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Survival Home in Paris

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June 2018

“Dreamer” is a hit single from the band Supertramp’s 1974 album Crime of the Century.
Some people dream of living in France. For generations, many French people dreamed of emigrating to California. Most people dream of a better life lying ahead.
All people who emigrate to another country – or, less dramatically, move to another state – are motivated by that belief that life will be better elsewhere. It is more often a dream than a planned action. My professional experience of over 20 years in the business is that moving to France as an immigrant is the pursuit of a dream, as it is impossible to plan everything when making a move of this magnitude.
If there were just one thing I would retain from my years of living in the USA, it is the core belief that one should follow one’s dream and that the sky is the limit in life. A good part of my adult life has been governed by this gift that the American nation gave me – along with my spouse, pretty much at the same time!
I just would like to add that Crime of the Century is my favorite album by Supertramp. Given my comments below about the DACA policy in the USA and what will happen to the “dreamers,” I find it quite a propos that the song “Dreamer” is on this album.
One thing I am 100% sure of, Roger Hodgson never made that connection!

I would like to describe the history and provisions of French policy regarding how undocumented aliens can become legal residents of France. This is by no means an attempt to take sides regarding the US policy known as deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) or what the rights of the “Dreamers” should be. I just want to bring the French perspective to an issue all Western countries have: “What do you do with undocumented aliens who are already in the country?”

The authorities’ official and first answer is: “Deport them to their country of citizenship.” This is the first thing to do because they have no right to be there. But we all know that there are many more who stay than are deported. Therefore, sooner or later another question arises, “Are there situations in which giving them legal status makes more sense than deporting them?” In several countries the answer is linked to the length of stay in the country.

This question is the one raised by supporters of the DACA program and the Dreamers – a nickname based both on “American Dream” and the long-delayed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. It refers to people who arrived illegally in the USA with their parents when they were babies or small children and today are adults still living in the USA, such as a 22-year-old who arrived at age 5, has lived there for 17 years and is the parent of two children who are Americans, as they were born in the USA.

French policy took a radically different perspective 20 years ago and has been more or less the same ever since, under both conservative and liberal governments.

On May 12, 1998, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, then minister of the interior, issued a memorandum called a circulaire spelling out clear guidelines on how undocumented aliens could obtain legal status in France. One of the best-known provisions that has been little changed is that a 10-year presence in France, proven beyond a reasonable doubt, grants the right to status as a legal resident for life.

The logic of this policy and all those that followed is that France benefits more by granting such people a legal stay than by forcing them to keep living clandestinely. These are people who, despite having an illegal immigration status, have managed not to be caught by the police for years and are so well integrated that they can document living in France for 10 straight years with utility bills, bank statements, pay slips, income tax declaration and payments, and often health coverage from the public system. Given how tight the net of the French administration is, the fact of their achieving this proves that these applicants have mastered French red tape, probably better than a native French citizen. The guidelines require the applicant to prove their stay with at least one valid document per calendar quarter. The sum of all this documentation indicates a real and respectful integration, which is rewarded with legal immigration status.

The latest addition to the policy is a circulaire of November 28th 2012 by Manuel Valls, which came shortly after the end of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s term. It added more situations and made it easier to obtain legal status.

Today the private life and professional life of an applicant form the basis for the grounds for a legal stay. Almost all the grounds require a proven stay of at least five years in France.

Here are the situations that enable an illegal immigrant to obtain legal status.


Parent of children going to school

Spouse of a legal immigrant

Minor who became an adult (the situation of the Dreamers)

Spouse of a French or EU citizen living in France

Parent of a French citizen

Three-year presence in France and 24 months working at least 18 hours per week
Five-year presence in France and eight months over the past year or 24 months working at least 18 hours per week.

It is absolutely clear that France and the USA take opposite approaches to this problem. The very practical French approach violates the law, as it grants rights for committing the daily illegal act of living in the country without legal immigration status. Should the policy be condemned for encouraging people to break the law?

Considering how rigid the requirements are, however, the undocumented aliens who meet them thus prove that they abide by the law regarding pretty much everything in their life except immigration itself.

So, should this long-term upstanding behavior be rewarded? France has said yes for 20 years.

Regarding DACA and what is happening to the Dreamers, there is one aspect rarely mentioned on either side of the issue. From a practical point of view, what is in the best interest of the USA and its citizens?

Many Dreamers have children who were born in the USA and are American citizens. Should the administration protect them? Should decisions be made in the best interest of those citizens? Do they have the right to pursue happiness as established by the 14th amendment to the Constitution?

I do not have a problem with a conservative approach to the immigration issue, such as deporting illegal immigrants. That is simply strict application of the law. But I believe the Constitution limits the extent to which the law is applied, how the judge rules, and so on.

I know for a fact that French law cannot be a model, as it goes so far in the other direction. I am unqualified to come up with a solution regarding DACA. I just see that there is nearly complete bipartisan agreement that such a solution must be found. A very recent CBS poll shows 90 percent of Americans favor allowing those who registered for DACA to stay in the USA.

What I see here is that the USA as a country and as a nation of almost 326 million people is hurt by this. It is estimated that there are 3.6 million Dreamers, which more than 1 percent of the American population.

I have been slow at addressing this issue mainly because of incoherence in what was being presented, and I still see the new system as incoherent. Nevertheless, this is the new regime and there is nothing I can do about it. The new figures apply to the fiscal year 2018.

Service providers’ annual revenue ceiling went from 33,100 euros to 70,000 euros
The annual ceiling for sales activities went from 82,800 euros to 170,000 euros

As for the calculation of profit, the ratios stay the same:

  • Profession libérale (professional) – the profit is 66% of sales.
  • Artisan (craftsperson) – profit is 50% of sales.
  • Commerçant (merchant) – profit is 29% of sales.

Other features include the following:

1 – Immediate payment of social charges, monthly or quarterly
Being a micro-entrepreneur has this excellent feature: You declare your revenue either 12 times or four times a year, paying the related taxes at the same time, thus immediately freeing the business from tax debt. This is a wonderful change from the previous system, which delayed the payment of some social charges by up to 18 months. It should clearly be adopted for many other types of business, as it prevents people from spending tax money so that they are unable to pay their taxes.

2 – TVA
The sales tax called value-added tax or TVA is the single largest provider of funds to the state coffers, so any change could have serious consequences for the budget. Previously the auto-entrepreneur income ceiling was low enough that it did not have much effect on the amount of TVA collected.

Now, the decision made is the one I feared, which I detailed in my November 2017 issue. While the income ceiling has doubled for payment of social charges, the old limits still hold for TVA:
33,100 euros for annual revenue ceiling and
82,800 euros for sales.

In my view, the best feature of the auto-entrepreneur status was that no accounting was needed. As it was 100 percent sales based, the only things one needed to do were issue invoices and receipts, and keep track of the amount invoiced to make sure not to go above the limit. Now, to pay the sales tax to the state, one must do some accounting and itemize each sale in order to separate out the amount of tax. The TVA calculation is a lot more complex, as it deals with both purchases and sales. The amount paid for purchases bears TVA and therefore becomes a credit. The amount collected from sales includes the TVA charged. The TVA owed is the difference between the two.

To do this calculation, one must itemize everything, including all spending. This is what I call doing full accounting, so professionals might as well take advantage of having done the work, and claim their true expenses. But that would mean renouncing the micro-enterprise benefit, which is too bad.

The office will be closed for less than a month, from Friday, July 23rd, reopening on Monday, August 20th. 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. The prefecture appointments already scheduled will not be affected – I will be there.

For a long time, I believed the only American notary public was at the US Consulate in Paris. But I recently discovered there are two others, at the Marseille and Strasbourg consulates.

The question of when and how to get documents notarized comes up all the time. I find it very interesting that France, a country known for its obsession with documents, requiring handwritten signatures everywhere, does not have any notaries public and has no idea of the concept. France, despite its obsession with having everything verified, evaluated and done with precision, has never really questioned the validity of a signature, considering it pretty much sacred, even though this is an exaggeration.

Another point is the common confusion by American people in France who think that a notaire is a notary public.

French notaires have three hats:
Tax collector. The so-called frais de notaire in a real estate transaction are for the most part taxes that the notaire collects.
Official supervisor. The notaire represents the interests of France first and foremost. The duty of the notaire is to guarantee that a deed is in the best interest of all parties involved.
Private adviser. As a professional, the notaire establishes a personal relationship with the client and can be a normal legal adviser, either paid by a standard fee or according to a fee schedule. This is the least important of notaires’ duties/missions.
The notaire in France has a monopoly on real estate transactions, signing of prenuptial agreements and handling of estates. The scope of their power is impressive. While a notary public guarantees the validity of a signature, the notaire guarantees the truthfulness and legality of an entire deed. So it is not at all the same job.

On occasion I have had a French notaire act as a notary public. I do it less and less, as on the American side the certification does not fit what is expected. It is ironic that the document is not accepted because of insufficient certification, when the professional who did it has so much more power and better credentials than an American notary public. This is just one more of the countless oddities one encounters going from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation came into effect on May 25th 2018. It guarantees greater protection of your personal data. If you wish to continue receiving my newsletter, you do not need to do anything; by this lack of action, you authorize me to send you my column 10 times a year.

I assure you that I will use your data for our communications exclusively and will not share any information of yours in any circumstances. If you no longer wish to receive the newsletter, you always have the possibility of unsubscribing from the mailing list with the link at the bottom of the issue.

I have patiently gathered addresses and entered them by hand, one at a time, into my mailing list throughout the 20-some years I have sent out my column by email. No one else has ever had access to the list, nor have I ever shared it. So I feel fairly confident that the list is quite well protected, especially after I recently had my website security upgraded.

Best regards,


The obvious thing to do is to change the type of carte de séjour, including any employee-related carte de séjour. Even though you were a victim of what your employer did, as far as the French administration is concerned, since you did not report your employer, you are seen as being complacent about this irregularity, if not an accomplice, even though this could not be further from the truth.

The good news is that there are plenty other immigration statuses to choose from. I see three very different possible routes.

The first, which might be the safest, would be vie privée & familiale, if you have a spouse, partner or children in France and you fit the other requirements. It is often a complicated file to put together because people think they just need to prove the family status. The truth is that the other part is always a continuing action, either providing for the child or living with the significant other, and this is almost always completely overlooked.

The second possibility is to create a corporation, which means opening a business. That part, surprisingly enough, is quite easy today and could be compared to creating a company in the USA. On the other hand, the prefecture is going to ask for a business plan, cash flow projection and so on. So be ready to put together a complex, well-documented file. It will probably need more documents than the family one but what one has to prove is a lot more obvious and easier to measure.

The third option is to be a self-employed consultant. The file is quite small, the financial projections are not as crucial, the business plan a lot simpler. At the same time since there is less to review there is a better chance that the prefecture will ask about how your employment ended and where the French documents are proving you no longer work there.

If you feel the prefecture is getting stuck on the past ill-fated job in France, get ready to take the matter to court. It will exonerate you, but it is in effect opening a can of worms.



Your articles are very interesting and very much appreciated. I wish you would address some issues that some French retirees (for ex. with US and French social security) would face returning to La Belle France after having spent many years abroad (50 years in the US for instance, as in my case). Some of us worked for a few years in France before leaving for new horizons.
We all have the same questions:

  • health coverage with the Sécu.
  • paying taxes in France.
  • buying vs renting real-estate.


Having lived this experience and having been interested in the research done about it, I can say that the worst cultural shock is to come back to your country of citizenship after living elsewhere for years, if not decades like you. There are two strong reasons for that.

Humans are creatures of habit. We all have reflexes that help us deal with the tiny details of daily life. Changing them when living in a foreign country is a must in order to function and mingle with others there. Clearly, after so many years abroad, as in your case, everything needs to be reacquired like a true foreigner would have to do. So the cultural shock is just as hard.

But when you are an actual foreigner, you are expected to make errors and commit faux-pas, and you are often forgiven for it. This leniency is never applied to a French person coming back to France, as the person is expected to know about everything and not to have forgotten it.

And it goes deeper than that. It is extremely unsettling to feel like a complete foreigner in your country of citizenship. It challenges almost every bone of your body.

There are only two main differences to deal with, however. One is the health coverage, where you must register with Assurance Maladie. As it is almost always possible to revive a French social security number, the registration and getting the Carte Vitale is relatively easy. The other one is obviously the immigration part. Here it must be said that many French people are lazy when it comes to following up on their passport and ID card with the consulate, in which case when they move back to France they have to redo documents that expired decades ago.

Anybody who plans to move back to their home country should read and become knowledgeable about this counter culture shock. I doubt that doing so makes it less severe but at least the stages are known and the experience is less traumatic.


Survival Home in Paris

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