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Reader question: How long can I stay out of France and keep my residency rights?

Reader question: How long can I stay out of France and keep my residency rights?
Photo by Thomas Coex / AFP
Getting residency in France comes with conditions, and in some cases limits on how long you can be out of the country.

Question: I have my residency card and the right to live and work in France – but how long can I stay out of France and still keep my residency status?

The short answer to this is that it depends on the type of residency card you have.

Long-term residency

Starting with the easy one, assuming you have lived in France for more than five continuous years, you probably have a carte de séjour permanent.

Here the ‘permanent’ refers to the right of residency, the card itself lasts for 10 years and then needs to be renewed. However the renewal is a simple administrative process and you do not need to provide further proof of your work, study or financial status.

But you can lose your right to permanent residence if you leave France for more than two consecutive years, which means you would have to go through the process of building up your right to a carte de sejour permanent all over again.

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Short-term residency

The standard model for any non-EU citizen who wants to stay in France for more than three months is to first apply for a visa, then move to France, then apply for a residency card at your local préfecture.

When you apply for their card varies depending on the type of visa you have, but it’s usually within one year.

The type of residency card also varies according to your reason for wanting to stay in France and all come with fees. Some even demand an ‘integration contract’ demonstrating your willingness to take language lessons if your French is poor.

The validity period for these cards varies, but the basic model is that you get a temporary card first and then after five years of residency apply for the permanent card.

However, be aware that you should not spend more than 10 months outside France during your initial five-year period, otherwise your right to a ‘permanent’ card may be held-up.

READ ALSO How to apply for a French visa

Brits

Any UK national who moves to France after January 1st 2021 is subject to the same visa and residency requirements as other non-EU nationals including Americans and Canadians.

For those who moved here before December 31st 2020, however, the situation is slightly different.

Anyone who moved to France before December 31st 2020 needs to apply for a Withdrawal Agreement carte de séjour – and must do it before September 30th 2021.

Those who have been here more than five years, or who are married to a French national, get a carte de séjour permenant, those here less than five years get a five-year card. The rules on being absent from France are the same as other types of cards mentioned above.

EU nationals

Good news for anyone with the passport of an EU country – freedom of movement means that you can enter and leave France as you wish, with no limits on how long you have to stay.

Applying for citizenship

After you have been in France for five years (or two years if you completed higher education at a French university), you may wish to apply for French citizenship.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

However if you are applying through residency (as opposed to through marriage or through family) then the 10-month rule also applies.

You need five years of continuous residency before you can start your citizenship application, and more than 10 months of absence means your residency is not counted as continuous’

Exemptions

There are some exemptions to the absence rule and they include serious illness, maternity, military service, study or research.

What about dual residency?

This concept does not exist, so anyone with a second home in France who wants to stay longer than three months will either have to apply for a visa or make their French home their primary residence.

Otherwise they will be limited to a maximum stay of 90 days in 180.

READ ALSO How second-home owners can properly plan for their 90-day limit in France


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