Delay for obtaining a residence permit in France : are they any rules ?
The delay for obtaining a residence permit in France is one of the question I hear the most. And indeed it is an important one. While you wait to know if you will be able to live and work or not in France, you are not able to engage in any long term project for yourself and your family. So you need to know how long you will be waiting to get your reply.
Like many things in life, the answer is never yes or no, nor always the same. However we can try to create different categories in which the duration of the delay will be more or less the same. It is not perfect science but it can help someone who has no idea what is the delay for obtaining a residence permit.
First of all, there are two categories : the first one is when you apply for a long stay visa in a French Consulate and the second one is when you apply for a permit while already in France. Indeed, they are different. We will start with the delay for obtaining a long stay visa in France.
When you go to the French Consulate and you apply, the agent at the desk does not usually tell you how much time you will have to wait. Why ? Because there are no legal rules regarding the delay for examining a long stay visa application. Hence in rare cases, we see people waiting for more than two months to get the long stay visa. This is an exception. To have the best idea of the delay for obtaining a long visa, it will mainly depend on the country where you are applying.
The more people apply, the longer the wait in general. By exemple, in northern africa, there are many applications thus we see longer delays that in asian countries. In Northern America, in average, you can wait between two weeks to four weeks. Another exemple : in Iran, before the afghan humanitarian crisis in the summer of 2021, you only had to wait for two weeks. After the crisis, the workload of the consulate exploded, and people waited for more than six weeks.
When you are already in France, it is easier because there are laws that states explicitely how much time the administration can take to examine an application. However, if they don’t respect that delay, and if you don’t do anyhting about it, then the administration can carry on for as much time as they want.
The law states that the delay for obtaining a residence permit in France should be no more than four months. Once you have been to the Prefecture or if you have applied online, the administration has a four months delay to reply. After that delay, you can seize the court against the administration to coherce them into replying.
Unfortunately, people tend to be afraid to do so. They think (and they shouldn’t) that if they do so, the administration will exerce some kind of revenge against them in the future. First, I have never seen that happening and second it will be as illegal as it can get. For the administration to reply in the four months delay, it is the same thing as for us to pay our taxes. We may not want to do it but we have to do it anyway.
The four months delay for obtaining a residence permit in France is the longest delay possible. Of course, they can reply before that.
And just like with the long stay visa, we can see that depending on where you are in France, it will take more time in some places and less in others. Again in some préfecture there are not that many applications while in other there are too many.
This caveat will probably not remain for long since by the begining of next year (2023), all applications are expected to be done online. So we should see a more homogeneous delay in the country.
Nonetheless, it is important that you know that there is a legal delay for obtaining a residence permit and you can act upon it, provided that you are willing to do so.