What are the various kinds of French residency cards?

People from the US and other countries outside the Schengen area - including Britons post-Brexit - can live, work and study in France but need to apply for a carte de séjour

The general term for a residency card in French is carte de séjour, although some are called cartes de résident
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Any non-EU/EEA/Swiss national, including Britons post-Brexit, staying for more than a short visit will eventually need to obtain a residency card, which gives the right to live and work in France. We review the different types available.

The general term for a residency card in French is carte de séjour, although some are called cartes de résident.

French residency cards for students, workers and retirees

Carte de séjour visiteur. Contrary to the name, this is for people who want to live in France on a long-term basis (more than three months) but without working.

It is issued for one year but can be renewed and is thus deemed one of the ‘temporary’ forms of cartes de séjour, which contrasts with cartes de séjour pluriannuelle (multi-year) which are issued from between two and four years.

Carte de séjour salarié for workers with permanent jobs

Carte de séjour entrepreneur/profession libérale for people wanting to work in self-employment

Carte de résident for people who have family links in France

Carte de résident de longue-durée UE (EU long-term resident card). This is for people who have lived in an EU country for at least five years, meeting certain ‘stable and legal’ residency criteria, including earning at least the French minimum wage.

Read more: Permanent residency cards in France: 2024 renewal rules

How to change your French residency status 

Note that until you have a residency card it can be difficult to change your status in France so it is important that your initial visa matches your intentions when settling.

Visa holders must apply for the same category of residency card at least once. It is then possible to change to another status, however this can be a complex process. 

“You can’t do this in the first year,” expert on visa formalities, Allison Lounes of YourFranceformation.com told The Connexion. “You have to renew the visitor visa at least once [with a ‘visitor’ carte de séjour] and then a firm that wants to hire you would have to go through the same process as if hiring from your original country."

The same drawn-out process applies for people who want to work as a self-employed micro-entrepreneur.

“Imagine you came in January 2020 and the visa expires in January 2021. You make an appointment in October to renew your visitor visa at the prefecture – which, let’s say is in January 2021 and right on time. 

“You may get the card around February or March and can then apply to change status, but that appointment may be in June. You go with your supporting papers and then it takes up to three months to approve the change. So it’s a minimum of a year and a half before you could change.”

A full list of types of titre de séjour can be on the French government's official residency card page here (in French) by clicking 'Accéder aux informations générales sans renseigner ma situation'.

Read more: READER EXPERIENCES: French residency permit delays