Although today’s blog post title sounds like a prison sentence it’s far from it; in fact, just the opposite. It refers to the ability to apply for a 10-year residence card after having lived in France for five years. We reached that milestone at the end of February and now we are holders of a Carte de résident de longue durée-UE or something similar in the US might be called a “green card”. Our French one is blue but no less significant. Previously we needed to renew our card annually to stay here legally but now we’re set for the next decade. So besides not having to pay a renewal fee of 269 € every year, what are the other advantages?
For us, simply possessing this 10-year card is satisfaction enough. It makes us feel even more settled in Europe and one step closer to French citizenship. It would now be legal for us to work in this country but we moved here to retire. It also means that we could stay for more than 3 months in other European Union member countries without needing a visa, but France is home. While we have lots of travel plans across the borders those are for short vacation trips that will find us right back here in Carcassonne a week or two later.
To start the application process we emailed the immigration service at our local federal building (Préfecture) to get an appointment to bring in all of the required documents. Their response included the date and time to appear at their office with these items:
- Current resident card
- Proof of residence (electric bill, for example)
- 3 passport-style photos
- Proof of living in France for 5 years, uninterrupted (tax returns, for example. We used the last 4 years of French tax returns and 1 year of US returns for the first partial year that we lived here.)
- Proof of sufficient income for the last 5 years (In addition to pension benefit verification letters we also included year-end bank statements for the last five years for both our US and French banks. Our US bank only keeps those records online for the 2 most recent years; luckily we had saved the monthly statement emails with the information over the years.)
- Proof of health insurance (printed from the national health website)
- Tax stamp of 225 €
- If under age 65, proof of the French language level of at least A2
- If you come from a country where polygamy is legal, a letter promising that you will not practice that in France.
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
On the appointed day we were both admitted together, waited until the pile of documents for each of us had been verified as complete and we were then told to wait for an SMS text that our new cards were ready. After 10 weeks, the messages arrived last Sunday night and we went back to the same office on Monday to pick up our new cards.
For others who are approaching their 5-year mark in France, there are 3 types of cards with a 10-year duration to know about:
- Carte de résident—if you already have family ties in this country
- Carte de résident de longue durée-UE—the card that we now have
- Carte de résident permanent—issued after you have had one of the above cards
It’s also good to know that while you must have lived in France for at least 5 years to qualify for a Carte de résident de longue durée-UE you can apply for it as you approach the end of those five years here. When we requested our appointment to turn in our documents listed above we had been living in France for 4 years and 9 months at that point.
So, next step? As hinted in the second paragraph, citizenship, but that’s a process that can take up to 3 years. At least we now have a cushion of 10 years!
Pdf list of required documents from our Préfecture: