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I am an EU citizen, my wife is not. We are looking into a move to France, and are trying to figure out how early she would be able to start working after the move. She would be getting a Carte de Séjour “membre de la famille d’un citoyen de l’Union/EEE/Suisse”. My understanding is that the processing times for Cartes de Séjour can be on the order of several months.

Our experience in Denmark was that the regulations allow someone to work while the equivalent permit is being processed, on the condition that in the rare case that the permit is denied you would be retroactively considered to have been working illegally. Does France have a similar system? In part, we're trying to figure out how early we'd need to move for her to accept a position there in the Fall.

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    Note the processing times (used to) depend a lot on the location.
    – Relaxed
    May 4, 2023 at 5:14

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For reference, information about the application for the carte de séjour is available at Carte de séjour en tant que membre de famille d'un Européen, but I expect that you are already familiar with this page, for it does not seem to answer this question.

Your experience in Denmark reflects the free movement directive (2004/38/EC), which provides that a family member's derivative rights flow from EU law rather than being subject to the discretion of the host state. Family members with derivative rights therefore typically are able to work from the time they have submitted their application. This is consistent with articles 23 and 25 of the directive:

Article 23

Related rights

Irrespective of nationality, the family members of a Union citizen who have the right of residence or the right of permanent residence in a Member State shall be entitled to take up employment or self-employment there.

...

Article 25

General provisions concerning residence documents

  1. Possession of a registration certificate as referred to in Article 8, of a document certifying permanent residence, of a certificate attesting submission of an application for a family member residence card, of a residence card or of a permanent residence card, may under no circumstances be made a precondition for the exercise of a right or the completion of an administrative formality, as entitlement to rights may be attested by any other means of proof.

  2. All documents mentioned in paragraph 1 shall be issued free of charge or for a charge not exceeding that imposed on nationals for the issuing of similar documents

(Emphasis added)

After spending more time than I should have searching on https://www.service-public.fr, both from the point of view of a person wanting to work in France and from the point of view of an employer wanting to verify that a prospective employee is authorized to work in France, the best I could come up with was that the receipt for the application might say that it authorizes the applicant to work.

One reason for my difficulty in finding the relevant legal provisions is that the law seems to have changed in 2020, so if someone who has actually done this posts an answer it will be more informative if they have done it since then.

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    Going through servicepublic.fr, one might find that to get the mentioned carte de séjour, they have to submit a digital request (Vous devez faire votre demande sur le site de l'ANEF (Administration Numérique des Etrangers en France). Then one would notice that when doing the online request, they will receive a attestation, not a récépissé (service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F36206). And one would see that such an attestation does not allow working. Only adding this as a comment because I am not a lawyer there might be more to know about this.
    – audionuma
    May 2, 2023 at 19:57
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    @audionuma thanks. I did indeed see all of that, and I was planning to say that it seems unlikely that the receipt would say that it permits working, but I had gone down so many rabbit holes that I lost track of why I wanted to say that. I just get the feeling that either the system isn't compliant with EU law (if it can take 6 months or more before a spouse can work) or the documentation of the system is incomplete (if the spouse can work sooner but it's not apparent from the documentation), and that the only way to know for sure is to hear from someone who's done it recently.
    – phoog
    May 2, 2023 at 21:18
  • Thanks! Since as you say there might be a clearer answer from someone who's actually gone through the process recently, I won't click "accept answer" just yet, but this is quite helpful, at least for getting an idea of what the EU thinks should be required. Do you know if it's possible to apply for the carte de séjour before entry? Looking at the documentation requirements it seems to require my work contract, but not a French rental contract or anything like that, and "within 3 months of entry" technically should include 3 months before, at least judging by the English translation.
    – Matt
    May 3, 2023 at 5:56
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    @Matt I don't think it's possible to apply before arriving in France, but with the new online procedure, who knows? Certainly "within three months" is supposed to mean "within three months after arriving." It might be possible to get a visa before entering but I don't suppose it will be particularly helpful. If you can submit the application online before you're actually in France it should at least reduce the duration of the period when your wife is waiting for the card and therefore likely unable to apply for work.
    – phoog
    May 3, 2023 at 17:20
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    (+1) @audionumaIt's a big mess. My understanding is that after the attestation de confirmation du dépôt, you should also receive a attestation de prolongation de l’instruction de la demande, which does work like a récépissé used to. But all the documentation I can find assumes you have another title because most people who use this service would have a VLS-TS or an expiring carte de séjour (there are only a few situations where applying in-country is allowed without that).
    – Relaxed
    May 4, 2023 at 5:31

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