Carte de Séjour Guide for American Spouses

Carte de Séjour Guide for American Spouses

Before celebrating your one-year anniversary in France, you need to apply for a carte de séjour to ensure you can stay. What a lovely gift from the French government! However, the process of preparing begins many months before your visa expires.

In order to seamlessly transfer from a VLS-TS to a multi-year carte de séjour, you have to secure an appointment months in advance, order documents many weeks ahead of time and develop some serious organizational skills.

I’ll be honest — it is a stressful process. And if your French isn’t excellent, you will need the help of your partner or a friend or a professional. My French is currently intermediate, so my husband was a huge help.

This is a detailed account of my personal experience in May/June 2018 as an American spouse of a French national living in Paris. We got married in the U.S., had the marriage certified through the consulate, then moved to France a year later. The requirements for your carte de séjour application depend on your circumstances and where you are from — so make sure you have the correct information for your situation.


To apply as a spouse, you must have completed your OFII meeting and medical appointment to have a VLS-TS (visa long séjour valant titre de séjour) before you are eligible for the carte de séjour. You need several documents from these meetings including your integration contract, and medical check and language test certifications.

You also need to have completed your two-day La Formation Civique integration course before your appointment. You will be required to show the certificates proving you completed the two modules.


At my OFII meeting, I was told to make an appointment with the Paris préfecture de police 4-5 months before my visa expires. I would recommend looking for an appointment as early as possible. As the spouse of a French citizen, you will be applying using the “vie privée et familiale” category.

Direct link to find an appointment: Renouvellement du titre de séjour

Note: The “N° de votre titre de séjour” asked for on the appointment form is the N°AGDREF on your VLS-TS.

I recommend taking the earliest appointment possible in the morning because the wait can be hours and hours long in the afternoon, and there is a chance you could not be seen at all.

Q: What if I can’t get an appointment before my VLS-TS expires?

My VLS-TS expired in June and I first applied for an appointment in January. But in Paris the first available appointment wasn’t until after my visa expired. Here’s what we did: We called the Paris prefecture (3430 from within France) and explained that our appointment was after the expiration date. The operator looked up availability in the system and found one in May. We then had to go back on the website and cancel my old appointment before searching again and booking the new one. This is risky because it is possible someone else could have gotten the appointment before we booked it, but this is how we got an earlier appointment.

If you can’t get your carte de séjour appointment before your VLS-TS expires, you will have to apply for a récépissé (a receipt that proves you are in the process of renewing your visa) that allows you to stay until you get your carte. If your appointment is near your expiration date, you will be given a récépissé at your appointment to keep you legal until your carte is ready.


Welcome to the most difficult and frustrating part of this process. My biggest piece of advice is to bring as much documentation as possible. Anything and everything you have that could possibly be of interest to them. Because they can and will ask for things not on the official list. French bureaucracy at its finest.

The French Interior Ministry has a list of documents (updated 2018) and the police prefecture also has a list of documents (updated 2015) to bring. But at my appointment, the agent asked for more than what was on these lists and we ended up having to run and make copies of items.

Below is everything we brought to the appointment.

***VERY IMPORTANT: Bring the original AND a photocopy of everything***


  • Appointment Convocation
  • Titre de séjour (VLS-TS in your passport)
  • Valid Passport (photocopy of information page AND page with entry stamp into France)
  • Birth Certificate with Apostille* — less than three months old and translated by a sworn translator (here is a list of translators from the U.S. embassy). Note: I’ve seen some people say they used a birth certificate less than six months old and it was fine. I ordered a newer one to be safe, but if this is an issue for you, call your local prefecture to see what they will accept.
  • Livret de Famille (copy of page with your information on it)
  • Reprint of your French marriage certificate (must be less than three months old — ORDER HERE)
  • Your spouse’s national ID card

*An apostille is a specialized certificate issued by the Secretary of State that verifies the birth certificate is legitimate for international use. I had to call and ask for the apostille specifically from my state of birth when I ordered my birth certificate.


Must have your name and/or your spouse’s name on it.

  • Utility bills, no more than three months old — the official form says this can be electricity (EDF), gas, landline phone or internet, but our agent would only take the EDF bills. I would bring as many of these as you have.
  • Housing lease or deed
    • OR attestation from your housing host saying you live there, along with a copy of their ID and a lease/deed/utility bill with their name on it. (Note: If your spouse owns your home, they can’t write an attestation that you live there.)

This section seems very subjective. We also brought insurance documents, bank statements, and pay stubs with my name and address on them, but they wouldn’t accept those. The agent also asked for tax receipts with my name on it which we didn’t have because I hadn’t lived in France for a year. Luckily the EDF bills were enough.

INTEGRATION DOCUMENTS (from your OFII appointments)

  • Attestation de formation civique + session d’information “vivre et accéder à l’emploi en France” (completion certificates from your two French civics modules)
  • Formation linguistique (the document saying you passed the language exam at your OFII meeting) — I also brought additional certificates from language schools I attended but this is not required.
  • OFII medical examination certificate (from your medical appointment)
  • Contrat d’intégration républicaine (or CIR) — the integration contract you signed at your OFII appointment.


  • 3 ID photos (format 35 mm x 45 mm) — I had mine taken in one of those photo booths in the metro.


  • Declaration swearing you live together (Déclaration sur l’honneur conjointe du couple attestant de leur vie commune) — this is done at the appointment, they will give you a form there to both sign.
  • Joint French tax statement (must have been submitted in last three months)
    • OR at least the last three months of joint bank statements (this is what we used) or separate bank statements being delivered to the same address.


My cost for this visa was 269€ (droit de timbre de 19€ + taxe de 250€) — but if you are in a different category of applicant, check what your fee is. You don’t have to show proof of payment until you go to pick up your carte later.

You must pay using timbres fiscaux ordinaires, which you can buy via this link. Be sure to print the stamps with the QR code.


While not technically required, I would recommend taking the following information if you have it, because it seems they can ask for anything they want: Your employment contract or several months of pay slips (if you are employed in France), proof of your Securité Sociale health coverage (carte de vitale), any and every French document you have that has your name on it. If you have children, you will also need to bring documents related to them as well.

Don’t forget to bring photocopies of everything, because they keep the copies!

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Great news for those of you who have been through the visa and OFII process already — unlike at those meetings, you can bring your spouse to this appointment. In fact, they have to be there to attest that you two live together.

First tip: GO EARLY. I arrived 30 minutes before opening time, and the line was 75 people deep already.

At the Paris prefecture, you will wait in line, then go through security before heading to the room indicated on your convocation. The first person at the desk will check your convocation and your documents before even letting you have a number. Once you get a number, depending on your spot on the list, prepare to wait.

Second tip: Have your documents well organized. This will save you time and get you out of there quicker.

Third tip: Bring a snack because you could wait for hours depending how many people are in front of you.

Once you are called to a window, you will be asked for all the necessary documentation one by one. Our agent was very no nonsense, and seemed to appreciate that we were organized. But despite our hours and hours of preparation, we still were missing a couple of things that weren’t on the official lists.

Luckily at the Paris prefecture, you are able to email documents to the agent from your phone, and there is also a room where you can make copies. BRING COINS in case you need to use these machines.

If you are missing just a couple of documents, it is still possible that they will start the application for you and you will be required to mail in the missing pieces. However, this will result in delays, so it is highly preferable to complete your application at the meeting. I’ve also heard of cases where applications were completely denied and people sent home if they were missing a big piece of the application, or if a necessary document was more than three months old.

If your application is accepted, you will be given a récépissé valid for a few months that acts as a bridge between your expired VLS-TS and your carte de sejour. This way you can still travel and work while waiting for your carte to arrive.


You will be notified by text message when your carte de sejour is ready for pick up, and given a time and date to come get it. It took me about three weeks to get the text message and then my pick-up time was two-and-a-half weeks after that. If you don’t receive this within a month of your récépissé expiring, call the prefecture to make sure nothing is wrong.

I ignored the time on the appointment and went early and it wasn’t a problem. The wait time was much shorter than the original appointment, and the whole thing took only about thirty minutes.

You check in at the “Salle des Remise des Titres,” are given a number, and wait for your turn. When called, you have to give the agent your récépissé, the payment (timbres or proof you paid for them online) and you will sign some papers. Also bring your passport and the collection paper given to you at your first appointment.

Et voilà! I left with a two-year carte de séjour and can once again be immigration worry free — or at least until 2020!

Did this article help you get your carte de séjour? Please consider saying thank you by buying me a coffee or two to help keep my work going!

51 thoughts on “Carte de Séjour Guide for American Spouses”

    • Is the Carte Vitale a requirement for Carte Sejour? My insurance has been pending for a long time and may be ready for my appointment?


  • Hi again Charli! With my spouse visa expiring soon, I feel like I am going to be asking lots of questions! So up until now I was mixing the OFII meeting with the meeting at the prefecture. OFII has waited until just a few months before the expiration of my visa to contact me (9 months after I sent them all the documents, and I live in Orleans which is much smaller than Paris!!). You mentioned paying a fee of 250 euros to OFII, and here you mention the same thing for the prefecture. I have a very very small hope that this is the same fee, but I’ve gotta break the news to the husband at some point so are these two separate fees of 250 euros? :s

      • Hi,
        As a spouse of French national, what’s the procedure of applying for French citizenship? After how many years of residency we can apply? And is it mandatory for couple to physically reside in France?

        • Hi,
          As a spouse of French national, what’s the procedure of applying for French citizenship? After how many years of residency we can apply? And is it mandatory for couple to physically reside in France?

          • Hi Sam, I haven’t gone through the process yet, so I don’t have a guide for this. But perhaps someone else reading can help. I believe you have to be married for four years before you can apply in most cases.

  • Your site has been useful in so many ways. I have to renew my carte de sejour for the first time and have gathered all the docs listed on the Carcassonne prefecture website. However, I can’t find any kind of application form to accompany the docs. Is there such a form? I am a US citizen not married to a French national.

    • Hi Fred, in my experience (on the spouse visa) there wasn’t an additional application form to bring to the appointment with all the other documents. You just show up with all the required documentation and they have you fill out and sign some forms during the meeting.

  • Hi, your site is super helpful, as I am in the same position. Where can I apply for the récépissé? I just looked online and I am in a similar position where the appointments are for after my visa expires.

    • Also through the prefecture. I was able to get an earlier appointment so didn’t have to go through it, but was told you need to have an appointment booked to prove you are “in the process” of getting your new visa. Not sure if you make this appointment online or over the phone.

      • Just had my appointment today. Arrived at 8am and the line was ~60 ppl deep. I finished at around 10:30am. I got called to see the “officer” at around 9am, submitted all my forms (this whole process took about 30 minutes) and then was told to wait. I waited for an hour as they processed my paperwork and issued the recepisse so got called back around 10:30, signed the recepisse and then was done! I would also recommend that everyone bring a pen. You have forms to fill out and sign and it’s much easier if you have one on you. The lines and wait was not as bad as expected. The one document they asked for that I hadn’t printed out was our tax forms. Luckily we had them via email so emailed them. Hope this is helpful to other folks!

  • Super helpful, so much detail, thank you for this post! I’m also in the process of applying for the first renewal. Did your birth certificate need to be apostillé? I’m seeing different advice but it doesn’t seem to say so on my prefecture’s website…

    • I was told it DOES need an apostille, and for my birth state I had to call and ask specifically for this (and pay a little extra). I got it translated too. I tend to err on the side of caution — but if you want to check, you can always call your prefecture to see if they require it.

      • It’s definitely best to call your prefecture (mairie) to be 100% sure and avoid any confusion. The prefecture I used told me different information (and to use a different translator) than everything I had read (online).

  • Dear Charli: I feel like I should be able to answer my own question but as our first year in Limoux (near Carcessonne) ends, we are never sure about our visa/carte de sejour footing. We are USA husband and wife with a Type D, Visiteur, one year visa that expires April 28 of 2019. We have gone through OFII for our Carte de Sejour and recently renewed it for an additional year at the prefecture in Carcassone; we have our temporary and are waiting for the final to be available for pickup. At every point in the process, we were prepared and different folks in Montpellier and Carcassonne could not have been more gracious and helpful. What we do not know is whether the renewed Carte de Sejour will allow us to go in and out of France once the original visas in our passports expire? Additionally, because we have a “Visiteur” visa, it looks like we have to renew annually and pay the 269 euro fee with every renewal. I do not see a pathway to obtain a “Resident” visa based on our occupancy here. Do you know if we need a “Resident” visa to get a 5 or 10 year Carte de Sejour so we do not have to renew annually? Lots of questions and would appreciate any help you can offer.

    • The carte de sejour is a resident visa. Once you have it you can go in and out as you wish (my first visa in my passport is expired as well and I have left many times). I am not sure about your renewals since everyone’s situation is unique. On the spouse visa the length varies as well, mine is two years but some people get one and some get ten. I would call and ask.

  • Thank you so much for this super detailed article. My husband and I are currently looking into the process of moving to France together. I’m German, so we mostly looked for information on regulations for “spouses of EU-nationals” (rather than “spouses of French nationals”).
    Unfortunately, what confuses me a lot right now, is that on many websites it seems like a comparably easy process to apply for a CDS. On it suggests to travel to France together, and then, within the first 3 months, to apply for a CDS for the non-EU spouse at the local prefecture with the marriage certificate.
    From your experiences, I got the impression, that you had to apply for a VLS-TS before being able to get the CDS card? This seems like a more complicated (and expensive) process, so I was wondering whether there might actually be slightly different regulations for spouses of French nationals vs. EU-nationals?
    Have you tried or looked into getting a CDS right from the beginning?
    It would be awesome if you could share your experience on this with me.

    • Americans married to French nationals must get the VLS first, then after completing several tests/appointments/classes they can apply for the CDS about a year later. I am sure the process is different for those married to non-French EU nationals, but I don’t personally have experience with that bc my husband is French!

      • Could you please confirm what’s this ‘collection document at your first appointment’?
        I have applied for my first card last week but didn’t get any such document?

        Also is it mandatory to go at the same date as mentioned in the text message to collect the card? I heard we have 30 days from the date to collect. Is this true?

        Thanks a lot


        • Hi Sam, I was given by the agent, essentially, a receipt for my application proving I completed it. I’m not sure about the timing for pickup, perhaps someone else on here has experience with that.

          • It’s been 5 weeks and I haven’t got any sms to collect my carte. Is this normal? What should I do?


  • Hi Annika, I am an American who moved with my French husband to France and applied directly for a CDS. We were living abroad together (not in the US) and needed to leave the country quickly for health reasons but were unable to get an appointment at the French Embassy to apply for my VLS first. I entered France on a tourist visa and we went to the Prefecture with papers documenting our former residence, need to leave, etc. I was able to apply for a CDS without the VLS and without taking any tests/classes/etc (I do speak French so this would not be an issue but I was not required to get a medical exam either). I received my CDS 3 months after my first appointment but had to pay an extra 300ish euro (600 something total) as a fee for not doing the process properly. Not sure what this process would be like for an EU resident but if you can prove hardship and don’t mind paying a fee, applying for a CDS without the VLS is possible.

  • Hi Charli, thanks again for your amazing blog! Just curious: what documents did they ask you for that weren’t on the list? I’ve just assembled all my documents (préfecture meeting in a bit over a week!), and I also made sure to add my carte vitale, attestation des droits d’Amélie, work contract and pay stubs. Should I be bringing anything else (aside from what you’ve listed)?

    • Hi Natalie, I outlined some of this in the section « ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS I RECOMMEND BRINGING », but they asked for my CIR which was not on the official list and for several months of bank statements. They also had me go make a copy of my entry stamp in my passport. None of this was on the list of things they asked me to bring, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They can ask for whatever they want so best to bring as much as possible.

      • Thank you so much!! Thanks to you, hopefully I’ll leave the préfecture with a récépissé tomorrow!

        • FYI, just got back from the Préfecture. My boss had told me to arrive at 6 to ensure being let in with the first group, but it turns out that most people started arriving a bit after 7. There was one informal line forming (almost 80 people by the time we were let in) and then some late arrivals just crowding by the door. Annoyingly enough, those people who got there right at opening and just stood by the door managed to force their way in! But ultimately we got in with the first group at 8:30am and were out a bit after 9:15am. The appointment was painless thanks to your blog!!

  • Hello Charli,, first of all, thank you for your amazing, helpful blog, I’d like to consult you about something, I have an appointment with Prefecture de Police, just one day after my visa expires. What a luck :), My question is, do you think if i should do something to get récépissé before my appointment, or is it ok to go to my appointment next day?

    • Hi Deniz, You should get a récépissé at your prefecture appointment as long as your application is complete. However I am not sure if you have to do it before your visa expires in order to get one. I would call and ask.

  • Hi charli
    Thank you for your help
    I am Pakistani national and my wife is french national I got 1 year D type visa . As we were planing to visit Germany or uk qus is do I need a separate visa or I can travel with this D type visa or I need to apply for visit visa ?

  • Hi Charli,

    Your blog is a really great resource thank you for sharing your experiences. I read your post (and have been searching the internet), but didn’t find the answer to my question. I have the 1 year CdS, and every month I gather and build my portfolio with documents (bank slips, e-bill, etc) to be prepared for the renewal. My question is whether I have to present the documents to prove the vie commune for 6 months, like one had to do when applying for the first CdS or you only have to prove the vie commune for 3 months.

    Thanks 🙂

  • Hello Charli, thank you for the amount of information you have written. It’s very helpful and I would like to ask whether we could travel with just recepisse de demande de carte de sejour. I received very mixed reactions so far and I’m confused. The lady in the prefecture said yes but the other lady said she doesnt know. and some people said yes i went out already and its fine but some said its too risky. Did you travel somewhere before you received your carte?

    Thank you and have a nice day there

    • I was also told yes. I made sure to get one because I had a trip coming up, so I asked specifically about this. My carte was ready before I left so I didn’t have to use it, but was told traveling with it was fine.

    • Hi Caroline, I would like to know if you have already re-entered the Schengen area with just the recepisse de demended de carte de sejour. I also have the need to leave France and enter through another Schengen country and would like to know if it is possible or will I need to get another visa stamp in my passport. Thanks for your advice!

  • Hi Charli, what an amazing blog to get help since there is a few info to find easily! I have a question regarding the housing proof . I always got my ofii sticker and my visa by showing the docunment EDF with the name of my husband written on it plus his letter saying that I live with him. But of course he’s not owning the flat. Should we do something more for the renewal or only showing those as I did before are enough? Let me know. Many Thanks, Leni.

    • Hi Leni, I believe you should also bring a copy of your husband’s lease (or if it is not a traditional lease, an attestation from whomever your husband is renting from confirming that he is living there).

  • Hi Charli and anyone reading this! Thanks again for all of your help- I can’t express how much more organized and comfortable I felt throughout this whole process because of your blog. As I would read other people’s additions and personal stories in the comments, I want to add mine as a recent experience, as I just went through the process this morning with a lot of ease.

    I arrived early as you said- an hour early and there was a line already. My appt was for 8:45 am (I booked it the fIrst day that I was allowed to online back in May). The part that was confusing was the salle to enter. On my convocation, it said Séjour 1 escalier F- but the signs outside the door on the ground floor and first floor did not have the US on it. One said Oceanic countries and the other said africa. I went into the door that said Séjour 1 since that was what was on my paper- even though it didn’t explicitly list my country on the sign. There weren’t many people there yet. I was given number 6 and a paper to fill out. I sat with my husband for about 5 minutes and then called up to a booth. The gentleman was very kind, no nonsense or chit chat, but he had a very sweet demeanor which put me at ease. He asked for documents one by one- he never asked to see any originals, only the copies, which he kept. I offered additional documents as well. All in all, I gave him a copy of my passport, my visa in the passport, a copy of the page with my entrance stamp upon receiving my initial visa. A copy of my husband’s ID. A copy of our marriage certificate (both the original and a newly requested one), livre de famille, a copy of my birth certificate (he did not need the translation). I gave him an attestation of my Carte Vitale account and an attestation from EDF. We provided a joint tax document and a document that my husband and I have started a business together. My husband wrote an attestation that I live together and we wrote a declaration sur l’honeur expressing our shared life together. I gave copies of all my OFII documents and two ID photos. And my husband and I signed a joint document together saying we live together.
    As I said, he did not ask for tax docs. I felt if I just had the basics that were required, it would have been just fine. But I am very glad that I was over prepared and had more to offer. I also brought a copy of the letter I received from the prefecture about my request to transfer my PA drivers license to a French one (I didn’t end up providing this). I was asked to wait while he prepared my

    All in all, i was done by 9:20 with récépissé in hand and told I’d receive a text within a month and a half to pick up the card.

    Everyone working at the prefecture seemed very nice, although it appears a lot of people arrive confused about documents or the process in general. It isn’t the fault necessarily of the person requesting residency, but I imagine niceties start to fade. As always, it’s best to go based on the instructions one received upon scheduling their appointment. But I hope this helps and builds on all of the wonderful documentation you’ve provided us all!

    Merci beaucoup!!

    • I had almost an identical experience just yesterday. 8:45am appointment, was #3, was out before 10am. I had documentation for my business that I have set up in France, as well as tax returns and etc, but the guy only took copies of all the documents that Charli listed up there except the joint-tax document. He just needed the 3-last-months’ bank documents saying that we have the same address. Looking forward to receiving my CdS in 2 months-ish!

    • I applied for my 1st carte de resident(10 years) but it’s been 6 months and I haven’t heard anything back from the prefecture. Every time I write them I get the reply that my file is in process. Is this normal?

  • I did not have an apostille for my North Carolina birth certificate and didnt get any requests for it so it turned out ok.
    I did however have a certified translation of it into the French form for such things.

  • Hi Charli, thanks for your blog. I got the text saying i can pick up my card in Prefecture, but is it the same address as i applied for it to pick it up? Let me know,

  • Hello everyone! I hope you are all safe! Is anyone getting an error when they log in and try to schedule their appointment for the Carte de Séjour? I went to the above website: ( but every time I try to put in my details to schedule an appointment, I am given an error and told to call 3430. Unfortunately, I have been trying to call them for the past month to no avail and I am wondering if anyone else is having this same issue?

    Is their website broken?

  • Hello everyone, I am in the middle of trying to get my 1st Carte de Séjour during all of the COVID19 fun. Any way, I need a récepissé and have been trying to reach the préfecture since March, dozens of times via phone and email, to no avail.

    I just came across a very interesting website that allows persons, including foreigners, in France to request:
    1. Demande de renouvellement de récépissé
    2. Demande de duplicata
    3. Demande de document de circulation pour étranger mineur (DCEM)
    4. Demande de changement d’adresse

    I think the mess at the préfecture could be going on for quite some time, so this might be helpful if you are in any of the above 4 cases. Be well and best!

    *(Click where it says Étrangers)

    P.S. There’s also a Brexit section.

  • It’s been 6 months since I applied for my 1st carte de resident (10 years) but I haven’t heard anything back from the prefecture. Every time I contact them I get the response that my file is in process.
    Is this normal?

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