How to apply for asylum in France?

Today, France is internationally recognized as the “homeland of human rights“, based on an ambitious discourse on international law, in favor of the elimination of torture and persecution. Therefore, this is a nation that opens its doors to foreigners in need of help. Read on and you will discover the immigration procedures.

In 2020, France received more than 87,000 asylum applications and approved more than 15%, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The vast majority of them are from Afghanistan, Guinea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Haiti and Bangladesh.

France map - asylum application

Now, requesting political asylum or humanitarian asylum is a fundamental right, and compared to most European countries, France has an encouraging percentage in terms of the number of admissions. And it is for this reason that people continue to make requests in its beautiful and distinguished territory.

First considerations for requesting political asylum in France

As a starting point, you will have to be in French territory to be able to apply for asylum; it does not matter if you entered the country irregularly. You will only have to notify the authorities of your intention to apply for international protection, within a period not exceeding 90 days from the moment you enter the country.

It should be noted that the request for an asylum appointment will be reviewed and evaluated by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA), under the control of the National Court of the Right of Asylum (CNDA). These offices are the ones that can grant you asylum protection, or the benefit of subsidiary protection.

Refugee status

Refugee status is governed by the definitions set forth in the following rules:

  • Geneva Convention. It establishes that a person has the right to refuge, the person who declares of his own free will the fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or integration to a particular social group. Provided that he/she is outside his/her country of origin.
  • Constitutional Asylum. According to the 1946 Constitution, refugee status shall be granted to persons who are persecuted for defending freedom.

Subsidiary protection

Applies to citizens who do not meet the essential criteria to be recognized as refugees. But, the State determines that there are important and proven reasons why they cannot return to the country of origin, either by:

  • Death penalty.
  • Torture and inhuman punishments.
  • Serious threat to the life of one or more people, associated with generalized violence; such as internal or international armed conflicts.

If your case meets the established conditions, then you are a candidate for international protection and France will cordially open its doors to receive you. Read on and discover the steps to follow.

Procedure for processing an asylum request in France

france asylum

GUDA (single window for asylum seekers) will be in charge of registering your application, determining the procedure to which you will be subject, assessing your vulnerability; and, depending on the case, defining whether or not it is necessary to grant special reception conditions such as housing or asylum seeker’s allowance. Let’s take a closer look at the steps:

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Step # 1. Reception Center for Asylum Seekers (SPADA)

SPADA will take care of:

  • Inform you about the asylum procedure.
  • Provide, according to the information you declare, the online form to register your asylum application.
  • assign a appointment in GUDA.
  • take your personal information.
  • Submit your full file to GUDA.
  • Send your completed file to GUDA.

Determine, depending on the case, whether or not it is necessary to grant special reception conditions, such as monetary allowance or accommodation in a reception center for asylum seekers.

It is important that you respect the date and time of the appointment for asylum application; consider that you will not be attended if you arrive outside the established time. However, if for reasons beyond your control you are unable to keep your appointment, you will have to request a new appointment at SPADA.

Step # 2. Registration of the asylum application in GUDA

GUDA is staffed by agents of the prefecture and the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII). There are 33 offices of this organization to which you can be assigned, so you should consider that you may have to travel to do the registration

However, the registration is carried out in two phases:

Phase 1: With prefectural agents.

They will check your fingerprints and interview you. The purpose of the meeting is to trace your travel route from your country of origin and to determine if you have relatives in any European Union country. The first instance is in accordance with the Dublin Regulation, which you can consult by clicking here. If the officials validate the processing of the procedure on French soil, they will issue you with a certificate and you will then be able to continue with the second phase.

Phase 2: with OFII agents.

They will assess your specific reception needs. The analysis will be carried out through a second interview, which will be confidential; however, it will not address issues related to the reasons that compelled you to apply for asylum in France. You will only be asked a series of questions to determine whether you are in need of international protection and benefit from special housing conditions. It is therefore important that you clarify your social and health situation very well with SPADA, from step #1, so that the file matches.

If you present a delicate health condition, OFII staff, through a physician, will evaluate whether you require an adaptation of the reception conditions. If so, you will be sent to a care center or to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Please note that you will have the right to an interpreter; both in verbal and sign language. In other words, regardless of your limitations, you will be able to express yourself in order to be included in the housing and social assistance programs you require.

Step 3. Fill out the asylum application form

The form you will receive from SPADA must be filled out in French, signed and submitted to OFPRA, along with a copy of the asylum application certificate, two photographs and the travel document. If you are with your minor children, you will be able to mention them.

Step 4. Send documents to OFPRA

Once your documents are complete, you will need to mail them to OFPRA within 21 business days from the time the asylum application certificate is issued. The address is as follows: OFPRA 201, rue Carnot 94 136 FONTENAY-SOUS-BOIS CEDEX.

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Remember to send the documents in certified form with acknowledgement of receipt, placing your name legibly on the sender’s side. And do not forget that, at any time, you can send additional material to OFPRA, which will facilitate the evaluation of the case, using the same mail. It is also important that you keep copies of the receipts and letters delivered to the agency and those received at the post office.

When the folder arrives at OFPRA, they will send you a notification that your application has been filed; it will include your file number. This letter will be your official proof that the asylum petition has been filed with OFPRA; with this letter, you will be able to renew the certificate obtained in phase 1 of step #2.

Step #5. Personal interview at OFPRA


Through OFPRA you will receive a call to set up a new interview. You will be exempt from the interview:

  • The information you have provided is sufficient to grant you refugee status.
  • For reasons of force majeureof medical order, you cannot appear.

The place of the interview will be at OFPRA headquarters, located in Fontenay-sous-Bois. You will be attended by a representative, called a protection officer. There will also be, if necessary, an interpreter hired by the agency and a personal immigration lawyer, if you wish to bring one with you.

Attendance at the scheduled meeting is mandatory; if you miss the meeting, OFPRA may close the case. However, you have a maximum of 48 hours to notify OFPRA of any impediment that may have prevented you from attending the meeting. If valid, the appointment will be rescheduled.

It should be noted that your statements will be audio-recorded and recorded in a written report by the protection officer, but will be for confidential use and without risk of external disclosure. You will only be able to access the recording in the event of a negative decision by OFPRA, and if an appeal is necessary.

Step #6. Decision

You will be notified by mail if the decision is favorable or adverse. Waiting times may vary; for example, those coming from safe countries may receive a decision within 15 days. But, normal procedures can take up to six months. Just be calm.

Case Answer Options

As already mentioned, the possible responses are admission or refusal of international protection. Let’s see what to do in each situation:

Favorable decision

If OFPRA responds satisfactorily, you will receive two possible decisions:

  • Recognition as a refugee. If so, OFPRA will send you the decision granting the status by mail.
  • Eligible for the subsidiary protection benefit. They will notify you by mail of the benefit, and they will send you an authorization letter. You can present it to the authorities as many times as necessary to support your stay in the country.

Adverse decision

OFPRA will issue three possible decisions:

  1. Rejection of the application. It can be appealed to the National Court of the Right of Asylum (CNDA) click here to see the steps. This decision will revoke your right to stay in France.
  2. Inadmissible. it may also be appealed to the CNDA; however, you will not have the right to remain on French territory, even if you appeal.
  3. Closure of the application. It may not be challenged before any court and will not grant you the right to stay in the country. Applies when the applicant:
  • Does not attend the interview.
  • Refuses to contribute valuable information to analyze the case.
  • Does not send the required documents, nor do the officers manage to communicate with the person.

There is no doubt that France is a humanitarian country, which helps all foreigners in vulnerable conditions due to violence and discrimination. Between 2019 and 2020, the government donated large amounts of money to allied organizations in Colombia and Brazil, for the protection of the great mass of Venezuelans, who by that time were fleeing that nation. So, if you need refuge, you know where to go.

refugees in france

Maya Martinez

Legal advisor for immigration processes. In addition to providing support in the legal procedures, I offer integral and informative support in relation to the obligations that are acquired when arriving to a new country.

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