For members


Do foreigners in France need to carry proof of ID?

You may have heard that you need to carry your ID card with you at all times in France - but is this actually true and what can happen if you don't have any? 

Do foreigners in France need to carry proof of ID?
ID checks can take place at any time of day. (Photo by SEBASTIEN SALOM GOMIS / AFP)

Question: Is it true that if you’re a foreigner in France you need to carry ID at all times? And what can you use? I don’t like to carry my passport with me all the time in case it gets stolen.

The short answer is yes, and yes. In theory. If you don’t have any ID with you, things can get … time-consuming. And, maybe, expensive.

French citizens are all issued with (free) ID cards, which most people routinely carry with them.

Visitors and non-French citizens, meanwhile, are encouraged to have some form of ID with them at all times. No law actually requires you to have a form of ID with you at all times – but if you are subject to an identity check, the procedure will take longer if you cannot present an appropriate document.

One reason for police to stop an ordinary civilian is for a contrôle d’identité (identity check). This is when a police officer stops to check your identity. 

This can only happen under certain conditions: 

  • the officer suspects you have committed or will commit a crime; 
  • you are in an area where crime is known to occur; 
  • the public prosecutor has ordered a certain area to be subject to police checks, or; 
  • you are in control of a motorised vehicle (a contrôle routière).

If you’re driving, officers have the power to pull you over for an ID check – even if you were driving safely and within the speed limit – and a search of the vehicle may be carried out.

French police deny it – and the French state’s ‘colourblind’ policy means there is no official data – but anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that ID checks are much more common for people of colour. 

Acceptable forms of identification are;

  • a passport
  • a French ID card
  • a photo driving licence;
  • a carte de séjour residency permit 

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: How to officially prove your ID and address in France

A carte vitale health card, voter card or a French birth certificate may also be acceptable.

If you are not carrying any document that could prove your identity – a good quality photocopy is usually acceptable, if you don’t want to carry the original around with you, or maybe a photo on your mobile – the officer can take you to a police station to check your identity there. 

This verification must take no longer than four hours from the first request for ID (eight hours in Mayotte, just for the record). Even so, it’s plenty long enough to put a kink in your day.

If police cannot establish your identity, or if you refuse to cooperate with police, the public prosecutor or investigating judge may authorise the taking of fingerprints and photos. Refusing to submit to fingerprinting or having a photograph taken is punishable by a fine of up to €3,750 and three months in prison.

Non-French citizens who are resident in France may also have to prove their right to residency – a passport or residence permit is acceptable, as is the confirmation of anyone with you who is either a French citizen or legally resident in France.

Equally, you may be required to prove your identity for any number of administrative reasons – which makes it easier to have some form of ID with you.

These include, for example, the following situations:

  • Examination or competition;
  • Registration at Pôle Emploi;
  • Registering on electoral rolls and voting in elections;
  • Certain banking operations (opening an account; making a payment by cheque; or making a withdrawal at the counter of your bank);
  • Picking up a parcel from the post office;
  • Rail travel in certain situations, such as if you have bought your ticket using an age-restricted rail card;
  • Air travel.

Be aware that companies such as SNCF and administrative bodies can decide for themselves which forms of ID they deem acceptable – and whether they will accept photographs or photocopies. 

If you’re travelling within the Schengen zone, you should always carry either a passport or a French ID card – although checks at Schengen borders are not common, they do happen and technically you still need a passport or ID card to travel. 

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For members


The ‘French values’ that foreign residents must respect

People requesting French residency cards must now sign a contract promising to 'respect the values of the French Republic' - from sexual equality to the Marseillaise via proselytising, here's what you're actually agreeing to.

The 'French values' that foreign residents must respect

Several sections of France’s new immigration law are now in force, including the new ‘contract to respect the values of the republic’.

This requirement, which is now in effect, will apply to most foreigners in France – from students and workers to those with the ‘visitor status’. There are very few exemptions. 

READ MORE: French immigration law: New carte de séjour rules now in force

On a practical level, the contract is just another piece of paper that you need to sign when you’re applying for or renewing a residency card – and refusing to do so means that your permit will not be granted.

The law is largely intended to target foreigners who have become radicalised – such as radical Islamists – and those who represent a serious threat to public safety, but the requirement covers anyone who needs a carte de séjour residency card (with the exception of those few exempt groups listed here).

But what are you actually agreeing to?

The contents of the contract are meant to focus on respect for “personal freedom, freedom of expression and conscience, equality between women and men, the dignity of the human person and the motto and symbols of the Republic as defined in article 2 of the Constitution”.

Below is the full text (in French) and you can also download it here;

The new ‘Republican contract’. Screenshot from the Journal Officiel.

The first segment reads (in English):

“France has welcomed me onto its soil. As part of my application for the issue or renewal of a residence document, I solemnly undertake to respect the principles of the French Republic defined below.

“I undertake to respect personal freedom, freedom of expression and conscience, equality between men and women and human dignity, the motto and symbols of the Republic within the meaning of Article 2 of the Constitution, the integrity of French borders, and not to to use my beliefs or convictions as an excuse to disregard the common rules governing relations between the public services and private individuals.”

Then come seven ‘engagements’ that the person signing the contract would agree to, including things like promising to not discriminate based on sex, to respect people equally regardless of their sexual orientation, as well as to respect symbols of France including the national anthem and the flag.

READ MORE: La Marseillaise: All you need to know about the French national anthem

The seven engagements

Commitment no. 1: Respect for personal freedom

  • I promise to respect every individual’s private life and the privacy of their home and communications.
  • I promise to respect each person’s freedom to come and go and not to hinder in any way their ability to communicate with others.
  • I promise to respect each person’s freedom to choose their spouse.

Commitment no. 2: Respect for freedom of expression and conscience

  • I promise to refrain from any act of proselytising performed under duress, threat or pressure, with the aim of making another person adhere to my values, principles, opinions or convictions, my religion or my beliefs.
  • I promise not to obstruct, by coercion, threat or pressure, any person’s expression of their values, principles, opinions or convictions, religion or beliefs.

Commitment no. 3: Respect for equality between women and men

  • I promise not to adopt any sexist attitude and therefore not to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of sex.
  • In any public office, I promise not to disrupt the running of the service and to behave in the same way towards public servants, whether they are men or women.

Commitment no. 4: Respect for human dignity

  • I promise to respect the laws and regulations in force designed to protect the health and physical and mental well-being of every person.
  • I promise to respect the equal dignity of all human beings, without discrimination of any kind, whether that be based on their origins, their opinions or religion, and to respect the sexual orientation of each person.
  • I promise not to create, maintain or exploit the psychological or physical vulnerability of another person, regardless of my relationship to that person.
  • I promise not to undertake any action likely to compromise the physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of minors, or their health and safety.

Commitment no. 5: Respect for the motto and symbols of the Republic

  • I promise to respect the motto of the Republic, which is “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”.
  • I promise not to publicly insult the national anthem, the “Marseillaise”, or the national emblem: the tricolour flag.
  • I promise not to provoke such reprehensible acts.

Commitment no. 6: Respect for the territorial integrity of France

  • I promise that I will not challenge – by actions likely to disturb public order, by inciting such actions or by participating in foreign interference – the authenticity of France’s borders and the sovereignty it exercises over its territory, both in mainland France and overseas.

Commitment no. 7: Respect for the principle of secularism

  • Within public buildings and offices, I promise not to challenge the legitimacy of a public official or demand that the operation of a public service or public facility be adapted on the basis of my own religious beliefs or considerations.