Residence Registration System in France: Main Points
Intern of CPLR
In the scope of current reform of the residence registration system in Ukraine, the analysis of the French system was proven relevant. Indeed, what is looked for in a potential new Ukrainian system is the simplicity and the security for citizens to register their residence? For the French citizen, it is the case. Without any compulsory registration, but with many mechanisms of declaring the residence, the French citizens benefit from a simple system. This system is based on the cooperation between the several public institutions and trust in the French constituents. In this research the main points of the French system are underlined.
1. What is the general French system and what are its main principles?
The French system is trying to reach the simplest way for the inhabitants to exercise their rights and social benefits, without getting through a complicated residence registration procedure. Therefore, no specific obligation concerning the residence registration exists. The intention to establish his/her principal residence suffices. However, the declaration is possible mainly in order to benefit from multiple services and rights.
This principle knows one regional exception. The Alsace-Moselle region is under a specific local law inherited from the Germanic annexation. Hence, in this region, the residence registration is mandatory according to the three laws dated from 1883. However, since 1919, the criminal sanctions related to this obligation were revoked. Thus, the localities administer their procedure as they please. In a general way, they chose to sustain the obligation to declare its residency, only for the purpose of a simpler management of the administration.
2. What is the legal regulation?
The French system is under the jurisdiction of the Civil Code (from article 102 to 111), and fraud cases can be subject to criminal prosecution according to the Criminal Code (from article 441-1 to 441-12).
According to the French legislation, the residency is the place where the person intends to create her/his centre of activities and benefit from her/his civic rights. It is his/her principal setting place. A person can have multiple houses, but only one residency (domicile).
The principle in France is that the residence registration is not compulsory. The intention to establishes residence is sufficient, according to the Civil Code.
When a change of residence occurs, only the intention of moving to a new residence is sufficient according to the Article 103. It indeed stipulates that the proof of the intention is resulting from the notice to the municipality’s office. This condition is double because the notice must be addressed to both the previous municipality and the one where the new residence will be settled. However, lack of declaration to the municipalities does not interfere with the establishment (moving) of new residence. In this case, the proof of the intention would be confirmed by the circumstances (Article 105). Hence, the judge has a wide discretionary power in this matter. Indeed, in some cases that are brought in front of him, the issue of the residence will be raised (for instance, cases of breach of a working contract, with the receiving of indemnities to the residence of the injured party). The actual fact of living in the residence must be proven as well as the intention to make this residence the principal one (not a second home). The judge can use evidence, such as bills, that might prove the stability of the living in the residence. Through this bundle of evidence, the judge will decide about the accuracy of the intention.
Two exceptions regarding the principle of non compulsory registration exist. The first case is regulated by the Article 227-4 of the Criminal Code. In the case of the payment of a pension or other benefit (for example, spousal pension), the debtor must notify the residence relocation within a month to the creditor. The second case is related to the notification of the residence relocation to a person that has a right of visit to the children. It is, for example, the relevant case for divorced parents. The parent moving with the children must notify it to the other one. This obligation is stipulated by the Article 227-6 of the Criminal Code.
3. How do French people prove their residence registration?
Since the 2000 decree concerning the simplification of the administrative system, the justification of residence is in principle not asked by the administration (such as municipality or prefecture) in order to allow an access to different services. A justification should only be required for the following cases:
- The delivery of identity card, passport or any travel documents
- The delivery of a resident permit or an accommodation proof 
- The registration on the voters list
- The procedure concerning the acquiring, the reintegration or the loss of the French nationality
- The delivery of a French citizenship certificate (in the case of a foreigner that wants to acquire the nationality, such as migrants or asylum seekers)
- The inscription on academic structures (schools, universities, etc.)
In the needed case, a residence certification can be delivered by the town administration. The administration officer will proceed to the certification of either the person’s handwritten solemn declaration, or the dedicated official form filled by him/her.
However, other documents can be used as a residence’s justification. The need of a residence certification delivered by the administration is rare, mainly asked by foreign States in the scope of some specific procedures.
The justification of residence can take several shapes. It must include the name and surname of the person, and be dated from at least one year long. The relevant documents are the following:
- Bills (water, electricity, gas, phone, mobile phone)
- Taxes notices
- Insurance on the residence
- Ownership title
- Lease payments
- Documents concerning the social benefits in regard of the housing (Caf)
In the case where a person is hosted or does not have residence justification (spouse, children or other cases), the person will have to produce the hosting person’s identity card copy, his/her residence justification, and a letter wrote by him/her testifying that the person has been living at the residence since at least three months.
4. How does the state prevent fraud?
In order to control the veracity of the residence registration or justification, the administration can take every measure in its power. For example, before granting a service/right, the administration can send a mail to the indicated address. It can also have access to the street repertory to confirm the existence of the address when it looks suspicious. Moreover, a bundle of indicators, such as taxes notices, the registration to the voters list, the inscription to an academic establishment or any other formality, can be perceived as elements of proof. Concerning only the justification, new technological tools were implemented. For instance, with the cooperation of utilities and billers, the bills are equipped of a specific barcode called “2D DOC”, and allowing the public services to verify the veracity of the document. Finally, sensibilisation and formation of the relevant organisms were implemented. Those are delivered by the officers of the National Delegation of the Fight against the Fraud (Délégation nationale à la lutte contre la fraude - DNLF).
In the case where the residence registration or justification does not correspond to the actual residence of a person, the local administration (such as the municipality) can take several legal measures. First, it can suspend his/her benefits. In grave circumstances of fraud, it can also institute criminal proceedings.
Indeed, the documentary fraud (fraude documentaire) is criminally reprehensible. Under the Article 441-7 of the Criminal Code, the action of forging an attestation or certificate is punishable of one year of incarceration and a 15 000€ fine. Moreover, the same action delivered in the purpose of obtaining some rights and prestations can be punishable of two years imprisonment and a 30 000€ fine, according to the Article 441-6. In most of the cases, a fake residence registration is a fraud supporting another serious fraud, such as tax fraud, which is as well punishable under the Criminal Code.
5. Is there any database of residence registration?
Because there is no obligation to declare its residence, no official residence registration database exists. However, the National Institute of Statistic and Economic Studies (Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques - INSEE), through its process of census every five years in each city of France, is updating the national inhabitants database. The census officer, appointed by the town administration, is passing by each residence. The inhabitant has the obligation, according the 1951 Law, to answer a form with accuracy. The form contains inquiries concerning the residence and the persons living in it. An inaccurate answer perpetrated with intention is punishable of a 150€ fine. This census is allowing to the Institute to perform statistics on several fields.
The same Institute is also keeping a voters list database. It is working jointly with the local administration to update every year the voters list. Through this process, the residence registration has its value. Indeed, the registration on a new voters list is equivalent to a residence registration, because it notifies the municipalities of the residence of the new voter.
Database can also be found among the social benefits’ authorities (for instance, the Family Benefits fund, or the Health Insurance fund) and tax institutions for example. Indeed, to exercise their rights and duties, the inhabitants must declare to the relevant authorities their change of situation.
Finally, like previously pointed out, a street repertory of each city exists. It is an online database that collects every name of the town’s street. The municipal administration (as well as any private person having access to the Internet) can then use it to verify the accuracy of certain residence justification.
6. What is the connexion between residence registration and the education, election, medical care or identification cards?
The French system proceeds directly and systematically to the registration of the French citizens that reach 18 years old and complete their formation day of defence and citizenship (Journée défense et citoyenneté).
In the case of a residence relocation, in order to be registered to the voters list, the citizen must fill a registration request in the administration of the town where his/her new residence is settled. This registration form requires a residence justification, dated from less than three months, and in which the full name of the person appears. The form and the documents required can also be send by mail to the city administration. Moreover, an online registration can be done. An account must be created on the website service-public.fr. Then, the person needs to fill the form online, and download the digitized required documents (the same as for the other ways to register). Once done, a proof of the procedure will be sent by email to the person.
Through this registration process, the removal of the previous registration on another voters list will be completed. Also, the removal procedure takes place when the citizen is notifying his/her move to another town (procedure of residence registration).
- Social prestations and services
French social benefits are mainly organized in a decentralised manner. Thus, it is important to declare a new address to the relevant authority in order to access to a bundle of prestations and rights. For instance, the family benefits fund (Caisse d’allocation familiale - CAF) is organised in 102 regional funds, and displays several benefits to the French citizens. Among those, the housing benefit can be requested. The beneficiary will then have to declare his/her residence, however not to the municipalities, but to the family benefits local fund.
Nevertheless, in those cases, no formal residence registration needs to be fulfil. Moreover, in the policy of dematerialization and simplification of the administrative procedures, the notification of the move can be completed through the Internet. On the service-public platform, the declaration can be shared with all the relevant authorities, such as social security or the tax services.
- Code civil - Titre II: Du domicile
- Code pénal - Chapitre Ier: Des faux
- Loi n°51-711 du 7 juin 1951 sur l’obligation, la coordination et le secret en matière de statistiques
- Décret n°2000-1277 du 26 décembre 2000 portant simplification de formalités administratives et suppression de la fiche d’état civil
- Rapport d’activité, Commission pour les simplification administratives, 2001
- A. LANGLADE, ‘Eléments de connaissance sur la fraude aux documents et à l’identité en 2014’, La criminalité en France, Rapport annuel 2015 de l’Observatoire Nationale de la Délinquances et des répressions pénales
Public informative documents
- Lutte contre la fraude documentaire, Délégation Nationale à la Lutte contre la Fraude, accessible par https://www.economie.gouv.fr/dnlf/lutte-contre-fraude-documentaire
- Gestion du fichier électoral, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques, accessible par https://www.insee.fr/fr/information/1303493
- Démarches administratives simplifiées - Petit guide à l’usage des mairies et des administrations, Ministère de la fonction publique et de la réforme de l’Etat
- Y. BUFFELAN-LANORE, Domicile, demeure et logement familial, Répertoire de droit civil, juin 2014
- Délégation Nationale à la Lutte contre la Fraude, https://www.economie.gouv.fr/dnlf
- Direction Centrale de la Police aux Frontières, https://www.police-nationale.interieur.gouv.fr/Organisation/Direction-Centrale-de-la-Police-Aux-Frontieres/La-mission-de-lutte-contre-la-fraude-documentaire
- Sénat, https://www.senat.fr
- Service public, https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F14807
 Décret n°2000-1277 du 26 décembre 2000 portant simplification de formalités administratives et suppression de la fiche d’état civil
 This cases is for a foreign person living in France, for example a migrant worker.
 The accomodation proof is delivered in the case of a foreign person staying in France less than three months for private or familial reasons. The accommodation proof is a form that needs to be filled by the host offering to receive the foreigner in his/her residence.
 CERFA n°11752*02, see Appendix
 The Caisse d’allocations familiales (CAF) is a French social benefits fund
 The relevant administration can refer the potential fraud to the public prosecutor. For example, in case of tax fraud suspicion, the tax authority must seize a special commission that will review the complaint before referring the matter to the public prosecutor.
 Loi n°51-711 du 7 juin 1951 sur l’obligation, la coordination et le secret en matière de statistiques
 Article 3
 See Appendix
 Article 7
 This day is dedicated to form the young citizen to their rights and duty, as well as how the French institutions work. This formation day must be completed between 16 and 25 years old, and is mandatory.
 CERFA n°12669*01, see Appendix
 Can be found to https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/R11193