The second time around

The Préfecture (federal building) front entrance
The Préfecture (federal building) front entrance

We’re back for round two. If you are a US citizen living in France, you must first obtain a visa that you then convert to a one-year residency card upon arrival in your new home country. For each of those next several years that you live here, you have to apply for an annual renewal of the card. After five continuous years here you can request a 10-year card or citizenship, neither of which requires you to give up American citizenship, for which, by the way, Uncle Sam would want to collect 2,350 dollars. But that’s years down the road. Today’s news is that this week we picked up our renewed carte de séjour (residence permit) valid for the next 12 months.

Any time that we have an official appointment (government office, bank, doctor, etc.) we always gather as much information online about the agency that we can in an effort to anticipate what questions they might ask, which documents they will need, and to see if others in a similar situation have shared their experiences. The more we can practice in advance of what to say and of what we are going to hear, the better.

For the carte de séjour, the agency involved is the Préfecture which is the federal government’s representative locally. Before we physically went there, we first checked the Public Service website for those of us currently considered temporary visitors to see what documents were required and what the cost would be. Interestingly, this site also lists the minimum monthly amount of income that each person must show that they receive to qualify to stay in the country: 1,149 euros (about 1,215 dollars). The cost to renew a carte de séjour is 269 euros per person and must be paid with tax stamps that you buy either from the tax office or from specially-selected tabacs (newsstands that sell tobacco products), one of which is right across from the main post office.

The documents included on this online list were essentially the same ones we needed to obtain our visa in Miami, updated to show any changes:

  • Passport
  • Visa with our first year’s titre de séjour sticker inside the passport
  • Marriage certificate
  • Proof of income (bank statements, pension statements, etc.)
  • Proof of address (lease/deed, utility bills)
  • Handwritten letter promising not to work (we found a sample online and copied that)
  • 4 passport-size photos
  • Tax stamps for 269 euros
Beautiful gardens behind the Préfecture, a former Episcopal palace from 1760
Beautiful gardens behind the Préfecture, a former Episcopal palace from 1760

The Public Service website says to go to your local Préfecture two months before your current residence permit expires to obtain an appointment to turn in your documents. I had read that in big cities, especially in Paris, the wait can be up to five months, so we played it safe and went in three months ahead. We were given a renewal application to fill out, the list of documents that matched what we had found online, and an appointment for 7 weeks later to bring everything back in.

Somehow we missed the SMS text telling us that our cards were ready to be picked up, so 9 weeks after that initial appointment we walked down to the office to inquire about them. To our delight the cards were there waiting for us. Once again, despite hearing about all the red-tape you have to go through to move and/or live here, we found it all quite straightforward. When you follow the directions, take all the documents requested, and try to anticipate the questions you are going to be asked, it all goes very smoothly. Of course a positive attitude with a friendly smile that’s readily returned, I might add, works in any language. We look forward to our second year living in France!

5 thoughts on “The second time around

  1. Even though I’m American like you, being married to an EU citizen makes my situation similar but different. In theory, though a cds is still required, EU law makes the process much simpler. Also, I had already been in the EU in another country for 11 years. My local prefecture (in a very small city) did not follow the rules and it took me a year to get my carte de sejour, although it is for 5 years. We did the same as you and were prepared, at some expense, with translated birth and marriage certificates, etc. Sometimes it depends on where you are. But you are right – it is almost always true that preparation and a positive attitude go a long way!

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  2. You guys are lucky, as am I, to be doing all this in the countryside. My prefecture wants a bank statement showing that I have enough money to not work, plus 4 photographs. Maybe they’ll glance at my electric bill, as proof of address. End of story. I am told that in Paris it is much more difficult. My new strategy, only recently agreed upon, is to marry an absolutely fabulous French guy. Really, he is, so I anticipate no down side. Can’t wait to see how that changes things at the prefecture.

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