Opportunists have taken advantage of a shortage of carte de séjour application appointment slots at French prefectures, and have started charging foreigners hundreds of euros per slot.
Maryam Taheri, a 33-year-old Iranian citizen, told France Télévisions that she is still waiting for a prefecture appointment even though her current titre de séjour has expired.
She arrived in France two years ago to study, has found a job and is looking to renew her residence permit so that she can continue to live in the country.
However, even though her permit expired three months ago and she is now technically in France illegally, she cannot secure a slot.
Complaints online of lack of available prefecture slots
No official figures on the number of people waiting to complete their carte de séjour application process have been released by the interior ministry, but many people have gone online to complain of the lack of availability, with waiting times ranging from a few months to over a year.
This has led some people to begin illegally selling slots, which they advertise on social media. One such individual told France Télévisions that he uses a special software which alerts him when an appointment opens up.
“I reserve many appointments in a lot of prefectures,” he said. “I can sell them at €1,000, at €500 or at €100, whatever I like, as in France you cannot do anything without these appointments. I can earn €2,000-€3,000 a month.”
In May, the French Senate issued a warning over this “parallel trade” in prefecture slots.
“The scarcity of the slots on offer has provoked the emergence of an unprecedented and widespread phenomenon involving the resale of these prefecture appointments online.”
170 million illegal or malicious log-in attempts identified since 2020
The Comité inter-mouvements auprès des évacués (CIMADE), which defends the rights of foreigners in France, has blamed the state for this illegal trade, saying that it has not made the appointment booking platforms secure enough.
“It is quite an easy persona for prefectures and – more widely – the state to adopt, presenting themselves as the victims of these resellers as if they were at the root of the overwhelming of the services, when it is the operations of these public powers that has led to the existence of these resale services,” CIMADE’s Lise Faron said.
The interior ministry stated that it prevents many fraudulent appointment booking attempts on a daily basis.
“Nearly 170 million illegal or malicious log-in attempts have been identified and prevented since 2020 by technical systems. However, they do not enable us to fight against individual fraudsters [...] looking to get to appointment slots first and then monetise them.”
The ministry also said that each fraudulent resale attempt detected by the authorities systematically leads to legal action being launched.