Living in France For Members

French residency: Vital vocabulary for the carte de séjour

The Local France
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French residency: Vital vocabulary for the carte de séjour
The vocabulary you need to apply for a residency card in France. (Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP)

Bureaucracy has its own language and when applying for French residency there are some words and phrases that it is important to know.


To the surprise of precisely no one, official forms in France are in French and any appointments at your friendly neighbourhood préfecture will also be conducted in French. 

Officials you speak to may have some English - or any other language - and may be willing to try it out, but don’t necessarily expect special treatment. In fact, these days, for some types of residency permit a basic level of French is a requirement.

Handily, much of the application process can be completed online, and the French government website does offer an English-language option for appropriate sections. The translation is automated, however, which can mean it’s occasionally clunky.


To help you out, here is a list of words and phrases you may need to familiarise yourself with. 

Carte de séjour – aka titre de séjour - this is the foreigner ID card for non-EU nationals living in France. There are several different types of card, depending on your personal circumstances.

Carte de séjour temporaire – A temporary residency, in other words the initial residency period for non-EU applicants. The standard card for newcomers is a one-year card, but there are different validities for some groups.

Carte de résident de longue durée – A long-term residency card. You can get this after you have lived in France continuously for five years - and can prove you have the appropriate resources, including health insurance, to continue living in France. The card is valid for 10 years, and is renewable.

Renewing a long-term card is usually a much simpler process, and requires a lot less in the way of financial proof, but you still need to be sure you renew it in time.

Carte de séjour pluriannuelle: travailleur saisonnier - a multi-year residence card for a seasonal worker in France.

Carte de résident permanent - once you have lived in France for 10 years, you can apply for the permanent residency card, which does exactly what it says.

Préfecture  – The big building in your department’s main town, where you’ll have to go at least once during the application process, to have your fingerprints taken. You may be asked back to collect your card, or it may be posted to you. A lot, it seems, depends on the préfecture. Be aware, if you’ve moved to Paris, you’ll have to go to the Préfecture de Police. 


Bureau des Etrangers – Foreigners’ office, or where you have to go in the préfecture to deal with all your admin.

ANEF (Administration Numérique des Etrangers en France) - you might not, necessarily, hear it, but this is the agency responsible for your online applications for residency. As this is France, where initialisations and acronyms are sacred, you may come across someone who refers you to ‘Anef’. The Anef website is here.

VLS-TS - speaking of initialisations… enter the visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour (VLS-TS). It’s a long-term carte de séjour.

Formulaire – Form. Today, most applications begin online, but you may have to complete a paper form at some point.

Etranger/e – Foreigner (adding an 'e' at the end denotes a female). In immigration terms this specifically means a citizen of a non-EU country.

Citoyen européen/e - in immigration terms, this means a citizen of an EU or Schengen zone country. So although the UK remains geographically within the continent of Europe, in French immigration language, Brits are no longer 'European citizens'.

Passeport talent - France’s magic ‘Talent passport’. Basically, a four-year work visa for 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. It also gives you the right to bring family members with you.

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

Numéro étranger – the identification number on your carte de séjour, if you are seeking to renew it

Renouvelle – Renew (you will need to renew your residency card once it has expired).


état civil – your marital status (you’ll need to state your marital status on your application form).

Conjoint– Spouse 

Nom – Your current family or surname. It’s important you get this right on your forms in France, because…

Nom de naissance - this is the family name you were born with, sometimes also referred to as nom de famille. For some, this is the same as their current name, but anyone who has changed their name either through marriage or for any other reason is required to tell French authorities what name they were born with (unless you have obtained a new birth certificate, for example through adoption).

Prénom - Your first name.

Date de naissance – Date of birth (this will also be asked on all your official residency forms). 

justificatif de domicile - proof of address. Usually a recent utility bill.

Récépissé - this is a kind of souped-up receipt. If you are renewing a card and are waiting on a decision or delivery of the card, you can request a récépissé as proof of your application. This can be used for travel, work or other purposes in the same way as the carte de séjour until your new card arrives.

Récépissé: Your questions answered



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