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Control of a foreigner's papers: what are the rules?

Verified 10 April 2019 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

The documents of a foreigner present in France can be checked by the police (police, gendarmerie, customs) during an identity check or residence permit. These checks must comply with certain rules (competent authorities, reasons for arrest, conditions of place and time, etc.).

The administrative situation of the alien may be verified in the context of a identity check ::

  • in the territory (judicial or administrative control),
  • or in a zone Schengen,
  • or in a company (for combating hidden work),
  • or carried out for the investigation of certain serious offenses (terrorism, arms and explosives, drug trafficking, etc.).

Outside of any identity check, law enforcement may invite a foreign national to present his or her documents. He must always carry the document authorizing his stay in France:

Checks may only be carried out on public roads, in public places or open to the public (stations, airports, cafes, etc.).

The security forces may only carry out a security check directly if objective factors external to the person concerned make it possible to assume that he is a foreigner. For example, if they drive a foreign-registered vehicle or distribute foreign-language leaflets on the street.

Title controls are limited in time and space. They may not:

  • be practiced beyond 6 consecutive hours in the same place,
  • lead to the systematic arrest of persons present or circulating in this place.

A foreigner who cannot present his residence document may be taken to a police or gendarmerie premises and detained there for verification of residence..

FYI  

an EU citizenEEA: titleContent or Swiss may enter France freely and reside there without a residence permit.