What is the difference between a French carte de séjour and a titre de séjour?

The terms are often used interchangeably, we explain why

The carte de séjour is a physical document you can present

Reader Question: I often see The Connexion mention needing a 'titre de séjour' to apply for things in France, but my residency card says carte de séjour. Is there a difference?

This can be confusing, because the terms are often used interchangeably by most people in France, and do have a similar meaning. 

Basically, the term titre is often used by officials, less often in everyday speech, and is a very general term for a document proving residency rights.

Broadly-speaking, any document held by a foreigner that was issued by the French authorities to attest to their right to live in the country, is a form of titre de séjour

Any non-EU/EEA/Swiss national staying in France for more than a short visit, will eventually need to obtain one, the main exception being if you stay only a year on a VLS-TS visa, which is deemed to be ‘equivalent to a titre de séjour’.

Séjour refers to a ‘stay’ in France, referring to the right to remain on the territory, and titre, means a document proving rights. 

Carte de séjour is everyday term

A carte de séjour is a common everyday term for the card itself, which is usually a credit card-sized laminated/plastic rectangle. 

In Connexion articles we also sometimes use the general English term ‘residency card’ or ‘residency permit’. 

Cards may be needed for various official purposes, where you need to show your legal right to live in France. 

Having said this, the actual names of foreigners’ cards that you will see written on official French websites and on the cards themselves, may or may not include the term carte de séjour.

For example, there are several kinds with the wording carte de séjour that are typically issued to someone who came to France relatively recently and which last for a year, or several years, before needing to be renewed. 

Some other kinds are officially called cartes de résident (literally residents’ cards, stressing the fact that the person has settled down in France). 

The latter are valid for 10 years and may be applied for either by people who have lived for at least five years in France or who have close family links to French citizens. 

However, all of these are forms of titre de séjour.

We note that the cards that were issued to Britons living in France before Brexit in fact say carte de séjour on the front, even though the 10-year version is similar to a carte de résident in the rights it confers.