Applying for asylum in France
Legal advice : Exilé.es La chapelle
Every monday, between 2 pm and 5 pm, 10 rue affre 75018 Paris.
The legal advice provided only concerns questions relating to the Dublin procedure, CMA questions (problem with the Ofii), OQTF (obligation to leave French territory) and CNDA appeals, and issues encountered when registering your asylum claim (legal advice only in English and French).
Who are we ?
This legal clinic is set up by activists and various associations (ATMF, Dom’asile, GISTI, La Cimade, ADDE, ELENA).
All people working there are willing to fight for your rights, by your side, and support you when facing difficulties with the administration.
We are not related in any way to the public services organisations in charge of refugees’ reception (Prefecture, OFPRA, OFII or any association commissioned by the government like FTDA, Croix-Rouge, Coallia, Emmaüs solidarité…).
Already greatly transformed in 2015, the asylum procedure outline has just been significantly changed again by the 2018-778 law of September 10th 2018 “for a controlled immigration, a real right to asylum and successful integration” (“pour une immigration maîtrisée, un droit d’asile effectif et une intégation réussié”) which reformed the Ceseda (« Code de l’entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d’asile » or “code for entry and residence of foreigners and for the right to asylum”). As per usual in the field of foreigners’ rights and asylum, the legislators did not try simplifying the procedure but, on the contrary, made it even more technical and difficult to understand by asylum seekers or by the people who assist them.
Another recent law -the 2018-187 law of March 20th 2018, "allowing a good application of the European asylum system"- focuses specifically on people in the Dublin procedure, and reinforces the coercion of an already extremely precarious population.
The few small improvements brought by these laws are, as always, outweighed by a multitude of other measures taken in order to reinforce the controlling of migrants, in order to "sort" them according to their administrative status, or in order to suspend or withdraw their rights—sometimes completely arbitrarily—so as to make them even more precarious, in order to lock them up, to remove them from the asylum procedure, to expel them…
The migratory policies and refugees reception crisis has now lasted for several years. This crisis is orchestrated by France itself, which instead of trying to adapt its system to better welcome people (centers for first reception, reception at the police prefecture, sufficient housing, real administrative, social and legal assistance), has chosen to control people even more and turn away as many people as possible.
All of this is made possible by resorting to a legal arsenal, including the infamous Dublin Regulation which determines the country responsible for examining an asylum application. This regulation -which is becoming increasingly restrictive - is used excessively even though all European countries are conscious that they cannot force people to stay in a country in which they do not want to settle down. In contradiction with legal standards and against all common sense, resorting to the Dublin regulation results in an inflation of the number of forced deportations, back-and-forth trips, and illegal practices of massively turning away people at borders. France itself has never complied with its reception of asylum seekers obligations, and, for many years, has preferred mistreating them, hoping that people will leave and spread the message to others that France is not a hospitable country to discourage them from coming.
Despite measures taken by the authorities to put an end to refugee camps, the camps are not disappearing. After each dismantling, they simply split up in smaller camps popping up elsewhere gathering just a few dozen to a few hundred people. In the Paris region, it still takes months before one can file an asylum claim. The long waiting lines in front of pre-prefectures have now transformed into invisible phone lines with the establishment of a telephone number, difficult to get through to, to get an appointment at the first reception center.
Once one has finally been able to start the asylum procedure, the French Office on Immigration and Integration (Ofii), substantially restricts the right to material reception conditions (CMA) for asylum seekers, leaving them in extremely precarious situations and degrading conditions throughout the whole asylum procedure.
Regarding the asylum application itself, the French Office for the Protection of refugees and stateless persons (Ofpra) and the National Court of Asylum (CNDA) interpret the Geneva Convention exceedingly restrictively. Statistics on the subjet matter are often contradictory. In 2020, the protection rate is merely of 9.8% by the Ofpra (23.7% including minors) and 24.4% after appeal before the CNDA, which means that over 76% of applications for international protection were rejected.
Although it is impossible to list all of the traps set by the administration, these fact sheets aim to provide the information required to submit an asylum application, and assert one’s rights.
- always keep a copy of the documents you submit to the authorities
- never give originals (except for the passport that you have to submit to Ofpra)
Articles de cette rubrique
A. SPADA reception center
In order to apply for asylum in France, you must first of all report to a first reception center (Spada or Pada). You must not go directly to the prefecture or to the Ofpra (French office for the protection of refugees and stateless persons).
The Ofii’s number (01 42 500 900) is difficult to reach. The dematerialisation of the appointment scheduling system, adopted by many prefectures, makes migrants invisible while they wait for an appointment to register their asylum application.
If you are unable to reach this number, it is possible to appeal to the administrative court.
You must go as soon as possible to the Spada (or call the Ofii’s number). Even though there is no time limit for requesting asylum and you can request asylum even after years of living in France, if you say that you arrived in France more than 90 days ago, the prefecture will place you in the fast-track process (factsheet no. 2). This fast-track process is less favorable for you, and you might be denied the Material Reception Conditions (CMA) that normally come with an asylum application, which involve housing and an allowance.
Each Spada is managed by an association which works on behalf of the French government. It has multiple roles, as it must inform you about asylum, give you the necessary documents to file an application for protection, and help you with the asylum application procedures, especially if you are not living in a housing center.
1. Informing you about asylum
The Spada must inform you about the asylum procedure and provide you with information documents produced by the Ofii (the French office for immigration and integration), a government body (factsheet no. 2).
2. Helping you with the registration procedure
The Spada must help you fill out the asylum request registration form and check that the file is complete, in order to send it to the prefecture.
To complete the form, the Spada officer will ask you questions about:
- Your civil status (first names and surname, nationality, family situation);
- The itinerary of your journey from your country of origin;
- How you entered French territory;
- If you have already requested asylum in France or in Europe…;
The form and a photo taken by webcam will be sent to the prefecture.
The questions about your journey are to check if you have travelled through other countries of the European Union in order to apply the so-called “Dublin” procedure (factsheet no. 3). Some police prefectures will only place you in the Dublin procedure if your fingerprints are in a database, while others also use what you have declared during the interviews.
If you do not want to answer these questions or if the prefecture realizes that you have given false information, the prefecture can decide that you do not wish to “cooperate” and can place you in the fast-track procedure, which is not in your interest (factsheet no. 2).
3. Making an appointment at the prefecture service desk
The Spada must obtain an appointment for you at the prefecture service desk called GUDA within 3 days (or 10 days if the number of asylum seekers is particularly high) and provide you with a notification of this appointment.
4. If you have no housing
If, after your visit to the GUDA, the Ofii does not offer you long-term housing, you must return to the SPADA which must:
- Domicile you (i.e. provide you with a fixed address which is very important for receiving mail). If you are not housed in an Asylum Seeker Reception Center (Cada), in a similar structure or in a Center for Reception and Situation Examination (CAES), then your domiciliation with the Spada is mandatory, in which case you cannot give a different postal address for your procedures including the asylum application (unless you are a tenant or owner of your home);
- Fill in the Ofpra asylum request form with you (factsheet 4);
- Help you write your asylum story and translate it (factsheet 4);
- Help you obtain the health insurance that asylum seekers have a right to (factsheet 6);
- Provide you with special assistance (vouchers, food parcels) and direct you to the municipal reception service if necessary (Municipal center for social action (CCAS)).
The Spada has the obligation to help you, as this organization is financed by the government with a contract requiring it to fulfill certain tasks. If the Spada does not help you enough, after being registered by the Spada, you can contact an association which helps asylum seekers.
5. Accompanying and domiciling beneficiaries of international protection
According to the new contract bid made by the Ofii, the Spadas are also responsible for accompanying and domiciling beneficiaries of international protection, which involves the asylum seekers who have been recognised as refugees.
B. The Centers for reception and situation examination (CAES)
In order to remedy the malfunctions of the reception procedure, the State set up a second system giving access to the asylum procedure which is being spread nationally. This second system is composed of the Centers for reception and situation examination (CAES). CAES have been opened to provide shelter and a quick examination of individual administrative situations, before directing asylum seekers, more or less rapidly, towards housing depending on their administrative status (see the Cimade’s map to know their locations).
Each CAES is limited by its specific reception capacity. In theory, the stay should not exceed ten days. In practice, the stay is longer because of the recurring lack of housing spaces for asylum seekers in France.
Depending on their administrative situation, asylum seekers can be sent to centers which function in a coercive manner. People in the Dublin procedure who go through a CAES in the Parisian region are, most often, hosted in centers located in Ile-de-France which can serve as centers for “house arrests”,in which ID checks and arrests can take place. In Ile-de-France, in order to access a CAES, you must either go through one of the day-time reception centers for isolated persons (see below) or be spotted by a roving street team.
This new preliminary step makes it impossible to directly access a CAES. This allows the government to avoid waiting lines in front of centers, such as the ones that had formed in front of the former reception center at La Chapelle (the former “bubble”). All of this once again allows the government to make asylum seekers invisible and to hide the fact that France has a deficient reception policy.
The day-time reception centers for isolated persons in Paris can accompany asylum seekers for certain procedures, but these centers are often saturated and unable to properly function.
After the reception platform – Spada (factsheet no. 1), you need to go to the Guda at the date of the appointment given to you by the Spada. The Guda includes services provided by both the prefecture and the Ofii. In France, there are 33 single-desk contact points. The prefecture is in charge of your residence; it provides you with an asylum application certificate. The Ofii is responsible for providing access to “material reception conditions” (housing, allowance…).
A. “Sorting” of asylum seekers by the police prefecture, and the right to residence
The police prefecture is responsible for your right of residence. Even if you do not have a passport or a national id card the police prefecture has to register the information that you provide orally.
Do not miss this appointment because it will be difficult to obtain another one.
If necessary, you must communicate, any change of address or “domiciliation” to the police prefecture by registered letter with delivery receipt.
It is highly recommended that you ask for an interpreter for your native language. Do not choose a language which you do not speak perfectly.
1. Taking of fingerprints
Your fingerprints will be taken at the prefecture to check if you are registered in the Eurodac and Visabio files. The police prefecture has to give you a booklet explaining why your fingerprints are taken entitled "I asked for asylum in the European Union: which country will handle my request?".
The prefecture will also look for other evidence or signs of passage through another European Union country: you will be asked questions about your journey, your passport will be examined (to see if there is a visa for any other European country), as well as any other documents that you provide them.
- If your fingerprints are stored in a Eurodac file, or if the police prefecture finds another indication of your passage through another European country, you will be transferred to the “Dublin” procedure (factsheet no. 3).
- If the prefecture does not find any proof that you have traveled through another country of the European Union, you can apply for asylum in France.
Note: before your appointment at the prefecture, you cannot find out if you are registered in a Eurodac file or not. The countries that you have traveled through (Italy, Hungary, etc.) and in which you have gone through screening may not have recorded your fingerprints in the file.
Some police prefectures refuse to register asylum requests if your fingerprints are unreadable, but this is illegal. In that case, you have to contact an association or a lawyer to contest this kind of practice.
2. The Guide for asylum seekers
The prefecture must provide you with a copy of the Interior Ministry’s Guide for asylum seekers in a language that you understand, and a list of associations that can help you.
3. “Normal” or “fast-track” procedure
The prefecture can place you either in the ‘normal’, ‘fast-track’ or “Dublin” procedure (“normale”, “accélérée” or “Dublin”).
You will be placed in the fast-track procedure:
- If you do not provide your fingerprints, or if they are illegible or erased;
- If you provide false identity documents;
- If you provide incorrect information about yourself or your journey;
- If the prefecture notices that you have already requested asylum in France under another name;
- If you say that you entered France more than 90 days ago;
- If you are arrested and the police give you an “OQTF” – an order to leave French Territory – and you are placed in a detention facility…
Furthermore, the law provides that the police prefecture will place you in the fast-track procedure if:
- you come from a “safe country of origin” : Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Georgia, India, Kosovo, Macedonia (FYROM), Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro and Serbia.
- you ask for a reconsideration of your asylum claim.
The Ofpra can also place you in the fast-track procedure after examining your story.
The prefecture must provide you with a document that explains why you have been placed into the fast-track procedure. If they do not give it to you, ask for it.
According to the law, the Ofpra only has 15 days to make a decision, but the delays are longer in practice.
Especially in the fast-track procedure, it is of paramount importance to carefully prepare your written asylum story on the Ofpra form and that you prepare for your interview (factsheet n°4).
f your asylum application is rejected by the Ofpra and you are in the fast-track procedure, a single judge will examine your appeal to the CNDA(instead of three in the normal procedure). This judge makes their ruling within 5 weeks instead of five months, which means there is less time to examine your appeal. Currently this time limit is not being respected.
In addition, it is possible for the Ofii to use your placement in the fast-track procedure to refuse to provide you the material reception conditions (CMA), specifically the asylum seekers allowance (ADA) and housing (see below). It is then necessary to check if the law considers this reason as a valid justification for taking away the CMA (see B.5. Cases of refusal, withdrawal and suspension of CMA).
4. Reception of the asylum application certificate
The prefecture will provide you with an “attestation de demande d’asile” (asylum application certificate) which will indicate in which procedure your application has been placed (“normal”, “fast-track” or “Dublin”). This document proves that you are an asylum seeker: you must always have it with you in case you are stopped and checked by the police (the original or a photocopy).
Depending on the prefecture (summons notice, presentation without an appointment, etc) you must return to the prefecture to renew this certificate with:
- The Ofpra registration letter or a certificate from submitting your asylum application;
- Proof of residence or proof of your postal address (from a “domiciliation”) no more than 3 months old.
In the normal procedure, the asylum application certificate is valid for 10 months, then renewable every 6 months. In the fast-track procedure, it is valid for 6 months, then renewable every 6 months. In the case of an appeal before the CNDA, the certificate will only be renewed upon presentation of the certificate of receipt of the appeal to the CNDA.
The asylum application certificate does not permit you to travel freely in other countries of the European Union.
In the Dublin procedure, the first certificate is valid for 1 month, and is then renewable every 4 months.
Regarding refusals or withdrawals of certificates cases, see 4. : Different cases of refusal or removal of the certificate (loss of the right to stay).
5. Provision of the Ofpra form
B. The Ofii and the material reception conditions (CMA)
→ For more detailed information : Asylum application and material reception conditions, Gisti, coll. Les Notes pratiques, April 2020.
The Ofii (French office for immigration and integration), a government body under the authority of the Interior Ministry, is responsible for providing access to “material reception conditions” (housing, allowance, postal address, vulnerability). No matter which procedural track your application has been placed in by the prefecture (normal, fast-track or Dublin) you have the right to these provisions called CMA, except in certain cases listed below.
Accepting the offer of assistance implies that the Ofii can force you to move to another region (a region of residence) without necessarily offering you housing there.
If the number of asylum seekers residing in a region exceeds the proportion set for this region by the national scheme for the reception of asylum seekers and the reception capacity of this region, you may be transferred to another region where you are required to reside while your application is being reviewed. It will not be possible for you to leave this area without first warning the Ofii and obtaining an authorization from them.
An Ofii agent will receive you for a personal interview to assess whether you are a "vulnerable" asylum seeker (see the form). For example, a person with a disability, a pregnant woman, a sick person, etc. are considered "vulnerable". As a vulnerable person, you will be given priority for housing, and that housing must comply with your specific needs.
You can report a situation of vulnerability to the Ofii at any time throughout the procedure.
The Ofii will provide you with an accommodation offer based on the places available in reception centers for asylum seekers (Cada). To do so, the Ofii consults the DN@ file (national file for place management). In the absence of available space in a Cada, the office could offer you another kind of accommodation such as emergency accommodation (Huda, AT-SA), accommodation in a reception and orientation center (CAO) or in a Prahda facility (reception and housing program for asylum seekers).
If you are not housed in any of those places, the Ofii will redirect you to a Spada (a first reception center). The Spada will advise you to call the emergency number 115 to find your own emergency housing.
These reception centers may have different operating rules but they are subject to common obligations (defined by their contract with the government), particularly concerning administrative, medical and social assistance. The functioning of those centers is supposed to be homogenized soon.
Each of those housing centers must follow a particular procedure regarding departure from the accommodation. This procedure implies you must be given notice before you can be let back on the street. Therefore, before leaving the center, we recommend that you check with an association that your center is following the mandatory procedure.
3. Postal address
If you are provided with “long-term” housing in a center, you can use the address of the center for your asylum procedure; this is called “domiciliation”.
If you are not housed in such a center, you must return to the Spada (factsheet no.1) which will provide you with a postal address where you can receive your mail.
4. The asylum-seeker’s allowance (ADA)
The Ofii will provide you a card for this allowance. As this card is no longer usable in ATMs (cash machines), you can only use the card to pay directly for your purchases.
It is nonetheless advisable to open a bank account (at the ‘Banque postale’). To open an account, you need to provide the asylum application certificate and a valid domiciliation address.
The ADA amounts to 6.80 euros per day for a single person. The amount is calculated based on your family compositions (for 2 people 10,20 euros; for 3 people 13,60 euros...).
An additional amount of € 7.40 per day will be paid to you each month if no housing has been offered to you. If you indicate that you are housed somewhere for free, this additional amount will be withdrawn.
Henceforth asylum seekers sleeping in emergency housing will no longer qualify for this additional amount, even though it is only a temporary housing. The services responsible for the management of emergency housing (SIAO) will be required to report the identities of refugees and asylum seekers that they are hosting to the Ofii on a monthly basis. To qualify for the material reception conditions (CMA) and specifically the ADA allowance, you must:
- Be over 18 years old;
- Possess an asylum application certificate (which gives you the right to reside in France);
- Have accepted and signed the “offre de prise en charge” given at the Ofii, during your appointment at the single-desk contact point, thus accepting their housing offer or the region of residence;
- Have submitted the Ofpra form within 21 days (except for people in the Dublin procedure);
- Declare that your income is less than the French “revenu de solidarité active” (RSA – a welfare benefit): 550 euros for a single adult with no children;
- Present yourself to the authorities (police prefecture, Ofii, house arrest...) when summoned, and give them all the requested information.
The ADA is paid to you throughout the whole asylum procedure, as long as you have the right to remain in France, or until the transfer to another State responsible for the review of your application following the Dublin regulation. You will stop benefiting from the ADA the month following the termination of your right to remain in French territory.
5. Cases of refusal, withdrawal and suspension of the CMA
In each and every case, the Ofii is required to deliver written and motivated decisions.
a. The refusal of the CMA
After the registration of your application at the single-desk contact point, the Ofii can refuse the CMA if (articles L 551-15 / ex-L 744-8,2° and L.744-7 Ceseda):
- You submit a request for review of your asylum application (reconsideration);
- You have not applied for asylum within 90 days after your entry in France, and have no legitimate reason to not have done so. In practice, the Ofii applies this principle almost systematically without taking into account any “legitimate reason” justifying the “lateness” of the application, such as for example the impossibility of registration of the asylum application because of the overcrowding of the Spadas and prefectures (in this case, you should keep any evidence of your calls to those platforms). These legitimate justifications are not specified by the law.
- You refuse the accommodation proposal by the Ofii or the direction to a region determined by the Ofii (CE, 31 juillet 2019, n°428530)
For rejection cases, prior to going to court, you need to write to the general director of the Ofii. Writing this email is mandatory if you want to be able to challenge the refusal of the CMA before the court. However, you do not need to wait for the Ofii director’s answer to go to court.
b. The suspension or withdrawal of the CMA.
There are numerous cases of suspension or withdrawal that enable the Ofii to put an end to your material reception conditions at any given point throughout the procedure.
This includes if (articles L.551-16 / ex L.744-8,1° and L.744-7 Ceseda) :
- You leave the region you have been directed to by the Ofii or the housing in which you have been admitted
- You do not comply with the requirements imposed by the administrative authorities, in particular going to the various interviews, presenting yourself to the authorities when being summoned and providing all necessary information to facilitate the procedure
- You have concealed your financial resources
- You have provided false information concerning your family situation
- You have submitted several asylum applications with different identities
Violent behavior or serious breach of housing rules should no longer lead to the withdrawal of the CMA. The Court of Justice of the European Union held (Haqbin, 12th november 2019, aff. C-233/18) that the withdrawal of material reception conditions would violate the principle of proportionality. Since this decision, several French administrative courts have followed this interpretation by the European court.
Since the Conseil d’Etat’s decision (31st July 2019, n°428530), the Ofii can no longer take a withdrawal decision without first following a contradictory procedure enabling you to make observations and potentially present a reinstatement request.
A reinstatement request can be made to the Ofii taking into account three criteria established by the Conseil d’Etat : the vulnerability of the applicant, their needs for material support, the following of the obligations concerning administration authorities.
In case of any change in situation (for example from the Dublin procedure to the normal track), if no new examination has been carried out, it is necessary to ask the Ofii to reinstate those rights. The Ofii is then obliged to re-evaluate the situation according to those criteria.
The Ofii tends to cut the ADA erroneously. You should always verify that the Ofii decision is based on one of the situations listed above, and that it is justified. Important case law exists both at the level of the administrative courts and the Conseil d’Etat.
> For more details see: Gisti, Les notes pratiques, L’accompagnement des demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile en procédure « Dublin », 2e édition, juillet 2019. (Gisti, Practical guides, Accompanying asylum seekers in the Dublin procedure, April 2018).
According to the rules of Dublin III, only one Member State is responsible for the assessment of an asylum request in the European Union (EU).
According to these rules:
- If you asked for asylum in another EU member state, this country remains responsible for your asylum request (whether the request is ongoing or rejected);
- If you haven’t asked for asylum elsewhere, “the Dublin III” regulations provide criteria that will enable France to determine the country responsible for the asylum request. For example, it can be the country which issued your first visa or a residence permit, or the country through which you entered into the EU and in which you first had your identity checked. This responsibility of member states ends twelve months after the date of an illegal crossing of the border. Other, more positive, criteria are provided, such as being a minor or having family in France (articles 7 to 17 of the regulations).
A. The prefecture determines which Member State is responsible for an asylum request
To do so, it consults:
- the visa information system (Visabio) to determine if you received a visa for another EU member state;
- the Eurodac file in which your fingerprints are recorded if they were taken in one of the 28 Member States of the EU or in 4 associated countries: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
The Eurodac file collects data on:
- asylum seekers (category 1 – fingerprints are kept for 10 years);
- persons apprehended while illegally crossing an external border (category 2 – fingerprints are kept for 18 months).
Persons who are illegally present on the territory of a member state (category 3) can also have their fingerprints checked and compared with the database, but their fingerprints will be destroyed after being compared.
B. The Dublin Procedure in action
If it is proven that you have traveled through another EU country, you are placed in the Dublin procedure; you will then attend an individual interview either with a translator or with a translator by telephone. The prefecture must provide you with a detailed report of the interview, as well as several information brochures in a language that you understand: one on the taking of fingerprints (brochure A1), one on the “Dublin” procedure (brochure B2) and one about the Eurodac regulations.
Even if it is not the country responsible for the asylum request, France still has the possibility to examine your request (see in particular article 17 of the regulation: discretionary provisions). This is why you must provide the prefecture with any information which could encourage the French authorities to examine your asylum application, such as:
- the legal presence in France of members of your family with residence permits, who are seeking asylum or who are protected;
- if you have health problems;
- if you are pregnant;
- if you have experienced ill treatment while in the EU country to which it is intended you return to.
During the “Dublin” procedure, France and the country responsible for your request have deadlines to respect (a time limit to contact the other country’s authorities and a time limit to answer).
|Time limit to contact the other country||Time limit to for the other country to answer France||Time limit to transfer|
|1. requests to take back||3 months||1 month||6 months ((1 year in the case of imprisonment; 18 months in the case of escape) - If appeal is rejected by administrative court: the time limit starts over.|
|1. requests to take back (if you are in the Eurodac category 1file*)||2 months||15 days||Idem (6, 12 ou 18 months)|
|2. Requests to take charge)||3 months||2 months||Idem|
|2. Requests to take charge (if you are in the Eurodac category 2 file **)||2 months||1 month if it is urgent||Idem|
|Detention center||1 month||15 days||6 weeks|
* Category 1: fingerprints of all those who have applied for asylum in Member States.
** Category 2: fingerprints of people who have been apprehended while illegally crossing the external border of a Member State.
There is also a category 3: fingerprints of people who were staying illegally on the territory of a Member State, when the competent authorities consider it necessary to check the existence of any previous asylum application.
If you have not been transferred within 6 months after a country consented to taking responsibility for your claim (date stated on the transfer decision), France becomes the country responsible for your asylum request. You can check the end of this 6-month time limit on the “laissez-passer” the prefecture has given you. If you appealed against the transfer decision, the 6-months deadline starts over again at the date of notification of the court’s decision (see F. Appealing a transfer decision).
D. You are declared to be “on the run”
You will be declared on the run (“en fuite” in French) if you missed one or more appointments at the prefecture, the Ofii, with the police or at the airport. Recently, more and more people are said to be “on the run”.This happens as soon as the asylum application is submitted because the prefectures have been assigning more asylum seekers to house arrest, which implies asylum seekers are obliged to sign in regularly at a police station. In addition, the appointment letters for the prefectures are sometimes written in such frightening terms (“appointment at the expulsion office, come with your luggage, go to the border police office in order for execution of the transfer”) that asylum seekers are afraid to go...and are declared to be “on the run”.
If you are declared to be “on the run” and either you do not challenge this or you lose your court case, France will only become responsible for your asylum request 18 months later. Thus, you will have to wait 18 months to be able to apply for asylum again in France.
If you are declared to be “on the run” the Ofii will stop giving you the ADA allowance. Regarding accomodation, it depends on each housing center: some will try to keep you as long as possible and some will not hesitate to kick you out. After 18 months, you can return directly to the Guda to submit your asylum application in France. The Ofii may refuse to provide you with material reception conditions. In this case, contact an association to see if you can challenge this decision.
E. Consequences for your asylum request
During the entire time of the Dublin procedure:
- You cannot make an asylum request in France. The prefecture will provide you with a specific “Dublin procedure” asylum application certificate;
- You have the same rights as other asylum seekers (asylum seeker’s allowance, health insurance, schooling for your children, etc.). As for housing, you do not have the right to a place in a housing center for asylum seekers (Cada) but you can be hosted in another type of center (factsheet 2);
- You can be placed under "house arrest" ("assignation à résidence") during part of the procedure and even be placed in a detention center, before being sent to the country responsible for your asylum request. Detentions are more and more frequent, especially since the adoption of the March 20th 2018 law for a good application of the European asylum system” which legalizes detention for most people in the “Dublin” procedure, considering that there is a “non-negligible escape risk” justifying this placement.
F. Appealing a “Dublin” transfer decision
When the country responsible for you asylum request has given its approval, a transfer ruling is notified. You may contest this decision before the administrative court (this appeal suspends the transfer).
Pay close attention to the deadlines:
- You must present your case to the administrative court within 15 days of receiving the transfer decision.
- If you are placed in detention or house arrest you must bring your case before the court within 48 hours of receiving the transfer decision.
Before you go to court, you should contact a lawyer or an association that knows these procedures in order to assess how useful it would be. Certain procedural irregularities may lead the judge to void the transfer decision (for example if your right to be informed is not respected or if there is a translation problem).It is also possible to use substantive elements, for example if you have been mistreated in the country France wants to send you back to, or if the conditions of reception for refugees are bad in this country (failure of the state). Both of these types of arguments are important for challenging a transfer.
> For more information on challenging a transfer decision, consult the practical note on the Gisti website: L’accompagnement des demandeurs et demandeuses d’asile en procédure « Dublin » (Accompanying asylum seekers in the "Dublin" procedure).
Appealing is a double-edged sword. If you appeal a transfer decision, the 6-months time period to transfer you is not calculated starting from the answer of the country responsible for your asylum request, but from the notification of the final court ruling. Therefore, the 6-months time limit begins “all over again” starting from the date of notification of the court ruling. Thus, if the transfer decision was notified to you at the end of the “Dublin Procedure” (after the 4th or 5th month), France will have a new 6 months period to transfer you, starting from the notification of the decision.
If the judge annuls the decision on strictly procedural grounds (for example the obligation to inform was not respected), the prefect can take another transfer decision in due form. However, if the decision was annulled for substantive reasons (for example an error made by the administration that cannot be "repaired", or if you have been subjected to mistreatment in the country responsible for your asylum application, or that country has no "capacity" to receive you – failed state) the prefecture cannot issue a new transfer order. Thus, if the judge has annulled the decision of transfer and made an injunction to the prefecture to register the asylum application, the prefecture will have to do so.
Thus, after a hearing, even if the court annulled the decision of transfer, it is better not to show up to your prefecture appointments, and to wait until the end of the initial period of 6 months before returning to the prefecture. In any case, you should consult an association or your lawyer before going to the prefecture.
If you had appointments scheduled for a transfer procedure, and if the order of transfer was annulled, you are not held legally to show up to those appointments. However, very often, if you do not show up to these appointments, the prefecture will declare you “on the run” and you will lose the ADA allowance (factsheet 2).
It is important that you are able to meet your lawyer in order to provide them with all the useful information.f they do not call you, try to contact the court clerk to find out the date of the hearing which will generally be held a few days later.
In case of an appeal of the court’s decision -either by the prefect or by you- the time period after which France becomes responsible for your asylum claim can not be extended. The prefecture must register your application,in the normal procedure by default.
If you wish to appeal the decision of the administrative court rejecting your request, you should know that judgment will take a long time. If you have the means to challenge this rejection, an appeal can be useful, in particular if you are later declared to be”on the run”.
G. Appealing a house arrest order
If you are placed under "house arrest" ("assignation à résidence"), you will usually have to go to a police station, often twice a week or more, to sign a register.
If you fear being arrested there, ask an association for advice before deciding to avoid the house arrest, because doing so could also have serious repercussions: being declared to be “on the run” and having to wait 18 months without any rights before being able to ask for asylum in France.
Appealing a "house arrest" decision will have the same consequences as appealing a transfer decision (the 6-month time period after which France becomes responsible for your request starts again from the date of the court’s decision).
>For the different practices in the prefectures of the Île-de-France region see here
H. Transferred persons who come back to France
If you come back to France after being transferred to another EU member state, different situations can occur:
- the prefecture refuses to register your asylum application. In that case, contact an association to take legal action against the refusal;
- the prefecture accepts to register your application but places you again in the “Dublin” procedure; it appears that prefectures have been encouraged to do this. It’s possible to explain to the prefecture that you were subject to an obligation to leave the territory of the country to which you were transferred, or explain that the authorities forced you to go back to France. If you have kept some documents proving this you must bring them (decision of the country asking you to leave their territory, photos of the mistreatment you were subject to, etc.). It can also be useful to bring documents proving that you have strong links to France; they can influence the prefecture’s decision. Try to go to the prefecture with a person who speaks French and who can explain your situation. It’s important to always keep a copy of your obligation to leave the territory of the country initially responsible for your request, because some prefectures keep this document. If the prefecture doesn’t take it into account, you will be able to produce this proof in front of the judge when you are appealing your transfer decision.
- the prefecture registers your asylum request but you are placed in the “fast-track” procedure (procédure accélérée) because you “failed to comply with the Dublin procedure”. In that case, contact an association to engage legal proceedings if, following this, the Ofii refuses to grant you the ADA allowance.
- finally, in the best-case scenario, the prefecture can register your asylum request in the normal procedure and hand you the Ofpra application file.
A criminal punishment which was already applied in other cases has just been extended to persons in the Dublin procedure (Ceseda, Art. L. 624-3): the court can sentence any person who has avoided or who has tried to avoid the execution of a transfer decision to three years’ imprisonment. This measure particularly targets persons who return to France after their transfer. Similarly, a transferred person who has re-entered France without authorization will be punished by three years’ imprisonment.
A. Submitting the asylum request to the Ofpra
After the appointment at the Guda, you must fill in the Ofpra (French office for the protection of refugees and stateless persons) asylum request form in French. Do not forget to date and sign it. You must then send it by registered letter with delivery receipt or hand it in to the Ofpra within 21 days of the date on which you obtained the asylum application certificate.
Along with the form, you must also send 2 recent identity photos, a copy of the asylum application certificate and any other document useful for your asylum story (see below). If you have a passport, you must provide the original.
If the Ofpra considers that your file is complete, you will receive a letter certifying the registration of your asylum request.
The use of this platform has become compulsory; it allows Ofpra to notify asylum seekers of their invitation to a personal interview, but also of its decision (decision to grant or refuse asylum, inadmissibility, closure, withdrawal of refugee status, and granting or refusing stateless status).
The decree specifies that other letters and documents relating to the investigation of the asylum application can also be posted on this portal.
1. The different sections of the Ofpra form
- Civil status section: make sure that you correctly fill in the fields regarding your civil status. If you make a mistake, ask the Ofpra to fix this information. You can request that the public prosecutor make changes, but this process is very slow;
- Family members section: this part is very important if you arrived on your own in France and wish to bring your family here at a later date (factsheet no.9);
- Itinerary section: copy the information that you provided to the Spada, in particular the date of your arrival in France, which is an important piece of information;
- Language: the Ofpra interview takes place in the language or dialect that was declared when registering the asylum application. If it is impossible to receive the services of an interpreter in that language, another language may be used if it is reasonable to think that you will also understand it. If the prefecture attributed the wrong language to your file, you can request that the Ofpra change this language;
- Asylum story section: this is the most important section because an asylum request is a request for protection based on your life story and your fear of persecution (see below).
The form can be completed at any time (up to the date of the Ofpra interview). You must send any additional information and any copies of documents supporting your claim of fear of persecution by registered letter with delivery receipt to the Ofpra.
2. The closure of your asylum request by the Ofpra
- If you do not send the form to the Ofpra within 21 days without a “valid reason”, the Ofpra will close your file, putting an end to your asylum request. However, the form can be sent after this period if you have a "valid reason" justifying your tardiness, such as a significant medical problem, although a “valid reason” does not guarantee a positive decision from the Ofpra ;
- If you have not sent your address to Ofpra within a "reasonable time period", the notification, which didn’t occur by mail for lack of a valid address, will be dated to the day of the Ofpra’s decision;
- The Ofpra can close your application if you refuse to provide information regarding your history, your identity, your nationality, etc., or if you have not informed them of your address or place of residence within a reasonable time period, and if you cannot be contacted to examine your request.
Important : Following a decision to close your file, you may ask for it to be reopened within a period of 9 months.
3. The Ofpra can rule that your request is ineligible
- If you are recognized as a refugee by another Member State of the European Union or another country (as long as the protection is authentic and you are able to be readmitted there);
- If you request a re-consideration (second asylum request) without providing any “new evidence”. This new evidence must be pertinent and must support your claims of “personal fears”. This new evidence must have happened after the procedure at the CNDA, otherwise you must prove that you had no knowledge of it before the hearing (Ceseda Art. L. 723-16).
4. The Ofpra can place you into the fast-track procedure (procedure accélerée)
Your placement in the fast-track procedure will have already been decided at the Guda (even if it is officially the Ofpra’s decision) if you come from a "safe country of origin" or if it is your second asylum application (reconsideration).
After receiving your asylum request form, the Ofpra can also decide to place you in the fast-track procedure (Ceseda, art. L.531-26 / ex-L.723-2):
- In case of “fraud”: false declarations, false documents, the same person presenting multiple requests under different identities, etc.;
- If your declarations are “evidently inconsistent and contradictory”.
These cases are added to the other reasons for placing a person in the fast-track procedure (factsheet no.2).
Regarding these complex concepts: please see the Guide for Asylum seekers produced by the authorities (in several languages).
5. Exclusion and termination clauses
The Ofpra can terminate its protection, on its own initiative or following the prefecture’s initiative, if it realizes that the person enters into one of the cessation and exclusion clauses (Ceseda, art. L.511-6 / ex-L.711-3 & following). It will have the obligation to refuse or terminate protection, especially if (Ceseda, art. L.511-7 / ex-L.711-6):
- you have received a criminal conviction punishable by ten years’ imprisonment in France, in another country of the European Union or in another "another democratic country";
- you have been convicted of acts of terrorism;
- and finally, your presence in France constitutes a serious threat to the security of the State, whether or not it has been subject to prosecution and / or criminal convictions. This may be serious threats to security of the State, a crime or offense constituting an act of terrorism, or serious threats to French society.
For these last two cases, the person concerned must also represent a serious threat to society.
B. The asylum story
Through this story, the Ofpra must be able to see if your history justifies you being granted the refugee status or subsidiary protection.
Your asylum story must explain very precisely:
- who you are
- your nationality
- where you come from
- why you have been forced to flee your country and seek the protection of another country. You must also explain why you are being persecuted in your country of origin or country of residence, or the risks to which you are exposed as a result of armed conflict.
Describing situations of troubles or war which may exist in your country is not enough: you must describe your personal history and convince the person who reads your story that you personally have been the victim of persecution, or that members of your family, people close to you, or comrades-in-arms have been killed or have been subject to persecution, which implies a threat to your own safety.
1. Who are you?
You must state:
- your full name, your nationality, your date and place of birth;
- which country you come from, and more specifically, which region, which village or which neighborhood of a town (the Ofpra will ask you questions about this subject to check if you are really from this region);
- who are or who were your parents and your brothers and sisters (state their current situation: name, age, address of residence, occupation, marital status, etc.);
- any ethnic or religious group you may belong to, or membership in any minority that is subject to discrimination, etc.;
- your current family status: married or in a civil partnership or single, your children (age, gender), state if these members of your family are in France, remain in your country of origin, or if they are dead.
2. Your personal history
- where you grew up and in what circumstances;
- education, studies undertaken, vocational training, etc.;
- the occupations that you held in your country, the sources and amount of revenue you had (a shop, a farm, a trade, or another profession, etc.);
- the different places you have lived in and the reasons for moving;
- how your personal and family situation has evolved: your work history, how you met your partner, the birth of your children, any illnesses, etc.;
- any other activities: your membership in a political party, a trade union, a religious group, a fraternity, an association, etc. (describe this group, state its significance, its objectives and its characteristics);
- how you came to join this party, trade union, etc.; what was your exact role and your level of responsibility (simple card-holder or active member);
- your participation in any protests, public meetings, collective actions, social movements, guerrilla activities, etc. (which precise activities you participated in, with whom, and how many times);
- according to your personal history, indicate if you have been subject to discrimination or persecution as a result of these activities, or because of your sexual orientation, your belonging to an ethnic group or your opposition to an arranged marriage, etc.
3. What incidents or dramatic events forced you to leave
- threats received (who? when? how?);
- being prevented from exercising your profession or occupation;
- racket, confiscation of property, extortion, blackmail, different types of coercion;
- physical attacks, destruction of property, eviction from your home;
- arrests, violent interrogations, beatings, torture, rape (dates, circumstances, perpetrators of the violence to which you were subject, etc.);
- trials, sentences, periods in prison (dates, locations, precise description of these locations, persons involved, etc.);
- arrests, beatings and injuries, rape or murder of parents, friends, colleagues or other members of a group to which you belonged;
- forced exodus;
- massacre, genocide;
- aspects of persecution related to gender and gender identity can be recognized by the Ofpra.
- what steps you took to request protection from the authorities in your country (making a complaint, initiation of legal proceedings, letters or visits to agents of the administration, etc.);
- what the outcome of these initiatives was.
4. What route did you take to get to France
- at what precise moment you decided to leave;
- how this departure was organized (funds raised, help received, contact made with smugglers, etc.);
- the choice of the country in which you are seeking asylum (why?);
- the exact itinerary with the dates, the different stages, the means of transport used, the cost.
5. What could happen to you if you returned to your country today
- what changes have occurred in your region of origin since you left;
- do you risk being subject to the same persecutions as before? Would the threats you received be carried out?;
- do you risk the same fate as your relatives or friends who have suffered or died as a result of the situation you described before or since your departure;
- why you would not be safe in another town or another region of your country of origin.
6. Evidence to submit with your story:
You are not required to provide evidence of the different information in your asylum story: the most important thing is to provide a story that is sufficiently precise, consistent and non-contradictory, to be credible and to convince the Ofpra case officer.
However, in addition to the information that you provide, do not hesitate to provide documents that support your story and contribute to your credibility (witness statements, administrative documents, press articles, medical certificates, etc.).
C. The interview with an Ofpra protection officer
1. Appointment notification letter for the Ofpra interview
You will receive a letter asking you to report to the Ofpra at the latest 15 days before the interview.
The confidentiality and the actual reception of the appointment letter must be guaranteed.
The Ofpra may waive the possibility of inviting you to a personal interview:
- if it intends to make a decision recognizing your refugee status (this is rather rare);
- if, for serious medical reasons beyond your control, you cannot attend this interview. In this case, you must send medical evidence by registered letter with delivery receipt to the Ofpra as soon as possible.
If the Ofpra decides that your request is ineligible or decides to close your file (see above), you will not be asked to attend this interview.
If you are housed in a Cada or Huda, the transport costs for the Ofpra interview must be covered (as well as the costs to get to the CNDA). For those not housed in a Cada or Huda, it is possible to send a request for financial support to the Ofii but, most of the time, it considers that the ADA is sufficient to cover this transport cost.
2. What will happen in the confidential interview
The interview is very important: it is conducted by a Ofpra protection officer responsible for registering and recording your asylum story and for making a positive or negative decision.
It is extremely important that you prepare for this meeting with an association, or at least with friends, before going to the Ofpra. The interview is crucial because it is at this point that everything is decided: you must convince the Ofpra officer that you need protection.
The officer will ask you questions to obtain more details about your asylum story.
If they do not ask you questions, describe the event which forced you to leave your country (see above).
If you have not given a passport or identity document, it is important to prove your nationality by providing detailed information about your country (your region, your town, your neighborhood, its customs, its geography, etc.).
The interview takes place in the Ofpra offices (or exceptionally by video conference call) in the presence of:
- the protection officer. You can request to be interviewed by an officer of the same sex if your asylum story includes incidents of sexual assault (make the request to the Ofpra by letter or e-mail);
- a lawyer (paid by yourself) or an association if you request it. In 2020, twenty-seven associations are authorized to accompany you, among them: Ardhis, Anafé, Cimade, Forum réfugiés, Coordination lesbienne en France, the "Lesbiennes Dépassent les Frontières" network, Ordre de Malte. In general, these associations accompany only people followed by their legal services. This accompanying person must inform the Ofpra of their presence 7 days before the interview (4 days in the case of a fast-track procedure). During the interview, the accompanying person may take notes and provide observations at the end of the meeting (about the story, but also about any problems: difficulties of understanding, difficulties with interpreting, attitudes, facts not mentioned by the protection officer, etc.);
- the interpreter in the language indicated on the Ofpra form. It is recommended that you request an interpreter who speaks your native language (specify your dialect). This will avoid a direct translation by the protection officer into a language that you have less knowledge of. The interpreter’s presence is free. You can request an interpreter of the same sex if your asylum story describes sexual assault;
- your family members: in principle, you are interviewed without the presence of your family members. But if the Ofpra deems it necessary, it can undertake a complementary interview in the presence of your family members.
3. Assessment and the Ofpra decision
In theory, the Ofpra must make its decision within 3 months of the date of the interview, but this period can be longer. In the case of a fast-track procedure, the period is 15 days in theory but is, in reality, much longer.
The officer will check if your story is consistent with the situation in your country of origin. Next, they will study your asylum request to see if you fall under the definition of refugee status according to the Geneva convention– articles 1 and 2 (10-year residence permit) or if you may benefit from subsidiary protection (4-year residence permit). [Ceseda, art. L.512-1 / ex-L.712-1]
The decision must be justified when it is negative, and it must include a summary of the reasons for which the Ofpra has not granted protection.
Asylum seekers must now log into their secure personal digital space on a regular basis and at least once every 15 days starting from its activation by the Ofpra, which must inform the asylum seeker of the consequences of the failure to regularly consult this space.
The Ofpra issues an "acknowledgment of availability" which notifies the applicant that a new document has been added to the digital portal. The date and time at which a document is uploaded to the portal are "guaranteed by an electronic time-stamping process".
In addition, an information message relating to this upload is sent to the email address and/or mobile phone number that the asylum seeker provided when submitting his/her asylum application or that he/she indicated in the secure personal digital space.
The "receipt acknowledgment" is established at the date and time of the first consultation of a document by its recipient, or, if the recipient does not consult the document, within 15 days of the document’s upload onto the platform.
The notification of the "receipt acknowledgment" marks the start of the appeal period. If the Ofpra rejects the asylum request, the date of reception of the decision is fundamental because you have 1 month from this date to make an appeal (factsheet no. 5) and only 15 days to request legal aid. It is therefore vital to immediately inform the Ofpra if you change your address, your email or your phone number.
4. The right to stay: different cases of refusal or removal of the certificate of asylum application (loss of the right to remain)
Automatic loss of the right to remain in France
The person applying for asylum automatically loses their right to stay in France (and the certificate of asylum application may be refused, withdrawn or its renewal refused) in the following cases:
- if the Ofpra decides that your application is ineligible (Ceseda, art. L.531-32 / ex-L.723-11);
- if you withdraw your asylum application (Ceseda, art. L.531-36 / ex-L.723-12);
- if the Ofpra decides to close your application (Ceseda, art. L.531-37 / ex-L.723-13) (see above : A.2. The closure of your asylum request by the Ofpra);
- if you are subject to a definitive extradition decision.
Additional cases of automatic loss of the right to stay in France
The September 10th 2018 law added new cases of loss of the right to stay on the territory:
- if the Ofpra decides that a request for reconsideration is ineligible (Ceseda, art. L.542-2 / ex-L.743-2, 4°) or if the Ofpra has rejected the request for reconsideration after an interview (Ceseda, art. L.531-24 / ex-L.723-2-I);
- if the Ofpra has taken a rejection decision towards a person who comes from a country considered a safe country of origin (POS) or if their presence in France constitutes a serious threat to the public order, public security or State security (Ceseda, art. L.542-2 / ex-L.743-2, 7° and art. L.531-24 / ex-L.723-2, I and III, 5°);
- if the Ofpra has taken a decision rejecting or declaring the ineligibility of an asylum application made by a person subject to a deportation order (other than an OQTF), a sentence banning that person from French territory or an administrative ban from the territory (Ceseda, art. L.542-2 / ex-L.743-2, 8°).
- a deportation order may be pronounced in the event of a serious threat to public order, conduct likely to negatively affect the fundamental interests of the country, connected with terrorist activities, or constituting acts of explicit and deliberate provocation of discrimination, hatred or violence against a particular person or group of persons, or if the personal conduct of the person represents a real, present and sufficiently serious threat to a fundamental interest of society (Ceseda, art. L.631-1 / ex-L.521-1 à 3 ou L.252-1 / ex-L.521-5);
- a sentence of banning may be imposed by a criminal court for a crime or criminal offense (Criminal Code, Art. 131-30);
- an administrative ban from the territory can be pronounced in the event of a real, present and sufficiently serious threat to a fundamental interest of society or serious threat to public order, the internal security or the international relations of France (Ceseda, art. L.222-1 / ex-L.214-1 ou art. L.321-1 / ex-L.214-2).
OQTF resulting from the loss of the right to stay in the territory
Article L. 542-4 / ex-L.743-3 of the Ceseda provides that a person whose asylum application has been definitively rejected or who has lost the right to stay in the territory for one of the reasons listed in Article L.542-2 / ex-L.743-2 (also listed above) must leave French territory, "under threat of being subject to a deportation measure" ( an OQTF).
A person whose asylum application is still under examination by the CNDA but who has lost their right to stay in the territory because of one of the new cases added by the law of September 10th 2018 (see part b above) may request that the administrative court suspend the deportation order following the loss of their right to stay, pending the decision of the CNDA.
For example, a person whose asylum request has been rejected by the Ofpra and who comes from a safe country of origin will lose their right to stay and the prefecture will withdraw their asylum application certificate. An OQTF will be issued but this person can then ask the court to suspend the execution of this OQTF while the CNDA examines their appeal.
House arrest or administrative detention
The person who is subject to an OQTF after having lost the right to stay for one of the reasons added by the law of September 10th 2018 (see part b. above) may be placed under house arrest for a (once renewable) period of 45 days; they can also be placed in administrative detention (Ceseda, art. L.542-2 / ex-L.744-9-1).
If the person had previously been subject to an OQTF before their asylum request, and if they are detained or placed under house arrest, they can also ask the TA (administrative court) to suspend the execution of the deportation order until the CNDA has made its decision (Ceseda, Art L.541-3 / ex-L.743-4).
If your asylum request is rejected by the Ofpra, you may appeal this decision before the National court of asylum law (CNDA). The appeal must be submitted within 1 month starting from the date of the reception of the Ofpra decision.
A. The request for legal aid
Although not mandatory, the assistance of a lawyer is recommended. You can apply for legal aid (AJ) to be assisted for free. You can apply by writing to the “bureau d’aide juridictionnelle” of the CNDA, 35 rue Cuvier 93558 Montreuil-sous-Bois cedex.
You can either fill in the legal aid form (Cerfa n° 12467*02) or make the request on a blank sheet of paper. This request can be sent by fax to: 01.48.18.43.11 or by registered letter with delivery receipt. Do not forget to attach a copy of the Ofpra’s rejection decision.
The application for legal aid needs to be received by the legal aid office within 15 days of notification of the Ofpra decision. After 15 days it is too late to apply for legal aid, even when lodging the appeal.
This 15 days period starts with the “acknowledgement of receipt” established on the Ofpra secure personal space and which corresponds either to the date and time of the first online consultation of your rejection decision, or when the document shared on your personal space has not been consulted after 15 days.
If the decision has been sent by mail, the 15 days start running from the distribution date of the registered letter by the post office.
The legal aid application is suspensive: the 1-month time limit for appealing stops running while the legal aid office examines your request, but will resume running starting from the notification of the decision ruling on the legal aid application. In other words, the time limit will resume running from the number of days it was at when the legal aid application was made.
For example: the Ofpra decision is notified on February 1st 2021 and the legal aid application is submitted on February 7th 2019, 6 days later. Those 6 days must be deducted from the 1 month time period to appeal. If the legal aid office decides to grant legal aid on the 1st of March 2021, the period of appeal starts running again on that day and will therefore be 25 days as 6 days have already passed (1st to 7th of February).
To be on the safe side, you should preferably introduce the appeal as quickly as possible or at least within 15 days of the legal aid decision.
The legal aid office will appoint a lawyer to assist you throughout the process.
You can also choose your own lawyer if they accept legal aid. You then need to make an appointment with them in order to apply for legal aid and to file the appeal.
B. The Appeal
You need to submit the appeal within 1 month after the notification. After this 1 month period, it is no longer possible to appeal.
The appeal must be written in French and sent to the CNDA by registered letter with delivery receipt or by fax (01.48.18.44.20). You may also submit the file directly on site, at the court clerk’s office. Your lawyer can also use Cndém@t.
The appeal must include your first name and surname, date and place of birth, nationality and your address.
If you do not want the hearing to take place by videoconference (online, without having to physically go to the CNDA), you need to mention it in your appeal and explicitly ask to be heard at the premises of the CNDA, in Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis, 93).
You must justify your appeal by explaining the reasons why you are appealing the Ofpra decision.
You need to provide answers to anything contested by the Ofpra, report any elements you may have forgotten such as describing your political activities for example or , provide more information on the timeline contested by the Ofpra, amend incorrect data in the written request or during the interview with the Ofpra, etc.
You can send supporting evidence or documents until the closing date of the appeal appraisal period (indicated on the appointment letter) by registered letter with delivery receipt or by fax (01.48.18.44.20). You need to mention the appeal registration number in your letter.
If you have a lawyer, you should decide together whether or not to add any documents to the appeal. The CNDA judges will examine these documents carefully: particularly their date, their author and the means by which they were obtained. The judges will ask you questions about these documents.
You can for example attach any French document or document from your country of origin supplementing your narrative and your fears of returning due to political activism or a particular situation (proof of militant political activity, religious practice, homosexual relations in France, etc.).
You can also send medical certificates which provide evidence of wounds or scarring. The judges will take these into account.
Any document written in a foreign language must be translated into French. If you include excerpts of association reports or press articles about the situation in your country, it is preferable to have them translated into French (free translation) or English.
Legal or civil status documents must be translated by sworn translators (paid translation). The judges may take into account free translations but if these documents are important for attesting your narrative it is preferable to have them translated by a sworn translator. You can get a list of sworn translators from courts or ask associations.
When you submit your appeal, the CNDA will send you an acknowledgment of receipt with a file number. This will allow you to renew your asylum application certificate.
In theory, the appeal before the CNDA is suspensive: you cannot be sent back to your country before the CNDA has made its decision.
However, in some cases, this appeal is not automatically suspensive when the right to remain is refused (factsheet 2).
C. The hearing
If your application is placed in the normal procedure, the CNDA has 5 months to judge your appeal. If you are placed in the fast-track procedure (factsheet 2):
- in addition to the appeal of the Ofpra decision, you can challenge the decision of placement in the fast-track procedure (get your lawyer to assist you);
- the decision will be made by a single judge within 5 weeks.
However, these time-limits are only indicative.
The hearing is public but you can ask – if you consider it necessary – for a closed hearing (non-public session), especially if you are a minor.
The CNDA court is located in the Paris region (Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis): if you live far away, you must plan ahead for transportation costs in order to be present at the hearing. Your presence at the hearing is very important. You can ask the organization that hosts you if it can cover these costs.
If you live in the Paris region, you can go watch the CNDA court hearings to see how they work.
The CNDA court’s decision is displayed at the court’s ground floor (in Montreuil) and sent 3 weeks after the hearing by registered letter, or 1 week in the case of a fast-track procedure.
Because of the pandemic, you can also access the decision on the CNDA’s website on the “rôles de lecture” section, at the date indicated by the Court by clicking on the room number in which you were summoned.
D. If the CNDA grants you protection
If the CNDA grants you refugee status or subsidiary protection, the prefecture has to send you a certificate valid for 6 months which allows you to remain in France.
If the Ofpra has granted you subsidiary protection, you may appeal this decision before the CNDA court and ask fro the refugee status. In any case, you will keep your subsidiary protection.
E. If the CNDA rejects your appeal
The right to remain in France ceases as soon as the CNDA’s decision is read in a public hearing or upon notification of the decision if the application has been rejected by decree (by order of the Court, without a hearing).
- You can appeal before the Conseil d’État within a 2 months period however this appeal does not stop the clock. The Conseil d’État will not re-examine your asylum story but will only check if the procedural rules have been correctly applied by the CNDA.
- You can request a reconsideration of your asylum request by the Ofpra if you can provide new elements (either new information which happened after the CNDA hearing, or information prior to the decision but that that you did not know of before the hearing, or new evidence relating to a disputed fact in the first request).
Any new element must be relevant and must reinforce your well-founded personal fear of being persecuted.
If you request reconsideration, you must report directly to the prefecture (without going to the Spada).
In this case, it is recommended that you prepare your story before reporting to the prefecture because the Ofpra form will need to be handed in within 8 days after you file your application. If the story is not convincing and does not provide any new element, the Ofpra can declare your request inadmissible without having to invite you for an interview.
If the Ofpra rejects your application a second time, a new appeal before the CNDA is possible within a period of 1 month.
F. If your asylum application is rejected
If the CNDA rejects your request, the prefecture will automatically issue an order to leave the territory : obligation to leave French territory (OQTF). It will not wait until the notification of the CNDA’s decision. You can file an appeal against this order but must do so within 15 days.
If your asylum application was registered after March 1st 2019 (after which the 2018-778 law on foreigners’ residence must be applied), the prefecture must inform you that you can apply for a residence permit at the same time as your asylum request. If you have not done so, or a residence permit after the rejection of your asylum application will only be considered eligible by the prefecture on exceptional grounds. You have to justify "new circumstances" to request the right to residence.
If you filed both an asylum application,and an application for a residence permit on other grounds and the prefecture refuses to grant you this permit, the prefecture will then refuse you residence and issue an OQTF order. Sometimes, the prefecture waits for the rejection of your asylum application to take an OQTF order.
In this case, this OQTF order will be based on the rejection of your asylum application and you will have only 15 days to appeal. In your appeal you will have to put forth both arguments related to the rejection of your asylum claim and to the refusal of residence.
A single judge will then decide, following a "faster" procedure, on the rejection of the right of residence and the OQTF, and in case of rejection, the deportation measure may be executed.
In this case, get in touch with a specialized association or an undocumented immigrants collective.
All asylum seekers have the right to health insurance, even if you are in the “fast-track” procedure (factsheet 2) or the “Dublin procedure” (factsheet 3). However, during the first 3 months of presence in France, asylum seekers who are 18 years and over are not eligible for health insurance; they can only receive free hospital care through the "urgent and vital care" system.
Asylum seekers who can prove that they have been in France for more than 3 months are entitled to health insurance; minor (under 18) asylum seekers and the children of an asylum seeker are entitled to health insurance without having to prove their presence in France for 3 months.
You also have the right to free complementary health insurance (universal complementary healthcare coverage or “C2S” (ex-CMU-C)) if you have a low income (less than 750 euros per month approximately for a single person).
Health insurance and the C2S complementary insurance allow you to avoid paying for healthcare, and you do not have to pay any medical fees or medication costs up front.
To obtain this right to health insurance, you must go to the health insurance office (CPAM) of your place of residence on the date indicated in the appointment letter that the Spada (factsheet 1) or the Ofii (factsheet 2) will give you. If the Spada does not give you an appointment at the CPAM, ask for it!
At your appointment, you must present:
- The asylum application certificate that the prefecture gave you when your request was registered;
- The proof of residence that your accommodation center or the Spada gave to you;
- If you are 18 or older, the proof of your presence in France for more than 3 months.
When you have obtained health insurance and C2S complementary insurance, you can go to the doctor or hospital for free. You will need only to present the Ameli paper certificate. As of July 2017, asylum seekers can no longer be issued a “carte Vitale” (green healthcare card).
If you need help with these administrative procedures, you can contact:
- the social services department of the hospital;
- the association which is helping you to prepare your asylum request file;
- the center which is housing you.
While waiting to obtain health insurance, you can go to the departments for access to healthcare (permanences d’accès aux soins de santé : PASS) which are present in some hospitals. A social worker will assess your social situation and help you find a doctor.
In Paris, you may also contact:
- the Reception and orientation center (Caso), run by Médecins du Monde, 8-10 rue des blés 93210 La plaine Saint Denis (metro Front populaire, line 12)
- or the Reception, orientation and accompaniment center (CAOA), 15 boulevard de Picpus 75012 Paris (métro Bel-Air on line 6).
The opening hours of these centers are available on : www.medecinsdumonde.org/fr/contact/ile-de-france
You do not have the right to work during the first few months of your asylum application in France.
If the Ofpra has not made a decision on your asylum application 6 months after you filed it, you can apply for a work permit.
- Hypothesis 1 - your application has been rejected by the Ofpra less than 6 months after filing your request. You appealed before the CNDA and have not gotten any answer from the CNDA yet —> you cannot apply for a work permit.
- Hypothesis 2 - your asylum application was registered over 6 months ago and your case is still being examined by the Ofpra —> the administration will have to review your application for a work permit (even if the OFPRA eventually rejects your application, and you decide to appeal before the CNDA).
In a decision made on the 14th january 2021, the European Union Court of Justice condemned France and affirmed that people placed in the Dublin procedure should be allowed to apply for a work permit 9 months after they applied for asylum. Therefore, you can try to ask for a work permit after this 9 months period. To do so, you can ask for assistance from an association or a lawyer.
A. Requesting a work permit
1. Finding an employer
First of all, you need to find an employer and get them to complete a file and submit it online. This file should contain :
- An employment contract for at least 3 months;
- Several documents regarding the company and your previous job searches.
Article 7 of the 1st of April 2021 decree sets a list of documents that you should submit when asking for a work permit.
2. Reporting to the prefecture with this file
This file must be presented to the prefecture of the department where you live. The prefecture may grant you a work permit or refuse to do so (for example if there are many unemployed persons in France who could hold this specific position).
As of April 2021, in order to file your work permit request, you need to log in to the online service.
If your work permit is denied, you can appeal this decision before a court: to do so, you need to get in touch with an association for the defence of foreigners or a lawyer.
Once you have obtained the work permit, you may begin working for this employer.
You can only register to Pôle Emploi (the French unemployment office) to get unemployment benefits if your working contract was ended by your employer for reasons that are not attributable to you or in case of force majeure.
In theory, asylum seekers can, as any jobseeker, benefit from different types of vocational training (contact Pôle emploi for details). However, in practice, access to funding for those trainings is hard to obtain.
B. The specific case of unaccompanied foreign minors
Unaccompanied foreign minors (MIE) followed by the Aide sociale à l’enfance (the children welfare services) are entitled to a work permit for a fixed term training, an apprenticeship or a professional development contract.
If they apply for asylum, they must be allowed to continue pursuing their contract while the asylum application is being processed.
A. Obtaining assistance from the ASE (Aide sociale à l’enfance)
Unaccompanied foreign minors ("mineurs non accompagnés” or "MNA") benefit from child protection measures. You are classified as an unaccompanied foreign minor if you are less than 18 years old and you have no legal representative in France. France then has the obligation to protect you until you reach adulthood (18 years old), even if you have not made an asylum application. As an unaccompanied minor, you have the right to make an asylum request. However, we usually advise unaccompanied minors to first start by requesting child protection from the ASE (Aide sociale à l’enfance) of the department where you live. The ASE will take care of your housing, health insurance, and education.
Once you have asked for protection, your department’s ASE (child social assistance service) will carry out an assessment interview to determine your age (you must be less than 18 years old) and isolation (that you are genuinely unaccompanied in France).
- You must describe your journey from your country of origin;
- If you have ID papers, they will be examined;
- You might be required to take a medical examination in order to determine how old you are.
In many departments, you might be sent to the prefecture that will take your fingerprints, a photo of you and collect all personal information to compare it to information on foreigners in their files. You can decline going to the prefecture, but this may reinforce the ASE and prefecture’s suspicions that you are not a minor.
1. Where to go for an assessment interview?
In certain departments, you must go to the ASE located within the Conseil départemental. In other departments, you must go to the reception and evaluation center:
- In Paris: the center is called the “DEMIE” (evaluation unit for unaccompanied foreign minors) and is held by the Red Cross: 5 rue du Moulin Joly 75011 Paris (métro Couronnes, ligne 2).
It may take several days to obtain an evaluation interview.
Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 pm and Wednesday from 8.30 a.m. to 6 pm and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
- In Seine-Saint-Denis (93), it is the “PEMIE”:1-15 rue Benoît Frachon 93000 Bobigny.
Open from Monday to Friday from 9a.m. to 4p.m. (except from Thursday afternoons);
- In Val-de-Marne (94), the “PEOMIE” : 6 rue Albert Einstein 94000 Créteil.
Open : Monday to Friday from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30p.m.
While waiting for your protection decision, the ASE must provide you with a shelter. You need to go and collect the ASE’s decision two to three days after the interview, from the place where your interview took place.
2. If the ASE refuses to offer you assistance
You can make a direct request to the juvenile court to order the ASE to assist you. This procedure may take a few months. You do not have to wait for the court’s decision to apply for asylum.
If you live in the Paris region , you can be assisted by going to:
- the ADJIE (assistance and protection of young unaccompanied foreign nationals): 49 ter avenue de Flandres 75019 Paris (metro Stalingrad, lines 2, 5 and 7).
- The Paris bar’s minors’ branch, on the ground floor or the Paris Tribunal (Porte de Clichy, metro lines 13 and 14). Open: Monday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesday and Friday from 9.30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
In other regions, other associations can help you.
B. Applying for asylum as an unaccompanied minor
Requesting assistance from the ASE does not prevent you from applying for asylum.
The procedure is the same as for an adult but you need to be represented by an ad-hoc guardian (AAH) to submit your request. The ad-hoc guardian (AAH) is an adult assigned by the judiciary system to represent you and assist you in your administrative procedures regarding asylum. The prefecture is in charge of contacting the public prosecutor is that they can provide you with an AAH. The AAH does not necessarily have extensive knowledge of how the asylum procedure works, therefore, you need to ask for assistance from one of the specialist associations.
You may be placed into the fast-track procedure (factsheet 2) if:
- you come from a “safe country of origin”;
- your request for reconsideration is deemed ineligible;
- if you are considered as a threat to the public order, public security, or the safety of the state.
You cannot be placed in the “Dublin” procedure and transferred to the first European country where your fingerprints were taken (factsheet 3). France is obliged to register your asylum request because it needs to take into account your vulnerability and the best interest of the child. However -based on the Dublin regulation, you can ask to join a family member who has applied for asylum in another European Union country.
As a minor, you cannot be placed in an asylum seekers’ reception center (Cada), nor receive the asylum-seeker’s allowance (ADA) (factsheet 2). Only the ASE can provide accommodation for unaccompanied minors.
You can download the Watizat guide on their website for addresses for unaccompanied minors in Paris, Lyon and the Oise department. All information concerning isolated minors is framed in pink.
On your Ofpra form, do not forget to state the names, dates and places of birth of your partner or spouse, the date of your marriage, even if it was a religious marriage. Also state the names, dates and places of birth of your children. If you are not sure about a date, state “approximate date” in parentheses.
It is useful to keep all the evidence of the relationship that you have maintained with your family since arriving in France: telephone calls (smartphone screenshots), money remittances (money orders or certificates from the people who bring money back to your country) and documents from your country (school certificates, health records, etc.).
It may also be useful to have pictures of yourself with your family, from before you left the country, or during travels with them.
If you are granted refugee status or subsidiary protection, some of your family members have rights, such as family regroupment or reunification, welfare benefits… These family members are:
- your spouse, civil partner (equivalent to a Pacs), or your common-law spouse;
- your children and those of your spouse, civil union partner, or common-law spouse, under 19 years old and not married;
- your mother and father, as well as your brothers and sisters, if you are a minor and not married.
→ See : La réunification familiale pour les bénéficiaires d’une protection au titre de l’asile, Gisti-La Cimade, coll. Les Cahiers juridiques, november 2016.
A. You were married before your asylum request
Your marriage (or civil union or Pacs) must have taken place before your asylum request. In the case of common-law marriage, you must have had a stable and continuous relationship with your spouse (actual joint living or cohabitation).
1. Your family is in France:
According to, on the one hand, the principle of family unity and, on the other hand, article L. 531-23 / ex-L. 741-1 of the Ceseda:
- if you have refugee status, the members of your family have the right, under certain conditions, to a 10-year residence permit;
- if you have subsidiary protection, they have the right, under certain conditions, to a 4-year residence permit, then a 10-year residence permit.
If your spouse, partner, or children, entered France without a visa, they can apply, if they are 18 years of age and older, for a "private and family life" card (art. L. 423-23 / ex-L. 313-11 7 ° of Ceseda), after having paid a regularization tax. After a first residence permit, they can apply for a 10-year residence permit if you are a refugee, or a multiannual residence card if you have subsidiary protection.
2. Your family is in another country:
You can request family reunification (“réunification familiale”): no conditions regarding income, housing, or ability to speak French or length of residence in France are required.
As soon as you have been granted protection, the members of your family must request a long-stay visa from the French consular authorities in their country of residence.
Information on the procedure and the necessary documents can be found on this website.
Your family members must provide the document proving that your protection was granted to you by the Ofpra, as well as their passports, visa request forms (cerfa no.14571*02), and any documents which prove their family link to you: birth certificates, wedding certificates, identity cards, school records, photographs, etc.
In the event that your family members cannot obtain a passport, the French consulate may issue a "laissez-passer", which serves as a visa.
Other evidence may be requested regarding your family makeup. People who you know can attest to family links, by providing precise written witness statements, together with a copy of their identity documents. You can also provide detailed invoices of telephone calls, call logs for Skype and Viber, etc., letters, e-mails, receipts for money transfers, etc.
If you lived together before your marriage, if you had children, you can also apply for family reunification for your family. It is not necessary for you to have married after arriving in France, on the contrary, because that would then force you to apply for "family regroupment", which has more demanding conditions than those for family reunification.
B. You were married after your asylum request
If you are an asylum-seeker or refugee and you are living in France, you have the right to marry and to form a civil union (Pacs).
You must respect the French rules, and in particular, if you get married abroad, you have to provide a "certificate for the legal capacity to marry".
> for marriage see: Gisti, Le mariage des étrangers, coll. Les Cahiers juridiques, avril 2014.
1. Your family is in France:
If you marry a person from the same country as you, and if you are legally residing in France, the right to the respect for family life (art. 8 of the Convention European Union for Human Rights) implies that your spouse must be issued a residence permit: you have the right to live in France together because you cannot return to your country of origin.
If your spouse is in France with an irregular status, this residence permit will first be a "private and family life" card, then, depending on your situation, a 10-year residence card (if you are a refugee) or a multiannual residence permit (if you have subsidiary protection).
2. Your family is in another country:
If you want to get married overseas, you must ask the French consulate of the country in which you are getting married for a “certificate of legal capacity to marry” (“certificat de capacité à mariage”). After the marriage, you must request by registered letter that the Ofpra record it on your birth certificate.
You can request “family regroupment” like other foreigners. The conditions are strict : a stable income (minimum wage at least), and housing of a certain size. This request is submitted to the Ofii, and the decision is made by the prefect.
C. You are an unmarried minor
1. Your parents are in France:
If you obtained international protection as an unmarried minor, your parents and your under-18 brothers and sisters can come to France through the family reunification procedure (the visa application must take place in the country of residency). These family members can thus obtain a residence permit which will be, depending on your status, a 10-year resident card (if you are a refugee) or a multiannual card (if you have subsidiary protection).
If they are already in France when the unmarried minor obtains protection, the parents and under-18 brothers and sisters can also be regularized.
f your family’s visa applications are denied, you can make an appeal, first before the Commission for appealing visa refusals (CRRV), and then before the Nantes administrative court. Contact an association for more information, but be advised that the deadlines for appeal are very short.
Whether you are an asylum-seeker or a refugee, your children have the right to be enrolled in the schools located in your place of residence.
There is a special procedure for children who do not speak French.
For persons who benefit from protection in France, divorce is subject to French law. If one of the two persons does not have protection, they may be subject to the law of their country. It is therefore recommended to contact the appropriate migrant protection associations or competent lawyers.
Divorce by the sole will of one spouse (repudiation) is not recognized in France.
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