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Christmas travel: What is France’s DCEM form for young foreigners?

The document can make life easier for foreign families whose children do not yet need a residence permit while travelling abroad

We look at France’s Document de circulation pour étranger mineur (DCEM), how it can make travel easier for foreign families living in France and how to obtain one Pic: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

Foreign minors whose parents have a residence permit do not need to hold a residence permit to stay in France but when they travel outside of the country it is helpful for them to carry documentation to reflect that they are legally resident there.

This is not obligatory, but it can avoid issues at the French or Schengen border. 

The document in question is called a Document de circulation pour étranger mineur (DCEM), and it can be obtained through an online application. 

It reflects the regularity of the child’s stay in  France and enables them to go abroad without having their passport stamped. They can then return to France or to the Schengen zone after a trip abroad without being asked to present a visa or residence permit. 

When will a DCEM be granted? 

If the child is a citizen of a non-EU country, the DCEM will be issued when at least one of their parents has one of the following residence permits: 

  • Multi-year residence permit (‘Talent passport’, ‘Employee’ etc.) 
  • 10-year residence permit 
  • Temporary residence permit (‘Employee’, ‘Temporary worker’ etc.)

When the minor is the child of an EU citizen, the DCEM will be issued if: 

  • At least one of their parents is European (including the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and has been in France for over three months 
  • Their step-parent is European and their parent has been in France for over three months
  • At least one of their parents has acquired French citizenship.

Rules differ depending on age of child 

If the child is under 13 years of age, their DCEM’s duration will differ depending on their parents’ nationality and residence permits. 

For example, if the minor is the child of an European citizen, the document will be valid for five years and renewable.

However, if the child’s parent(s) is not European, the DCEM will only be valid for five years if their residence permit lasts for longer. Otherwise, the DCEM will last for the same length of time as the permit.

It will still be renewable as long as the parent still retains a residence permit.

If the child gains French nationality or a residence permit, they should return their DCEM to their local prefecture. 

If the minor is over 13, the document will remain valid until they turn 18, unless their parent’s residence permit expires before this time.

How do we apply for a DCEM?

Applications can be carried out on this website by the person who has parental authority over the child. It is also often possible to apply in person at the local prefecture.

Applicants should click ‘Je demande un document de voyage’ (I am requesting a travel document) and then tick the ‘Un document de circulation pour étranger mineur (DCEM)’ box. 

They will then be asked to provide details of their relationship to the child and their nationality and residence status before proceeding to the application. 

The request will be handled by the prefecture of their place of residence, from where it can be collected once it is ready by the applicant and the beneficiary child, who must be present. 

The process costs €50 in the form of timbres fiscaux for the children of most non-European parents – with payment taking place on collection of the DCEM – but is free for the children of EU Brexit Withdrawal Agreement cardholders. 

The documents required for a DCEM application 

The list of documents needed for a DCEM application is as follows: 

  • Parent or guardian’s birth certificate 
  • The passport or national identity card of the parent/guardian and of the child 
  • The family’s livret de famille booklet or child’s birth certificate
  • The parent/guardian’s carte de séjour residence permit (unless they are European)
  • Documents certifying that the applicant has parental authority over the child 
  • The parents’ marriage certificate if they are married or divorce judgement if divorced. If they are unmarried, they will need the child’s birth certificate reflecting that both parents have parental authority over the child 

If the child is under the guardianship of a third party, they will need to provide a copy of the court decision ruling that this is the case 

  • The child’s certificat de scolarité, which proves that they are enrolled in school or nursery, or any other document proving that they are resident in France 
  • Proof of the parent/guardian’s address (justificatif de domicile) if the minor lives with them, or on behalf of the minor if they live separately
  • Two photographs of the minor
  • A cerfa 11203 form completed, dated and signed by the applicant 

Any documents in a foreign language must be translated into French by a traducteur assermenté accredited translator.

You can find out more about these documents on the French government website.

See this previous article for comments from the Interior Ministry relating to children of Brexit Withdrawal Agreement cardholders.

Related articles 

Explainer: France’s Brexit residency cards and foreign travel

Young Brexit agreement Britons facing residency difficulties in France

Does my under 18 need a DCEM travel document for travel from France?

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