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I'm going to write in first person to make it easier to explain the situation, though it doesn't refer to me.

I am the spouse of an EU citizen (not Croatian), but I am not an EU citizen myself. We moved to France earlier this year, my spouse has a fixed-term work contract here. Getting a residence permit is proving to be a nightmare for me. After more than 5 months I still haven't received it, I am unable to get any information on how long it will take, and the Prefecture keeps being inconsistent in their requirements (they request documents by post that they assured me they absolutely don't need when I brought them in person earlier, etc.). It is also very hard to deal with them because we do not speak any French, while all their employees who deal with foreigners seems to only speak French and nothing else. Not having the residence permit means that I cannot travel out of the country (which I need to do to honour family commitments) and I can only get a temporary work-contract, which cannot be renewed indefinitely this I might lose my job. These things are causing me considerable stress.

Questions:

  1. My understanding is that spouses of EU citizens are entitled to the same treatment as EU citizens themselves:

    During their stay in your new country, your non-EU spouse, (grand)children or (grand)parents should be treated as nationals, notably as regards access to employment, pay and benefits facilitating access to work, enrolment in schools, etc.

    Under what conditions does this apply? Is my treatment here in France illegal? (I.e. in practice I cannot get a fixed-term work contract because the residence permit is a requirement, and it doesn't seem like I will get it any time soon. I also don't have freedom of movement.)

  2. I have seen comments online that according to EU law the residence permit (of a spouse of an EU citizen) cannot be delayed for more than a certain amount of time. What is the exact legal situation? For how long can they delay it?

  3. Even if there are EU laws that require that the residence permit should be issued within a certain amount of time, I have a bad feeling that France might simply not respect them. What can I do in practice to move this along? At the Prefecture everyone seems to be denying personal responsibility.

  4. What are the exact conditions under which I can get the residence permit? They were asking for several payslips of my spouse before they even started processing my request. This was taking a very long time. What other options are there? Is it possible to simply show that I have enough funds to support myself through a bank statement (they didn't seem to be open to this option), and does it go faster?

  5. Is there any way to check on the status of the application? At the Prefecture I was told that this is not possible, and that I will not even be notified when it is ready. They said I must go and check in person which means that I need to take a full day off and queue for several hours just to be told that they still have no idea when it will be ready.

In general, are there any EU laws that I can practically use to obtain a French residence permit in a timely manner as a spouse of an EU citizen?

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Generally speaking, EU law does not create any practical way to speed up the process. I might add a few details later but I will first try to answer your specific questions as good as I can:

  1. I guess equal treatment applies as soon as your spouse makes use of her treaty rights. But you haven't been denied anything and there is no law in France preventing the spouse of an EU citizen from working or moving in and out of the country. That, and in particular access to all the financial benefits granted by the state, is mostly what equal treatment is about.

    You have to realise that achieving equal treatment for people who already have their residence card required and still requires a lot of work all over Europe. So as long as your application is ultimately successful, a bit of delay in the formalities will look like a minor breach to the people who have to enforce EU law, no matter how inconvenient it is to the people who have to deal with it in practice.

    And the spouses of French citizens have to deal with similar issues so there is no discrimination against EU citizens from that perspective either.

  2. Article 10 of directive 2004/38/EC provides that

    The right of residence of family members of a Union citizen who are not nationals of a Member State shall be evidenced by the issuing of a document called "Residence card of a family member of a Union citizen" no later than six months from the date on which they submit the application. A certificate of application for the residence card shall be issued immediately.

    So at this point, after 5 months, France is not even in breach of the directive. And that's a relatively soft target, it does not directly create any practical way to get a card quickly if your préfecture happens to be unable to meet it.

  3. Not much you can do. Stay polite no matter what, provide what they ask, do suggest they double-check or look for alternatives when you think they are wrong but do not get angry or act entitled. That's easier said than done, especially when they make your life difficult and you don't speak the language, but that's the most effective way to deal with bureaucracies (governmental or otherwise) everywhere.

  4. Briefly, under EU law, an EU citizen has a right to reside in another country as a worker, economically non-active person or as a student (see this answer on the politics website for some background). So your spouse can indeed show that she has a right to reside in France as an economically non-active person and sponsor you on that basis. You can find more details on that option in Can We Move To France Although We Don't Live In The EU?

  5. There is no easy way to check the status of your application to my knowledge (certainly no national website or anything like that).

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