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Survival Home in Paris

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November 2021

The sky is gray and white and cloudy
Sometimes I think it’s hanging down on me
And it’s a hitchhike a hundred miles
I’m a rag-a-muffin child
Pointed finger-painted smile
I left my shadow waiting down the road for me a while
My thoughts are scattered and they’re cloudy
They have no borders, no boundaries
They echo and they swell
From Tolstoy to Tinker Bell
Down from Berkeley to Carmel
Got some pictures in my pocket and a lot of time to kill
Hey sunshine
I haven’t seen you in a long time
Why don’t you show your face and bend my mind? 
These clouds stick to the sky
Like a floating question, why? 
And they linger there to die
They don’t know where they are going
And, my friend, neither do I

“Cloudy” is the third track of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, the third studio album by Simon & Garfunkel, released on October 24th 1966.

Choosing such a title for a November issue while living in Paris is virtually a given. The weather here is cloudy nearly every day, and will be for months to come. Cloudy vision can mean an absence of clarity about what is going to happen. I believe the future of the USA and France can be seen as cloudy. Once again we are entering an era of uncertainty at the domestic level. Election campaigns have pretty much started in both countries, with high stakes and a lot of uncertainty. In France, almost all political commentators talk about labor and social unrest while President Macron pushes his agenda in hopes of being reelected on a track record of successes. He will certainly emphasize what he considers his success in fighting the COVID pandemic. Many think the majority of the French disapprove of his overall policies, and his record may not help him win the April presidential elections.

A total of 469 seats in the US Congress (34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats) are up for grabs on November 8th 2022. That is a year from now, but the elections are on many people’s minds now when it comes to votes on bills. To many, the next several months in the USA look cloudy. Is the country entering a major crisis, as both sides of aisle repeatedly claim? Each side looks at its own agenda and what should happen to fix the problems it sees, and how urgent it is to implement its policies.

I continue to deal with cloudy weather when I ride my bicycle, donning a poncho when it rains too much. After so many months of uncertainty and last-minute changes of policy, usually related to the pandemic, I believe we are getting used to uncertainty and making the best of things in our daily lives.

After two months of my new appointment policy, I finally have enough breathing space to better manage my email. Messages are almost always answered within five days. This still is not great, and I plan to improve it further. But I have a calmer life, which was absolutely needed. My next achievement should be starting to draft my column in mid-month to avoid the final week’s panic attack in the rush to get everything done. As I have often said, the pleasure of writing such a column is to craft it. This requires having time to get back to it a few times until it feels smooth and easy to read.

The first round of the 2022 French presidential election will be on April 10th 2022, with the runoff between the top two candidates on April 24th. Meanwhile, the regulation allowing the government to require the use of the health pass (passe sanitaire) could be extended to July 31st 2022. The government has emphasized that the regulation only offers the possibility of extending the requirement; it is far from certain that it will be needed so long. As in the USA, pressure is mounting for more and more people to be vaccinated and some people are losing their jobs for refusing.

The French administration has also established a procedure for issuing the health pass to people who were vaccinated outside France. Many of those affected complain that the procedure is too long and complicated. First you have to create an account on the www.demarches-simplifiees.frwebsite, then enter the specifics of your vaccination. The stories I have seen on Facebook vary greatly, so I cannot estimate how much time it takes or how easy it is. One thing is certain: the administration did not think beforehand about this being needed, and thus had to fix the situation rather urgently. For a while, it was known that several pharmacies in Paris could carry out the procedure. Now everything seems to be settled.

At the end of a business meeting, a couple of weeks ago, a client gave me a copy of the book he had recently published in the USA, with this inscription: “For Jean Taquet with great esteem. Note: To the keen observer who saw the Taiwan crisis years ago.”

I was surprised and deeply moved that this couple remembered so vividly our discussion at a Parisian café in early 2018 after leaving the rue Truffaut branch of the prefecture. I have never been good at small talk, so I spoke of my interest in geopolitics and particularly the politics of Taiwan, Japan and mainland China, which has lasted for some 20 years.

I remember with emotion where and when this interest started. On Monday, December 24th 2001, I held a free advice session, as I had done for the previous few months, at a soup kitchen near Belleville. The last person I saw had lost her immigration status earlier that year. She went back and forth between calling herself Chinese and saying she was from Taiwan. When I mentioned Taiwanese citizenship, she rebuked me. Then I suggested she had Chinese citizenship and she got even angrier. Nothing made sense. I thought I had some understanding of the situation after President Nixon changed US policy regarding China during his visit there on February 21st 1972. But I had totally failed to understand the situation of someone who clearly was going through serious hardship.

From that day on, I became seriously interested in the history of Formosa Island, from the large-scale Han Chinese migration to western Taiwan in the 17th century to the 1949 retreat to Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek after Mao Zedong’s communist regime took power on the mainland. Then came the democratization of the political system, moving away from a dictatorship, with the second election of President Lee Teng-hui in 1996, as the final step in this process.

Having followed their presidential elections from then on, I saw the evolution of the Taiwanese population toward further independence while escaping from mainland China’s influence. Then it became inevitable that there would be a clash, given the aggressive international policy of Beijing. In March 2013, the Chinese Foreign Ministry published a four-page spread claiming Okinawa and the other islands in the Ryukyu chain were Chinese territories! I do not need to remind my readers that the US military has one of its largest bases on the island of Okinawa, which is part of Japan.

So the current crisis should not be underestimated, and it is clear the Chinese policy will not change and could end with a direct military confrontation with the USA.

Stephen started as a client and today we share several common interests. This is what he recently published on Facebook about his new project, which,

“.. started eight years ago as a way to document and share my move to Europe and as time went on it took on a life of its own.

“This week I’m excited to announce that The American in Paris Blog is no longer a one-man show but a team effort, building an on-the-ground database of information for those who want to build a life in France. If you want to learn more, click through to read the article.

“If you’d like to support Molli Sébrier and me as we grow this project, please give the FB and LI pages a like and follow when you have a moment!”

I fully support Stephen’s growing business and the diversification it induces. Interestingly enough, I have never seen it as competition. He has drawn a lot of attention as a helper for people who want to settle in France.

In my September issue, in the section titled NEWS ABOUT IMMIGRATION: ONE PAGE OF THE GOVERNMENT WEBSITE FITS ALL THE PROFESSIONAL CHANGES OF STATUS, I mentioned the move towards more and more professional carte de séjour procedures going through a dedicated website and the email address I can now confirm that this process is complete for all types of status grounded in a professional activity.

Furthermore, the visiteur immigration status also has its own procedure, going through this website:

There are several glitches, however: the system requires the applicant to create an account with an email address and password. It often happens that this kind of thing is done on the spur of the moment, but it gets quite complicated to go through the procedure necessary to recover your password should you ever have the misfortune to forget it! Having experienced this with a few clients, I advise you to make sure you make a note of this information. The website also requires an ephoto, a new kind of passport picture. The photo comes with an ID Nº that goes into the uploaded file. One can have this ephoto taken in most “Photomatons”, the self-serve photo booths found in public places including many metro stations in Paris. This means that the applicant must be physically in France to get this done …a complication for many people. The only benefit of the site is that you can submit all the documents needed. We will see if this simplifies the meeting at the prefecture to confirm the request.

Over the holidays, my assistant, Sarah, took an interesting initiative and created a new Facebook page. It is a good move for her since she and I both moderate it. She can show off her expertise and her ability to give good advice and clearly explain solutions. She does this in French, leaving the queries in English to me.

Since I am already active in a few Facebook groups and my website is my main showcase, I did not feel I needed such a page. On the other hand, it will no doubt benefit her. I do not have the time to monitor this forum and so far, it has been fairly quiet. Sarah is still figuring out how to handle this new task, being quite busy herself. I am sure it will be a great space for exchanges and hope it will pick up soon.

You are welcome to join:

The office will close for three weeks over the Christmas holidays, starting on Friday December 17th in the evening and reopening on the morning of Monday January 3rd. 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,


I will explain all the steps needed to submit such a request, but first I need to point out something fundamental:
All French legal residents have the right to be covered by the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM).
Furthermore, it is illegal for someone who lives in France not to have health coverage here. If you get caught without coverage, the system could force you to be covered by the CPAM without thinking of whatever cost you might incur. Only foreigners who do not work in France have the right to have private health coverage.
Especially under President Macron, the CPAM is becoming increasingly strict about the issue of residence. This has two very different consequences:
1. the CPAM is even more restrictive than the law about evaluating what constitutes a “French resident.”
2. the CPAM has the means to find out if someone lost his/her French residence. When this happens, these people get their Carte Vitale cancelled.

To successfully register with the CPAM, you will run into an initial and sometimes complicated obstacle:
The CPAM expects you to have an immigration card – a carte de séjour, a récépissé or a carte de resident – to prove your immigration status. Since you only go to the prefecture when your one-year VLS-TS visa expires, you will only be able to show a carte de séjour about a year or more after you arrive in France, taking into account the possibility that the prefecture appointment occurs after the visa expiration date and that it takes about two to three months to obtain the immigration card after your appointment at the prefecture.
Before the COVID pandemic, the CPAM was pushing the narrative that a visa with OFII registration (i.e., from the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration), and even going through the entire OFII procedure, did not make an immigrant a complete resident. The CPAM has had a hard time accepting that the combination of the visa and OFII registration is the very definition of a lawfully resident immigrant. Sadly, even when the file is sent directly to the CPAM headquarters, one initially gets the same answer. It can take several attempts before they hear one correctly on this topic.
In short, it is possible for you to legally register with the CPAM right now, but you will experience significant opposition.
Here is another fundamental situation that foreigners have a very hard time comprehending or accepting:

Payment of premiums/taxes towards a health policy and the actual coverage, reimbursement and payment of the medical professional are totally disconnected.
The payment in question, when you owe it, goes to URSSAF. It is a public collection agency that does not check whether you are actually covered or not. Coverage comes exclusively from the CPAM, which does not link the coverage to any payment. You register with the CPAM, because you are asking for coverage.

The file you submit to the CPAM is very close to what the prefecture asks for:
These are the documents that define who you are by French standards.
ID page
Visa page
OFII confirmation with your foreign ID number
The OFII statement that you went through the physical
These secure your immigration status.
In addition:
Birth certificate officially translated into French
Marriage license if applicable
Spouse’s passport and birth certificate if applicable.

French bank statements showing local transactions, proving that you truly live in France.

Proof of address

The simplest thing is to either own or rent in your name. Then you must provide: :
A statement from the utility company, proof of tenant liability insurance and a monthly bill for internet connection and, if applicable, a landline. These should be the latest bill, or, if you pay your utility bills via monthly bank transfer, a copy of the annual wrap-up.
Lease or proof of ownership.
Proof of every single month since you arrived, ideally with your date of entry into France.

The above describes quite well how to prove who you are and how long you have lived in France. Then you have the form to fill out and you must provide a R.I.B. relevé d’identité bancaire detailing your French bank account information and your IBAN in order to receive reimbursements.
Obtaining the French social security number is a direct consequence of having registered with CPAM. One of the most important documents needed before it can be issued is a clean translation of your full birth certificate, as much of the number comes from your date and location of birth.


Understanding the intricacies of the Parisian prefecture should help you deal with the situation now and for the duration of your stay in France. The Paris prefecture is now making extensive use of various pages on its website to communicate with the public, especially foreigners who need to go through immigration procedures. Things are pretty much the same way at all other prefectures as well. But one thing is specific to Paris: the number of locations throughout the city (there are nine) that handle immigrants and are open to the public. There is strict organization regarding who goes where and why.

The trend of having the procedures done online started a few years ago and was quickly accelerated by the COVID pandemic. Now almost all communication regarding immigration goes through the website up to the scheduling of the appointment, which is always held in person. This helps many people whose status is simple, but it can also create nightmares for people who do not fit the right profile.

Two branches specialize in issuing appointments for people who do not have a visa when they entered France. They are called centres de réception des étrangers (C.R.E.). One is on Rue Truffaut, the other on rue Charcot in the 13th district.

To explain what happened to you, I need to describe what existed before this procedure was done online and then what happens now.

All foreigners holding an initial entry visa, as well as those who entered France without a visa, including undocumented aliens, went to a centre de réception des étrangers to start the immigration procedure by asking for an appointment at headquarters – in Paris, that meant the prefecture on the Ile de la Cité, on Place Louis Lépine – to request a carte de séjour.

Only undocumented aliens have their appointments at one of the twocentres de réception des étrangers. A very specific procedure allows this. It starts with acknowledging an illegal stay in France by submitting valid documents proving a significant period of having lived in France without leaving. The second part of the file depends on the grounds for one’s request for the carte de séjour, i.e., being an employee and therefore sponsored by an employer, or a private life situation. The complete file entitles the person to ask for an appointment at a centres de réception des étrangers as the first step. Once their file has been reviewed, if the request is accepted, the person get an appointment at the Cité headquarters to seal the request and have the card issued.

This explains what you were told when you showed up at the Rue Truffaut branch. Clearly you did not fit the profile of foreigners seeking this procedure.

Regardless of whether you enter France with or without a visa as an American citizen, the treaties signed among the EU member countries, and consequently French legislation, grants you a legal stay in France. From what you described, you initially entered France without a visa, as was your right. This explains why you were handled electronically by the Rue Truffaut branch initially. At the same time you claimed you had a right to French immigration based on your spouse’s nationality and your joint residency in France (Paris). Thus you did not belong to the group that would go to Rue Truffaut to get your appointment.

Now, because the computer system has superseded the previous in-person procedure, the appointment confirmation you received stated that it was issued by the Rue Truffaut branch and the appointment was at the Cité headquarters, since there was no need for an initial investigation because you have a legal right to a French immigration residency. The fact that it was issued by Rue Truffaut was shown in the upper left corner and the location was mentioned in the square in the middle of the page.

I did not mention any specific nationalities other than American, as in theory all nationalities can go to Rue Truffaut; the last time I went to a centres de réception des étrangers was with an American who had been illegally in France for more than ten years. That qualified the person for the unconventional procedure of proving a long illegal stay in order to obtain a legal one.

I hope this explanation reassures you that everything the prefecture did was right. By issuing you a new appointment, they helped you by protecting your rights and you did not need to do the procedure by yourself.

I would like to add that having an EU spouse grants you the right to stay in France, so the vast majority of the file is about your spouse and your communal life together, with very little about you. This may seem counterintuitive since you are the applicant.


Sadly, this is a common situation for people with your profile. Renting a home in France, especially in Paris, starts with a crucial observation:

It takes about three years to expel a non-paying tenant who uses all the available procedures to delay the inevitable outcome.

Most foreigners do not know this, so they misjudge the situation, often thinking it is discrimination or fear of renting to a non-French person. Regardless of the size of the apartment, the amount of the rent and the revenue shown by the candidate, to a French landlord everybody looks like a potential stiffer. Renting out property entails a high level of financial risk, not counting the cost of an eventual court case. Therefore, the landlord and management agency look at two things above all:

1. What is the candidate’s assured revenue?
2. How strong a guaranty do they offer?

Down the years, many programs have been created to help ease this legitimate concern. But they have almost exclusively been available to people who are employed in France. Thus you have not access to these public guarantor programs. Clearly you need to find another way to offer the landlord sufficient guarantees, since you cannot radically change the nature of your income. The only reasonable way to do this in France is to have your French bank be your guarantor. This system has huge flaws but it is the only way that makes sense.

Setting this up means having two different contracts, combined into one.
1. You start by transferring a substantial amount of money to France, enough to cover between six months and one year of rent. Then you invest this money in a mutual fund account with your bank after discussing and reviewing with your banker the financial products most compatible with your needs. Since you know more or less how much the rent is, you should be able to set this up without too much difficulty.

2. Before you visit apartments, when you contact agencies or owners, always give them a complete file introducing you and including a copy of the mutual fund statement, along with a note from the bank stating that it is ready to set up the guaranty agreement, which can only be done after you sign the lease. The bank then creates a link between the mutual fund account and the landlord-agency. This service is not free; the bank will charge you a small fee for the entire time of the rental.

To repeat, this means moving a large sum of money to France: If the rent is 2,000€ to 4,000€ a month, you will need 12,000€ to 24,000€ for six months, 24,000€ to 48,000€ for a year. This will almost certainly mean paying capital gains taxes in the USA and related bank fees. It may be a difficult idea to swallow at first, although you might look at it as an opportunity to diversify your global assets, and in the end it may not be as expensive as it first looks.

Finally, note that there are different Parisian rental markets:

  • 1. For short term rental of the Airbnb type, there is no need for a guarantor.
  • 2. For a secondary residence, usually a furnished apartment with a fixed-term non-renewable lease, rarely for more than a year, there may not be any need for a guarantor.
  • 3. To obtain a lease for a furnished property, silently renewable every year, with you as tenant having the right to give notice, you need a guarantor. Once you declare your worldwide income in France, the lease becomes protected as the apartment is considered your primary residence, even though the original lease was drafted differently.
  • 4. An unfurnished apartment lease is so protected that a guarantor is a must, often for a long period.

To sum up, for realistic expectations of finding the right accommodations, chances are you will either have to go through all the above steps – or hire an apartment hunter, a real estate professional who will find your new home, and therefore will get you a primary residence lease.


Survival Home in Paris

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