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How Long Does It Take For Paperwork to be Processed in France?

Anyone who has ever dealt with any elements of immigration knows that it can be a stressful process. There are so many variables in the situation it can be hard to feel confident that everything is complete or that you will be successful in whatever it is you have applied for. 

One of the hardest parts of the immigration process is definitely the amount of time you have to spend just waiting. There’s time waiting to see that paperwork has been received, time waiting to find out if you need to supply more information or evidence, there's time waiting for the entire process to end so that you can start to begin your new life. 

For as long as immigration has been a feasible prospect for people, there has always been some sort of waiting time. France is not an exception to this so how long can you actually expect to wait for paperwork to be processed? How long does it usually take for things like a residency application to be approved? Is there a way to speed up the process? Well, if you have these questions, there’s some valuable bits of information that might help you below. 

So How Long Does It Actually Take For An Average Residency Or Visa Application To Be Approved?

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question. The reason for this is that no two residency or visa applications are identical. There are a lot of factors that will determine how long this process will take. These can include things like; what country you come from and their relationship with France, if your paperwork is all up-to-date, what country or countries you hold a passport in, your criminal history, and the list goes on and on. 

If you connect with other people who have already gone through this process before you, you will probably find that the amount of time people wait varies significantly. There are stories of people who submitted their application and had the entire thing completed in a matter of a few months; others can be working on their application for a year or even longer. 

The Place You Live in France Can Play a Factor

This might not be obvious to people who don’t already live in France, but the place you reside in the country can have an effect on how long processing times take. This is because of how the system for dealing with administrative processes works. 

In France, most administrative processes are performed through a place called ‘La Prefecture.’ The Prefecture is a special Government office that takes care of a large number of administrative tasks. Anyone who immigrates to France will spend a large chunk of time going to and from this office. The Prefecture system isn’t really as centralised as people might expect. There are 101 Prefectures in France, one for every department of the country, and you don’t get to choose which one you go to, it is determined by where you live. 

So to put this into perspective for you, there is one prefecture for each department, and all of the paperwork being handled by them is only related to people living within the department it is situated. So if you live in a large city with a big foreign population, like Paris; your paperwork is going to be pushed through the same system as a lot of other people.

To make it simple, if you don’t have to live in a big city, choosing to live somewhere else could make paperwork processing work a little bit faster. 

Should I Move Somewhere Smaller?

Choosing to live in a smaller city with a smaller population can, in some cases, make the processing times a little bit smaller. From personal experience, when I arrived in France I lived in a very small town in Normandy. This meant that my prefecture was situated in the city of Le Havre. Although the department does have a foreign population, it’s nowhere near the size of a city like Paris. 

I began my residency application process while living in Normandy. I started it in November and it was completed (meaning I had my Titre de Séjour) the following March. The process took a total of 4-5 months. From what I can tell, this is almost a record time compared to people in a similar situation living in the capital. 

Of course, this is not a sure way to ‘hack the system’ but it’s definitely something worth thinking about. 

Can I Just Move Cities After I Have Submitted My Application?

Most insiders would not recommend moving after you have started an application for residency in France. The reason for this is that because of the individualised nature of the Prefectures, if you move cities once an application has been initiated, it is very likely that you will be required to start the whole process over again at the new prefecture. 

Any Other Tips?

As with all administrative tasks in France, preparation is key. Take the time to look at exactly what the French government is going to need from you and have it ready. Make sure you have enough copies of everything you need and have the desired translations ready to go. 

It’s always a good idea to check what people in a similar situation to you have gone through and don’t be afraid to ask for advice on forums or in Facebook groups.

As I said earlier, moving to a less populated place isn’t a sure way to speed things up but it’s worth thinking about, and at the end of the day, if it’s possible for you to not live in Paris it might help. 

Paris is a big, beautiful city, but there are so many other equally stunning places to live in France.