For members


Do foreigners in France need to carry proof of ID?

You may have heard that you need to carry your ID card with you at all times in France - but is this actually true and what can happen if you don't have any? 

Do foreigners in France need to carry proof of ID?
ID checks can take place at any time of day. (Photo by SEBASTIEN SALOM GOMIS / AFP)

Question: Is it true that if you’re a foreigner in France you need to carry ID at all times? And what can you use? I don’t like to carry my passport with me all the time in case it gets stolen.

The short answer is yes, and yes. In theory. If you don’t have any ID with you, things can get … time-consuming. And, maybe, expensive.

French citizens are all issued with (free) ID cards, which most people routinely carry with them.

Visitors and non-French citizens, meanwhile, are encouraged to have some form of ID with them at all times. No law actually requires you to have a form of ID with you at all times – but if you are subject to an identity check, the procedure will take longer if you cannot present an appropriate document.

One reason for police to stop an ordinary civilian is for a contrôle d’identité (identity check). This is when a police officer stops to check your identity. 

This can only happen under certain conditions: 

  • the officer suspects you have committed or will commit a crime; 
  • you are in an area where crime is known to occur; 
  • the public prosecutor has ordered a certain area to be subject to police checks, or; 
  • you are in control of a motorised vehicle (a contrôle routière).

If you’re driving, officers have the power to pull you over for an ID check – even if you were driving safely and within the speed limit – and a search of the vehicle may be carried out.

French police deny it – and the French state’s ‘colourblind’ policy means there is no official data – but anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that ID checks are much more common for people of colour. 

Acceptable forms of identification are;

  • a passport
  • a French ID card
  • a photo driving licence;
  • a carte de séjour residency permit 

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: How to officially prove your ID and address in France

A carte vitale health card, voter card or a French birth certificate may also be acceptable.

If you are not carrying any document that could prove your identity – a good quality photocopy is usually acceptable, if you don’t want to carry the original around with you, or maybe a photo on your mobile – the officer can take you to a police station to check your identity there. 

This verification must take no longer than four hours from the first request for ID (eight hours in Mayotte, just for the record). Even so, it’s plenty long enough to put a kink in your day.

If police cannot establish your identity, or if you refuse to cooperate with police, the public prosecutor or investigating judge may authorise the taking of fingerprints and photos. Refusing to submit to fingerprinting or having a photograph taken is punishable by a fine of up to €3,750 and three months in prison.

Non-French citizens who are resident in France may also have to prove their right to residency – a passport or residence permit is acceptable, as is the confirmation of anyone with you who is either a French citizen or legally resident in France.

Equally, you may be required to prove your identity for any number of administrative reasons – which makes it easier to have some form of ID with you.

These include, for example, the following situations:

  • Examination or competition;
  • Registration at Pôle Emploi;
  • Registering on electoral rolls and voting in elections;
  • Certain banking operations (opening an account; making a payment by cheque; or making a withdrawal at the counter of your bank);
  • Picking up a parcel from the post office;
  • Rail travel in certain situations, such as if you have bought your ticket using an age-restricted rail card;
  • Air travel.

Be aware that companies such as SNCF and administrative bodies can decide for themselves which forms of ID they deem acceptable – and whether they will accept photographs or photocopies. 

If you’re travelling within the Schengen zone, you should always carry either a passport or a French ID card – although checks at Schengen borders are not common, they do happen and technically you still need a passport or ID card to travel. 

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For members


Property tax surcharge: Where in France second-home owners are liable for extra taxes

Local authorities in certain parts of France are entitled to place an extra property tax on second homes - here's how the system works and how to find out if your area is introducing such a rule.

Property tax surcharge: Where in France second-home owners are liable for extra taxes

France’s householders’ tax – taxe d’habitation – has been almost completely phased out, but there is one group that it still applies to; second-home owners.

Not only do second-home owners still have to pay the tax, an increasing number of communes are imposing a ‘surcharge’ on second homes which increases the bill by up to 60 percent.

The government has given local authorities in areas where there is a housing shortage the power to increase taxes on second homes in order to fund more affordable housing for locals and an increasing number of communes are choosing to use this power.

READ ALSO Second home or main address? French property tax rules explained

Towns and cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants and “a marked imbalance between supply and demand for housing” are known as zones tendues (troubled zones) and may increase their portion of the taxe d’habitation by between five and 60 percent.

For the record, taxe d’habitation is based on the rental value of dwellings, payable on all furnished premises used for residential purposes, in accordance with article 1407 of the CGI (French General Tax Code).

The aim of the surcharge is to encourage second home owners to either sell the property, or rent it out long term.

Earlier this year, we reported that the Mediterranean glamour resort of Saint-Tropez hopes to raise €3 million a year for new local housing by increasing the taxe d’habitation on second homes by 60 percent from next year.

They are far from the only town to do this. Paris decided to raise its portion of the taxe d’habitation bill on second homes by 60 percent in 2022; while some 255 towns and cities across the country – of the 1,136 eligible to do so – have taken up the option of boosting their rates. 

READ ALSO Second-home owners: What French taxes do you need to pay?

Last year, city councils in cities such as Bordeaux, Lyon, Biarritz, Arles and Saint-Jean-de-Luz voted to increase the tax to the maximum 60 percent.

Cities must be able to demonstrate significant second-property rates and that property purchase and rental prices are higher than the national average in order to be eligible.

New rules, which do away with the 50,000 lower limit on population, come into force in 2024 (delayed from 2023) and could see the tax rises implemented in up to 4,000 additional towns.

According to the Direction générale des finances publiques (DGFiP) a total 22.4 percent of the municipalities authorised to levy a surcharge on taxe d’habitation for second homeowners did so in 2022. 

The full list of towns able to impose higher taxe d’habitation rates is here.

READ ALSO Reader question: Who has to pay France’s ‘vacant property’ tax?


There are some. You may be able to claim exemption from taxe d’habitation on second homes if:

  • Your professional activity is close to their second home and obliges you to live there;
  • Your primary residence is a long-term care facility, meaning your former primary residence is now your second home;
  • The property is uninhabitable for a reason outside of your control. For example, if work is needed to make it habitable. If this is the case – and it’s not uncommon of you have bought a property as a restoration project – you need to register it as uninhabitable with your local tax office. You will usually then benefit from a reduced or zero tax bill for a limit period – in most areas two years is the maximum time you can declare the property uninhabitable.