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What to do if you can't get an appointment at the préfecture to renew your French paperwork

The Local
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What to do if you can't get an appointment at the préfecture to renew your French paperwork
Travel can be difficult if your residency permit is not up to date. Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

As a foreigner in France, regular dealings with your local préfecture to keep your residency paperwork up to date are vital - but what happens if you can't get an appointment in time?


Depending on your nationality and status in France, you will need to regularly renew visas or titres de séjour/cartes de séjour residency permits in order to keep your legal status in France, and many people need to renew every year.

The rule for most permits is that you apply for renewal once your permit is within two months of its expiry date - but many of our readers have reported long waits for an appointment at their préfecture - often longer than two months, so that the permit expires while they are still waiting.


Having an expired residency permit is a very stressful situation, meaning that you may not be able to travel or prove your right to be legally in France.

The problem is particularly bad at the Paris Préfecture de Police, where many readers have reported trying for weeks or months to secure their appointment - a problem made worse by the existence of scammers who use bots to book up all available appointments and then charge people for a rendez-vous date.

So we asked the Préfecture de Police what people should do in this situation.

They told The Local: "The user must apply for the renewal of his/her residence permit two months before the expiration date of the current permit.

"In case of an appointment for the renewal obtained after the expiration of the permit, the user can request the delivery of a récépissé at the Préfecture. The same applies to the user who applies for a long-stay visa as a residence permit.

"In Paris, the request for a récépissé can be made directly online on the website of the Préfecture de Police via a contact form, with copies of the renewal request and the titre de séjour with the corresponding validity date."

So the short answer is; request a récépissé - sometimes translated as simply a 'receipt', the récépissé is in fact a legally valid document that can be used to travel and if you are required to show proof of your right to be in France.

You can find full details HERE on your rights with a récépissé.

READ ALSO Can I travel if my carte de séjour has expired?

They are normally valid for between three and six months (it will have an expiry date on it) and if the worst comes to the worst and you are still waiting, you can apply for another récépissé.

In Paris you can apply online for the récépissé, different préfectures have different processes, but you are legally entitled to a récépissé if you have made your application within the required timeframe and are still waiting for an appointment or decision.

One reader flagged up that the section for requesting the récépissé in Paris is not where you would expect - instead it is under 'Covid info' - head to the Police préfecture website here, then select démarches & services online, select un particulier, then rétortissants étrangers - from that menu, ignore all mentions of titres de séjour and instead click on 'covid informations' - that will then lead you to the link to Vous avez besoin d'établir votre droit au séjour en attendant votre rendez-vous.


If you hear about long waits at your préfecture it's tempting to apply earlier than the two-month deadline, but in most cases this will just result in your application being rejected and you having to make a second application within the specified two-month period.

In some areas, long waits at the préfecture are caused by staff shortages or other human issues, however there is also a well documented fraud problem, particularly in Paris and the suburbs.

This consists of scammers using automated bots to book up all the available appointments as soon as they are posted on the préfecture's website. They then set up web pages or Facebook pages advertising appointments for a fee. Although most permits and visas involve a fee, the appointment itself should always be free.

We asked the Paris Préfecture de Police what they were doing to tackle this problem.

They told us: "Multiple different tools have been put in place to limit this risk, including supervision mechanisms and algorithm based filters such as Captcha, a reinforcement of firewalls and analysis of website traffic patterns."

They told us that since June 2020, 170 million malicious connection attempts had been made on the police IT system - although this includes cyber-attack efforts on the police systems as a whole as well as bot attacks on the residency permit appointment site.


The préfecture spokesman acknowledged that tools such as firewalls do not protect against "manual fraud efforts perpetrated by individuals" but added that the préfecture had spent €330,000 on reinforcing its technology and online systems to try and address this problem.

They added that fraud such as selling off préfecture appointments has been a regular subject for police investigations and prosecution.  


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penncarol2004 2022/10/20 17:30
Isn’t the entire process to renew a titre de séjour now done solely online (i.e., all the required documents—including a digital photo—are uploaded on the ANEF website, and the fee paid electronically)? Last year, I received a récépissé electronically once my renewal was approved, and the only time I had to go to the prefecture was to pick up my new titre de séjour, for which I received an appointment letter.

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