Did you know that expat children in France need to apply for a DCEM or Document de Circulation Pour Étranger Mineur? I didn’t!
After our first year in France, it was time to renew our Visa’s. Since you don’t actually get a new Visa, instead a Carte de Séjour, that poses a bit of a problem for kids. Only adults get a fancy residents card. So what about the kids? According the lady at the Préfecture, the kids didn’t need anything since they are residing here with their parents. We thought that was cool and went about our lives.
Fast forward to us trying to enter the Netherlands after a vacation in Ireland. Apparently, kids DO need paperwork saying they can come back into the EU. Thankfully, we weren’t given too much of a hard time. The customs officials just instructed us to get the kids documentation.
I was in a HUGE panic because we would be leaving for the States in less than 2 months, with plans to return to France after 7 weeks (well outside of the 90 day Schengen requirement). I found a sticky note on my original paperwork from when we first arrived in France and visited the OFII (French Office of Immigration and Integration). It said DCEM and a note that the kids could get this but it wasn’t a requirement. Apparently, it wasn’t a requirement at the time because they had a valid Visa! More research revealed that the DCEM allowed the kids to move freely throughout France and the Schengen Area. It appears they were okay to be in France, just couldn’t leave and return.
Although foreign children residing in France are not required to have a residence permit, they have to get a traveling document for foreign minors (DCEM). Foreign minors are persons under age 18 who are in France and not French nationals.
With this document, minors can provide proof that they legitimately reside in France when travelling outside France and can be readmitted, without a visa, to France or the Schengen Area. It must be accompanied with a valid passport.
The DCEM is valid for five years. It is renewable for minors who entered France with a long-stay visa. The parent must have one of several documents allowing them to legally reside in France. For us, this was our Carte de Séjour. Minors legitimately residing in France can apply for a residence permit when they reach the age of 18, special conditions apply.
How To Get a DCEM:
In Nice, we found it fairly easy to apply for the DCEM. There is a lot of paperwork required, so ensure you have all documents prior to filing the application.
You can get all the updated information and the application form online.
Download and print the application (Demande de TIR ou DCEM pour étranger mineur : cerfa N° 11203 02) and see the requirements (entré en France avec un Visa Long Séjour). Information is also on the form (première demande DCEM ou TIR) which are all listed on this website.
We took bus 9/10 to Préfecture in Nice. According to the website, we needed to arrive between 9 – 11am. Kids don’t have to be present for document drop-off, just pick up of the card.
On the website, look under “Demande” and put your zip code in the box under the section of “Lieu de depot” to find the place for filing near you. Once the options come up, click the bold Préfecture link and the location address, dates and times will be available. For Nice, I was instructed to visit “Préfecture-Alpes-Maritimes.”
– Completed application form – make sure to also have kids sign! Write in black ink and in all caps. Don’t forget French spelling for English locations such as country and state of birth.
– 2 recent passport sized pictures
– Copy of child’s passport
– Copy of parents passports
– Copy of Visa used to enter the country
– Copy of letter from school saying the kids attend (certificats de scolarité)
– Copy of domicile proof within 3 months such as an electric or cellphone bill (Justificatif de domicile)
– Copy of parents resident card – Carte de Séjour
– Copy of certified translated birth certificate (Acte de naissance)
– Copy of certified translated marriage license**
– Copy of previous card, if renewing
**The old requirements wanted the translated marriage license since we don’t have family books in the U.S. This isn’t on the current forms, but I included it with our package since I had the translated document.
Originals and photocopies of the documents are required. However, only the copies were needed during our visit. I would play it safe and bring the originals as well just in case they ask to see them. I had all the copies and the 2 photos paper clipped together to easily hand over with the originals kept separate.
After waiting in line at the Préfecture, the lady at the desk looked over our paperwork and we left. Easy peasy.
You will receive a letter in the mail to pick up your DCEM. We could go any weekday except Thursday between 9-11:30. Again, kids are required to be present, so they missed a day of school. The DCEM can take up to 3 months to be issued. We were lucky and received the letter in the mail within 2 weeks.
Bring the letter you received in the mail, 45€ stamps* (timbre fiscal) and parents ID (we brought passports). I also had the kids passports just in case.
The kids signed the cards then Derrick and I signed. The oversized cards were laminated and we were on our way. The kiddos are now legally allowed to move through France and the Schengen area for 5 years!
Again, here are your references links:
What was your experience getting the DCEM in France? Can you share other tips on how to get a DCEM?
*Please note that the required amount to obtain your DCEM and the required paperwork can vary by location and year. Please confirm what is required for your documentation at the time of submitting the application.
Don’t miss our Ultimate Guide to Family Travel in Nice!