Alert raised over poor French residency services for foreign people

The ‘defective’ system leads to loss of rights and problems with work, says France's Defender of Rights

A quarter of complaints to France’s Defender of Rights now relate to residency services

Article published May 3, 2023

France's Defender of Rights has raised an alert over ‘the degradation of the fundamental rights of foreign people’ in relation to residency issues.

Défen­seure des droits, Claire Hédon, in her annual report, says for four years residency services have been ‘particularly defective’ and that since 2019 complaints about them have more than tripled to reach 21,666 in 2022.

The remit of the Défenseure des droits is to investigate reports of problems in the public’s dealings with state bodies, including instances of discrimination.

A quarter of complaints now relate to residency services, she says.

Read more: Non-French speakers among those disadvantaged by France's online admin

Technical problems and delays

The 2022 report links this to a tendency to put all services online, with many people complaining of being unable to obtain a meeting at their prefecture to apply for a first residency card.

Others flagged up problems trying to renew a card, either because it was not possible to book an interview, due to technical problems with online procedures or “excessive” processing times.

It notes, however, that the Défenseure’s local teams were in many cases able to resolve situations and she has met with many prefectures to identify what is going wrong, as well as making representations to MPs.

Reduced ‘in person’ help

It says that apart from long waits, the problems sometimes resulted in the “termination of rights and professional and social fragility.”

It also notes prefecture staff cuts, though it says online services should be a complement to others (in person or by phone).

The ‘all online’ trend also puts the onus on users to understand formalities that in the past would have been done with help from staff.

Areas with most complaints

Top administrative court the Conseil d’Etat said last year that where residency card applications were put online, help with applying should be offered and alternatives should always be available to those unable to apply this way.

The areas with the highest proportion of residency-related complaints, accor­ding to the Défenseure’s report, were Paris and Ile-de-France, Alpes-Maritimes, Haute-Corse, Puy-de-Dome, Rhône, Loiret, and Moselle.

Other areas with a high number also included Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Tarn-et-Garonne, Côtes d’Armor, Gironde, Ile-et-Vilaine and Nord.

The report also notes problems clai­ming the MaPrime­Rénov’ renovation grant, including technical issues, inadequate information and long waits.

We asked the Interior Ministry if it wished to respond to the report but have not yet received a reply.

What to do if residency documents are delayed

One reader emailed us to say she is still waiting for news after applying online to change the address on her residency card a year ago.

She said: “I am a widowed pensioner and have a relative in the UK who is suffering with an incurable illness.

“Consequently, it may be necessary for me to arrange to travel there at fairly short notice.

“If this should happen, it is important my titre de séjour carries my new address.”

The first thing to try in this situation would be to send a message in French using the Contact button at the bottom of the site.

If that fails, we suggest contacting the prefecture that issued the original card.

A letter by recorded post can be effective, including supporting documents (in this case, proof of the change of address).

Clarification on temporary long-stay visa and 90-day rule

Several readers have queried whether, as previously reported, it is possible to stay on in France for some days or weeks beyond the end date of a temporary long-stay visa.

They say staff at TLS-Contact in London have told them this was not possible and they must leave the Schengen area.

Our information came from the French police aux frontières, who man the borders and check documents.

We double-checked with them that this is possible because any time on a visa is not counted in the ‘90 days rule’ and they confirmed that we had correctly understood the rules.

Do bear in mind, however, that non-residents should not stay more than six months in a calendar year under tax residency rules and also that it is best to keep proof of movements (travel tickets, boarding cards) in case of questions.

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