Registration and residence cards

A friend and I had wondered about the different mentions on our “cards”, one of us had a registration card and the other a residence card.

Unable to understand why, or to find a definition on Moroccan administrative websites, we concluded that it must be a translation problem.

Well… not at all. There is indeed a difference between the two permits of residence and to understand it, you have to go back to the text of the law, the famous law 02-03 of 11 November 2003 which regulates the residence of foreigners in Morocco.

National Identity Card (Carte Nationale d’Identité) or National Registration Card (Carte Nationale d’Immatriculation)

The fact that the document has the same initials in French and the same presentation often leads to confusion. Only Moroccans are entitled to a National Identity Card, and I have already explained here (in French) how to obtain a CNI when you are a foreigner, that is, in practice, how to obtain a residence permit.

The law says:

The residence permits on Moroccan territory are:

  • the registration card ; (Carte d’Immatriculation)
  • the residence card. (Carte de Résidence)


The document, whatever it is, can be requested when one is eighteen years old.

The registration card is the standard document

The Registration Card is issued to anyone applying for a tіtrе of residence for the first time and for the first renewals. As a reminder:

the standard periods for issuing this card are:

  • 1 year at the first request
  • 2 or 3 years at the first renewal
  • 5 years on the third renewal
  • 10 years on the fourth renewal.

Any hiccup in the renewal (a delay for example) sends you back to square one and makes you restart at the one-year term.

The reasons for issuing the registration or residence card are :

  • family reunification (the first few years), which appears on the card as “regroupement familial” (note that the surname of the foreign wife will be followed by the mention “spouse xx” which is not the case for married Moroccan women)
  • work (employment contract or business owner), which appears on the саrtе as “travail“;
  • study, which appears on the card as “étudiant“;
  • exercise of a regulated activity, which appears on the card as the name of that activity;
  • a person living on their own resources, not engaged in a regulated activity, who appears on the card as a “visiteur” (e.g. pensioners);
A “work” registration card does not lift the obligation to have one’s foreigner employment contract (Contrat de travail étranger / CTE) validated by the Ministry of Labour.

The residence card is only issued in certain cases

To summarise, the Residence Card concerns people who are in Morocco

  • for family reunification, with more than four years of residence
  • for a long time (more than 15 years on a regular basis, more than ten years on a regular basis)

The Residence Card therefore only concerns people who have strong ties with Morocco.

While the law says that it can be issued for periods of 1 to 10 years, in practice, as the Residence Card is obtained after at least two renewals, it is generally issued for a period of ten years.

The application process is the same

The application form is the same, the supporting documents are the same and the administration will issue you with either a registration card or a residence card.

If your nationality requires a visa to enter Morocco, the reason for this visa must be the same as that for the card application.

Apart from this name difference, both cards are strictly the same and carry the number that will have been allocated to you when you first apply and which will follow you until you leave Morocco.

In the case of renewal, there is no need to rush, as renewal applications are only accepted from 15 days before the deadline.

So what is the difference between the two permits?

There is only one difference, but it is an important one: the holder of a residence card cannot be expelled.

Expulsion is a rare procedure, which can be pronounced at any time if the state considers that the presence of the foreigner is a disturbance to public order. It is different from deportation, which is decided when the foreigner present in Morocco does not have a valid residence permit.

Expulsion or deportation is also impossible for minor children and pregnant women. (Morocco is much more humane in this case than many other countries, including France).

The sanctions are the same

To “blow your visa” as Moroccans say, not to renew your card, to stay in Morocco without a valid title are offences. The penalties mentioned in the law are much heavier than those applied in general and consist of a fine and/or a prison sentence.

While in most cases the fines to be paid to regularise one’s situation and leave Morocco are 1,000 or 1,100 dirhams, here is what the law says:

Fine (MAD)
Min. Max Min Max
Staying beyond the visa/three month period of stay 2.000 20.000 1 month 6 months
Residing in Morocco without a card 5.000 30.000 1 month 1 year
Do not renew after expiration 3.000 10.000 1 month 6 months
Not declaring a change of address 1.000 3.000

(penalties doubled in the event of a repeat offence)

It is possible to return once the situation has been regularised

Finally, here again, Morocco is more lenient than many other countries: deportation does not entail a ban on returning to Morocco. It is a penalty that must be pronounced separately and it is very rarely! So after paying the fine and crossing the border,one can return to Morocco immediately.

For minors, a “circulation document”

The residence card or the registration card can only be applied for from the age of 18. Foreign minors who have at least one parent or legal guardian residing in Morocco on the basis of one of these two cards receive a “document de circulation”, justifying their right to reside in the country.

There is one exception: a 16-18 year old who is employed (i.e. with a valid foreign work contract) can apply for a registration card.