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Survival Home in Paris

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June 2015

In French, “Il est battu par les flots, mais ne sombre pas”.
In English, “tossed by the waves but does not sink”.
-This phrase is the motto of the city of Paris, France. This motto is present in the city coat of arms that depicts a ship floating on a rough sea. Both motto and city arms have their origins in the river Seine boatman’s corporation; this powerful Hanse ruled the city’s trade and commerce as early as the Roman era.

-Although this corporation through the centuries became an entity resembling more a municipal government than a trade organization, they maintained their original arms and motto, and it is for this that the Mairie de Paris bears them still today. It was made official on November 24th, 1853, by the Baron Haussmann.

After a title in French now I have chosen one in Latin! I must be an antique!

I would like to wish all of you a great summer and a very nice vacation.

In the meantime, however, it is not summertime for everybody and teachers are going on strike once again. A law regarding the middle school curriculum and organization was passed recently and most people feel that it buries the practice of the so-called elite languages, such as Latin, Ancient Greek, and German, to mention the most popular.

Choosing this column title as well as the one for the section below, I just wanted to illustrate how much France is a Latin country. Everybody thinks of the culture and its related machismo or romantic aura. So many buildings in France, including, of course, in Paris, bear Latin writing, which indicates how much the French language and culture have their roots in the Latin language and culture. Up to about a century ago, a motto or a coat of arms had to be in Latin and it was assumed that everybody would understand it. Even people of my generation would choose their motto in Latin.

On the other hand, I find that this motto relates perfectly to foreigners living in France, constantly being tossed in all directions, finding the journey way too bumpy for their taste. Years later, living here becomes a smoother ride, maybe like riding on the Bateaux Mouches up and down the Seine River, a very popular way to visit the city.

Better known in English as “Et-tu, Brute?”, these were supposedly the last words of the Roman leader Julius Caesar when seeing his friend and protégé Marcus Junius Brutus among his assassins. The line is widely used in Western culture to indicate unexpected betrayal by an ally or friend.

I almost never comment on political events, but what is happening in the French political party called the Front National goes far beyond just politics. Mr. Jean-Marie Le Pen created the party of the far right over 40 years ago, on October 5th 1972. The number of his followers sharply rose about ten years later. He was the challenger in the 2002 presidential election and lost to Jacques Chirac. In short, he made the FN one of the major political parties in France. On January 16th 2011, he stepped down and had his daughter elected as its new leader. Slowly but surely she is trying to soften the image of the party, making it look like it fits into French democracy.

This has led to disagreement between father and daughter that is now totally in the open, and he has now been suspended from the party for making unacceptable statements in the French media. The final twist I find interesting is that his granddaughter, Ms. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, was elected to the French parliament on June 17th 2012 at age 22, making her the youngest person elected to this position in modern times. She shares many of her grandfather’s viewpoints, but because of her age, among other things, she does not state them the same way, making them appear more acceptable.

Both in the USA and in France, there have been families involved at the highest level of politics for several generations. Kings and queens ruled Europe for centuries. In those days, the positions of power were hereditary. Therefore, regardless of their credentials, the very fact that today the child gets the elected position that the parent had for decades gives the impression that democracy is not well served, as it looks like a hereditary system.

The fact that a political party evolves with new leadership is very common. The fact that the leadership stays in the same family, with just a change of generation, is far less common, and some question the democratic nature of the FN party. The message of the party for a long time was anti-democratic, racist and anti-Semitic. Polls indicate it is now one of the top political parties in France. The FN family feud is quite scary because of the direct consequences it could have on French politics and on the future of France.

One last comment: many commentators in the French media used this Latin quote as if the entire public would understand it. I doubt that many in the younger generations know it.

” Les ponts du mois de mai “
It feels like this topic comes up every year but nothing changes much. This year four national holidays all fell within one month. They were:

May 1st, which is Labor Day in most of the world

May 8th, which is Victory in Europe Day, celebrating the end of WWII

May 14th, the feast of the Ascension, the Thursday falling 40 days after Easter, marking Jesus’s ascending into Heaven

May 25th, the Monday after Pentecost Sunday, marking the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’s disciples

There are many ways to define whether a nation is Christian. Measuring church attendance is clearly one of them, and France has a very low rating there. On the other hand, celebrating Christian events so that people can freely attend church services clearly indicates that, at one point, the country was deeply Christian in France, Roman Catholic.

To illustrate my point, these are the French national holidays for 2015.

  • – New Year’s Day, January 1st
  • – Easter Monday, April 6th
  • – Easter Monday, April 6th
  • – Labor Day, May 1st
  • – V-E Day, May 8th
  • – Feast of the Ascension, May 14th
  • – Pentecost Monday, May 25th
  • – Bastille Day, July 14th
  • – Feast of the Assumption, August 15th
  • – All Saints Day, November 1st
  • – Armistice/Veterans’ Day, November 11th
  • – Christmas Day, December 25th

Out of a total of eleven holidays, six are Christian celebrations. France is known as a country with a very strong Christian tradition. Are these holidays pertinent in the 21st century? It is not for me to say.

My office will be closed from the evening of Wednesday June 3rd until 9AM on Wednesday June 17th. 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. I have not scheduled trips this summer, but expect some absences between Friday July 17th and Monday August 17th. I will let individual clients know how to receive or retrieve their mail during this period.

Best regards,


I could address your situation with just one sentence but I am afraid that you would not see the difficult situation you are in. Therefore I would like you to keep in mind the fact that not all visas to enter France, even for a year or more, are immigration visas.

I would like to start by describing the visa de long séjour -jeunes professionnels, both its good and bad features. It is an excellent program for what it is intended to do that is, to enable young adults to get professional experience in a foreign country and have the full experience of being an expatriate.

The program stems from an agreement between several countries, including France, the USA and Canada. The maximum duration of the visa (i.e., of your stay in France) is two years. The age limits are from 18 to 35.

The major drawback is that at the end of the two years, the foreigner cannot legally stay in France but MUST go back home and ask for an immigration visa with a different status. You cannot get out of this regulation. At the end of the second year, you must leave France. Let this be very clear in your mind: if you submit a request for a change of status, such as asking for a carte de séjour mention salarié, even during the two years of validity of your jeune professionnel status, it will automatically be denied.

In short, to answer your question, you do not need to submit any request to MOE-DIRECCTE, as your right to work is imbedded in your current status. So you should take advantage of the better job offer and better pay for your second year.

Since you clearly enjoy France and the kind of work you do, you need to plan ahead and decide pretty much now what you will do when you go back to the USA about a year from now. It is not too early to start preparing the next step regarding your immigration status in France. That step will involve your French employer initiating the appropriate immigration procedure by submitting a request to its nearest MOE-DIRECCTE branch. The procedure is called introduction d’un travailleur étranger en France (introducing a foreign worker into France).

Unlike with the jeunes professionnels program, MOE-DIRECCTE has the right to veto this request. Therefore, your file must represent a very strong challenge to this veto right. If your employer just provides the documents mentioned on the list issued at the start of the procedure, you will have close to zero chance of obtaining immigration status in France. This file must prove in a powerful way the perfect fit between you and the position in the company, which means adding a lot more documents than those on the list.

As I said at the beginning, a visa from a French consulate that allows you to work is not always an immigration visa. In other words, make sure you know what you are asking for.

The jeunes professionnels program should be used for what it does best. One way of benefiting from this program is to get a foreign professional experience, which should help your career at home. Another way is to easily work in the country, France in our case, as a young professional in order to, start a career in France with the best opportunity later on. This is especially true in France for several reasons.

First reason
The hiring process in France is very long and complicated and can take ten interviews or even more. This means it is virtually impossible to be hired at a professional level in France from a foreign country. Being in France with a job that pays living expenses, allows the foreigner to go easily through the complete hiring process.

Second reason
Books have been written on how different French labor laws are. The same thing can be said about the relationship on the job, where the definition of being an employee is to be a subordinate! People are better off spending two years making mistakes on small jobs so they will avoid similar mistakes once they get the job they want.

Third reason
Immigrating to a new country means “tearing your insides apart” for several years before one can fully adapt to the new country with all it implies. Two years might not be enough to make that transition but it is more than enough to give a solid taste of what it means to live and work in France. I would almost call this the trial period of being an immigrant. After that, you know if you can handle it or not.

So use the visa de long séjour – jeunes professionnels in the manner I have just described, as a complete launching pad. It grants two critical things: (1) the right to be in France for two years and (2) the right to be employed in France. So once you arrive in France, you know that you have a two-year deadline. So try to get the best position as soon as possible. This can mean having a strategy, such as getting a menial job because it is needed, and at the same time concentrating your efforts on getting the position you need to start the career you want. The sooner you get the good job and the higher the position is, the better it is for you.

Used this way, the visa de long séjour – jeunes professionnels program is ideal. But a lot of people forget the deadline. Two years is a long time, and this limit infuriates them.



I am Nigerian and would like your advice. I came to France several years ago to take the job of a nanny working for a Nigerian diplomat in his home. Now the embassy is offering me a job as a clerk. The embassy applied for me to obtain this right to work, and the French administration sent a negative answer and kept my carte spéciale. I would like to know if there is any legal way to secure my job with the right paperwork without having to return to Nigeria and apply from there. The job is urgent and they will offer it to someone else instead.


There is a lot of confusion here, including on the part of the people in charge of your situation at the embassy. According to your description, the appropriate procedure was not followed and therefore the result inevitably was negative.

I would like first to analyze what your status was when you were working at the diplomat’s house. The embassy and the private residences of senior diplomats are covered by diplomatic status, which means that, from a legal point of view, you were working on Nigerian territory when working in this home. You held the diplomatic French ID card, called a carte spéciale. It is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and controls on it are minimal, as it deals with issues that are extraterritorial – i.e., involving dealings with another country.

Now I would like to analyze what you were trying to achieve by asking for the right to take the job as a clerk. A lot of people seem to forget that not all jobs in an embassy are covered by diplomatic status. The lowest-level ones are regulated by the laws of the country where the embassy is located. You saw this job as a promotion, and assumed you would maintain your diplomatic status. It appears that whoever handled your file at the embassy thought the same way. Clearly this ended up being wrong.

The normal procedure would have been to first renounce your “carte spéciale”.This action is tantamount to stating that you wish to enter France, legally speaking. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have then sent you a letter stating that you had indeed given the card back. Interestingly, obtaining this letter has become increasingly difficult, especially for people holding your type of position.

Next, with this letter and the complete file prepared by you and your -French employer- (i.e., the local hiring section at the embassy), you would have gone to the prefecture and requested a carte de séjour mention salarié. This would trigger a procedure wherein the prefecture takes your file and sends it to the local MOE-DIRECCTE branch, which decides if, for the position in question, you deserve to get the right to work as an employee. MOE-DIRECCTE has a veto right, which should not be overlooked, but since you would be working in an embassy, the veto risk is much lower than in normal circumstances.

In your case, however, the normal procedure was not followed. Now I see only two solutions, but neither one really fits your request.

1. Since you worked as an employee of a diplomat, he is required to pay for your return ticket to Nigeria, and you have the obligation to return there. You could use this opportunity to go back and wait for the proper procedure-introduction d’un travailleur étranger en France (introducing a foreign worker into France)  to be carried out so you could eventually come back to France with the right immigration status.

2. You become “sans-papiers”, an illegal alien, but the clerk position requires enough skills that the regularization procedure is possible.

The Manuel Valls ” circulaire ” of Nov 28th 2012 strictly defines the conditions for regularization. The applicant must have been working the equivalent of half time. This requirement is stricter if the applicant has recently moved to France. Here are the parameters of the requirement:

a – 3 years in France and have worked a minimum of 8 months consecutive or not during these last 12 months as well as a total of 24 months consecutive or not during these 3 years
b -5 years in France and there are 2 possibilities: either have worked a minimum of 8 months consecutive or not, during the last 24 months, or have worked a minimum of 30 months consecutive or not during the last 5 years,
c – 7 years in France and have worked a minimum of 12 months during the last 3 years.

2 – You have at least one year’s experience in the job you are offered or you have a diploma recognized in France that allows you to do the job. But your description indicates that, at least in France, you have neither of these; you were not working in France paying French taxes, and the nanny job has nothing to do with the clerk position.
3 – Your employer agrees to pay about 60% of your monthly salary in taxes one time for you to have this right to work.

Based on what you have told me, you do not fit in either case. I am sorry that I cannot give you a positive answer.


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