One of the paradoxes in the French immigration system is for spouses of EU nationals moving to France. Ostensibly, it should be free and easy, receiving a 5-year card with full work authorization.
The reality is often otherwise. The reason is because it’s the one category filed directly at the prefecture instead of at the French consulate abroad. There are 99 different prefectures in France, and each prefecture processes this category differently, and this will continue until they put this application on the national French immigrant website ANEF.
Carte de sejour / French Residence Permit
How Difficult is Obtaining the Spouse of EU National Residency Permit in France?
Here’s the top 9 problems the French authorities can give an applicant of this category:
1. Timing– one client, the spouse of an EU national filing at the local prefecture in the Département de la Loire (42) waited for 8 months before the prefecture finally summoned them for the initial filing.
2. Prefecture variation– some require an online submission, some mailing in, some booking an appointment online (with none available online), and not every prefecture lists instructions for filing on the website.
3. Recognition of the existence of this category– one client in Aix en Provence went and filed in person, only to be rebuffed by a prefecture agent that this category doesn’t exist. I then went in person with them, and we refiled (with the exact same agent!) with no problem.
4. Getting approval– one client filed in Nice, and received the temporary residency permit (called a récépissé). The prefecture then decided, after they already approved it, to cancel the application, and they refused the applicant without informing them. I then went (last week) and refiled with them with a stronger proof of housing (which was the problem), and the prefecture accepted the application.
5. Impossibility of filing – the Paris prefecture uses an online website, Démarches Simplifiées, to process the filings. Up until Nov. 2022, it had been the best prefecture for EU spouses. But in December, they closed the Démarches Simplifiées website, redirecting all applicants to the ANEF website (which as I stated earlier, doesn’t process spouse of EU nationals yet). So currently, the Paris prefecture website doesn't indicate where one can submit the application.
6. Required proof of financial stability – the EU spouse is the “host spouse” and must prove, to their satisfaction, that they have enough financial resources. The best way to prove that is when they have a French job – and this is often not the case.
7. Ambiguity regarding PACS (civil union) versus marriage – it’s easy to prove a marriage certificate, but the agents aren’t always aware if PACSed partners qualify for this category (they do).
8. Requiring proof of living together – one agent, reviewing documents of proof of housing of a PACSed couple, said she wanted to see 12 months of communal living (this is the rule for a different immigration category, for PACSed partners of French nationals). I pointed out this rule doesn’t apply to EU spouses, and the agent relented.
9. Cost - the head of the office at the Nice prefecture charged a 50€ fee to “regularize” one applicant’s immigration status. I contested, there is no “regularization” fee, because my client is not “irregular”. The agent said the applicant should have gotten a “EU spouse visa” first, and I told the agent this simply doesn’t exist for countries that don’t require Schengen visas to enter. “Paris prefecture doesn’t require this,” I told the agent – “this isn’t Paris, this is Nice,” the head of service replied.
In the end, this category is one of the most favorable immigration statuses in France, and is worthwhile to have for those moving to France long-term.
Born and raised in San Diego, California, Daniel is a dual-qualified French-US attorney, and practices exclusively French in-bound immigration, with a focus on private clients.
Interested in moving to France as the spouse of an EU national 👉 reach out to Daniel to schedule a consultation to discuss further!