sigh! Seems they decided after I was there that they needed a copy of my divorce degree which I supplied them in English. Must have worked because I got a letter in the mail that I could go pick my shiny new card up…and pay them another 18 euros whiles I was it. Never mind…I’m glad to have it and I just keep telling myself this is all part of the adventure of living here!


    • I suppose you have to have one, not being an EU citizen. The process does make you lose the will to live, though. And there’s always something extra they ask for that you hadn’t thought of!


  5. I have a Carte de Sejour which is very out of date. When I tried to renew, the Mairie told me it was no longer required and I didn’t pursue it fearing a tangle of bureaucratic codswallop. So it’s very interesting to read of your experiences. Would it not be easier to apply for dual-nationality, or would you not want that? I have debated this possibility but not yet taken it any further. If Britain has a referendum re. being in the EU and the vote goes against, which opinion polls say it would, we might be better off with D/N. Perhaps a negative result is something we should bear in mind.


    • I’m afraid we probably have got ourselves into a bureaucratic tangle. We have thought of applying for DN, although Sweden does not in theory allow it which probably rules it out for my husband. I might well look into it further, although I understand that the process can take up to 18 months, in which case I still want the carte de séjour in the interim.


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