An asylum application in France may be made:
- On the territory;
- At the border, in case the asylum seeker does not possess valid travel documents to enter the territory, including when he or she is placed in a waiting zone. In this case the person makes an application for admission to the territory on asylum grounds;
- From an administrative detention centre, in case the person is already being detained for the purpose of removal.
Registration: In order to lodge an asylum application on the territory, asylum seekers must first present themselves to the local competent orientation platform (plateforme d’accueil de demandeurs d’asile, PADA) whose task is to centralise the collection of intentions to lodge asylum claims and to give appointments to asylum seekers to the “single desk” (guichet unique de demande d’asile, GUDA) of the Prefecture. At the single desk their asylum claim is first registered and they are granted an asylum claim certification. The certification is equivalent to the temporary residence permit.
If it is granted, the person enters into the asylum procedure and has to complete his or her application form in French and send it to OFPRA within a 21 calendar day period, under both regular and accelerated procedures.
Asylum seekers under a Dublin procedure also receive an asylum claim certification but this specifies that they are under a Dublin transfer procedure. Asylum seekers are not allowed to lodge their application with OFPRA if another state accepts responsibility for their asylum claim. The certification does not allow travel to other Member States.
The certification is not delivered to asylum seekers having introduced a claim at the border or from a detention centre. In addition, the Prefecture may refuse to grant an asylum claim certification for two reasons, thus banning the foreign national from remaining on the French territory:
- The foreign national introduces a subsequent application after the final rejection of his or her first subsequent application; or
- The foreign national is subject to a final decision of extradition towards another country than his or her country of origin, or if he or she is subject to a European Arrest Warrant or an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.
Accelerated / regular procedure: The placement under an accelerated procedure does not imply a refusal to grant an asylum claim certification. There are different grounds for channelling a claim into an accelerated procedure. In particular, OFPRA has to process asylum claim under accelerated procedures where the applicant: (a) originates from a safe country of origin; or (b) lodges a subsequent application which is not inadmissible.
The Prefecture channels an asylum claim under accelerated procedures in the following cases:
- The asylum seeker refuses to be fingerprinted;
- When registering his or her claim, the asylum seeker has presented falsified identity or travel documents, or provided wrong information on his or her nationality or on his or her conditions of entry on the French territory or has introduced several asylum claims under different identities;
- The claim has not been made within 90 days after the foreign national has entered the French territory or he or she has remained unlawfully on French territory after his or her arrival for 90 days before registering the claim;
- The claim has only been made to prevent a notified or imminent removal order; or
- The presence of the foreign national in France constitutes a serious threat to public order, public safety or state security.
In addition, OFPRA can decide by itself to process a claim under an accelerated procedure under three other grounds (see section on Accelerated Procedure).
In these cases, an accelerated procedure means that the person has 21 calendar days to lodge his or her application with OFPRA and that the latter has, in theory, 15 days to examine and decide on the case. The deadlines are even more limited both for the asylum seeker and OFPRA if the person is held in administrative detention. The accelerated procedure does not entail lower social rights than under the regular procedure. Yet, following the 2018 reform, the law provides for the termination of reception conditions for certain categories of asylum seekers whose claims are rejected in the accelerated procedure.
The Prefectures as well as OFPRA are under the administrative supervision of the Ministry of Interior. A single procedure applies. French legislation provides for systematic personal interviews of applicants at first instance; except if OFPRA is about to take a positive decision or if the asylum seeker’s medical situation prevents him/her from attending the interview. All personal interviews are conducted by OFPRA. Asylum seekers can be accompanied to their interview by a third person (e.g. a lawyer or member of an accredited NGO). This third person cannot intervene during the interview but may formulate remarks at the end of the interview. This provision also applies to claims introduced at the border and from detention. After the asylum seeker and potential third person have been heard, the caseworker writes an account and a draft decision. The caseworker’s decision must be signed and validated by the Head of section, but in practice around one-third of caseworkers, who have significant professional experience, are allowed to sign their own decisions.
Appeal: The CNDA is the specialised Administrative Court handling appeals against all administrative decisions of the Director General of OFPRA related to an asylum application. This appeal must be lodged within 1 month after the notification of OFPRA’s decision to the applicant. The appeal has automatic suspensive effect for all applicants in the regular procedure, and for those in the accelerated procedure who do not fall under the safe country of origin concept, subsequent application, or threat to public order. Appeals have no suspensive effect if they concern an inadmissibility decision or asylum claims introduced from detention (see Registration). The CNDA examines the appeal on facts and points of law. It can annul the first instance decision, and therefore grant subsidiary protection status or refugee status, or confirm the negative decision of OFPRA. In some special cases, if the procedural guarantees of the personal interview have not been respected by OFPRA, it can also send the case back to OFPRA for re-examination.
An onward appeal before the Council of State can be lodged within 2 months after the notification of the CNDA decision. The Council of State does not review all the facts of the case, but only points of law such as compliance with rules of procedure and the correct application of the law by the CNDA. If the Council of State annuls the decision, it refers it to the CNDA to decide again on the merits of the case, but it may also decide to rule itself for good on the granting or refusal of protection. The appeal before the Council of State has no suspensive effect on a removal order issued by the Prefecture following a negative decision of the CNDA.
Border procedure: A specific border procedure to request an admission to the territory on asylum grounds is provided by French legislation for persons arriving on French territory through airports or harbours. The Border Unit of OFPRA interviews the asylum seekers and formulates a binding opinion that is communicated to the Ministry of Interior. If OFPRA issues a positive opinion, the Ministry has no choice but to authorise the entry on the French territory, except on grounds of threat to national security. This interview is conducted to check whether the applicant’s claim is not manifestly unfounded. The concept of “manifestly unfounded” claims is described in the law and concerns claims that are “irrelevant” or “lacking any credibility”.
If the asylum application is not considered to be manifestly unfounded, the foreign national is authorised to enter French territory and is given an 8-day temporary visa. Within this time frame, the asylum seeker has to report to a PADA with a view to obtaining an appointment at the single desk. The Prefecture will examine whether to grant the person an asylum claim certification and, if so, will channel the application into the appropriate procedure. OFPRA then processes the asylum application as any other asylum application lodged on the territory. If the asylum application is considered manifestly unfounded or inadmissible or is the responsibility of another Member State, the Ministry of Interior refuses to grant entry to the foreigner with a reasoned decision. The person can lodge an appeal against this decision before the Administrative Court within a 48-hour deadline. If this appeal fails, the foreigner can be expelled from the country
Linking asylum and return: When the rejection of asylum claim is definitive, a return decision is notified by the prefecture. This link is not automatic and sometimes it can takes many days or week before the notification of the return decision.
 Conditions for the certification to be delivered and renewed are described in the Decree n. 2015-1166 of 21 September 2015 of the Ministry of Interior.