Marrying a French citizen and living legally in France

by Mark Benson on December 16, 2008

If there is one country in the world were the interpretation of immigration paperwork is literally down to the luck of the draw and interpretation of the people reading it, France is the place!

This post relates to an au pair who moved to France only for her situation to deteriorate and contracts to be ended. The lady in question, who is highly literate in French, was then under the impression she had one week to leave the country although as no official actually told her this she stayed on until September – effectively an illegal alien from mid-April. After returning to the US she is now looking to travel back to France and marry her French boyfriend but there is some debate and confusion as to whether she will regain entry and the paperwork required for marriage in France.

There is speculation of a potential loop hole in the law whereby if someone was to overstay their three-month visa by a further three months they would actually be free to legally marry their partner – a 6 month period of living together would supersede all of the paperwork. While this would negate the need for additional paperwork and effectively fast track any potential marriage there seems to be some disagreement as to whether the three-month period of “illegal accommodation” in France would possibly scupper hopes of a marriage to a French citizen.

As it happens, the lady in question requires the same paperwork she would need for a Visa or she would to apply for a marriage certificate. However, unfortunately France seems to be one of the worst countries for different interpretations of standard French law and it can literally depend on the area in which you live or the area in which you want to get married as to what documentation will be required and the overall cost. There is also an interesting debate about signing up to lessons to learn French and about the French way of life which is something countries such as the UK are looking to bring in.

The procedure and paperwork required for marrying abroad is often very different to that of the country the non-national may be from. As ever, just as forum members begin to appreciate and understand the procedure these can often be changed overnight and cause yet more confusion. However, there are a number of websites which will clear the mist and take away the rumours and untruths about marrying in France, the legal position and the paperwork required.

There do appear to be a number of loopholes in the regulations and rules governing both entry and exit from France as well as marriages. Understanding and appreciating these procedures will take away much of the pressure and uncertainty but trying to cut corners always has the potential of backfiring and causing severe disruption in your plans. If at all possible, paperwork should be correct and in order from day one although this is not always easy and administrative delays and differing interpretations can often confuse the situation. Those looking to marry overseas should be aware that any legal issues could come back to haunt them years down the line and “cutting corners” is a very risky game to play.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

diane April 14, 2009 at 12:23 am

What is the procedure to use in order to live and work in France after marrying a french woman in the US?
we live in california but would love to go to France permanently.
thanks for all info.


Daina October 7, 2010 at 9:23 am

I am currently living and working in France, my visa is for another 6 months. We are considering marrying in France. Will this allow me to aquire a work visa? Any advice, sources of information or suggestions for lawyers is appreciated!


ovais June 21, 2014 at 3:02 pm

i am awais .Frome pakistan but i live in Paris .I dont have a visa but i have asylum here.i am 24 year old .I want to marry .


Ann March 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm

I am a non EU citizen and I wonder if I can live with my boyfriend (which is French) more than my allowed stay of 3 months there. I don't need any kind of visa for 3 months cause I am part of Europe, but I like to know if I can stay to live with him without any other permission. Does the law allow that? Or any loophole in it?


Liz April 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm

In any country you must have a legal visa/permit/citizenship to stay. Otherwise you are an illegal immigrant/ a stateless person even in your own country of birth. Every country including France protects itself with laws to avoid an over-population of illegal immigrants. I am stating my own experience if it can help someone. I came to France on a 3-month visa. Got married to my French husband. If I had married my French husband in my own country of birth then it would have been more complicated and more documents to present. Remember, every document has to be translated into French by a certified translator. Each copy costs about 30 to 50 euros. After the registration of my marriage I was issued with a carte de sejour valid for 3 months. There was also a police investigation and a house visit to ensure that I am not in illegal situation. After 3 months my card was renewable. This carte alllowed me to work in France. Then an annual carte de sejour was issued. I renewed it 3 times. After 4 years of stay in France I was issued with the titre de sejour for 10 years. This was issued after submitting many documents and a visit to the municiple police for verification. Don't wait for Prefecture to arrange for french lessons. Find your own online courses otherwise french lessons in faculties or private instituitons will cost 1000 euros. I self-taught myself French. Police are stern and strict when they are conducting investigations. It will help to speak French sufficiently. To improve my French conversations I also took up driving lessons in French. Imagine the stress of driving on real streets, looking for directions among french streetnames and with driving instructors yelling at you in French! I passed my driving and getting the driving license was useful as it served as a second form of identification piece for the police. That makes paperwork smoother for them. They are under a protocol during investigations so don't expect them to be friendly. After holding the titre de sejour for 4 years I had the right to apply for the French nationality. Staying put in France for the first five years will help tremendously for your nationality application. They would request a list of 10 different personal documents. A non-criminal record document proof from your country of birth. Parents' birth certicates, marriage certificates, your birth certificates, etc. Wait for a year and if they don't get back to you Voila! good news! You are French. So in total it took 7 years for me. You have to like their culture, their language, their way of life and integration into France is very important. So it was a real test on me. I am an ardent admirer of French architecture and the historical monuments and wonders of antiquity. I like the pace of life here. I love the countrysides, the morning visits to the bakeries/patisserie. Tasting exquisite french wines and abundance of fromage cheese. Un vrai pays d'abondance! I am living my dream so I guess I was able to put up with all those administrative stuff. If one is resistant, independant, dynamic and willing to adapt to all situations, learning a new language, being a humanitarian, respecting the diverse cultures and people, acing your survival guides you will WIN wherever you go, whichever country it may be. My daughter came to France at 15 years of age. Immediately she enrolled in their public school as a non-french speaker. Spoke french in 3 months and today she in University and will be graduating soon with her Bachelor's Degree in French. She's going to continue with her Masters Degree. She is already financially independant. So it's her turn to go through the hassle of paperwork to get her French nationality. One has to be financially independant if you are a single person to apply. So Good-Luck and follow your dream.

PS. due to the economic crisis it is already difficult for French people to find jobs so foreigners will have a tougher time. You can teach English in primary schools but it doesn't pay very well and it is a temporary job. Speaking French well is not enough you need a French degree as well.


Danish October 19, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Dear Liz,
Thanks for the above info it was very helpful to me but still i am having some queries , I am an indian national and had overstayed in france due 9 months thankfully i am having a french girlfriend and we are planning to get married ( she is saying after we marry and after complete investigations i will be completely free and legal) But i am having my own doubts since some people told me that the moment you go to the immigration office for registering your marriage you will be caught is it so because i am afraid for that since i dont want to leave my gf as she is 2 months Pregnant now and i dont want to leave her in this situation atleast.i would be grateful if you can reply me on this .

Danish Ahmed.


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