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RESIDENCY CARDS

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

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?

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

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.  

Member comments

  1. 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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For members

LIVING IN FRANCE

How and when to send Christmas presents from France

If you want to send Christmas presents to friends and family overseas you need to know the deadline dates and how to avoid being hit with extra charges - here's what you need to know.

How and when to send Christmas presents from France

Deadlines

First things first, you need to make sure your parcel arrives in time for Christmas, which means sending it before the deadline.

The French postal service La Poste has the following deadlines;

In Europe

If you’re sending a parcel within France, the deadline to have it delivered by Christmas is December 23rd. 

If you’re sending to the UK or Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spanish islands (eg Tenerife), Croatia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Malta, Norway, Portuguese islands (eg Madeira) or Romania you have until December 16th.

If you’re sending to Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden or Switzerland you have until December 17th.

If you’re sending to Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Portugal you have until December 19th.

Outside Europe

If you’re sending to the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand or Hong Kong you have until December 10th. Likewise if you’re sending to most French overseas territories, the deadline is December 10th.

For most other countries the deadline is December 3rd, but you can find the full list here

Private couriers like Fed-Ex and DPD have their own deadlines, although they are broadly in line with La Poste, and if you’re buying online each company has its own deadline on when it can guarantee a Christmas delivery.

Fees and customs declarations

If you’re sending parcels to another EU country then it’s pretty straightforward – just pay the delivery cost (you can check how much it will be to send via La Poste here) and make sure you send it before the deadline.

If, however, you are sending to a country outside the EU (which of course now includes the UK) then you will need to fill out a customs declaration form explaining what is in your parcel and whether it is a gift or not.

In addition to standard postal charges, you may also need to pay customs duties, depending on the value or your parcel and whether it is a gift or not. 

Find full details on customs duty rules HERE.

Banned items

And there are some items that are banned from the post – if you’re sending parcels to the US be aware that you cannot send alcohol through the mail as a private individual, so don’t try a ship some nice French wine or a bottle of your local liqueur. 

Most countries ban firearms and fireworks, not unreasonably, although be aware that this includes items like sparklers.

Sending food and plants is also often restricted with countries including Canada and Australia having strict rules and most other countries imposing restrictions on what you can send.

This also applies the other way and France bans any foodstuffs containing animal products (eg chocolate) sent from outside the EU. 

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