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I moved to France last year and Im still waiting for my titre de sejour, I have a valid récépisse and I know this is not a valid document to travel (back) to France. I have (after asking more than a few times if this was ok) however already booked and paid for an expensive trip inside of the Schengen area that is to take place very soon. The people at the préfecture have now washed their hands and deny they assured me it was ok to book this (over 6 months after I first applied for the residence permit). I have already renewed my récépissé once and the new one is about to expire soon too.

But anyway, I'm from a country which gets 90 days visa exemption for tourism. My question is: would it be ok (and by this I mean legal) to travel outside Schengen for a few days and then come back so I can get my passport stamped as if I were here simply for tourism? In my understanding with this stamp I would then have no issue flying inside the Schengen area, crossing borders and coming back to France afterwards, right?

People at the préfecture are not really friendly and just say I have to wait and dismiss my questions, so there's not much use in asking them. So if this is something that is allowed, I'd like to have something quotable if possible in case I face one 'totally random' document check at the border.

To clarify a bit based on the comments below: I have no intention to lie, in fact my question is about whether I can selectively use the visa-exception days I get from my passport to cross the borders and still maintain the validity of my residence in France by using the récépissé.

  • You wrote "if I were here simply for tourism". Do you see the problem? But I agree with prefecture: there are no hard rule, and we (and they) cannot think what next immigration officer will think about your status in Schengen Area (and your wiliness to go home/outside Schengen country X if France will not give you a residence permit). I think it is OK, but nobody could guarantee it for every officer mind. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jun 13 '19 at 8:56
  • We are travelers, we should never tell people to lie (or just to trick immigration). We may not get further visas on some exotic countries. So I understand you, but you may not get answers you are looking. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jun 13 '19 at 9:24
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I have a valid récépisse and I know this is not a valid document to travel (back) to France

A recipissé is a valid travel document, given:

If you have a valid recipisse, it should not be a problem, since they do not issue resident cards until the second year of residence (At least for students AFAIK). There are a lot of students who go back home for summer holidays with their recipissé after the first year, so this should not be a problem (given you already have the OFFII or another visa stamped on your passport)

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I have a valid récépissé and I know this is not a valid document to travel (back) to France.

As explained before, a récépissé can replace a visa but only if it's a récépissé for a renewal. As you wrote, a récépissé for a first application would not open any right to come back to France after a trip abroad.

But anyway, I'm from a country which gets 90 days visa exemption for tourism. My question is: would it be ok (and by this I mean legal) to travel outside Schengen for a few days and then come back so I can get my passport stamped as if I were here simply for tourism?

Two problems with this plan:

  • You would be misrepresenting the purpose of your trip. Short-stay rules for the Schengen area cover many purposes and are not always enforced very strictly but, in principle, entry is generally contingent on proving your intent to leave the area in time. Schengen rules haven't superseded national requirements for long stays.
  • A careful border guard could notice you have a recent exit stamp and check whether you have exceeded the 90-day limit on short stays. You need a titre de séjour to account for that and establish your right to stay in the country long-term.

There are still two other possibilities. If you are stuck abroad, you can apply for a visa consulaire de retour. Before leaving, you can also apply for a visa de retour préfectoral. Both of these are discretionary and typically issued for very serious reasons (going to the funeral of a close family member, these kind of things) and can only really be used as a last resort. But the préfecture does have a legal means to facilitate your trip if you can convince them.

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