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Carte de séjour: What can I do if I am refused permission to remain in France?

As one British family is given 30 days notice to leave the country after their carte de séjour application is refused, we look at what to do next if your application is turned down.

Carte de séjour: What can I do if I am refused permission to remain in France?
What can you do if your application for residency is turned down? Photo: AFP

Emma and James Lawrence and their two children have been living in the Languedoc region of France since September 2016, but their application for a carte de sejour was turned down as neither of them are earning the minimum amount, and now they have been sent an official notice giving them 30 days to leave the country.

Their experience reflects a common problem for many British people in France – particularly retirees or the semi-retired – who are often living on very low incomes.


One of the conditions for legal residency in France (and anyone applying for a carte de sejour must prove that they are already legally resident in the country) is that the person has sufficient resources so that they will not be burden on the French state.

As this is calculated on income (which can include a pension) those who have very low incomes or who are living on savings are liable to be turned down. 

Emma and her husband both plan to set up and develop businesses in France, but are currently concentrating on childcare, looking for a house to buy and learning French.

Emma said: “We weren't worried because we had savings that we were living off and the cost of living down here is so cheap that we were fine financially.

“We thought that the carte de sejour application would include our savings in our financial information but it seems very unclear as to whether savings count or not.”

The family's carte de sejour application was turned down and, although they have appealed to the British Embassy for help, they have been given a formal notice period of 30 days to leave the country.

The Local has also been contacted by many readers who are too afraid to apply for the carte de sejour, for fear they might be turned down over income requirements.

READ ALSO: 'I'm on €410 a month' – Britons too worried to apply for a carte de séjour

Kalba Meadows from Citizens Rights' group Remain in France Together told The Local the only advice they culd give to anyone who has been rejected was to contact a lawyer.

“We don't and can't get involved in giving individual specific advice on whether someone is legally resident or not – that's immigration advice and is for a lawyer.

“For a refusal with an OQTF we'd always advise someone to see an avocat who specialises in immigration.”

Remain in France Together has recently released a 'reality check' for British people living in France after becoming concerned that many people were not aware of the requirements for legal residency in France.

Kalba Meadows from RIFT said: “As we all now face up to a six month extension to Brexit day, there is a little breathing space for anyone who finds themselves worried by this article to take a long hard look at your situation, then sit down and have a hard think about what you might do about it. 

“But there is no other way of putting it than this: the tough news is that sometimes a lifestyle choice is incompatible with being legally resident in another country.”

RIFT has also put together some advice for people who have been turned down.

If you have been turned down for a carte de sejour there are three routes you can take for an appeal.

The first one is to appeal directly to the préfecture – known as a recours gracieux.

This is an appeal direct to the préfet, asking him or her to reconsider the decision, as you believe the decision is incorrect.

If you believe the decision is incorrect you need to provide reasons – such as extra evidence or a breach of the rules – you cannot simply say that you believe you should get a carte de sejour.

Advice group SOLVIT – a service run by the European Commission to help EU citizens get their rights – has produced a draft letter which can be used as the template for a recours gracieux. The template can be found here.

You can also make a recours hierarchique – which is an appeal to the Interior Minister saying that you believe you local préfecture made an incorrect decision.

Again, you must provide details on why you believe the application was incorrect, based on the current rules. It is not enough to simply say that you believe the rules are unfair.

Here is a draft letter from SOLVIT that can be used to make this appeal.

Both of the two above types of appeal can be done directly, and do not require a lawyer.

However, they cannot be used if you have already received notice to quit the country.

The Obligation de Quitter la Territoire Francais is a formal letter informing the applicant that they have 30 days to leave the country or be subject to deportation.

This letter is not sent automatically to everyone whose application is turned down, but only after a complete examination of your circumstances, including your state of health, your age, how long you've been in France, your ties with France, your family situation and so on.

If you have received the OQFT you only have one option left – a recours contentieux, which can only be lodged by a specialist immigration lawyer.

The aim of the appeal will be to have the decision annulled by contesting its legality; this may be done on ignorance of the facts, incorrect application of the facts, error in interpretation of the law or on incorrect procedure.

The recours contentieux is probably the most effective way to contest a decision, but it involves instructing a lawyer, so it will cost you.

It also must be filed within two months of an application being refused, so there is a ticking clock element.

Although a lawyer is not required for the first two procedures, it may be helpful to consultant one anyway – choose an immigration specialist.






Member comments

  1. Unfortunately, French administration has many of the characteristics of Third World equivalents. So much of the decision making is discretionary that basically your rights are whatever they say they are

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The post-Brexit guide for Brits who want to move to France (and stay here)

Is it harder since Brexit? Yes. Is it impossible? Certainly not. Here's everything you need to know about navigating the French immigration system and moving to France as a UK national.

The post-Brexit guide for Brits who want to move to France (and stay here)

Moving to France as the citizen of an EU country is a considerably more straightforward experience – and that’s still the case for those Brits lucky enough to have dual nationality with an EU country such as Ireland.

For the rest, since Brexit they enter an unfamiliar world of immigration offices, visas and cartes de séjour – but this is only the same system that non-EU nationals like Americans, Canadians and Australians have always faced and plenty of them manage to move to France each year.

It’s just a question of knowing how to navigate the system:

NB – this article is for people making the move permanently to France from 2021 onwards, for second-home owners who want to spend time in France but keep their main residence in the UK – click HERE


Brits are covered by the 90-day rule so if you want to make short visits to France you can do so without any extra paperwork (until 2023, that is), but if you want to come here to live, you will need a visa.

The only groups exempt from visa requirements are people who have dual nationality with an EU country (eg Ireland) or people who are coming as a spouse or family member of a UK national who is already living here and is covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – click here for full details.

It’s important to note that your visa has to be sorted before you leave the UK, so there’s no point coming over here as a tourist and then hoping to figure it out from France.

Almost all visas charge processing fees and you need to be prepared to create a big bundle of supporting documents, but the first thing to do is work out the type of visa that you need.

Here’s an overview of the most common types:

Spouse Visa

Contrary to popular belief, being married to a French person doesn’t exempt you from the visa process, but does make things a little easier if you decide to go for a spouse visa – you’ll be able to get a 12-month visa and you’ll have to register at the Immigration Office (OFFI) within three months of arrival. This will count as your residence card (more info on how to get residency later).

The good news is that the application is free but you’ll need a heap of documents including application forms, proof of marriage, proof of your spouse’s nationality, and a residence form. More info here.

Work Visa

If you intend to work in France then you have two options; get a work visa as a salaried employee or get an entrepreneur visa if you intend to set up your own business or work self-employed as a freelancer or contractor.

Employee visa – The toughest part of the employee visa is that you need to find a job first, rather than coming to France and then job-hunting. 

Once you find a job, you then need to have your work contract approved by the authorities at the French Labour Ministry (then again at the OFFI offices) and depending on the sector you work in your employer may have to apply for a work permit and justify why they’re hiring you and not a European.

If you’re bringing family on this visa, get the employer to start a file for them at the same time. You’ll need to fill in application forms, residence forms, and you’ll need to pay a processing fee.  

Entrepreneur – this applies for people who want to set up their own business (eg run a gîte or B&B) or work in an self-employed capacity including as a freelancer or contractor. 

The entrepreneur visa has different requirements, including a detailed business plan and proof of financial means – essentially you need to be able to demonstrate that you can support yourself even if your business idea or freelance career never takes off.

Here 2021 arrival Joseph Keen takes us through the entrepreneur visa: ‘Not too complicated but quite expensive’ – what it’s like getting a French work visa

Visitor Visa

This is for those who want to live in France but don’t have a job, a French spouse, or plans to study – it’s most commonly used by retired people and it brings with it the requirement to have a certain level of assets.

READ ALSO How much money do I need to get a French visa?

You’ll need: filled-in questionnaires and application forms, an undertaking not to work in France (not even working remotely for an employer back in the UK or setting up a gîte or B&B business in France), proof that you can support yourself in France, proof of financial means, proof of medical insurance, proof of accommodation in France, among other things. More info here

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Student visa

The good news is that the fee is around half that of the other long stay visas, at €50, and is usually shorter to process, but the bad news is that it’s no walk in the park.

You’ll need a series of documents from Campus France, financial guarantees and proof of enrolment at a French establishment of higher education. More info here

Au Pair visa

If you’re between the ages of 17 and 30, don’t mind a few household chores and quite like children, then this year-long visa could be right up your alley.

You’ll need all the usual forms, but also an “au pair contract” approved by the French ministry of labour, an invitation from your host family, and you’ll have to sign up to language courses for while you’re here. Read more about becoming an au pair here, and find out more on the visa info here

Talent Passport

If you qualify for it, there’s also the ‘talent passport’ which is really the best type of visa because it lasts for four years before you need to renew and you can bring family members on it. 

It offers a four-year work visa to people who can demonstrate certain business, creative or academic skills, or who have a provable reputation in their field – for example, scientific, literary, artistic, intellectual, educational, or sporting. The categories were recently expanded and cover quite a wide variety of fields. More info here.

Besides these options, there is always a scientist visa, an internship visa, and a diplomatic visa.

Next steps

Once you have decided which visa you need, you apply online, submitting all the required documents and a fee (usually around €80-€100). You will then need to make an in-person visit to the French consulate in London.

EXPLAINED: How to get a French visa 

Processing times for visas vary, but you should allow at least six weeks.

What else?

Once you have secured your visa you’re more or less ready to travel, but there are some other things to check.

Health insurance – some visa types, especially those for people who will not be working, require proof of health insurance and depending on the type of visa the GHIC or EHIC card is not always accepted.

If this is the case you will need to buy a private health insurance (not travel insurance) policy that covers the entire duration of your visa. Depending on your age and state of health these policies can be expensive, so you should factor this in to your financial calculations.

If you are a UK pensioner or student you might be entitled to an S1 form from the NHS – S1 is accepted as proof of health insurance for visa purposes.

Once you have been living in France for three months, you’re entitled to register in the public health system and get a carte vitale, but the process of getting the card can be quite lengthy, so it’s a good idea to have health cover for these early months even if it’s not a requirement of your visa.

Bear in mind the GHIC/EHIC doesn’t cover all types of medical expenses.

Driving licence – if you intend to drive in France then you can use your UK/NI licence with no requirement for an international driver’s permit.

The good news here is that the post-Brexit deal on driving licences also covers new arrivals, and means that after a certain period you can swap your UK licence for a French one without having to take the French driving test – full details here.

If you are bringing your UK-registered car with you, you will have to change its registration to French – here’s how.

Bank account – for everyday life in France you will likely need a French bank account, but many French banks require proof of an address, while landlords often won’t rent to you without a French bank account, creating something of a Catch 22. 

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about opening a French bank account

If you still have financial activity in the UK such as a rental property or a UK pension you will likely need a UK bank account too, but keeping UK accounts while resident in France is becoming more difficult. We spoke to a financial expert to get some tips

Taxes – this hasn’t changed since Brexit, but it’s something that often catches people out – if you live in France you need to file an annual tax declaration, even if you have no income in France (eg you are living on a pension from the UK). More details here.

If you still have financial activity in the UK – such as a property rental – you will usually also need to file a tax return in the UK, but while you have all the fun of doing two tax declarations every year, a dual-taxation agreement between France and the UK means you won’t have to pay tax twice on the same income. 

And how to stay in France

But once you’re in France, you might want to stay here. Think that getting your visa represents the end of your French paperwork? Dream on!

Depending on the type of visa you have you may be required to visit OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et Intégration) on arrival to register and you may be required to undergo a medical examination or to take French classes if your language skills are a little basic.

Other types of visa require you to validate them at your local préfecture within a certain time period.

These ‘in country’ steps are important, so in between popping Champagne when your visa arrives, take the time to read carefully the accompanying documents and note down when you need to take the next steps.

Your visa will also need renewing, most initial visas last for one year, but there are exceptions.

The exact steps vary depending on your visa type, but the most common route is to apply for a residency permit (carte de séjour) so that you can stay longer than just 12 months – you usually apply for this two months before your visa runs out.

We look in more detail at the next steps HERE.

French administration is in the process of moving its immigration system online, but we’re now at the halfway stage where you can apply for some types of cartes de séjour online, but others require a visit to your local préfecture.

Once you’ve been here for five (continuous) years, you’re eligible for long-term residency, which does away with the annual paperwork.

And if you have been here for five continuous years (or three years if you completed higher education in France) and speak good French, then you can apply for French citizenship – if you’re game for a whole lot more paperwork.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

You can also find lots more information tailored to UK nationals in our Brits in France section.