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VISAS

What to do if you lose your French carte de séjour

If you're a foreigner living in France, you may need a carte de séjour to prove your right of residency - but what happens if this precious document is lost or stolen?

A woman meets with a French immigration official in the hope of obtaining a carte de séjour.
Applying to replace a lost carte de séjour in France can be a frustrating process. (Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP)

If you’re a non-EU citizen and you’re living in France you will almost certainly need to get a carte de séjour residency permit, and keep it up to date to prove your right of residency.

If your card is lost, or you fall victim to pickpockets, you will need to replace it, but this can be a complicated process.

Online

The process of demanding a duplicata or replacement of your carte de séjour is in theory quite simple and can be done online, via this page

There is, however, a €225 fee, or €75 fee if you are a student or applied for your card as part of a family.   

You will need to submit the following documents electronically: 
  • A self-written document, declaring that you have lost the carte de séjour (you can find an example here – but obviously, remove the letterhead;
  • A copy of your original carte de séjour (if you have one – it’s recommended that everyone photograph the front and back of their card when they get it, just in case);
  • A copy of your passport (including pages with ID information and and entry stamps);
  • A copy of your birth certificate; 
  • If your right of residency comes through marriage or family, a copy of your partner/family member’s carte de séjour or ID card, as well as your marriage certificate; 
  • Proof of address;
  • Three ID photos; 
  • Proof of payment of the fee. 

If you have the necessary documentation, this process should take a matter of weeks.

If you lose your carte de séjour overseas 

Things become a little more difficult if you lose your carte de séjour overseas. 

You must first declare the loss to local police authorities and then to your closest French embassy or consulate (who will want to see proof that you have declared your loss to the police as well as a déclaration sur l’honneur).

Be sure to have official written evidence of both declarations, signed or stamped by the authorities – you may be asked to provide it as evidence when asking for a replacement. 

In order to return to France, you may need to ask for a visa de retour from the embassy or consulate concerned. Before giving you this visa, they will need to verify that you once obtained a carte de séjour from whichever préfecture you applied to. A harrowing advisory is written on service-public.fr: “This investigation can be lengthy.”

Upon your return to France, you must apply for a duplicata via this website

You will need all the same documents as if you had lost your carte de séjour in France. 

Post-Brexit carte de séjour

If you are British and were living in France before December 31st 2021, and therefore got your carte de séjour under the Withdrawal Agreement, there are a couple of things to be aware of.

In order to create the online account necessary to demand a duplicata, you must enter your visa or titre de séjour number (also known as a numéro AGDREF). This is a 13-digit number which on a standard carte de séjour is either along the top or the side, as below.

On the post-Brexit carte de séjour it is listed as the Numéro personnel and is just above the signature on the card.

There have been some problems with French government websites not recognising the number on a post-Brexit carte de séjour, although that does appear to have been fixed in recent weeks.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the post-Brexit carte de séjour was free, and it seems that UK nationals who have lost their cards are not being asked to pay a fee for a replacement, although this may vary.

READ ALSO Visas and residency permits: How to move to France (and stay here)

Préfecture appointment

If you’re unable to use the online system you will have to either email, call or show up at the préfecture and explain the situation in as much detail as possible. 

Different préfectures have different systems but in Paris, where carte de séjour applications are dealt with by the Préfecture du Police, the online form to send such a mail, can be found here or email [email protected] 

Préfectures will then send you either an appointment, or a letter inviting you to visit when convenient. Some have their own list of required documents which can be different to the ones demanded by the online portal, so take careful note of what they are asking you for.

Most préfectures will process your request and then send out the card in the post within four weeks. 

Member comments

  1. Incredibly helpful… I just need to change my address on my CdS, but the online website doesn’t recognize my information. Good to know this was a common bug. I’ve been doesn’t going back and forth with the online help contact, and getting nowhere. Unfortunately, my local prefecture (Grenoble) doesn’t have an easy way to make an online appointment for this. And they don’t like you to show up with no appointment.

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FRANCE EXPLAINED

Reader Question: Is it possible to fast-track French paperwork?

Whether it's waiting for an appointment or anxiously tracking the progress of your application, most foreigners in France have wondered at some point whether it is possible to fast-track their French paperwork.

Reader Question: Is it possible to fast-track French paperwork?

You might have heard of France’s ‘fast-track citizenship’ for over 1,000 foreign-born frontline workers during the height of the pandemic or perhaps stories of other EU countries that offer faster and simpler residency in exchange for investment.

You might even have seen companies offering to ‘speed up’ paperwork for you.

Unfortunately we’re here to tell you that there is no secret ‘fast lane’ where everything is dealt with speedily, even if you were willing to pay for it.

There are, however, some things that you can do to make sure your paperwork is dealt with as fast as possible.

Be sure you are applying in the correct category 

One sure way to encounter delays is to apply for the wrong thing, so it’s really worth taking the time to do your research in advance into the different types of residency cards and visas.

If you apply for a visa or residency card type that you’re not eligible for, it’s likely that your application will simply be rejected and you will have to start all over again.

We have a guide to the different visa types HERE.

Another way to save yourself an annual admin task is to go straight onto a multi-year visa, such as the ‘passeport talent‘ which lasts for four years.

You might think that this is only available to high earners, but there are several other situations in which you might qualify. For instance, researchers, artists and those with ‘international reputation’ can qualify too.

READ MORE: Talent passport: The little-known French visa that could make moving to France a lot easier

Have a complete dossier

This might seem obvious, but a common hang-up with French administrative processes is simply not having all of the correct documents – all residency and visa applications have a list of the required documents and you should make sure that you have everything that is needed ahead of either submitting your application or heading in for your appointment. 

The documents should be up-to-date (as recent as possible – usually best to aim for within the last month or two, though your specific procedure might specify a timeline). Each document should have the same full name and the same address listed.

Consistency is key – for example, if you are applying for a new titre de séjour and you bring in a copy of your proof of health insurance (Attestation de droits – assurance maladie), but the address listed is out of date, you could risk being turned away or told to come back.

Pay attention to the details too – if you need new identity card photos, the ones you took a year ago will likely be out of date (even if your appearance has not changed).

Always bring copies of your passport, current visa or residency permit, as well as any required paperwork. Most of the time, you’ll be asked to show proof of your current address – it does not hurt to have multiple ways of demonstrating this (eg a phone bill and an electricity bill).

Bringing the wrong documents, those with mismatched information, or missing key forms will prolong the process, as you will need to make a new appointment and start the process over again. Having your documents ready to go in an organised fashion can save you lots of time!

Go in person, if possible.

In France, it is often faster to do administrative processes in person. If you are worried about your French, consider asking a friend to come along.

If an in-person option is not available, then a phone call is your next best bet.

France is gradually putting more procedures online, but the old-fashioned way of speaking to a real person is almost always most efficient, especially if you have situation-specific questions. Surprisingly, your local tax office might be one of the most welcoming places to pop in and ask a question.

READ MORE: Reader question: How can I challenge my French tax bill?

Seek expert help if your situation is complex or irregular.

If your situation is out of the ordinary, you might want to consider legal or professional assistance to be sure you are following the correct path.

However, keep in mind that even with expert assistance, you will still need to file the documents yourself at the end of the day. A lawyer can help you be sure that your dossier is correctly filled out and prepared, but they cannot make French bureaucracy work faster, unfortunately.

Citizenship

We said there is no fast-track, but French citizenship is the exception (sort of).

If you’re applying through residency, French citizenship can normally be requested after five years, but the ‘period of residency’ requirement can be reduced to two years for those who successfully completed two years of study in a French institution of higher learning or if you have rendered “important services to France” (as was the case for the essential workers listed above).

If you marry a French citizen, you can apply for citizenship through marriage after four years of marriage.

And if you join the French Foreign Legion and are wounded on active service you can apply for citizenship before the minimum five year period – although this seems a slightly extreme way to avoid waiting times.

READ MORE: Am I eligible for French citizenship?

Once you have applied, there is unfortunately no way to fast-track the process, and the average time between submitting your application and being naturalised is 18 months to two years. 

Zen

But ultimately, it might be better to accept that French admin tasks usually take a long time – and processing times can vary quite dramatically between different areas. 

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