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Last Updated: April 2021

Depending on your visa category, you’ll have different requirements with l’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII). This largely coincides with whether your visa is for permanent residence or a temporary visit. For example, a temporary worker or visitor may only need to complete a medical exam while the spouse of a French citizen will additionally need to prove that they have a basic understanding of French, pledge to integrate themselves into French society by signing an integration contract, and undergo a series of civics classes to learn about life in France.

**Please note that this post is based on my personal experiences in Paris. Your local préfecture and OFII may do some things differently.

One Year to Complete All Requirements

I arrived on a long-stay visitor visa (VLS-TS) in 2019. On the visitor visa, there is only one requirement with OFII—the medical appointment. I completed this during my first year in France. When I switched to the carte de séjour vie privée et familiale (CdS VPF) after marrying my French husband, I had to fulfill more requirements with OFII. Namely, I had to pass a French language test, sign an integration contract (CIR), and attend four civics classes.

➡️ Check here to see if your residence permit requires you to sign the contrat d’intégration républicaine (CIR) and attend language and civics trainings. You might also be excused if you studied at a French university for one school year.

My interactions with OFII have spanned over the course of two years due to my change of status, but most people will only deal with OFII in their first year. For example, if you arrived on the spouse (vie privée et familiale) visa, you would fulfill all obligations in your first year (medical exam, integration contract, language test and French classes if needed, and civics classes).

Completing these requirements is a condition of your visa and will allow you to renew your residence permit. Furthermore, in most cases, you’ll be granted a multi-year carte de séjour when you renew. If you are unable to fulfill all of your obligations before your titre de séjour expires, you can often still apply for a renewal but you may only be granted a one-year card (carte de séjour temporaire) instead of a multi-year card (carte de séjour pluriannuelle).

OFII Will Contact You… Maybe

Within the first three months of arriving in France on a long-stay visa, you must register with the government in order to make your stay legal. The validation process is now initiated online (as of August 1, 2019). After paying the fee online, you’ll receive a confirmation by email. Paying the tax will trigger your information to be sent to OFII, who is responsible for contacting you about any appointments that you will have.

⚠️ Note: It is not uncommon to wait a couple of months before hearing from them.

In the case of switching to a different type of residence permit which leads to additional requirements with OFII, the préfecture is normally responsible for forwarding your information to OFII. OFII is then supposed to contact you with appointment times. Due to Covid and considering I’m based in Paris, I knew that it would be a while before I was contacted. However, after 3 months, I decided to check in.

OFII Contact Information

At first, the person on the phone told me that I was still registered as a visitor, but I insisted that I had changed my status with the préfecture. After looking again at my file, she conceded that yes, the new information was there but no appointment had been set up for me yet. I explained that I had already been waiting a few months and didn’t want to have any problems when renewing my card. She gave me a different phone number and advised that I call the following day, which I did. I was immediately given an appointment for just a few weeks later. While I was on the phone, a confirmation email arrived with my appointment details.

French Test, Interview, & Integration Contract

What to Bring:

  • Convocation
  • Identity card, visa (or whatever type of residence permit you are currently holding)
  • Book
  • Charger if you’ll be using your phone for entertainment while waiting
  • Pen 
  • Snack/Water

Schedule for the Half Day

  • Check in—these are group sessions; everyone has the same time slot (either morning or afternoon)
  • French Language Test
  • Personalized Interview & Integration Contract
  • Meeting to discuss French language classes (if applicable)
  • Last person leaves around noon in the morning session and around 5:30PM in the afternoon session

Checking In

My appointment at the OFII in the 13th arrondissement of Paris was at 1:15PM, and I arrived exactly on time. My convocation indicated that lateness would not be tolerated. Of course, that condition is only for those who have been summoned. Don’t expect your appointment to start on time. Since my appointment was scheduled for after lunch, I reasoned that they wouldn’t likely be ending their lunch break early. Upon arrival, I saw a long line outside and signs pointing to a sketchy door for the “contrat d’intégration.” I immediately knew I was in the right place! There ended up being only one person in line after me. Remember this detail for later in my story. You’ll see why I mention it.

At the door, they checked my convocation and my carte de séjour. Show whatever identity card you have. I recommend bringing your passport and your current residence permit whether that be a visa in your passport, a physical card, and/or a récépissé (paper receipt) that’s tiding you over in between permits. Only people with a convocation could enter the building.

After passing through a security metal detector, I was directed down the hall to a large room with awkward full length mirrors along one wall. (Who is in charge of the decorating, honestly?!) When I entered the room, my convocation and ID were checked again, and everyone who was in line before me was sitting and waiting. It took 15 minutes for everyone to enter the building and go through security. At 1:30PM, I took my seat.

We waited a bit longer and then they started sending people up to the second floor in groups of four and five. They worked from the front of the room to the back corner, where I was sitting since I arrived last. I was in the final group to be moved upstairs.

Third Time’s a Charm

We entered another room where the convocation and ID were checked AGAIN. (Could this process be any more inefficient?) At this stage, my name was highlighted on a sheet which verified if we were actually supposed to be there. The woman checking us in asked if I had been to OFII previously to sign the contract, if I had attended a French university, and a few other basic questions before directing me to sit in the next room. There were 25 of us in a classroom. It was not the most Covid-respectful situation.

It took half an hour for all of us to finally make it upstairs and get checked in for a third time, which brings us to 2PM.

⚠️ Note: This process of checking our ID three times and moving us around in little groups was incredibly inefficient. I’m not sure if they were doing it this way because of Covid in order to space us out or if this is how it’s always done, which wouldn’t surprise me either. In the end, we were all in one room anyways.

French Language Test

A man explained in French what we were going to do and gave instructions for each part of the test. He spoke slowly and very clearly. At no point in time did I hear anyone from OFII speak in English, although it was obvious that not everyone in the classroom knew what was going on and some people probably would have benefited from instructions in English or another language.

20 Minutes

When they distributed the test, we were instructed to fill in our personal information on the front cover first and then to wait for the cue to start because the test is timed. The front cover just had spaces for last name, first name, and the date. They told married women to write both our nom de jeune fille / nom de famille (maiden name) and our nom d’usage (married name, if you use it). This sounds like a simple process but it took a relatively long time. Many people accidentally began the test before they were supposed to because they didn’t understand the directions given due to either low French comprehension and/or understandable anxiety about taking a language test.

You have 20 minutes to finish the test which consists of about five or six progressively difficult exercises. There are a variety of exercises: fill in the blank, multiple choice, short readings, and written responses. The tasks are fairly realistic and authentic. For example, one of the exercises was to look at a job announcement from the Unemployment Office website and answer multiple choice questions about the job offer.

➡️ TIP: You can’t have your phone out during the test, so wear a watch. Taking a timed test is definitely anxiety-inducing and knowing how much time you have might allow you to feel more in control. 

Level A1

This exam corresponds to level A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), known in French as Cadre européen commun de référence pour les langues (CECR). Level A1 is a basic level of French, allowing you to communicate using everyday expressions and simple phrases. If you have had minimal exposure to French, then this test will not be easy, but if you already have a command of the language, you will have no difficulties. I finished and checked it over in less than 10 minutes. I’m also a former French teacher.

If you’re just starting your language learning journey, check out my 9 Tips for Learning a New Language.

After the 20 minutes passed, they collected the test. Then it’s a waiting game until they call you out for the interview. It was at this point that they informed us that the last person would be leaving around 5PM/5:30PM. Toilets are available. We could use our phones, but not to make phone calls. We could also eat in the room if we brought a snack, but we weren’t allowed to leave the building to get something to eat or even for a smoke! La vie est dure.

Interview & Integration Contract (CIR)

My name was called and a woman walked me down to her office. She verified different pieces of information like my name, phone number, and address. She asked a variety of questions about whether I had health insurance and a carte vitale, whether I was employed, and if I’d exchanged my driver’s license yet. Easy for her, I’ve done it all!

If, however, you have any questions, this is the time to ask them. They are there to help and provide you with resources and information that are relevant to your situation. This interview is meant to last 15-20 minutes.

French Test Results

During the interview, you will find out if you will be required to take French classes. The need for French classes is determined based on your written score combined with your interview, which is essentially an oral exam. You may have passed the written test, but are unable to prove a sufficient level during the interview.

If you are in need of French classes (une formation linguistique), you will meet with someone after your interview to discuss the requirements and how they are set up. Classes are obligatory but free if you have not attained level A1. On the other hand, if you passed the test, a certificate indicating that you met level A1 will be mailed to you.

Mandatory Civics Classes

Next, we chose dates for the first two civics classes, which run all day from about 9AM-5PM. I said I would just take whatever is first available but you can find dates that work best for you based on your schedule. Luckily, I was squeezed into a class just a couple of weeks after this interview, but it’s not uncommon to have to wait at least a month before your first class.

The first two classes are a couple of weeks apart and the next two are a month or so later. You receive the date for the third class after completion of the second class and you receive the date for the fourth class after completion of the third class.

OFII integration contract folder
I got this rad folder with my Integration Contract.

Finally, I signed the Contrat d’Intégration Républicaine (CIR). This is a statement promising to integrate into French society. This includes fulfilling language requirements and completing the civics training.

I was out of the building at 3PM.

P.S. Remember how I told you I was the last to arrive at the appointment? I was the second person called up for my interview. The first person was someone who said they had a flight to catch. In my experience, they don’t usually go in the order of when you arrive nor do they go in alphabetical order. At previous OFII appointments, they seemed to just call random names from anywhere in the stack. Who knows?


Did this guide help you? Say thanks with a cup of coffee!


Civics Classes

There are four separate days of civics training (la formation civique). In general, you will learn about the values of the Republic and get an overview of helpful resources and associations, as well as, learn about certain administrative procedures.

The classes are conducted in French. If you are in need of an interpreter, one is supposed to be provided although I’ve heard that this is not always the case. There was an interpreter in our class who spoke English. I’m not sure what other languages they provide help in.

Each civics class starts around 9/9:30AM and ends in the afternoon. Plan to be there until 5PM, but hope that your instructor dismisses you at 3:30/4PM. You’ll likely have a couple of short breaks throughout the day. A simple (halal, but not vegetarian) lunch is provided.

At the end of each class, you will receive a certificate of completion (Attestation nominative de presence). You’ll need to show these certificates to the préfecture upon renewal of your residence permit.

What to Bring

  • Convocation
  • Identity card, visa (or whatever type of residence permit you are currently holding)
  • Phone charger
  • Pen & paper to take notes
  • Snack/water and possibly lunch if you have a special diet

« Jour 1 »

17 adult students, 1 interpreter, 1 teacher, and a sign on the door indicating the maximum Covid capacity at 15 people. Oof.

I arrived about 15 minutes before the class. French administrative buildings can be kind of hard to find and navigate so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time. At the check in, I had to show my convocation form and ID. In class, the teacher did a roll call, collected our convocations, and we had to sign a sheet indicating our presence, once in the morning and a second time in the afternoon.

The Highs

We started class by downloading an application on the phone: Anim-Tablette for Android and Formation Civique CIR for iPhone. These apps are in French and consist of a number of true or false questions organized by themes. You find out if you got the answer correct right away and it even keeps track of your points. Considering it’s France, I was actually quite impressed with this incorporation of technology into an administrative obligation. I’m not going to lie, it was perhaps the highlight of my educational experience that day. Unfortunately, it only provided me with less than 10 minutes of entertainment.

We did introduce ourselves to the class. I usually loathe this type of activity but considering we will have the same classmates on the second day in a couple weeks, I didn’t mind it. This brings us to the second highlight of the day. I really enjoyed chatting with my classmates. Immigrants are some of the most interesting people to talk to. Everyone has a story. I even met a few people who live in the same neighborhood as me.

OFII civics classes paris

The Lows

The rest of the time consisted of zipping through a powerpoint presentation. We covered several broad themes: geography, French history, healthcare, employment, parenting, and housing. It was more of an overview of resources and procedures without many details. If you have any specific questions about certain administrative procedures, be sure to ask them.

This informational day would likely be helpful for someone who has just moved to France, but this is largely not the case for the majority of people there. By the time you get called in for this class, you’ve likely already been living in France for at least a few months and have already struggled your way through tons of paperwork out of necessity. It’s also a case of “too little, too late.” Saying that there is an easy and fast procedure (lol) for exchanging your driver’s license for a French license is all well and good, but it would be more beneficial to show the process in detail with all the documents you have to supply and the forms you have to fill out. (Well, maybe then, we’d actually have to confront the idea that it’s neither fast nor easy…)

« Jour 2 »

Another thrilling day in the books! We started off the second class on the same app as the first day. We covered many of the same topics, but with more of a focus on specific historical dates and the development of the Republic. Everyone seemed to perk up when we touched on how to apply for French nationality. There was markedly less enthusiasm for the 4-page (front & back) multiple choice test. Fortunately, it wasn’t graded and seemed to only be something thrown at us to pass the time.

OFII civics class practice test on culture générale
I got all the answers right on the first page!

As I mentioned before, an interpreter is supposed to be provided if you are in need of one. The interpreter on the first day was awesome. She went above and beyond to fully explain all of the concepts the teacher presented and readily accepted questions. The interpreter in this session had a questionable level of English, used French when he didn’t know a word, and translated word for word only what was shown on the powerpoint presentation. Not a very enriching experience.

At the end of the session, we received the date for the third class. It’s scheduled for about a month after this class. They told us we can change the date if we really need to, in the case of a force majeure (exceptional reason). However, they were kind of vague on the details of how to change the date and made it seem like a real pain. For those who have little control over their work schedule, this is not very accommodating. 

Homework

Our assignment is to choose three activities to complete before the third civics class. The worksheet called a Feuille de route lists several ideas which are targeted towards our integration into French life. Examples include: opening a bank account, choosing a primary care physician (médecin traitant), and applying to exchange your driver’s license. There are also fun, cultural suggestions such as visiting a museum, joining the library, and looking up sports activities at the town hall.

On the back of the paper, we are supposed to explain how we accomplished these tasks. If needed, they said that we would receive help during the third class. Honestly, I think this is a great assignment, but as you can imagine, it doesn’t leave much for someone like me to do…

Do you think they will accept my blog website as proof of my integration? 

« Jour 3 »

The first two classes were in the same building with the same teacher. On the third day, we met in a different building and had a different teacher, organized through AFCI (Agence de Formation et de Conseil en Insertion). My classmates were mostly the same people who came to the first two sessions. This teacher was very structured and organized which I appreciated. There was not much downtime during the class, as she had tons of information to share with us. However, she did give us a morning break, an hour-long lunch, and an afternoon break.

Atelier

After working on our own through the phone app, our instructor explained that the fourth class is an atelier (workshop) of our choosing. She presented four options:

  • Atelier culturel : learn about monuments and cultural places in France (I think during non-Covid times, this workshop is usually in the form of a trip to a museum.) 
  • Atelier métiers de bouche : pastry/cooking class
  • Atelier emploi : receive guidance with anything job related such as developing your CV and looking for jobs
  • Atelier social : get help with specific administrative tasks such as requesting a driver’s license exchange and applying for French nationality

I would have loved to sign up for the cooking class, but there were only six spots. We were called in alphabetical order to introduce ourselves to the class and to choose our atelier. I missed out by just a couple of names so I ended up picking the culture workshop. The workshops were on different days, but all the dates were about a month in the future.

History, Homework, & a Test

This class was very heavy on history. We covered major events and movements from antiquity to modern times. I enjoy history, but it was a lot of information and I’m not sure how much I actually learned.

The most useful part of class was when we shared our homework with the class. It was interesting to listen to other people’s experiences and I think everyone benefited from the tips and suggestions that were offered. Our teacher also listened attentively and offered advice and resources.

In case you were wondering, for my Feuille de route I just listed tasks that I had previously completed, not necessarily in the last month. I also shared my tip to make a scan of your Feuille de soins before sending it in for reimbursements. 

Our last activity was a multiple-choice test. We completed it together and it was collected. The test was fairly easy and seemed more official than the one we took in the second class. After signing the attendance and receiving our certificates, we were free to leave for the day.


Did this guide help you? Say thanks with a cup of coffee!


« Jour 4 »

Under normal circumstances, this class would have been an actual visit to important landmarks and/or a museum in Paris. However, since all museums are closed and we are currently not allowed to assemble outside in groups of more than 6 (inside is fine though, LOL), this was a virtual tour of Paris instead.

I was worried that this would be a lecture style class like the previous ones had been and therefore arrived with very low expectations. To my surprise, this ended up being my favorite of the four classes. And this was all due to the teacher who was incredibly nice, engaging, and passionate about the subject. 

We started off class by introducing ourselves and identifying our favorite part about Paris, whether that be a neighborhood, a specific monument or museum, or even a cultural aspect like being able to sit on a café terrasse and watch the world go by. It felt like she was genuinely curious and not just going through the motions. 

Then, we talked about the formation of Paris, major events in its development, and a few landmarks such as the Panthéon and the Notre Dame Cathedral. From what I understand, the teacher has a lot of liberty to decide what they cover in this class and it can look different every time. 

Unfortunately, there was no interpreter for this class and they made it seem as though this is typical for the fourth and final class. There were a couple of students who were provided an interpreter in the other classes and would have benefitted from one in this class as well. As such, I along with another student, paired up and translated for these two students. I’ll send OFII the bill for my services later 😉


As you can imagine, I am very happy to be done with this requirement, especially considering how long it got dragged out for.

The four completion certificates that I received along with the integration contract (CIR), and A1 language certificate will allow me to attain a 2-year carte de sejour vie privee et familiale when I apply for a renewal in the fall.

OFII Integration Contract & Civics Classes
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10 thoughts on “OFII Integration Contract & Civics Classes

  • March 15, 2021 at 10:38 am
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    Hey…how are you…I just went through my integration and medical two weeks ago. It was interesting and quick. People there were super helpful although none spoke in English and I had to struggle a bit to get through (but hey, that’s how you learn right). But the date for civic classes I got is for May. Thats a 2 month waiting for the first class.

    Reply
    • March 17, 2021 at 3:46 pm
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      Hi Sahle,

      Thanks for the update on your interview and medical. Sounds like it went well.

      The wait between your initial appointment and first class can vary depending on how busy your OFII center is. It’s not uncommon to wait at least a month, although two months feels like a long time! It’s so frustrating to always have to be waiting.

      I see now that I didn’t mention how much time was in between my appointment and my first class in my blog post, so I’ve just added that in. I was luckily able to get into a class just a couple of weeks after the appointment but I think it was likely due to a cancellation as this is not typical.

      Hopefully, your first and second classes are only a couple of weeks apart though. Is that the case for you?

      Best,
      Ellen

      Reply
      • April 28, 2021 at 6:52 am
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        Hey Ellen,

        Hope you’re keeping well. Yes, between first and second class I have only a week.

        I would like to understand what kind of certificate did you get after completing your French A1 test. I did not get any certificate although he said I got everything right perfectly which I was sure of.

        Will there be another test for A2 that you know of anytime between the 1 and 4 civic classes?

        Oh yeah! One more thing, have you transferred your driving license? I think this is a painful process too and can be a good add-on to your list of blogs. If I manage to complete it, I will let you know how it went.

        Have a great day.
        Thanks.
        Sahle

        Reply
        • April 28, 2021 at 12:18 pm
          Permalink

          Hi Sahle,

          During my initial meeting with OFII when I took the A1 test, they told me they would mail me a certificate indicating that I was not required to take the French classes because I had demonstrated Level A1. The certificate apparently needed to be signed which is why they didn’t give it to me right then and there. It arrived at my apartment not too long after my appointment. It wasn’t anything fancy—just a printed-off sheet from the computer.

          I can only really speak to how things are done in Paris. Perhaps your OFII doesn’t do it this way. Did you get to keep your Integration Contract? On the backside of mine, they also checked off a box saying that I had passed Level A1. I’ve also heard that some people don’t get a certificate after each session and instead get mailed a completion certificate after everything is all done, so that’s another possibility.

          There is no A2 test during the civics classes. It is not required for the renewal of the CdS Vie privée et familiale. If you would like to apply for a 10-year card or nationality down the road when you are eligible, you’ll need to seek out a test center on your own and meet the relevant language requirements.

          As far as my driving license is concerned… My paperwork has been accepted but I am waiting for the French card to arrive. If you’re ready to apply, I recommend the Facebook group “Applying for a French Driving Licence.” The woman who runs this group has detailed directions on the paperwork and how to navigate the online portal where you will submit all your documents. I will be publishing a blog post when (if? haha) I get my French license, but to be honest, I will be directing people to this Facebook group and then adding in my personal experiences, tips, and timeline. No sense in me recreating a resource that already exists!

          It’s nice getting updates from you. Stay in touch!
          Ellen

          Reply
          • July 24, 2021 at 11:44 am
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            Hey Ellen,

            How have you been? I just finished my Day 4 and it was a fun baking session. We baked cookies and three of us from the Day1,2 & 3 decided to do it together. Thank you for your support all this way, it was super helpful for me.

            I have applied for my driving license exchange but its still says “En Cours d’instruction” so I have to wait I guess. But it was fairly simple to apply online on the ANTS website (I just had to get my driving license translated as it was partly in Arabic and English, Dubai License). Let me know if you want a quick write up about the process.

            Oh by the way, I also got my Carte Vitale. I had to call them on the English speaking line and follow up and next day I had it in my mailbox. But the whole process took about 5months.

            My visa on my passport is expiring next month on 25th Aug, and I have submitted my application for my first “titre de sejour” on the 4th July. It still says “En Instruction” so I guess I have to wait for it. Maybe I will try to get an appointment with OFII and see if I am in the right path.

            Merci, Au revoir, Bonne journée.
            Sahle

          • July 27, 2021 at 5:28 am
            Permalink

            Wow, Sahle! Tons of great news. Sounds like things are going well. I’m happy to get this update and I hope everything continues to go smoothly for you! 🙂

            Ellen

  • March 16, 2021 at 1:48 am
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    Thanks for this. We’re American and have been in France since 2018. Three titre de séjour renewals for one year each. This year, I asked, “one more for one year, then five years?” And the prefecture worker said “one more for one year then ten years if you get your diplôme” I imagine this is what I’ll need to complete. Not sure for my husband who is over 65. I think there’s no language requirement for him.
    Hope all continues well for your classes.

    Reply
    • March 17, 2021 at 4:33 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Paulita,

      Glad my post is helpful 🙂

      To be honest, I’m not sure what your préfecture meant by that! These classes don’t exactly qualify as a diplôme, although having a diploma from a French university can excuse you from them. Perhaps he was making a bit of a joke and these classes are what he was referring to! I’m not as familiar with the process for applying for a longer card, as I am not eligible for one yet. I do believe you’re right though that there is no language requirement for someone over 65.

      Would love to know more about the process you go through and if you’re required to do these classes. Please stay in touch, if you think of it!

      Best,
      Ellen

      Reply
  • June 15, 2021 at 1:10 pm
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    I arrived in France on the 10th April, 2021.A letter was sent to me to go for some medicals at OFII on the 9th June 2021.
    Am done with the medicals and no appointment has been given to me to go to the prefecture de police to renew my Passport.

    Famille Regroupement visa and it also expires on the 31st April,2021..

    Don’t know what to do now.

    Reply
    • June 16, 2021 at 9:07 am
      Permalink

      Hi Edward,

      I’m not very familiar with the particulars of this type of visa. If I understand correctly, you arrived in France on the Family Regroupment visa? And now it has expired?

      Generally speaking, you are responsible for contacting the préfecture to renew your visa. They do not reach out to you for renewal. You’ll want to get in touch with your préfecture as soon as possible seeing as how your visa has already expired.

      It would also be a good idea to take a look at the website for your préfecture as you’ll find specific directions there. When it comes to renewal, some préfectures have a portal to submit documents electronically, other préfectures expect you to mail in documents, and some préfectures ask you to make an appointment to submit documents in person.

      I hope this information gives you some direction.

      Best,
      Ellen

      Reply

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