How is a French ‘carte de résident’ different to a ‘carte de séjour’?

We explain the three 10-year resident’s cards available in France and who is eligible

All cartes de résident cost €225 and are valid for 10 years. Minimal paperwork is needed for renewal
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A resident’s card (carte de résident) in France is different from the more general term carte de séjour ('residency card') and gives the holder a more secure status.

This is mainly because the holder’s right to live in France is not dependent on conditions such as means or healthcare, or how they earn (or do not earn) a living.

Holders also no longer need an autorisation de travail work permit to hold a work contract (note we making a comparison here with ordinary cartes de séjour issued to non-EU citizens, not the special kind of 'article 50' carte de séjour that were issued to Britons living in France before Brexit).

There are three versions of these resident's cards: an ordinary carte de résident, a carte de résident de longue-durée - UE and a carte de résident permanent.

They all cost €225 and are valid for 10 years. Minimal paperwork is needed for renewal, and especially for the ‘permanent’ kind.

People who meet requirements can apply two months before a previous non-EU citizen carte de séjour expires.

Read more: 100 British and 70 Americans ordered to leave France during 2023

What level of French language?

Applicants must demonstrate a certain level of French – for example, by taking and passing a test such as the TCF (test de connaissance du français) and reaching an overall level of at least A2.

This is a ‘basic’ level, but not complete beginner in most cases.

This is set to rise to B1 (lower intermediate) level before 2026 – no more precise date has been set.

People aged 65 or above do not have to show any language skills.

Read more: French language tests harden: what changes and how to know your level

What are the three resident's cards and who can have one?

1. The ordinary carte de résident

In most cases, this is for people with family links in France.

For example, if you are married to a French person, you may initially obtain a two-year card called vie privée et familiale and then, before it expires, you can apply online for the carte de résident, as long as you meet the language requirements.

Spouses or children of a foreign person in France who holds a resident’s card who have lived with them in France for three years can also apply.

2. The carte de résident de longue-durée - UE

This is for non-EU nationals who have lived in France, supporting themselves, with a visa/residency card for at least five years.

It allows the holder to continue to live and work in France unconditionally but also to move to some other EU countries without first obtaining a visa.

They would then apply for a residency card to remain there long-term, based on their reason for moving.

Apart from living in France and fulfilling the requirements of previous cards, including supporting yourself and having income of at least the French minimum wage and healthcare arrangements, you are asked to demonstrate ‘continuity’ of residency in France.

Apart from exceptional circumstances, you should not normally have been away for more than six months consecutively, or 10 months in total in the five-year period.

You apply to your prefecture two months before your last card’s expiry.

3. The carte de résident permanent

Holders of 10-year resident’s cards coming up for renewal can ask to change to a carte de résident permanent – a permanent resident’s card.

This gives a right to stay permanently in France unless the person is deemed to be a public danger.

It is systematically offered to people who have already had two other consecutive resident’s cards, and applicants aged over 60.

You should apply to your prefecture two months before your current card expires. The supporting documents are minimal.

It is renewable every 10 years without any conditions.

Where does the Brexit WA card fit in?

Brexit WA cards are comparable to cartes de résident as they give strong residency protections and an unconditional right to work.

Similarly to a carte de résident permanent, a 10-year WA card is renewable with light formalities.

However, as with the carte de résident de longue-durée - UE, the residency right conferred can be lost after a certain period away.

In the case of the WA card, this is five consecutive years of being away from France. For the longue-durée card, it is three consecutive years outside the EU or six consecutive years outside France.

The European Commission says there is nothing to stop British nationals living in an EU country with a Brexit WA card also applying for an additional status via the résident de longue-durée card, if they wish.

This would give a limited form of EU free movement. The EU has been discussing reinforcing and standardising the entitlements.

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