Receiving refugee status does not mean the end of dealings with the French administration. From getting residence permits to housing and benefits, InfoMigrants takes you through the first bureaucratic steps as an officially-recognized refugee.
You have just received a letter from OFPRA (French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) or from the CNDA (National Court of Asylum) informing you that you have been granted refugee status. But the process is far from over.
You now have to follow procedures for a number of things such as obtaining a residence permit and finding housing as well as information on social benefits for which you may be eligible. InfoMigrants takes a look at these steps.
- Obtaining a refugee card/appointment at the prefecture
The first step is to go to the prefecture closest to your home with your OFPRA or CNDA letter acknowledging your refugee status, to apply for your residence permit.
At the end of this appointment, the prefecture will issue you, immediately or within eight days, a receipt – or récépissé – for a six-month residence permit that will mention "recognized refugee." This allows you to work in France legally.
- Civil status/OFPRA documents to be completed
OFPRA will send you a civil status form to fill out, so that you can present valid French documents (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.) for your subsequent administrative procedures.
OFPRA asks for your first and last name, date and place of birth, identity of your parents (first and last names of father and mother), identity of your spouse if you have one and the identity of your children if you have any.
You must send this completed form back to OFPRA.
The office will also ask you for a birth certificate, an identity card or a travel document (visa type) and depending on your civil status, a marriage certificate. If you do not have any of these documents, you must specify the reason.
Approximately eight months after sending this information, OFPRA will send you the documents by mail.
- OFII convocation
Once OFPRA has sent your French-issued birth certificate to the prefecture, the prefecture can send your file to the OFII (French Office of Immigration and Integration).
Approximately four to five months later, the OFII will give you appointment for a medical examination, a day of basic civics courses, a French language test and the signing of the contrat d'intégration républicaine or Republican Integration Contract under which non-Europeans wishing to settle in France agree to their integration into French society.
Access to social rights
When you obtain refugee status, you also have social rights. First of all, you need a registered address.
- Obtaining a registered address
In order to receive your OFII summons and to benefit from your social rights, you must have a registered address.
To get it, you have to go to the town hall or la mairie of your arrondissement or commune, which will direct you to a communal social action center (CCAS). Please note that the CCAS is obliged to receive you.
If you encounter difficulties, you can contact the NGO, Dom'Asile, which provides refugees with a reliable and free registered address service.
- The RSA (revenu de solidarité active)
To be eligible for the RSA (about 500 euros per month), you must be over 25 years old (unless you have a dependent child) and have few or no resources.
To apply, contact the social services at your town hall, or mairie, which will direct you to the communal social action centre (CCAS).
- Family allowances
If you have one or more dependent children, you may be entitled to family allowances. You must contact the Caisse d'allocation familiale (CAF).
- Housing when you are a refugee
If you are living at a reception center for asylum seekers, you will have to leave this accommodation once you obtain refugee status. In theory, you cannot be returned to the street without being offered housing. You can then ask to be accommodated in a CPH (temporary accommodation center). You must apply to the OFII for this.
You can also ask for social housing. In this case, you must apply to the housing department of the town hall/mairie of your place of residence. However, it is important to know that the wait can be long.