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OFII: Your questions answered on France's immigration office

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
OFII: Your questions answered on France's immigration office
(Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)

If you're a foreigner arriving in France you may be required to register with the immigration office (OFII), take a medical examination, language classes and 'integration' sessions.

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The Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration (Office of Immigration and integration, more usually known simply as OFII) is a necessary first step for some new arrivals in France, without which you are not legally resident in the country. 

It can be quite a daunting process, with a compulsory medical check and if office staff feel that your French isn't good enough they can order you to attend language classes.

If we tell you that we once attended a Paris Halloween party where a group of people created a costume of 'the OFII', you get the general idea . . .

Who has to do this?

Not all new arrivals have to interact with OFII - we're talking here about non-EU nationals who arrive in France with a long-stay visa known as VLS-TS, or visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour (ie they intend to live here).

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EU nationals do not need to visit OFII, and neither do people with short-term visitor visas (visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur) such as second home owners. If you're already in France with a carte de séjour residency card, in most cases you will not need to get involved with OFII. 

When you receive your visa, you will get instructions on what to do next and in most cases this involves registering with OFII within three months of your arrival. This is important, as your visa is not valid if you do not complete the registration process.

READ ALSO Getting a French visa: What paperwork comes next? 

How do I register?

As of 2019, registering with OFII is done via an online procedure. Within three months of arriving in France, once you have an address, you must declare your presence to OFII. Start by going to the government website for 'Direction Générale des Étrangers en France' (DGEF), next you click 'Je valide mon VLS-TS'.

Once you have done this, you will be shown a list of the visa types where validation is required. Enter the number attached to your visa and then click 'confirmer mon numéro de visa'. 

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Follow the subsequent instructions on the screen, which will include paying a fee of around €200, and be sure to not to discard the confirmation that the visa was validated. 

If you have travel plans to exit the Schengen zone, this procedure should be done prior to that.

What next?

This isn't just an online process, the next steps involve an in-person visit with a medical appointment.

Once you have validated your visa, in the following weeks (or months) you will receive by post a convocation from the OFII requiring you to come in to complete a medical exam. This is a standard requirement - typically the examination itself involves an eye test, checking your weight/height, a lung X-ray and a general doctor visit with some routine questions.

After completion, you will be given a 'certificat de contrôle médical'. Be sure to hold onto this document, as you may need it for future residency permit renewals. 

Depending on the office, it can be difficult to reschedule the appointment so it is best to keep the date assigned. If you absolutely cannot attend the date provided, you can contact the location listed on your convocation, by email or phone, to request it be rescheduled. 

What about the contrat d’intégration républicaine?

OFII may also contact you regarding the 'integration contract' (contrat d’intégration républicaine), as well as for civics and language courses - but not everyone with a long-stay visa is subject to this.

The most common groups called for this are people on a spouse or family visa, or on one related to employment (excluding 'passeport talent').

If you have a visitor visa, or a student or intern, or have temporary or posted worker status, then you will not be asked to sign the contrat d’intégration républicaine. 

If you receive the convocation, then you will be expected to meet with OFII personnel who will assess your needs and determine which training courses to assign you, depending on your individual situation.

You will take a written and oral test to determine if your French level is beyond A1 (beginner level) - if it is not, then you may be assigned language courses. Some visa-holders in France have reported being assigned between 100 and 200 hours of (free) language classes by OFII. 

You will also be signed up for four days worth of civic training (a total of 24 hours) as well as an exit-interview.

OFII says the purpose of these steps are to help foreigners integrate into life in France.

If you don't receive the convocation for this step, you can request one (it's not compulsory but the free language classes and offers of training can be quite useful if you have just arrived in France).

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Fill out this request form and attach a copy (of both sides) of your visa or residency permit. Then send (by post) the documents to your regional OFII office - the bureau de l'accueil et de l'intégration.

What if I never heard back from OFII after validating by visa?

If you have an issue with validating your visa online, you can send a message using the contact form on the DGEF website. You can specify that your concern is related to the validation of your visa. 

In the absence of a reply from OFII within 45 days of validation, the office recommends that you send a copy of your passport showing both your biographical information page, as well as the visa page, and the confirmation that your VLS-TS was validated by post to your local OFII office.

You can find the office closest to you on the OFII website here.

Is this just a one-time thing?

Yes, the OFII registration is required when you first move to France. After you have made the initial move you will need to regularly renew your visa/residency permits to ensure your remain legally resident in France, but renewals generally do not require another visit to OFII.

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