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Last Updated: September 5, 2023
After submitting all your paperwork and applying for your residence permit, you are now ready to pick up your carte de séjour at the Paris préfecture. Hold up—I know you are eager to celebrate (and boy, do you deserve it), but we have a few more steps to follow. Here’s your guide to picking up your residence permit from the préfecture in Paris.
Is Your Titre de Séjour Ready?
Typically, you’ll receive a text message (SMS) letting you know that your titre de séjour (residence permit) is ready to be picked up along with the total tax owed.
However, this doesn’t always happen.
It’s hard to know how quickly your dossier (file) will be processed by the Paris préfecture, but if you’ve been waiting over 2 months and haven’t heard anything, you should definitely follow up. In some cases, your card might be ready, but the notification simply wasn’t sent. This does occasionally happen and it has happened to me. After submitting paperwork for one of my renewals and waiting a little over 2 months, I called and found out that my card had been printed, despite the fact that I was never notified.
Contacting the Paris Préfecture
The phone number for the Paris préfecture is 34 30, and you can call Monday through Friday, 9AM-4PM.
Many people complain that no one picks up the phone. While it’s true that the call is sometimes dropped, the wait times can be long (half an hour or more!), and you don’t always get a clear answer, I’m telling you that I have successfully called the Paris préfecture numerous times. Granted, the success rate is probably one good call for every three to five fruitless ones, but it is possible to get through and get the answers that you need.
Alternatively, you could send them a message using their contact form or send a direct email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Personally, I find that I usually get a quicker answer when I have someone on the phone instead of waiting for them to respond to my email. On the other hand, some people have reported getting rapid answers through email, so everyone’s experience is different!
Booking an Appointment
The website for booking your appointment at the Paris préfecture is poorly designed, often resulting in a slow and glitchy experience. If you think that it’s not working properly, just know that it’s not you.
As you navigate through to schedule your rendez-vous, note that you can select the calendar for any guichet (desk/window) that you like. There is no difference between the numbers, and no matter which one you book with, you’ll report to the same room. Be sure to take a look at each calendar when you are checking the booking website as the availability of appointments might be different. Unfortunately, it’s very common for there to be no available time slots to pick up your printed carte de séjour.
When Do New Time Slots Become Available?
You might be wondering when the Paris préfecture website is updated with new time slots. Experience tells me it’s totally random. I know that’s not what you want to hear!
There is no magic or science to getting an appointment to pick up your residence permit in Paris. Just keep trying the site every day, multiple times a day. I understand that it’s a job in and of itself to check the website throughout the day at different times, but they often only open up a week’s worth of slots at a time and these appointments get snapped up quickly—usually within hours! If you can, I’d recommend checking at least three times a day (morning, afternoon, and evening) to maximize your chances.
➡️ Pro Tip: According to an urban legend, new appointments in Paris are released on Sunday at midnight. Fact or fiction? Let me know if it works for you! I’ve never been able to stay up that late 😉
When appointments do open up, they are generally a few weeks to a month or two in the future. Once you have successfully booked an appointment, you’ll immediately receive an email with your convocation details attached as a PDF.
Error Messages on the Paris Préfecture Booking Website
UPDATE (August 2023): The prefecture website has been updated and does not seem to be throwing out these error messages anymore, so if you’re not encountering them, skip to the next section!
I didn’t think it was possible, but the Paris booking website has actually gotten worse. Continuously selecting different guichets/windows may result in a “403 Forbidden” message or “Service surchargé” message. This is because the website recognizes your multiple fruitless attempts at trying to pick up your carte de séjour and wants to mock you to no end.
In order to outsmart the website from recognizing your IP address and gain (slightly) more time on the website, try accessing the site on different devices and/or try using a VPN. Then rotate through your devices as if you have nothing better to do… May the odds be ever in your favor!
MFFG – My France Foreign Guide
You can also download the MFFG – My France Foreign Guide smartphone app. There is a free notification service through this app to let you know when new appointments become available so you can head to the booking website. Personally, I’ve never used this phone app to find an appointment, but I know it has helped many frustrated people throughout France! Note that there are varying reports of success with this app. Some people continue to have success with this app and others not so much.
⚠️ Be careful! There are many paid websites and phone apps that exist, promising to alert you in the case of appointment openings or even to automatically book your appointment for you at the prefecture. These services are a scam and should not be trusted!
Paying the Tax
There are some exceptions, but most people need to pay a tax in order to receive their carte de séjour. The tax is paid by purchasing an electronic stamp called a timbre fiscal also known as a timbre électronique.
Taxes for administrative tasks like this used to be paid for with small bits of adhesive paper, aka stamps. This is why they are still referred to as timbres even though they are now electronic. It was a bit of a pain because you would often have to buy several stamps and cobble them together in order to have the exact right amount to pay for your administrative process.
While France has simplified the system by moving it online, the website isn’t the easiest to navigate. One of the pain points is that you need to know exactly how much you owe because you have to enter the amount manually.
If you received a text message notifying you that your card is ready, the tax amount should be included. In most cases, you will pay 225 euros for your titre de séjour. This is how much I paid for my carte de séjour vie privée et familiale (CdS VPF) as the spouse of a French citizen. Check the amount for your specific carte de séjour.
When you buy your timbre fiscal, you’ll have a choice between getting your proof of payment via an email (par courriel) or via a text message (par SMS). I recommend opting for an email. Whichever you choose, you will still have the opportunity to download a PDF on the confirmation page.
What to Bring to Your Appointment
This appointment should be relatively quick. You are simply picking up your new card! Here are the basic documents you should bring with you:
- Convocation for the appointment*
- Current titre de séjour (carte de séjour or visa)
- Récépissé (if you have one) and/or Attestation de Décision Favorable
- Timbre fiscal / Timbre électronique*
*Instead of printing them out, I showed both of these documents as PDFs on my phone. Staying organized is essential when tackling French bureaucracy!
Did this guide help you? Say thanks with a cup of coffee!
Picking Up Your Card
On the day of your appointment, you’ll enter the Paris préfecture and go through security. Don’t expect to be allowed in much earlier than your appointment time. To avoid waiting outside for too long, I wouldn’t show up any earlier than half an hour before your time slot. The convocation is required for entry.
Just after the security checkpoint, there is a reception desk. The employees here may or may not ask to see your convocation so that they can vaguely tell you where to go. With only one hallway leading out of the foyer, you can see why this direction is essential! 😂
There is a room designated for handing out the titres de séjour (Salles des Remises—Salle 1). Check for the purple signs. It’s the first room you’ll come to on the ground floor, and the line begins in a sort of outdoor hallway.
Inside the room, be prepared by having all of your documents (minus the convocation) ready. After receiving a ticket from the receptionist, wait for your number to be shown on the electronic calling system. When it’s your turn, the agent will ask for all of your documents. Then they will scan the timbre fiscal. Finally, they’ll ask you to verify your information and sign a paper in order to receive your official plastic card.
⚠️ Actually take the time to check over all your personal details for errors. Mistakes do happen!
With some luck, you’ll be in and out of the préfecture in well under an hour with your shiny carte de séjour in hand! Celebrate quickly before it is time to renew your card again!