Can I stay in France if I get divorced?

The Local France
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Can I stay in France if I get divorced?
A couple puts on marriage ring. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

Divorce is usually sad and messy - but if you're a foreigner in France it can also affect your residency status. Here's what you need to know if a marriage is ending.


Going through a divorce is challenging in itself, but doing it while living in a foreign country can be even more difficult, especially if you are concerned about how it could impact your residency.

Here's a look at what to do if you are getting divorced, and your options for staying in France.

Residency card type

In order to figure out if you should be concerned, the first thing to consider is what type of residency card you currently hold and what other ties you have to France outside of your marriage (ie children, employment, education).

READ MORE: The divorce law pitfalls in France that foreigners need to be aware of

Getting divorced will only affect your residency status if you are in France on a spouse visa or the carte de séjour "vie privée et familiale" (private and family life). If you are here on another type of visa or residency card - eg a student visa, working visa or visitor visa - then your change in relationship status will not affect your stay in France. 

Residency card length

The next thing to look at - if you have the vie privée et familiale card - is the length of time left on your card. 

Upon the first application, you will usually be given a card that is valid for one-year. Once that first year is up, you can renew it for a multi-year card, which will range from two to four years in validity.

Afterwards - assuming that you have been married for at least three years to your French spouse - you can switch onto the 10-year carte de résident (resident card). 


The real risk to residency in France upon divorce is for people on the first-step - holders of the short-term one-year card. The Local spoke with immigration law specialist Haywood Wise who explained in a previous interview:

"If you are divorcing and you only have a temporary card, that can jeopardise your right to remain in France once the card expires. The next step will be determining whether you qualify for a new residency permit in France. If you have no activity or resources in France, then there may be a problem for being able to stay in France once the current card has expired."

The good news is that your card remains valid until its expiry date - even if you get divorced in the middle of the period of validity.

"If you have a valid titre de séjour, even if your situation changes, you do not have to leave the country immediately," said Wise.

"First of all, a titre de séjour is a residency permit, irrespective of the type of mention. So you will maintain your residency even if you experience a change of status, as long as the card is valid."

Switching cards

However, when the time comes to renew the card, you will not be able to obtain a new vie privée card based on marriage if you are divorced.

So now it's time to look at your other connections to France - if you are employed then you might consider switching to a work-based residency card, such as the carte de séjour salarié (worker with an indefinite contract) or travailleur temporaire (worker with a temporary contract) or entrepreneur if you are freelance or self-employed.

READ MORE: Reader Question: My status changed, do I need to change my French residency permit?

There is also the passeport talent (talent passport), which consists of 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.


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

You might also consider switching onto a one-year 'visitor' carte de séjour, which can be renewed provided you continue to fulfill the requirements. This is a strong option for those who are not working and have no intention of working (for example, retirees).

In order to qualify, you must be able to demonstrate financial independence for the entire year (ex. via statements showing your savings account). As of 2023, you needed to show at least €16,597.03 in funds for the year.

If you have a child with French citizenship who is resident in France, then this can also qualify you for the "vie privée et familiale" residency permit. You will need to include proof of their citizenship, as well as proof of residency in France (ie school enrollment). 

If none of these things apply to you, you could find it difficult to renew your residency permit.

Maître Wise recommends that all people divorcing or separating from a French spouse while on a temporary residency card seek legal counsel prior to applying for their next residency permit to determine what they qualify for.

But added that anyone who has been resident in France for over three years and holds a carte de résident (10-year permit), should have little to worry about regarding the right to remain in France.


What if I have been a victim of domestic violence?

The French government website Service-Public specifies that the préfecture cannot refuse a renewal of a carte de séjour for private and family life on the grounds that your relationship has ended if the person in question is the "beneficiary of a protection order due to violence committed by their spouse, PACS partner or cohabitee".

You must be able to include the protection order in your application, and usually these will only be issued if your spouse has been convicted following your criminal complaint.


If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic violence, you can reach out to the organisation 'Féderation Nationale Solidarité Femmes'. The hotline number is 3919. In addition to French, information and assistance is available in 12 other languages: English, Arabic, Creole, Dari, Spanish, Hebrew, Kabyle, Mandarin, Persian, Polish, Portuguese and Turkish.

What should I know about getting a divorce in France

There are several different procedures for getting a divorce in France, including 'divorce by mutual consent' (divorce par consentement mutuel) which is an amicable arrangement where both spouses agree on the divorce. This process does not need to involve a judge and can be mediated via a notaire.

When it comes to contentious divorce (for spouses in disagreement) there are two options; accepted divorce (divorce accepté) when both parties agree to the divorce but not its terms, and 'divorce for cause' (divorce pour faute) which would be the procedure if a spouse has committed infidelity, violence or another form of misconduct, which must be proven via testimonies, documents or police records and bailiff reports.

The French government Notaires website explains that in this case, the fault must be serious and make cohabitation impossible. This procedure can lead to one spouse being required to pay damages to the other.

The other common divorce procedure is 'divorce on grounds of permanent impairment of the marital bond' (Divorce pour altération définitive du lien conjugal). This occurs when one spouse is able to prove that cohabitation has ceased for at least one year (as of 2021, previously the minimum was two years). 

Depending on the procedure you choose - and whether it is amicable or contentious - the length of legal proceedings and their expense will vary.

READ MORE: What are the advantages of getting pacsé in France?


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