French bureaucracy can be a real headache, even for French people. Here are the basic steps to follow for staying in France: you can either apply for asylum or you can apply for temporary residence.
If you are applying for asylum
- The PADA
To start your asylum application, you must go to a PADA within the first 120 days you are in France. A PADA (plateforme d’acceuil pour demandeurs d’asile) is an independent organisation that helps asylum seekers.
A PADA agent will help you prepare your asylum application. However, the PADA does not decide whether you can stay in France.
You do not need a permanent address or any papers to go to a PADA.
Within 10 days after you meet with the PADA agent, you should receive an appointment at the police prefecture, which is your next stop.
If you are in the Paris region or Ile-de-France, you can find your PADA here:
Within Paris, there is one PADA for people who are alone (France Terre d’Asile) and another PADA for families with children (CAFDA).
If you are outside of the Paris region or Ile-de-France, you can find your PADA here:
2. The prefecture
At the police prefecture you will receive the form you need to formally apply for asylum. This is the "formulaire Ofpra," and it is the most important part of your application.
At the prefecture, they will also take your fingerprints, check if you have already requested asylum in another country and give you a certificate that allows you to stay in the country for one month.
3. Ofpra (Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides, the French office for the protection of refugees)
Carefully fill out the formulaire Ofpra. In it, you will tell your story and describe why you need asylum. You must mail or bring the form to Ofpra within 21 days after your meeting at the prefecture.
Ofpra will then give you a date for an interview. At the interview, you will personally tell an Ofpra officer why you need asylum. You can ask for an interpreter in your language.
Ofpra should decide within six months whether you are eligible for asylum, eligible for other protections, or not eligible for asylum.
If your case is denied, you can appeal to the Cour nationale du droit d’asile: the National Asylum Court, or CNDA. You must appeal within 1 month after the Ofpra decision.
If you don’t want to apply for asylum
You can ask for a temporary residency card (carte de séjour) in France. There are different kinds: resident, student, scientific, family and private life. To apply, go to your local prefecture. You can find the documents you will need here: