4. The asylum request at the Ofpra
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).