Marriage & Your Carte de Séjour

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divorce in FranceNavigating the murky waters of French beauracracy and immigration legislation can oftentimes seem terribly daunting if not downright impossible. From websites providing round about and unclear answers to seemingly simple questions to information helplines that are continually “temporarily unavailable,” it’s no wonder that expatriates in France often decide that not knowing can’t really hurt them that much.  After all, they finally have the holy grail that is their carte de séjour ; what’s the worst that could happen?  In reality, the worst could be really bad. Here’s one example:

The 3-year rule of living together when married to a French national to keep the Carte de Sejour:

Over seven years ago, a new regulation was passed making the legal assumption that if an international marriage (one French and one foreign spouse) did not last for at least three years, it was a fake marriage and the foreign spouse would automatically lose the right to live legally in France, even if he/she was qualified for other status.

As a recent case shows, Americans do not get preferential treatment on all issues. In some cases, like this one, the prefecture applies the law without much leniency. If the foreign spouse had legal residency in France before getting married, he/she can usually ask for a change of status if the marriage appears legitimate. But if the foreigner lacked French residency before the marriage and got his/her situation regularized that way, then the rule tends to be applied quite strictly.

The two essential conditions for regularization are:

1 – Have a legal marriage recorded with the proper French authority (i.e., if the wedding was performed outside of France, it complicates matters considerably); and

2 – Live together as a normal couple. There is plenty of room for interpretation here, but what the prefecture is looking for is a joint income tax declaration, a joint bank account, each person named as a dependant for health coverage, both names on all utility bills, and so on.

In addition, the French spouse must be present to submit the application. As a side issue, in my experience the French spouse often uses this requirement as a bargaining tool in a form of arm-twisting or blackmailing – and, interestingly enough, none of these cases involved fake marriages from what I could see.

It may still be worthwhile to try to persuade the prefecture that your case is different. Just be sure to prepare yourself for a difficult time at the prefecture and put together the best file possible. Also, note that the prefecture does not differentiate among the various scenarios that lead to separation, even when it comes to who left home or who is filing for divorce, and on what grounds.

Many foreigners believe, quite wrongly, that if the French spouse runs away, files for divorce or is guilty of some wrongdoing, the provision does not apply to them.

The law only defines one reason for a waiver, and that is if the foreign spouse has left home because of documented physical violence. Still, although I have never had a client ask to benefit from this provision, I am quite sure that the prefecture expects full criminal documentation and not simply a statement from a doctor.

 

14 comments

  1. Avatar
    Leslie Mow

    Hello Jean,
    I am American who had a visitor visa when I married a French woman and then got the VPF. We are now getting a divorce, less than 3 years of marriage. I need to ask her to wait.
    What do I need to do to keep a carte de sejour?
    Je vous remercie.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Lenny

    Hello Mr. Taquet,

    My wife is French. I am American. We married in France. But we had been living in Israel for a year before we married, and plan on living here another year. Neither of us are Israeli citizens, but we work and study here. When we leave Israel a year from now, we’re hoping to move to France. So I am looking into the process for getting my carte de séjour. I am concerned because I read that I have to apply for it at the French embassy in my own country. I am hoping that I do not have to go to America simply to apply to stay in France with my wife. But I read that I cannot do it from inside France. Maybe I will have luck with the French embassy in Israel, but I am not not expecting much there. Do you think I will have to fly back to America just to do this?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      taquet

      YOU
      My wife is French. I am American. We married in France. But we had been living in Israel for a year before we married, and plan on living here another year. Neither of us are Israeli citizens, but we work and study here. When we leave Israel a year from now, we’re hoping to move to France. So I am looking into the process for getting my carte de séjour. I am concerned because I read that I have to apply for it at the French embassy in my own country.
      ME
      When you look at the form asking for the visa, one of the 1st question is “are you citizen of your country of residence?” if NO then there is an another page to fill out with your ID number of your immigration status and so on. It is not much but it is enough as you will put a copy of your Israeli ID card. So no need to go back to the USA she can accompany you at the interview if she still in the country.

      YOU
      I am hoping that I do not have to go to America simply to apply to stay in France with my wife. But I read that I cannot do it from inside France. Maybe I will have luck with the French embassy in Israel, but I am not not expecting much there. Do you think I will have to fly back to America just to do this?
      ME
      I could quote you the law if you need. I can assure you that you can obtain a carte de séjour even if you do not have an immigration visa entering France. You will have to wait 6 months and proving with a minimum of 1 document per month that you live in France and with her. The prefecture will then accept your request. As you can see it takes longer and the prefecture is stricter but it is totally doable.

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    jacklyn

    I have a carte de séjour based on la carte de compétence et talents. When I received it, I was married and my Colombian husband received the benefits of getting a French carte de sejour. Now we are separated and I want to know can he still apply for a renewal under the same carte de compétence et talents even though I was the one awarded the visa? Can he apply without me? Technically he didn’t have to do anything in the first place for the carte de séjour, they just gave it to him because we are married. I did all the paperwork and submitted the project, he only benefited from me work. And since we are separated, I do not think it’s fair that he would be able to apply under all of my work and project that has nothing to do with him. Can I contact the ministry or prefecture and tell them the change of situation between us?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      taquet

      NO he cannot keep this VPF status if he not living with you and even less if the divorce procedure has started.

      You can move from compétence et talents to “passeport talent” there is enough difference in the file that you should consider it as a new request, but if you continue your project, you are fine.
      As for him, if you are the 1st one to renew/ask anew for a carte de séjour and you explain that you are no longer married then he is blocked. So this could be an incentive for you to start soon.

      You could but the safest thing is to ask to renew your immigration status. Then you know for sure that your file is carefully reviewed and this information will be recorded and kept safe on his file.

      Reply
  4. Avatar
    Stephan Gainer

    As an American married to a French citizen for 9 years and living in France for 5 years .why is the prefecture telling me to go back to the states ?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      taquet

      Thank you for your message and I am truly sorry that you experience such a situation with the prefecture. Of course it is impossible for me to know exactly what this person meant exactly and why did the prefecture through this person chose to tell you to go back to the USA instead of reviewing more carefully your situation.

      YOU
      As an American married to a French citizen for 9 years and living in France for 5 years .why is the prefecture telling me to go back to the states ?
      ME
      I would like to be clear that there was probably nothing personal in this comment and this does not mean that you are welcome to France no matter how much it sounds like it.

      I would like to go a step further in what should have been the complete answer here.

      A non EU citizen, like you must enter France with an immigration visa if there is an intent to settle in France as an immigrant. This is true regardless of the nature of the right this non EU citizen has to live in France. Stated differently, as the spouse of a French citizen, you have the right to live in France and under normal circumstances no one would ever think of taking this right away from you.
      Now once this is said, you still need to ask for an immigration visa and the French consulate has the obligation of giving it to you.

      Therefore I assume that what happened is this. For some unknown reasons it took you 5 years living in France to decide finally to ask for an immigration status in France. This said your did not have any visa to show to the prefecture indicating that you entered with the proper documentation as an immigrant.
      So the very basic answer you got was “since you do not have an immigration visa – you do not have the right to ask for a legal stay in France and therefore you need to go back to the USA to enter France as a lawful immigrant!”

      I am pretty sure that if the answer would have been delivered this way, you would have had an easier time to accept it, even though it is harsh to hear this no matter what.
      OK what you should have been told and clearly you did not get this information is that the provision “alinéa 6 de l’article L. 211-1-2” enables a person like you to go from undocumented alien to legal immigrant as the French citizen’s spouse.

      I have no idea which prefecture you went to and I admit that about all of them will answer close to the same thing, as they do not want to explain that you can get papers even though you are daily breaking the law and you want France to reward you doing so. Looking at it this way, I can see why the civil sevrants are not keen to give this explanation.

      Reply
  5. Avatar
    jean taquet

    QUESTION
    This is where I got your mail and I wanted to ask you some help for marriage. I live in France with a VISA Scientifique Chercheur which is soon going to expire on 19 September 2016. Before it expires, I’m going to submit my document to prefecture to renew it for the next year to get a carte de sejours. I want to marry my girlfriend, she is from Mauritius, I don’t want to return to Mauritius and come back again as this is very expensive, go and return ticket cost at least 1500 euro for one person. So, I want to marry in France itself, and I have the following question:

    1. Is this possible ?
    2. Do I have to wait to get my new carte de sejour before marrying
    3. Will my girlfriend allowed to come here in France for marriage

    ANSWER
    Thank you for your message.

    Before answering your 3 questions, I need to look at the bigger because I believe that some information is missing.

    1 – you hold a French immigration title
    This means that you are subject to French laws and therefore you have the right to marry NOW.
    Then there MIGHT be some immigrations issues, for you, for your spouse, and so on. This does not impact the right to get married.

    2 – renewing the scientific status
    As long as I have the same position, the same employer and the same mission, it should be too difficult. It might be possible that they switch you to Passeport Talent which should replace – artistique – scientifique – compétences & talents.
    This move has absolutely nothing to do with the prefecture knowing that you plan on getting married as such. Therefore say nothing about it.

    3 – your girlfriend is from Mauritius
    OK but does this means that she lives there or in France? If she lives in France and has a legal status then there is no problem anywhere.
    If she does not have a legal stay in France, it creates some problems, since the city hall will most likely inform the district attorney (le procureur général) to launch an investigation as it could be a fake marriage.

    Now I would like to answer your questions:
    YOU
    1. Is this possible ?
    ME
    YES, based on what I described above

    YOU
    2. Do I have to wait to get my new carte de sejour before marrying
    ME
    Considering everything as I said above say nothing about the project.

    YOU
    3. Will my girlfriend allowed to come here in France for marriage
    ME
    I assume from this that she is living in Mauritius.
    There is no good or bad choice here. It all depends on what you want and your priorities for both of you.
    a) the best solution for her
    You go to Mauritius and get married. Then you 2 go to the French consulate and she asks for an immigration visa as a spouse of scientifique carte de séjour holder. It goes quickly, she gets the Vie Privé Familiale status and gives her all the rights to work.

    b) the cheapest solution for you
    She gets a long term stay visa called ‘visiteur’ with your full support. She comes to France and gets married but she needs to stay on the ‘visiteur’, which does not allow her to work in France at all. I do not know how long she will have to keep this ‘visiteur’ status’.

    c) the bad solution
    She gets a short-term non immigration status and gets married. Since you are not a Frenchman she cannot hope you have a legal stay before years (about 5 years!)

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    Catherine

    I would like to get inTouch about my Just started divorce,could you give me his contacts please.I am a foreighner married to a french national

    Reply
    • Avatar
      tseker

      I am married with French citizen and got six months carte de sejour so what happens next?
      how long do I need to wait to get permanent?

      Reply
      • Avatar
        taquet

        Since I know very little about your situation, I am not sure about it.

        I would like to review the normal procedure to obtain an immigration status as the French citizen’s spouse.

        After wedding one should be waiting a small while I would say a month, then go to the prefecture.
        there you receive an appointment to submit your file and rarely get a “récépissé” which is a paper temporary ID which now can last between 3 and 6 months.
        The day of the meeting you prove who you are, who your spouse is as a French citizen, you prove the marriage and that you have been living together after the wedding.
        The prefecture takes the file and accepts your request, it issues another “récépissé” so you can wait until the plastic card “carte de séjour” and in your case its name is “VIE PRIVEE & FAMILIALE” which will last 1 year.
        You get a text message in your phone when the card is ready and you pick it up then.

        YOU
        I am married with French citizen and got six months carte de sejour so what happens next?
        how long do I need to wait to get permanent?
        ME
        So based on what I just described most likely you got your appointment at the prefecture and you are waiting for the real card. The normal waiting time is about 5 to 7 weeks. During the fall, the place producing the card has had numerous production problems which created a significant delay – over 2 months for some people – so if you had your appointment in August/September it is possible that you need to wait a lot more than 7 weeks and some people had to have the 3 month “récépissé” renewed.
        Normally if you followed strictly the procedure the cost should be 269€ which you pay in fiscal stamps.
        Also in this procedure you will be asked to go to OFII for the medical visit, the evaluation of your French skills.

        The text message gives you very little warning the appointment is often a week away or so.

        Last thing, I do not know of a 6 month plastic carte de séjour and I would be very surprised that you actually get one with this procedure.

        Reply

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