French Administration,  Paperwork

The Ins & Outs of a French Dossier

The ever-ominous French dossier is something that I knew I would need to be on top, even before moving to France. As I have always said, do your research ; it’ll help you tremendously in the long-run, trust your Parisian bestie on this. 

Because I have been there, done that, here’s a brief into in to the realm of the French dossier. Every one’s case is different and unique . Please follow the guidelines you are given . The authorities you are dealing with know better. I just figured I’d share my info with you to help you along the way . 

Table of Contents

What the heck is a dossier ?

dossier is a collection of paperwork that includes documents about your personal situation . This can include anything from pay stubs to sworn statements, bills, bank statements, rent slips and much more . 

Your dossier, naturally, grows with you as you establish life here in France. It is something that, when applying or submitting for something it is always asked for. This is a paper version of your life, it is more than just a CV or a cover letter, it is an in-depth collection of documents proving your worth and value . 

What do I need a dossier for ?

Dossiers come in all shapes and sizes and can be used in all different types of situations. They are also not just for foreigners, but for French as well. Dossiers are accepted for the following situations (and much more) :

  • Opening a bank account . 
  • Applying for sécurité sociale .
  • Renting an apartment . 
  • Renewing a titre de séjour
  • Getting married or PACSd. 
  • Applying for an educational program . 
  • Applying for nationality . 

How do I create a dossier ?

Depending on what you need the dossier for depends on the type of documents you will need to collect . As a foundation, most dossiers include : 

  • ID : this can be in the form of a passport, carte de séjour, or ID card . 
  • Proof of residence : think utility bill, the French administration love electricity bills or internet bills . 
  • Pay stubs : usually the most recent three for good measure . 
  • RIB : this stands for relevé d’identité bancaire (bank identity statement) , the details of your bank account . 
  • Tax return : most likely your last avis d’imposition, but if you want to throw in the previous 2 or 3 for good measure, it will not hurt . 
There are other supporting documents you may need in order to meet certain requirements. 
  • Job contract : this is for proof of the type of contract you have. CDI contracts are highly favored here in France compared to any other type of work contract . Consider the CDI a golden ticket . 
  • Sworn statements : these can be provided in all various manners . From your employer, to your living situation, your school situation and even your personal situation . 
  • Birth Certificate : This is almost always asked for, especially when you are a foreigner . Being from the States, your birth certificate will need to also have an apostille ** attached to it . 
  • Marriage certificate : The French version is almost always required when I am dealing with administration here . I usually always include it in good measure to further prove the establishment of my life here . 
  • Livret de famille : this would be the photocopy pages that include the information on myself and my husband that have been stamped by the French Consulat in Washington DC. 
  • Photos : whether you are applying for a residency permit, exchange of license, or anywhere it might be needed to adhere you photo somewhere . 

** Apostilles are a document issued by the original governing body authenticating the validity of the document to be used in the foreign country it is being requested. This was established by the Hague convention, making it easier to use documents across certain countries. 

Marriage Dossier

Before I could even think about applying for my visa to let me come to France, we needed to submit paperwork for our wedding in Ohio .  I talk about the specifics here when it came to applying for the certificat de capacité à mariage . This was a crucial step that needed to be done first in order to be able to apply for the marriage certificate as well as my visa . I consider this a two-fold process, a before and after, that needed to be done in specific order for the application of my visa . 

Visa (American) Dossier

I am on a visa long séjour valant titre de séjour, meaning that as soon as I validated my visa back in March 2020, it became a residency permit . There was a lot of paperwork that went into getting this visa . 

Depending on the visa you are applying for depends on the paperwork you will need to provide . I highly recommend checking out the official site for visas for France as this is a direct website that has the most up to date and accurate information . You can find a link here

For any of you applying for the same visa that I did, you can find my detailed account on this process, from start to finish on a post I did here . I break down each step, with details of the paperwork and where to find the information . 

Rental Dossier

The dreaded rental application paperwork . If you live in Paris and you have ever moved, know that we’re all in this together . This is a new chapter for Thomas and I, as we navigate the choppy waters that is finding an apartment in Paris . I just wrote about my research here into the apartment-hunting world and what we’ve included in our dossier . I spent quite a bit of time gathering this information and I really hope it helps in some sort of way . 

Opening a Bank Account (as an American)

Again, each person’s situation is different and may require different slightly different documents and requirements. I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record, but I cannot stress it enough, do your research and ask questions . 

I got luck and was able to open a bank account at Thomas’s bank, La Banque Postal. I had heard horror stories of Americans trying to open French bank accounts and it taking an infinite amount of tries at various banks . The appointment was quick and painless and the banker only asked for a handful of documents . To this day, I have not had any issues with my bank with me being American . 

How to keep your dossier neat & organized .

I knew that the only successful way of partially navigating French administration was keeping a tight ship when it came to my paperwork. I had started with a small portable accordion file folder that had 12 slots. Once I outgrew that, I upgraded to file folder twice the size.

Every section has a specific label and contains information to that label. I also have copies of certain documents that belong to Thomas because I do not know what will be needed at any given appointment. Like my VLS-TS renewal appointment mixup. 

I also keep a digital record of all my files . I have a file on my Google Drive that I have also shared with certain family members . This is handy, especially now since Thomas and I are currently looking for an apartment . It allows Thomas access to my documents at a moment’s notice when we need to submit our dossier for a rental application . 

I spend about one day a month updating and reorganizing my dossier and checking various administrative tasks . This usually falls around pay day for me and it helps keep my file system up-to-date and organized. The last thing you want is to fumble through your files awkwardly while at an appointment . Huge fan of paper clips, binder clips, and all sorts of Post-It notes. 

Using your dossier as a foreigner .

If you are like me, a foreigner in France, you will use your dossier the most within your first year and as time goes on, less and less frequently . It is still best to keep an up-to-date collection of papers just in case. You really never know when it will come in handy . 

I cannot stress it enough the importance of keeping it up to date and organized .  You never know what type of documents will be requested in addition to what you have already been asked to provide . 

Extra tips & tricks

Invest in a system that works for you in terms of organizing your paperwork . This accordion file folder has served me well thus far. It has all of my paperwork and still some room to grow ! This has all of my papers that I need the original copy of , the rest are store digitally . 

Speaking of digital, keep a well organized digital filing system as well. If you do this, you will only need to print certain documents when the time comes and your paper system will only house original, certified documents . 

When heading into appointments (that are in person) keep your documents that have been requested together and at the ready. I also label with post-it notes the other documents that I think they may ask for and have those easily accessible too . I hate fumbling around at an appointment looking for papers, makes me feel like I am not prepared . 

Yes, it’s a lot of trees going into this process, but the French bureaucracy loves it’s paperwork and it’s famously known for asking you to go the extra mile. The System is slowly changing over to digital, but that is a beast that will take time. I was able to submit, 100%, digitally my dossier to request an exchange for my driver’s license.

Do you already have your dossier put together ? What documents would you add to the list ? Do you have any tips of tricks that have helped you in this process ? Share with me in the comments your ideas !

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