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Survival Home in Paris

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May 2023

“Backlash” is the first track on Notorious, the eighth studio album by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and was the label’s first choice for a single. The album was released in 1991.

I had it made, I never strayed
From a course that somebody else laid
I clenched my fists, I never miss
One nite (one nite) you find that ya can’t turn back
So it’s goodbye to the past
Here it comes, here it comes, feel it comin’
Backlash backlash backlash
Oh yea, it’s too bad now it’s a backlash

Your time ain’t long you don’t belong
Maybe so but you hope that they’re wrong
Thin skin gets thick it happens quick
Like a baby turn her very first trick
Hold tight (hold tight) hold tight for the ride of your life
And the lovers go by so fast
Here it comes, here it comes, feel it comin’
Backlash backlash backlash

Used to love me used to care (do you care?) used to want me
Here it comes, here it comes, I guess that’s fair

Now, do you love me, do you care, do you want me
One nite (one nite) we find we’re outta, outta time
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes a c’mon

Backlash backlash backlash

I have been seeing backlashes in many parts of the world for quite a while now. Just to mention the most obvious, several demonstrations took place in the 11th district (arrondissement). It is hard to say what events are the most striking, with the longest-lasting effect or the most diplomatic impact. There are many issues which I carefully follow to stay abreast of what is happening in France, the USA, China and Nigeria. I did not feel like commenting on any of them.

Right now, I just want to enjoy spring, family and friends, as we have visitors for the first time since COVID. I also want to make sure everything is ready for my tenant, who is coming in early May, so that this adventure can really take off.

Recently at church I heard a sermon titled “The Bridge Test” about how to reach out to people. I was quite touched by it. I chose a long time ago to build bridges between people, hoping to avoid violent and too common backlashes as much as possible. How many bridges do we need to build to make a difference?

In explaining the French immigration procedure anchored at the prefecture, I often tell clients that mainland France has 95 states. I know this is a terribly imperfect comparison, but the American states and Frenchdépartements share quite similar duties, including vehicle registration, professional licensing and building permits. Each also has a local government with an executive, a legislative and a judicial authority. In France these are the préfet, the Conseil Général now called the conseil départemental, and what used to be theTribunal de Grande Instance, now it is the tribunal judiciaire.

Some historical perspective helps in understanding how France came up with this setup. In France, the number of départements is not linked to the addition of new territory, as France’s borders have not radically changed for the last 400 years. The main reason for the creation of this level of local government after the French Revolution of 1789 was that the historical provinces (corresponding roughly to today’s regions until recently) had been ruled by powerful aristocrats. Administratively erasing the provinces took that power from those enemies of the Revolution. When the revolutionary government established 83 départements on February 26th, 1790, the guideline was that it should take no more than one day on horseback to reach the prefecture from anywhere in the département . The revolution also determined that the new divisions should be numbered in alphabetical order starting with 01 for the Aindépartement . The system was more or less stable with 89 départements until France lost the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

A new département called Territoire de Belfort was added in 1871 since the city of Belfort had resisted the Prussian army. On July 10th, 1964, a law was approved to split the Seine (75) and Seine-et-Oise (78) into six départements , a transformation that took full effect on January 1st, 1968.

The Paris département kept the old Seine postal code (75), with the capital city getting its own governmental status, which is not the case with Washington, D.C., the capital city and federal district of the United States. Yvelines kept the Seine-et-Oise postal code (78). This measure altered the numerical-alphabetical order, with the new départements being Essonne (91), Hauts de Seine (92), Seine Saint-Denis (93), Val de Marne (94), and Val d’Oise (95).

After the 1981 election of President François Mitterrand, the policy of centralizing everything in Paris was abolished. Laws passed on March 2nd, 1982; January 7th, 1983; and July 22nd, 1983 created 22 régions whose borders pretty much mirrored the provinces that existed when France was a kingdom. The best-known of these, because of their weight in French history, are Brittany, Corsica, Burgundy, Aquitaine and Alsace-Lorraine. The January 16th, 2015 law reduced down to 13 through consolidation, although many of the traditional names, such as Auvergne-Rhone Alpes, were retained.

Among the many reasons for decentralization, the one most mentioned at the time was that it was becoming impossible to handle all decisions in Paris, although that was where the national authorities and central administration offices were located. Spreading the administrative decision-making centers throughout France was a win both for Paris and the cities in which those centers were relocated. Also, everybody agreed that local authorities, being closer to the issues, could make faster, more pertinent decisions.

There was another reason that is seldom mentioned. Although France was no longer a kingdom with powerful nobility, the regional council président is a civil servant and therefore obeys the central state. While the regions got a lot of authority over important issues, the cornerstone of the French administration has always been the préfet, who represents the central state at the département level. I cannot see this ever changing, even if it would be better to make the region the center of authority, with the département becoming a more local authority answerable to the region.

It is interesting that the French administration designates département 99 as the code to use in filling out numerous forms when the person is foreign or born in a foreign country.

A recent reform is radically changing the French administration, and this is becoming more obvious every day. Online procedures completely disrupt the way the administration traditionally worked. There used to be two absolute fundamentals of administrative procedures, dating back to Napoléon: 
1 – providing original documents and 
2 – showing up in person.

This helped the civil servants in their mission to work for the best interest of the state, notably concerning the need to prevent attempted fraud. The COVID pandemic made both of these prerequisites impossible. The administration had to switch to digital quickly to continue operating. There had been a trend toward online procedures, but it was mostly peripheral to the old-fashioned routine. Now, in just three years, so much administrative work has gone totally digital that there have been court decisions against the government on grounds of discrimination related to lack of access to online procedures.

This development ended the old requirement of showing up in person with original documents and a set of photocopies that the administration keeps. Now, increasingly, decisions are being made without the public knowing who decided, where the office is and which administrative division it belongs to. I believe this makes the mild rivalry between département and région outdated, for the most part.

France still faces several challenges in this regard. Just to mention the most obvious ones: 
1 – Having 100% of the population on board with the digital procedures, either by themselves or with help and support from civil servants, 
2 – Ensuring that the websites work properly and reliably all the time,
3 – Making information and explanations readily available in paper form at designated locations.

I believe this is a hidden revolution. It has led to huge changes that have been happening for at least two years, without the extensive media coverage they deserve.

In last month’s column, the item about declaring French income was wrong because the tax authorities changed the schedule at the last minute. Here is the item again with the correct information.

On a more mundane topic, I would like to remind everybody that the paper version of the 2022 income declaration must be filed in France by midnight on May 22nd, 2023. The declaration forms will be available at on April 6th. You can start filing your declaration on April 13th on the same website. To do so, you need your tax ID number (numéro fiscal) and a password.

If you are making your first income declaration to the French tax office, you should do so using the paper form and checking the “first-time” box on the form (CERFA #2042) where it says Vous déposez une déclaration pour la première fois cochez (“Check here if this is your first declaration”). It is possible to get the tax office to give you the information needed to declare for the first time electronically, but I tend to advise against it because using paper documents makes it much easier to see and understand how the system works.

Note that the deadline for online declarations is later than that for paper declarations. The schedule depends on your postal code:
• Départements 01 to 19 must file by midnight on May 25th.
• Départements 20 to 54 by June 1st.
• Départements 55 and up by June 8th.

Ordinarily I would not go into a lot of detail about such a procedure, but I need to now for two reasons:

1 – The récépissé and especially its renewal can be critical to foreigners who hold low-paying jobs. The employers are often strict and require employees to hold a document at all times proving that they are in France legally. But because of the sloppy job often done by the prefecture, the delays frequently exceed the documents’ three-month validity. Some appointments at the prefecture are scheduled two months or more late, so some foreigners do not have the meeting until after their current immigration status expires.

2 – The prefecture has repeatedly had to change its online procedures and many are still severely dysfunctional. It has reached such a point that I seriously wonder if the remaining pitfalls have been put in place to make it even more difficult to maintain legal status. The procedure for renewing the récépissé illustrates this magnificently. Right after choosing “foreigner” (étranger), one has to choose “COVID information”. That’s right: the process for renewing the récépissé is hidden in the information the prefecture gives about COVID! To be very clear, on the cover page, one must choose “Information Covid” after having chosen “Ressortissants étrangers” icon on the Paris prefecture website. However, the question of having apass sanitaire or a pass vaccinal has no bearing on récépissé renewal.

In retrospect I understand what happened, but the situation is now so insane that I believe someone must have decided to keep it that way intentionally. During the COVID crisis, especially when the prefecture was closed, the website had diverse and useful information regarding the consequences of COVID when it came to retaining a legal stay in France. A new use of the autorisation provisoire de séjour (APS) appeared for tourists who were not allowed to fly home. Such unfortunate souls were stuck in France and needed some kind of French ID. The APS was emailed as a PDF! For a short time, the récépissé was sent the same way. So it originally made sense to have the information listed under COVID.

However, the pandemic is over when it comes to the prefecture. I have not seen a civil servant wearing a mask in a long time. Now the procedure involves filling out a simple form asking for renewal, but the récépissé is sent by registered mail. The latter is much more complicated for both the prefecture and the foreigner, and registered mail only stays at the post office for two weeks. I cannot believe that whoever puts together these policies and procedures is purposefully mean. At the same time, the prefecture follows its peculiar logic and established procedures. A registered letter can only be picked up if the person signs for it and shows a valid ID at the post-office. That makes the prefecture happy because it has proof that the foreigner who needs the document is the one who picked it up. The in-person rule is a cardinal one for the prefecture. In this case, it means signing at the post office in front of a postal employee who has checked the person’s ID first.

For those who need this service, you can either go to: click on “COVID information” or use

You must establish your right to stay while waiting for your appointment to renew your permit or the decision on your application. This means showing that you have a receipt for your application for a residence permit (first application or renewal) that has expired or will expire within 15 days.

While waiting for a response to your application, you can request the renewal of your receipt online at

The process of obtaining the right to work is evolving and it is difficult to keep up with it. There is before COVID and after COVID.

Before 2020, each Direction Régionale des Entreprises, de la Concurrence, de la Consommation, du Travail et de l’Emploi (DIRECCTE) had a branch in every département that issued papers conveying the right to work for employees (salariés) while the prefecture issued the related carte de séjour.

On April 1st, 2021, a huge government reform created the Directions régionales de l’économie, de l’emploi, du travail et des solidarités (DREETS) as well as Direction régionale et interdépartementale de l’économie, de l’emploi, du travail et des solidarités (DRIEETS). The latter now issues working papers. I am not certain what the logic was or exactly what other responsibilities each one has.

At first this change did not affect the passeport talent carte de séjour whether it was based on an employee position or the creation or operation of a French business. Now, however, DRIEETS evaluates the business project for an artisan-commerçant carte de séjour and even the following sub-categories of the passeport talent carte de séjour need its approval:

– Passeport talent carte de séjour Nº5 mentioning “business creation”:
Request for a certificate recognizing the real and serious nature of a business creation project
– Passeport talent carte de séjour Nº1 “Employee of an innovative company”:
Request for a certificate recognizing the innovative nature of your company (the request must be made by the employer)
– passeport talent carte de séjour Nº7 mentioning “Economic investment”:
Request for a letter of recognition of an investment project, which must be valued at a minimum of 300,000€.

The goal is to ensure that the prefecture continues to issue cartes de séjour and review applications in what are considered to be sensitive applications, such as requests for regularization (giving a legal stay to foreigners who are illegal immigrants), those involving a sole proprietor of a French business, or a specific family status, etc. My perception is that the civil servants working on files sent through the DRIEETS website are like machines and their responses give no indication why they refuse documents. With in-person meetings, no matter how unpleasant the civil servant reviewing your file might be, when someone is sitting in front of you at the prefecture there is at least a possibility of dialogue, getting an explanation, explaining your situation.

Whether it is DRIEETS or the Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés (ANTS) on its Étrangers en France website, this dialogue does not exist. Furthermore, the prefecture rarely answers emails. Since people’s lives rarely make it possible to perfectly fit their standards, it is increasingly difficult to secure immigration status so the carte de séjour can be issued.

Furthermore, ANTS-Étrangers en France requires the “proper documents” to be submitted within one month, and DRIEETS expects them within 15 days. In short, there is hardly any time to fix the situation once the initial request is submitted.

I find it both ironic and sad that the ANTS Étrangers en France office does answer its phone number (‭08 06 001 620),‬ so it should be able to help. But not really, because the people answering cannot do much more than look at the computer screen and tell you if the file is open or closed.‬‬‬‬‬‬

The office will be closed for six weeks over the summer holidays, starting on Friday, July 7th, in the evening and reopening on the morning of Monday, August 21st. As always, I will be reachable by email for emergencies and important matters. The service I offer of receiving mail for clients will continue while the office is closed. Of course, Sarah or I will honor prefecture meetings already scheduled, as well as a couple of other engagements.

Best regards,


You raise a complex issue. The first thing I need to do is identify which authority issues which papers and where this step fits in the procedure. Then I can detail the specifics of the new immigration status you want.
To sum up in general terms:
1 – The first step is submitting the request to DRIEETS, which issues papers granting the right to work in France. In your case, this translates into checking whether you will have a sound and profitable business.
2 – Once DRIEETS approval is obtained, the applicant submits the request for the immigration status linked to this right to work. This can be done at the prefecture but more and more often it is ANTS with its Étrangers en France website (see the section above on asking for the right to work). Then an overall evaluation is done, making sure all requirements are met. In your case, this means looking in detail at the business plan and supporting documents proving that at least 30,000€ in business expenses are actually disbursed in the first year. It also means making sure you have the appropriate master’s degree or can prove at least five years of experience in your field. Finally, it checks that business plan and cash flow projections make it reasonable to assume you will earn at least the SMIC, which is the French minimum wage of about 16,000€ in annual net taxable income.
3 – Once approved, the file goes to the prefecture, which finalizes it and orders the relatedcarte de séjour to be produced. This concludes the procedure; you can pick up the carte de séjour as soon as it is available.

There is valid logic behind these requirements. Understanding it may help you comply with them.

The requirement of 30,000€ in business expenses the first year may seem odd if not just plain stupid. For one thing, it fails to distinguish between different types of business. I see two different situations:
1 – Opening a shop, buying professional equipment and renting a commercial space entail much higher business expenses than this figure, so people engaged in such activities are at a distinct advantage. On the other hand earning at least French minimum wage the very first year is going to be quite difficult.
2 – Other businesses like consulting do not have many expenses. For such applicants, it is difficult to reach 30,000€ in expenses due to low operating costs, including social charges. On the other hand, consultants with little overhead have a distinct advantage regarding earning at least French minimum wage the very first year. For these candidates, it is easier to meet a requirement of high earnings based on the business plan right away.

In the end, there is a reasonable balance among types of businesses and projects. The bottom line is that the requirements simply ensure that the project has been well thought out, that contracts have been signed and that personal financing is readily available. The French administration’s end goal is to be sure, before it is too late, that the project is sufficiently strong enough to have every chance to succeed so that the foreigner will be able to keep the immigration status. Asking for a master’s degree or substantial professional experience follows the same logic.
The last issue is that the prefecture issues a carte de séjour that is valid for two to four years, depending on how the project quality is viewed. The prefecture bases its decision on the positive DRIEETS review as well as its own general evaluation. It has inquisitory tools allowing it to check with URSSAF, the tax office, Pôle Emploi, CAF and CPAM. An appointment and review of the situation based on information gathered may also be required.
In short, yes, you prove in your business plan that you will definitely spend 30,000€, and then make sure you do so because the prefecture can find a way to check.

As for the timing, to submit a request to the DRIEETS the applicant must have a valid immigration ID, ideally with several months before it expires. Asking two or three years before the expiration date does not bother DRIEETS at all. In your case, the next step is with ANTS. Creating an account to submit the request is easy. As long as you have a valid ID, the system accepts your request smoothly.
But there could be a problem when they review your situation since you currently hold a carte de séjour passeport talent salarié qualifié. This means you are an employee. That alone prohibits you from establishing a business, as the right to be an employee excludes the right to run a business independently. So, as weird as it may seem, your file might have a better chance of success if you are unemployed, whether or not you receive the Pôle Emploi unemployment payments.
Your biggest risk is that the administration might decide you obtained your current card fraudulently since you are changing so quickly and to such a degree. To minimize this risk, your business plan should have a long section explaining the move and being very persuasive about how genuine it is.
In the eyes of the French administration, getting one status as a pretext for a different one is fraud, whether that is what was intended or not. This risk should not be overlooked or downplayed.[English][French]

These are based on the French tax code:

  1. What these say is that if your household is here, you are resident here. But you will also be resident here if your “lieu de séjour principal” is here: “where you live most of the time” or “your main residence”. There is no 183-day rule, though as a matter of convenience the French administration may use this test additionally to show you are resident (that your “lieu de séjour principal” is here) – but quite certainly they do not say that if you’re here for less than 183 days then you are not resident.
  2. The tax laws don’t contain further definitions, beyond saying that if you have a substantial professional job in France (paid or unpaid, and no matter where you live) you can also be treated as resident.


I believe that we either stay with the four basic situations I mentioned in my April column, which the tax office defines as pertinent guidelines – understanding that there can be exceptions that require some fine tuning – or we use the definition provided by the Code Général des Impôts:
“Sont considérées comme ayant leur domicile fiscal en France au sens de l’article 4 A : a. Les personnes qui ont en France leur foyer ou le lieu de leur séjour principal.” (“The following are considered to be domiciled in France for tax purposes within the meaning of Article 4 A: a. Persons who have their home or principal place of residence in France.”)
But that is subjective, as it depends on how one defines both foyer and séjour principal. Foyer is linked to where the family lives and therefore has to do with the second condition mentioned in my April column: “have immediate family members (spouse and/or minor children) who are living in France and therefore are French fiscal residents.”
As for séjour principal, it is vague. The tax office and other parts of the French administration that use this concept describe it better: “le centre de ses principaux intérêts”, which in English means where one’s main interests in life are, including work.
This is linked to the third and fourth conditions in my April column: “have a French employer” and “run a French business, even something like tutoring schoolchildren in English.”
What is left is the first condition on my list, regarding staying in France “183 days in a calendar year, whether you have legal immigration status or not.” This mentions nothing tangible or visible that anchors the person in France but just evaluates the amount of time spent there. It assumes that staying six months makes it definitive, since that is the majority of the calendar year. When the stay is less than that, more research on the person’s intent is required.
Here is an illustration of this situation. Someone arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport with avisiteur immigration visa has become a French fiscal resident. Holding this immigration status means the person must declare his/her worldwide income to France. Before the declaration is made, nothing visible indicates this status.
By the way, most Americans holding this status do not know that, mainly because the prefecture does not enforce this legal obligation on them!

A long time ago, I helped a client who received a letter from the tax office mentioning an appointment with the tax inspector. The tax office had received information indicating that my client might be a French fiscal resident who had not declared income to France. Counting the days in France and elsewhere, using the stamps in the passport, the inspector came up with a stay in France of close to five months in the first year reviewed. After a second review of that year, we acknowledged that France was where my client spent most of that year compared to the other locations, so it met the definition.
Regarding the comments from the Strictly Fiscal Facebook Group, the analysis in No. 5 is true, but only once in my career has such a detailed evaluation been needed. Most people can continue to go by the 183-day guideline, knowing that it is just that, a guideline.
But their point No. 6 – “The tax laws don’t contain further definitions, beyond saying that if you have a substantial professional job in France (paid or unpaid, and no matter where you live) you can also be treated as resident” – is inaccurate. For this April column, I copied and pasted at the beginning of my answer, the relevant article in the French fiscal code. The tax law does indeed say something different.
As I said early, I disperse basic information so people can handle life in France with generic guidelines that are safe and accurate almost all the time.


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