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Survival Home in Paris

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June 2022

I have already used the title “Bridge over Troubled Water,” from the title song of Simon & Garfunkel’s final studio album. It appeared in my June 2011 issue. At first, I did not want to use it again as it is my policy not to use a title twice.

The album Bridge over Troubled Water was released on January 26, 1970. A bridge is a good symbol of the need to reach out, sometimes pretty far, when one lives in a foreign country, and can be seen as a link between the unfairness of the foreigner needing to do more and thus feeling discriminated against, and the help that can come from someone who unexpectedly reaches out from nowhere and keeps the foreigner out of trouble.

“Troubled water” could symbolize so many things right now. My idealistic point of view is that there should be more bridges enabling people to cross the troubled waters of our world. Normally I can highlight my hope regarding one or more topics. I praise those people who manage to be bridges and who embody the beautiful lyrics of this song.

Just over ten years ago, in the March 2012 issue titled ELLIS ISLAND, I reflected on the famous point of entry to the USA, passing by the Statue of Liberty on the way. I continue regularly to compare the French immigration procedure, with its several steps, to the procedure that existed on Ellis Island. Individuals and families ask for permission to immigrate and wait anxiously, fearing it will be refused. Once the French consulate in Washington, DC, approves the request and puts the visa in the passport, the aspiring immigrant is ready to travel to France, where the police at the airport will examine the passport and visa.

For many North Americans, it does not feel like immigration scrutiny when they pass the French border control. This step, however, corresponds to the police review on Ellis Island, which was a lot more probing. In many cases, the French visa is valid for one year and must be registered with the French administration. This registration triggers issuance of a French ID number for foreigners, and later a complete physical provided by the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration. Recently, in the second Q/A of February 2022, I reviewed in detail this procedure by evoking the horrific anguish people had at Ellis Island where they could be denied entry because of diseases they had without ever knowing about them.

Here is what I published in 2012:

“This past summer I read the book titled “Forgotten Ellis Island: The Extraordinary Story of America’s Immigration Hospital” and very recently my wife and I watched the movie of the same title made by the book’s author, Ms. Lorie Conway, who is an independent producer and filmmaker. The book was released on October 16th, 2007, and the film on February 9th, 2009.”

“I believe that I am one of the Frenchmen who most often mentions Ellis Island. There are many reasons why I am fascinated by this place in New York City.”

“I now kick myself for not visiting the place or at least taking the boat to visit the Statue of Liberty and get a good view of it, when I visited the city at the age of 20 or so. I was staying in Connecticut, taking the train into Grand Central and walking all over Manhattan, including to the southern tip. If only I had known then how important it would be to me now!”

“One obvious reason is that at one point I was an immigrant to the USA, going through the anguish of waiting for my visa, and it was just as bad when I arrived in New York City at JFK Airport with my precious visa in 1986.”

“Another reason is that I love history, which to me is the best way of understanding what is happening today. What happened at Ellis Island, for a short period (compared to the existence of the USA as a country), beautifully synthesizes what the American population was made of until Latino and African immigration started in the 1970s.”

“Another reason is that the story of the country built by those broken people, scared and full of hope at the same time, is the sum of the stories of these individuals. The book and movie both show individual stories and it is amazing how quickly I got hooked on what was happening to the people depicted.”

“Still, another reason is the policy and vision of Mr. William Williams, the commissioner of immigration from 1902 to 1913, who had a very high opinion of himself and his mission. The hospital was there to protect the American population from all the diseases of the world. He was the gatekeeper and he made sure that the doctors working there followed his instructions. At the same time, this was still a hospital and its mission was to cure these people, who were cared for by the American government even before they could contribute anything to their new country. The goal was to cure them so they could become immigrants.”

“One last comment: I learned from the book about a poor Italian immigrant who financed his law studies by working as a translator at Ellis Island, helping the newcomers. He worked there throughout law school and stated that this experience was what made him so successful afterward. He was mayor of New York for three terms, from 1934 to 1945: Fiorello Henry LaGuardia, commemorated by the airport named after him.”

“In my practice, the reason I so often refer to Ellis Island is that it beautifully illustrates the legal and administrative immigration process. As long as someone is on the boat, they are aspiring to immigrate, but nothing is certain at this point. Getting off the boat, they are met by the police and a doctor, and it is only once they pass both screening processes that they cross the line and walk into the USA, away from the island. Today in France, the police verify the validity of the visa at the airport after one gets off the plane, and later most foreigners undergo a complete physical, which now usually takes place at the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration.”

“Maybe there are lessons to be learned from history. There was a time when the USA knew that immigration was its strength and the world knew anyone had a chance of a brighter future if they could immigrate to the USA.”

There are so many talking points thrown on each side of the aisle in the US Congress that I feel it has become something mechanical. One of them is the southern border, which seems to be mentioned pretty much regardless of the topic or piece of legislation being discussed. On occasion, when my imagination takes me to unrealistic territory, I construct a sort of Ellis Island in the middle of the desert to carry out the same job procedure as in the late 19th century. A step crazier and I imagine a smaller replica of the Statue of Liberty, with a reproduction of Emma Lazarus’s poem:

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
With conquering limbs astride from land to land; 
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. 
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I mock myself for being so unrealistic when I am done with this insane picture. The thought that sustains it has more merit. For one thing, it foregrounds the fact that the USA is a country of immigration and something has to be set up to handle, channel and vest the hopeful candidates wanting to start a new life in the USA. Ellis Island worked because it offered exactly that in an orderly fashion.

On May 1st, the level of France’s salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance, better known as the SMIC or minimum wage, was raised by 2.65% to reach a monthly amount of 1,302€ net (i.e. after deducting social charges on a 35-hour workweek). As far as prefecture procedures are concerned, the yearly amount is now 15,624€.

The official communication always uses the gross amount, which is what is cited in employee contracts. The hourly amount is now 10.85€, the monthly gross is 1,645.58€ and the yearly gross is 19,746.96€.

New readers might wonder why I am talking about this when hardly any of the people I help are paid the French minimum wage. The main reason I have mentioned the SMIC in nearly all recent issues of my column is that most French immigration categories require the applicant to prove either means or income at least equal to the SMIC, or a ratio of it, especially for the passeport talent categories, which the French administration considers to be VIP statuses. Also, I see increased scrutiny by the prefecture of whether the applicant meets this benchmark for many immigration statuses. The fact that most procedures now include screening after the file is uploaded makes even it more visible.

One of my most interesting exchanges with a civil servant at the prefecture involved repeated discussion of whether the file submitted contained enough proof that the applicant earned this kind of money. First the civil servant gave us back all the invoices and bank statements, saying the URSSAF quarterly statements would be enough. Then, realizing that these documents showed a low level of sales, the civil servant expressed serious concern. I proposed putting all the 2022 invoices and bank statements back in the file, since for a few months they showed income largely exceeding the minimum. Sadly, this sort of thing is possible only when there is a meeting; the possibility of having a discussion becomes exceedingly difficult when the file is uploaded. One needs to identify the flaws in the file to find solutions. What is needed is a way to upload documents that the administration has not asked for, starting with a cover letter.

system approved the French legislation on short-term rentals in 2020, cases have been heard by the local court in large volumes and the city has won almost all the time. I doubt this kind of rental will be eradicated from Paris, as demand from the tourism industry is high and it is still possible to make good money. But the longer this battle lasts and fines are regularly increased, the more the regulations are likely to force this sector to comply with the law.

Paris’ legal battle against illegal tourist rentals is starting to pay off
Out of 500 proceedings initiated, 422 have already been adjudged, two-thirds of them in favor of the city, which recovered more than 14 million euros in fines.

The judges of the Paris judicial court call them “Airbnb hearings.” They are long afternoons when they try to sort out, in batches of 15 or 20, the 500 procedures underway between the city of Paris and owners of short-term rentals, often to tourists.

The decisions of judges Caroline Fayat and Anne-Charlotte Meignan, who have taken on this mass litigation, are beginning to constitute a body of case law that is rather favorable to the community, but not always. “I see that the fines are coming down,” Ian Brossat, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of housing, says with satisfaction. “A certain number of these premises are returning to residential use, which is our goal, in traditional rental, with a mobility lease [from one to ten months], long-term, or are put up for sale.”

…The 422 cases already adjudicated in the first instance will therefore have enabled the city of Paris, in 2021 and 2022, to collect 4.55 million euros in fines from landlords and 9.58 million euros from online platforms. A hundred or so landlord cases remain to be judged, a hundred or so are already under appeal, and the TripAdvisor and Abritel platforms, which are also under attack, are awaiting judgment by the end of June.

When I started my career in July 1997 the notaire was an old-fashioned man, very conservative, including in the way he spoke. Buying real estate in France meant going through a type of ceremony with decorum. I used to say, with some exaggeration, that the French this profession used needed to be translated into standard French before it could be translated into English.

Ten years later, the younger generation was slowly changing the old-fashioned way of conducting this business, especially regarding real estate transactions. In 2008, electronic signing was created and slowly implemented, after which there were no more printed documents to review. The acte authentique électronique meant the profession had found a way to officially certify and store documents, especially property titles.

Today all transactions are signed on a graphic tablet screen to create an electronic authentic act. The latest revolution came in November 2020 with decree n°2020-1422 introducing signature by remote appearance of authentic powers of attorney on electronic support. These solutions must therefore be able to offer an advanced level of electronic signature, which is essential for remote electronic signature of documents. The correlation to this technology is that it is possible and even common for the meeting to sign the presale contract, as well as the closing, to be held via Zoom. At the end of the meeting, the buyer and seller sign electronically in the notaire’s office where they are, and it is possible to have several notaire firms involved this way. The time when everybody sat around the same table is not the norm anymore.

I plan to rent out this one-room studio of almost 329 square feet (30 square meters). My goal is to rent by the month for between one and six months. The studio can serve as a place for someone who has either secured a long-stay visa or is submitting a request for one. It will be an interim place for such people to stay. It could also be for someone who is in France on a 90-day visa waiver to “test drive” whether living in France is for them. After 25 years of offering “A Survival Kit for Paris,” I will now also be able to propose “A Survival Home in Paris” for those who need it as an extension of my services.

For those who do not know, my office is located in the 11th arrondissement between Nation and Bastille. It is a real up-and-coming arrondissement, and the property is served by five metro and RER lines.

The new space will need some renovation before clients can benefit from a comfortable and enjoyable stay. Thus, I need to set aside some time to work on this project. I might give appointments a month or more later than usual because of it. I will let my readers know when I start taking reservations, which should be during August, once the renovations are well under way.

I continue to slowly move toward working fewer hours in the hope of having a lifestyle more compatible with my age. As I have done in the past, I am once again scheduling an increase in my fees. I expect my assistant to continue to pick up more tasks linked to the URSSAF, CPAM and other public offices procedures. She already handles most dealings with the offices who register self-employed people. 
1st meeting/1st work: 350 euros for 2 hours 
Extra per hour: 150 euros 
Handling mail in my office: 50 euros per month 
Handling mail at my home: 60 euros per month 
Surcharge for out-of-office meetings: 80 euros, assuming less than 30 minutes’ transportation 
Surcharge for meetings and phone calls at the client’s request after 7PM weekdays, all weekend, on national French holidays and during vacations: 30%.

The office will be closed for three weeks over the summer holidays, starting on Friday, July 8th, in the evening and reopening on the morning of Monday, August 22nd. 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.

re were not paying the “taxe d’habitation.”
This is not enough since owners now prefer stating that they are there a week at a time as a secondary domicile and pay the “taxe d’habitation”, which does not increase every year as the punitive vacant tax. This is a response to an increase of 43% of those residences in Paris, partially if not primary motivated by the very short-term rental industry, which existed before AirB&B but expanded considerably with it. Paris City Hall states that 107,000 apartments are secondary residence, which makes 7.5% of the global number of apartments. The city is losing its residents and losing its blue-collar businesses. An official stated:
“Taxer davantage les résidences secondaires incitera leurs propriétaires à les vendre ou à les louer à l’année, ce qui augmentera l’offre locative. Notre objectif est que ces logements bénéficient en priorité aux Parisiens.”
Heavy taxes on secondary residences should push owners to either sell or rent long term, which should increase the lodging for renters. Our goal is that the Parisians first benefit from the increase of the offer of these lodgings.
Also, and probably this should not be underestimated, the city is hoping to get an excess of 43 million euros.
En savoir plus sur
I mentioned these cards already two times, since they were first introduced for the foreign students preparing a doctorate. Starting in November 2016, holders of the carte de séjour mention salarié, i.e., employee immigration status, as well as the mentioned vie privée et familiale, personal and family status, are now issued almost systematically at the time of the first renewal. I am not certain exactly how the duration of the card is decided. Based on the information I am getting, the employee carte de sejour seems to be four years when the private life is only two. There is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the nature of these cards as people often mistake them with the carte de résident, which is the equivalent to the American Green Card. The key difference here is that a carte de séjour is issued on a specific ground, and therefore it creates a lot of limits for many of them, mainly in terms of “right to work.” During a couple of years, and maybe more, people will get those long lasting cards when they are able to ask for a carte de résident a year or two later . The real issue here is that more and more people have what I call diverse careers, and not just one employee job. So specifically, a carte de séjour mention salarié holder can be prevented to launch a side consulting, or teaching yoga for several years.
I have no idea as the regulation just came about in November 2016 if it will be possible to ask for this carte de résident while the card is still valid and for a few more years. I have already been confronted with this situation several times, making what appears to be wonderful news, just the opposite, for several.
I raised another issue regarding the profession libérale, commerçant, if and when these cards could also be issued for several years. The answer “it might be possible” being put in the French context of distrust of the self-employed in general, my guess is that this is not going to happen for quite a while. As an example, the profession libérale carte de séjour holder at the Parisian prefecture will now have this request being reviewed by the office in charge of merchant and craftsman. This is not a good sign.
My website is being redesigned, mainly so as to use more recent software to update and manage it. This means there may be a couple of days when the site will not be online. I am sorry for the inconvenience, but we will do everything we can to keep this outage as short as possible. Indeed it should evolve as I am taking over the full control of the back office and being able to update it regularly now chating is possible on all the issues.
The office will close for less than two weeks starting on Thursday June 8th, reopening on Wednesday June 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. This time I am leaving France and email will truly be the only way to reach me then.
Best regards,


I stated something quite different, but the legal grounds I cited are true and Assurance Maladie as well as the mutuelle do cover medical expenses incurred in the USA, under certain conditions and with reimbursement following a specific procedure. It is different from what you understood but not completely off. To explain the complete procedure, I need to explain how Assurance Maladie works and what the mutuelle policy does.

The fundamental thing to remember is that since the law on universal health care (couverture maladie universelle) took effect in 2000, everybody legally residing in France can be covered by Assurance Maladie and all French citizens must be covered by it. The second thing is that this coverage can be extended everywhere in the world for those on vacation who experience an unforeseen event or situation. On a case-by-case basis, this may be easier or harder. First, there is a carte vitale européenne: if one is traveling within the EU and suffers an illness or accident, holding a European Health Insurance Card makes the European treaty kick in, which means it is as if it were happening in France. Thus it is important to get this card.
Another thing to understand is how Assurance Maladie reimburses and why the mutuelle became essential. Assurance Maladie, which offers the basic coverage, works with numerous pages of spreadsheets itemizing all possible medical acts, procedures and medicines, associated with the amount the system reimburses. While in France, the system is extremely fluid when using the carte vitale. If the health professional is directly connected to the database, the patient does not pay and Assurance Maladie foots the bill directly. Otherwise, the patient hands the professional the carte vitale and pays as an out-of-pocket expense. By requiring the payment to be made with the carte vitale, Assurance Maladie triggers the reimbursement without the patient doing anything. The brown feuille de soins paper form is only used when the patient lacks a carte vitale, which I often call a credit card for medical costs. Payment or reimbursement is based on the amount listed in the Assurance Maladie books, which are defined by the government. For decades, the policy has been to reduce the ratio of coverage. The official justification is that the reductions are linked to the medical efficiency of a given drug or procedure. The reality is that it is a pure cost-killing policy.

The consequence of this policy is to increase the patient’s co-payment, which is why mutuelles were created. With a mutuelle, the patient is expected to be fully covered. Employers now have a legal obligation to make sure all employees have a mutuelle. They contract with an insurance company for a group policy, exactly as in the USA. I believe all insurance companies are registered with Assurance Maladie. The procedure is now automatic: once Assurance Maladie pays, the file goes directly to the insurance company and the mutuellepays according to the terms of the policy. Today many policies do not cover all the leftover especially with dental and ophthalmology costs. One misleading thing is that there are two ways of defining coverage. One is a ratio linked to what Assurance Maladie pays: e.g., for dental work, ophthalmology and other specialties, the mutuelle may pay something like 300% or 400% what Assurance Maladie pays. Since those costs are poorly reimbursed, often the mutuelle does not cover them all, and people are disappointed. The other way to define coverage is as a ratio of the actual cost. Thus 70% of the real cost may be much better coverage.

The mutuelle policies have extended in two directions. The most common is that this industry offers coverage of things that Assurance Maladie does not cover at all. For instance, a mutuelle may reimburse homeopathic treatments and other medicine not covered by the system. Some policies will even pay for at-home help when on bed rest or temporarily disabled, as well as tutoring for children and so on. The idea is to take a global approach to the consequences of having a medical condition.

The other way, less common, is to reach out with international coverage. This means going beyond the traditional coverage once Assurance Maladie has reimbursed its portion and also offering direct payments in some countries, up to a certain amount, for a small trip away.
However, such coverage rarely competes with travel insurance, which pays upfront and includes repatriation. Until the industry proposes policies that reach the quality and scope of travel insurance policies, I advise people to stick with the home side of the extension and get travel coverage before going on an international trip.


The answer is no. That is, of course you can protest but it will not change the legal situation: you are required to pay off the mortgage upon the sale. A detailed explanation of what a viager sale is about will help you understand why this must automatically happen. The real estate agent and notaire should have explained this unusual transaction in detail, as the consequences of selling en viager involves some sophisticated legal concepts.

It is important to note some key definitions concerning the right of ownership in France:
1. The French legal definition of ownership combines three different rights that can be separated from each other. The French legal system uses three Latin words:
Usus: the “use” of something
Fructus: its “fruit,” meaning all income and other rights that can come from enjoyment of the thing
Abusus: not really “abuse,” it means the right to buy, sell, give away, destroy or transform something.

2. These rights can be combined or split in two very different ways, called usufruit and viager.
a) The French legal concepts of usufruit and nue-propriété come directly from the concept of splitting the right of ownership. Usufruit is a combination of usus (the use) and fructus (the income). Nue-propriété derives from abusus (the power of decision). When there are two people, one being the usufruitier and the other the nu-propriétaire, their prerogatives are as follows: The usufruitier lives in the place or rents it, and takes care of its maintenance. This right normally ends with his/her death. The nu-propriétaire has official ownership and therefore holds the title on the property, but gets its full use only when all other rights disappear.

b) The French legal concept of vente en viager comes from the concept of splitting the right of ownership. On one side the seller keeps the usus, the use of the property, and the buyer gets the fructus, i.e., all income and other rights stemming from enjoyment of the property, along with the abusus or right to buy, sell, give away, destroy or transform it. In short, you are selling the fructus and the abusus, so you are de facto selling the title. The loan you have with the bank is linked to the title, not to the property. The bank lent you money when you bought the property because it had the house (i.e., the title) as collateral and could sell it if you defaulted. But if the title is in the name of the buyer, the bank no longer has any guarantee on that loan. By the way, the buyer gets the full right of ownership when you die, as explained above.
That is the legal explanation of what is happening and why the bank insists that the loan must be prematurely repaid. I understand if you are not happy with this explanation, but I see no reason for the bank to let the loan continue, and even if the remaining debt is small, changing the nature of the loan does not help, since the penalties are paid by anticipation when the loan is closed.


Survival Home in Paris

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