Main cities and the administrative organization of France

  • Updated : 26/03/2022

The information below is simplified. Understanding the administrative organization of France is very important to know where to file documents.

  • France is a republic.
  • There is a clear separation between the public affairs and religion. We call it the “Laicite” (neutrality) principle.
  • France's moto since the 1789 revolution is “Liberté Egalité Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality and Friendship).
  • Corruption level is very low to non existing in daily life.
  • Bribing is illegal and will really upset people. Some areas around big cities and in the south of France are known to be more prone to organized crime activities.

The cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants are the following :

[Click on the picture to enlarge]

Map source with table

  • France has a President who is the chief of state.
  • The prime minister is the head of the Government. The Government of France is in Paris.
  • Paris is the capital of France.
  • France has a centralized government.
  • The "Ministère de l'Intérieur" (Ministry of Interior) is in charge of the documents for the foreigners. This ministry is also in charge of POLICE (police in cities) and GENDARMERIE (police in villages).
  • The "Ministère des Affaires Etrangères" (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is dealing with diplomacy in foreign countries.
  • OFPRA (Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides) is in charge of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons. They are not in charge of ukranian citizens who fled the war.
  • The agency in charge is OFII (Office français pour l'immigration et l'integration) [French office for immigration and integration].

France is organized in 13 “Régions” (regions), if we except the overseas territories.

[Click on the picture to enlarge]

Source of the map of regions

Région Capital
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon
Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Dijon
Bretagne Rennes
Centre-Val de Loire Orléans
Corse Ajaccio
Grand Est Strasbourg
Hauts-de-France Lille
Île-de-France Paris
Normandie Rouen
Nouvelle-Aquitaine Bordeaux
Occitanie Toulouse
Pays de la Loire Nantes
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Marseille

Each region has a capital city with all public services (regional hospital, university, public transportation, museums, etc).

There is at least one big university hospital per region : "CHR" or "CHRU" or "CHU" .

The following administrations are important to know at the regional level :

  • “Préfecture de région” is the regional prefecture. It is representing the national government at the regional level. You will very rarely deal with them directly.
  • “Conseil Regional” is the local region council. It is in charge of funding and organizing high schools (usually age 15 and up) as well as economic development and job training funding.
  • “Rectorat” is the local public school administration. It is in charge of organizing secondary high schools. You will very rarely deal with them directly as a parent.
  • France is organized in 96 administrative areas: The departement
  • Each departement has a “prefecture” city and several “sous prefecture” cities
  • “Prefecture” cities are large to medium cities with all public services
  • “Sous-Préfecture” cities are medium to small cities with some public services but not always all (depends on population)

[Click on the picture to enlarge]

Source of the "départements" map

The following administrations are important to know at the local level :

  • The “Prefecture” administration is the local office of the national government where most administrative paperwork is done.
  • The “Sous-Prefecture” administration is where you can do some administrative paperwork.
  • “Conseil Departemental” is funding and organizing the schools for secondary schools (class 6 for 11 year old +). They are also in charge of welfare and disability services.

France is organized with towns known as “Communes”.

These communes are organized together sometimes in an administrative body of several communes : “Communauté de Communes”.

Each commune is in charge of primary schools and kindergarten schools (below age 11).

Communes have an important role in providing aid via the municipal social action centers “CCAS” (Centre Communal d'Action Social).

The CCAS is coordinating aid for French persons in poverty or foreigners (including ukranians). They will likely know:

  • Where to file paperwork
  • Where to find and how to obtain food aid
  • Where to find and how to obtain clothes
  • Where to find and how to obtain furniture
  • Where to register your children for school
  • Every day social issues

Daily administative paperwork in France

  • Each “département” has a “Prefecture” where administrative paperwork is done.
  • Very important paperwork in French life is done at “Préfecture”. Préfectures are open monday to friday. Some may require appointments.
  • Day to day, some paperwork can be done at “Sous-Préfecture” or in “Mairie” (city hall).
  • Education, birth and death registration are done at the city's “Bureau de l'Etat Civil”.
  • Family and Welfare paperwork is done at CAF.
  • Social Security paperwork is done at CPAM.
  • Employment questions are for POLE EMPLOI.

Foreigners' paperwork

  • For foreigners, the “Bureau des étrangers” (foreigners office) is the most relevant place at “Préfecture”.

Ukrainian protection paperwork

To find the prefecture for your city of residence, use this official interactive map of France or this independent administrative website (easier) :

Once you know the “DEPARTEMENT” area, type the name of département with “Prefecture” and “ukrainiens” on Google. You should find the link to the relevant page with the forms.

Type CCAS and the name of your commune (city) in French in Google Maps .

  • You have to be patient with french administrations. Try to obtain appointments and clear instructions.
  • Be polite, avoid shouting
  • Trying to bribe or influence government official is a serious offense.
  • en/administrationinfrance.txt
  • Last modified: 2022/03/26 21:46
  • by dheurtevent