Ah, the carte sejour. It conjurs up the horror of bureaucratic nightmares, long hours spent in lines, and filling out form after form of personal information.
If you’re not familiar with this process let me explain. In Morocco, tourists who do not require an entry visa, are permitted to stay for up to 90 days. During this time you’re exactly that, a tourist. You can’t get a job, or do much else, so if you’re planning on calling Morocco home you have to apply for residency. This means obtaining a carte sejour (roughly translated the staying card). Every Moroccan carries a CIN or carte nationale. It’s a national ID card that lists your pertinent information. Essentially it’s the same thing but with a different name for non-Moroccan citizens. Initial applications are good for 1 year and then are extended either yearly, or for 5 or 10 years. This card gives you permission to live legally in Morocco. Once you apply and receive this you’re also consider to have a foreign residence, in the eyes of the United States at least.
There are different categories to obtain the card. I was able to apply as the wife of a citizen. We were worried that because we haven’t been able to register our marriage in Morocco yet (another long story) we wouldn’t be able to apply in this category but it didn’t end up being a problem. That being said, there’s a ton of paperwork required and a trip to Rabat. If you want to apply and are not the wife of a citizen, the process will likely be slightly different. By visiting the office etranger at the head police precinct in any Moroccan city you’ll be able to get a full list of the documents needed. You can not go to ANY police station, it needs to be the central office in the city you are living in.
Here’s the list of documents we had to gather;
- Translation of my birth certificate to Arabic
- Our civil marriage certificate translated to Arabic
- A copy of our Islamic marriage certificate
- A certificate of domicile + 2 pictures will be needed
- A medical clearance certificate
- Criminal Background Check
- My CV (resume) in French or Arabic
- Copy of my Passport including a copy of my entry stamp to Morocco
- A copy of my husbands CIN
- Document from our Moroccan or American bank showing my husband can support me
- and/or letter from an employer showing employment.
- 6 pictures
- You’ll also need to fill out 2 yellow information cards and 2 copies of a white registration paper in the office
- 100 dirhams for the registration
We were able to produce copies of all documents, but each document needs to be legalized and stamped. Seems straight forward? Let’s go through some “sticky spots.”
A certificate of domicile
This document is obtained from the closest police precinct. You’ll need some type of proof that you’re living at the address given, like a lease agreement. We live in a family home and so this was more like the police just knew. It’s also the same address I gave on entry so presumably it was somewhere in the system.
A medical clearance
Any doctor will know what you’re talking about if you tell them that you need a medical certificate for the carte sejour. It’s fairly straight forward, making sure you don’t have communicable diseases and are not a threat to other people.
Criminal Background Check
To get this document you MUST go to Rabat to the Justice Ministry. You don’t need to make an appointment, but go in the morning as afternoon office hours in Morocco vary. You’ll fill out a paper requesting the background check, take a number, and wait for your turn. Bring your passport with. Most of the time they’ll take your document and tell you to come back in a few weeks. If you’re traveling far, like we were, you can push them to get it done sooner. Or beg. The earlier you go in the morning the better the chance you’ll get it the same day.
This was the vaguest requirement. We had no clue what they were looking for and they were never clear about it. How much money needs to be in the bank to show financial support? Figures vary about the average monthly income for most Moroccans but it’s generally accepted to be less than $600 a month. We estimated that showing we had over a years income at that amount in the bank would be sufficient.To make this even more complex, we both freelance and our income is largely held in American banks. We were told that documents from our American banks showing deposits would work, but we didn’t want to make things any more complicated so we went with the holding in the Moroccan account and were successful. I don’t know what the requirement really is, and no one seemed to give us an answer but it must have worked because we weren’t asked any other questions.
We returned everything to the Office Etranger and had a brief “interview” of sorts. MarocBaba explained why we had moved back to Morocco and how long we’d been married etc. We then paid our 100 dirham and were given a receipt to come back in a few weeks to pick up the card. One other note, everything was in either Arabic, French and Spanish or French and Spanish. Not super helpful but I have enough knowledge to muddle my way through the forms. I’ve been told that applying as the wife of a citizen is the easiest way and really aside from the hassle of figuring out what all the papers were and where to get them it wasn’t terrible.
My card is good for 1 year, and I will have to renew it next year. Ask me then how the renewal goes!