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I’m Gonna Get Me A Gun

July-August 2020

I would like to wish all of you a great summer
and a very nice vacation whenever it is possible;
I will start mine in less than three weeks

“I’m Gonna Get Me A Gun” is a song by Cat Stevens. Written and recorded in 1967, it was released on the U.S. version of Matthew and Son, his first album.

I’ve been demoralized too many times
But now I realize, ah ah, no more. 
I’m gonna get me a gun, 
I’m gonna get me a gun. 
And all those people who put me down, 
You better get ready to run, 
’cause I’m gonna get me a gun.
I know my destiny is like the sun. 
You see the best of me when I have got my gun. 
I’m gonna get me a gun, 
I’m gonna get me a gun. 
And all those people who put me down, 
You better get ready to run, 
’cause I’m gonna get me a gun.
So you think you can push me around 
And make me run. 
Well I’m gonna tell you now 
I’m gonna get me a gun, 
I’m gonna get me a gun. 
And all those people who put me down, 
You better get ready to run, 
’cause I’m gonna get me a gun,
Gonna get me a gun.

Many American readers may think I am talking about the 2nd Amendment because of the importance of this issue in the USA. I am French, which I feel disqualifies me from expressing an opinion about the issue, as it is something specific to the USA. But as a former French army officer, I have experience with firearms. I was trained on probably every kind that existed at the time. When I wore the uniform, I carried a firearm as part of the job. Since being discharged from the army, I have never used a gun, even though it would have been easy while living in the USA, or even after we moved back to France, where I could have done so as a hobby. My position is that it was part of the job and it stayed with the job.

No, my choice for the title song has a lot more to do with violent expressions of rage, disgust and anger. It is clearly sung by someone who has been humiliated, and the revolt originates from that. I condemn the use of guns.

Cat Stevens has a reputation for singing soft songs with melancholy lyrics, so the fact that he had this song on his first album goes against the common perception of him as an artist. The song came out at a time of protests, civil unrest and massive demonstrations against the Vietnam War and for civil rights. The year after it was released, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Many people my age and older clearly remember when Ohio National Guardsmen shot 13 unarmed antiwar protesters at Kent State University, killing four, on May 4th, 1970.

The American people are deeply divided right now and there are protests in the streets. Many compare what is happening today to the ’60s, and there are indeed many points of resemblance. We always think what we see today is horrific, worse than it has ever been. I like history for many reasons, one being that it brings us perspective so we can have a more measured viewpoint, remembering that things have been worse and not that long ago, well within living memory. History also allows us to review the outcome of what happened then so as to have a better idea what consequences we can expect today and tomorrow.

The USA is not as divided now as it was then, and that violence was resolved within a few years. So stay hopeful and confident. The country will survive this time, as it has before.

Keep in mind there were 24 race riots in US cities between 1963 and 1970, most of them from 1966 on. I can only hope that the result of the November presidential election will bring back a more peaceful life.

So much has changed in terms of what is happening with prefectures that I could devote a full issue to the topic. The best I can do here is highlight the most striking developments and urge people to do research when they need more information.

1. Some cartes de séjour are now sent by registered post
A very long time ago this used to be something that happened in a few tinydépartements. Today the Paris prefecture is sending some cartes de séjour this way to decrease the number of people going inside the prefecture. The client who told me about this had renewed a carte de résident.

2. The récépissés are sent by email
The récépissé is the official ID document that serves as a bridge between the immigration status expiration date and the appointment, and between when the appointment ends and the carte de séjour is ready to pick up. Getting one, especially in the first case, used to require going the prefecture and asking for it. Now one goes to a page on the prefecture website, fills out the form and receives an email with the récépissé as a PDF attachment. Once you print it and glue on a passport photo, it is an official document.

3. Some files are submitted entirely by email
One client came to France with a three-month passeport talent, in which case the carte de séjour must be requested as soon as possible. Again there is a link for submitting basic information, after which one receives an email with an information sheet and a form to complete. One prints the form, fills it out, glues on a picture and then scans the file and sends it back. The photo can be the kind taken at a Photomaton machine, found in almost all Paris metro stations, so it is easy to do. As the prefecture has a low limit on email size, one can send only two or three of the required documents at a time, which quickly becomes tiresome. The carte de séjour is supposed to be ready shortly after that. We are still waiting!

4. The prefecture is strict about timing
The guidelines say one must not show up more than 15 minutes early. There are now several small offices inside the Cité prefecture so that the volume of people is easier to manage. The offices are color coded.

5. I have yet to find how to book an appointment for a change of status to become self-employed
Previously, the appointment was secured over the phone and the documents were sent by email. I have called the Paris prefecture several times to be guided through the website. I do not have the information yet about some changes of status. Securing a first appointment to change to become self-employed used to be done exclusively over the phone, calling 3430. This number is strictly dedicated to deliver information. I will continue to enquire until I find out. On a lighter note, often the civil servants with whom I speak put me on hold to find the answer. They candidly acknowledge they feel overwhelmed by the amount of change and the number of email addresses they have to memorize!

6. All appointments are made by email or through the website
It is clear that the prefecture is doing its utmost to minimize human contact in immigration procedures. This trend started quite a while ago, with promotion of the website and the need to send the right email to the right address. The Paris prefecture has the previous pages of its website describing the most common statuses requested. Renewing the same status is done through the dedicated appointment website. The first request and changes require sending an email, such as to obtain the employee status, or the “passeport talent” one.

7. The guidelines are strict about the foreigner going to the meeting alone
On all appointment notifications, it is written in bold letters that the applicant must come alone and cannot be accompanied during the meeting. I have no idea how the prefecture staff distinguishes between professionals whom they know and who should be allowed in, and helpers, family members or acquaintances who are there mostly because they speak better French. I will keep my readers informed on this situation.

After a couple of phone calls with the prefecture I now understand how they are handling the six-month extensions of ID. There are several possible situations:

1. The carte de séjour expired during lockdown
The extension means the expiration date is now exactly six months later. The foreigner should ask for an appointment to renew the card two to three months before the new expiration date.

2. The récépissé linked to waiting for an appointment expired during lockdown
The foreigner had an appointment at the prefecture that was cancelled. The prefecture is mailing out new appointment notifications (convocations) and the extension lasts until the date of the new appointment. Appointments are currently being scheduled between mid-August and mid-September.

3. The récépissé obtained after the appointment to get the carte de séjour expired during lockdown
Either the carte de séjour is sent by mail or the prefecture sends a text message or an email scheduling a new appointment to pick it up.

4. A long-stay visa valid for one year expired during lockdown
As long as the visa went through the OFII procedure and the foreign ID number was issued, this situation is the same as the carte de séjour procedure explained in point 1. It is the date of visa expiration that counts, not the date of the OFII physical, if one took place; the physical seems to be required less and less, and I have not been able to figure out why it happens, in the cases where it does take place.

I would like to share a message from one of my readers related to a recent change in the French divorce procedure that gives notaires responsibility for witnessing no-contest divorces. Two lawyers are still needed, and there is a small chance of the procedure derailing if they end up disagreeing on the wording of the agreement the couple reached. But the website my reader mentions is managed by licensed lawyers and allows the procedure to go through peacefully with no risk of derailing and thus for a low price.

The message below does not constitute an endorsement on my part. What the reader describes is only possible for couples who have a totally ironclad agreement. I mention it mostly because it shows French ingenuity, and it is rare to find an amicable process in France that works well enough to be monetized.

I just want to thank you for your emails and for responding to my question a few months ago about divorce. I’ve been unemployed and without any resources of my own for some time. In case this is interesting to you or your future clients, I ended up going through WeDivorce for 285 euros (per person). It was a very easy process, all online until the very last moment when we had to go together to sign the documents in person. Then, they filed all the paperwork, and sent us the signed document from the notaire, as well as the revised acte de mariage from the town where we were married. From start to finish it was less than 3 months. It could have been much shorter if we had had all our documents ready to go and if my ex and I had been able to make decisions about the convention more quickly. The team at WeDivorce were incredibly helpful and responsive by email.

I mentioned in the May 2020 issue that property co-owners’ general meetings could be postponed until after June 30 since the law requires them to be held within six months after the closing of the books. This initial move was meant to gain time until a more definitive decision could be made.

The pandemic is still around, even though the number of cases in France has decreased considerably. The government is still enforcing physical distancing, mask wearing and so on, despite a significant loosening of the rules since May 11th. Reopening of professional venues is happening gradually.

Even so, all Parisian buildings I am involved in have chosen to hold the meetings on Zoom. I have not attended any yet, but I am being notified of dates in the autumn when they will occur. The meeting rooms are often small and even if fewer than ten people attend, it could pose a serious health risk.

Meetings of the conseil syndical, the board of the syndicat des copropriétaires (co-owners’ group) have taken place but only through email exchanges, with the syndic acting once it receives a response from a majority of the members.

The books used to be reviewed in the syndic’s office and involved the actual accounting documents. But about a year ago the syndics were obliged to put all the accounting on line and accessible at least by theconseil syndical members, and now usually by all co-owners. Thus for the Parisian condominiums I am involved with, I have seen those books being reviewed from home, accessing the information online.

All syndics are pushing to get the building charges paid by wire transfer to the bank account of the syndicat des copropriétaires, as the postal mail has been unreliable since lockdown began. They are also pushing for it because it would relieve their staff of having to handle checks and make the accounting easier. I believe these changes will be permanent, as they are an improvement for all parties.

The office will be closed for one month, starting Friday, July 19th, and will reopen on Monday, August 24th. As always, I will be reachable by e-mail for emergencies and important matters. My service of receiving mail for clients will continue while the office is closed.

Handling mail in my office: 40 euros per month
Handling mail received at my home: 50 euros per month
Surcharge for out-of-the-office meetings: 60 euros which corresponds to less than 30 minutes’ transportation
Surcharge for meetings and phone calls at the client’s request after 7PM weekdays, all weekend and during national French holidays and vacations: 30%

I would like to remind everyone that there will be no August issue.

Best regards,


Before getting into details and addressing your concerns and the choices you need to make, I would like to explain a few things. First, I believe that you have misunderstood the advice you received.

No one intends to turn you into a full-time teacher. With luck, you will never need to earn money as a teacher. That is not the issue.

To register a French business, you have to define all the jobs, activities, services, actions, goods, etc. linked to your business. This is a big contrast with the USA, where usually there is no need to even register a business; the money you earn shows up on your #1040 form and is taxed accordingly.

In France, about this issue, the registration form asks two questions: What job or jobs do you wish to do and, if there is more than one, which is the main one. The list issued by INSEE, the French statistical agency, defines jobs very narrowly, so it is advisable to put several to cover a wide base. Say you just want to do marketing and communication (which are two choices, not one), those do not include publicity, public relations or event organizer. Even if you are sure you just want to do your job the way you think of it in the USA, in France it is best to check several categories, depending on your specialty.

The second thing to address is how you feel about teaching. Immigrating to France entails a radical change in your life, including your professional life. It is obvious to the French, but not to Americans, that the latter speak a level of English usually unmatched in the French population. The very fact that they are native English speakers makes them desirable for any job in which that is needed – especially teaching English with an American accent.

I assure you, no diploma or teaching experience is necessary to teach conversational English to a French person. The reality is that being a native English speaker is likely the most marketable quality you have on the French market, and finding a job as an English teacher could be the easiest and fastest way to go. I would like this to sink in. I am sure you never thought being an American and a native English speaker was so impressive that it would easily open the door to the job market. But that illustrates the huge paradigm shift you face as an American wanting to work in France. You need to review the whole range of your expertise within the prism of the French market. You will see that many things you do naturally, that you never learn in school or on the job in the USA, can help your French career.

I would like to describe what happened to one of my clients to illustrate how registering as a teacher, among other things, can be useful. It is a story specific to the unusual times we are living through at the moment. This said, its teaching is timeless and can be applied to everybody.

The client registered as self-employed with tourism as the primary activity, and had zero desire to be a teacher but nevertheless gave in and added teaching and several other jobs as secondary activities. The business was registered about a week before the Covid-19 lockdown began. All the tourism contracts were canceled, leaving no job in sight for the foreseeable future. What little savings the person had was not enough to survive on for more than a month or so. Out of pure necessity, this client has been earning a living teaching English remotely. She thanked me profusely for having pushed her to put teaching as one of the jobs they registered. I see teaching as similar to being a server in a restaurant. In the USA, working in a restaurant was and sometimes still is a way to earn just enough money to survive in time of crisis.

That is why teaching and several other activities should be mentioned. The registrations I do often mention 15 or more jobs. These jobs also need to be part of the business plan. In other words, you need to conceive of your French career in the broadest possible way so that it takes in all the professions. Even if you never do some of them, you should be happy to have these options. They could allow you to grow in new directions paved by this registration.

There can be a significant disconnect between the letters of interest from potential or probable clients that you must put in the file for the prefecture and what you state to be your professional strengths. To use the earlier example, you can state that your best expertise is event planning for American-style corporate communication, even if the majority of your client/potential client letters mention an interest in learning English from you. (You can ask French friends and acquaintances to write the letters, by the way. They are plausible because so many French people want to learn English.) A year later, when you show your billing and there is none as an English teacher, the prefecture will welcome the situation as it shows you are capable of making a living using your main skills. You will never be questioned or criticized because of that.

This brings me to another problem in your presentation. Under the law, the net profit must at least equal the French minimum wage for the administration to issue as well as to renew this immigration status. Therefore, when you apply for the first time for this immigration status, it is exceedingly important to project confidence that you will exceed this mandatory minimum the first year. It is wise to acknowledge that you might only work nine months out of twelve in many professions. On the other hand, it is critical to set your fees at a level that will ensure you exceed 23,000€ in annual sales if you are a profession libérale (consultant, coach, teacher, etc.). An estimate of 40,000€ or more shows confidence and reassures the prefecture. If your business plan states that you expect to make 25,000€ the first year, your request has a greater chance of being denied for being too close to the minimum. You need to find a balance between a professional and sound business plan that exudes confidence and a hunger for success, and figures that are realistic, even if somewhat over-optimistic, at least for the first year.

The prefecture will be happy to validate a four-year carte de séjour on the basis of a file that shows 23,000€ in actual sales even though the business plan mentioned 50,000€ as the first-year target. You will never be forced to explain why your estimate was so far off.

I strongly advise you to go back to your file and your business plan with a view to redoing it all from scratch using this vision.


I am afraid your reasoning, and therefore the choice you suggest, is completely misguided. I would like to focus on a couple of things initially to illustrate my point.

1. The salarié en mission expat profile visa request is very technical. As long as it meets the guidelines, there is pretty much a 100% chance of it succeeding. I cannot imagine the French administration arguing that this procedure is a fraud if it is done properly. The fact that your husband is already in France would likely never be reviewed, as it has nothing to do with the visa request. Therefore your fear is totally ungrounded.

2. You are going to live in France with him, with an immigration status that can last up to four years on the first application. This gives you enough time to accumulate plenty of proof of living together, which is the critical thing for you to stay in France as his spouse.

3. Whenever the mission is over, however long it takes, the law will force you to leave France, as you lose your right to live in France on this status. The longer it is, the stronger the family life immigration request will be. But even one and half years of living together should secure the lower level status. This seems easy to reach.

4. The family reunification procedure exists so that someone living in France with a stable situation can ask the French administration to review a request to have their spouse join them from another country. The procedure was never meant to apply to a spouse already living in France. When this happens, it always leads to delays, complications and a much higher risk of being refused.

Going with a long-stay visa covering a long mission, and hopefully getting a four-year card, is by far the best solution for you to live with your husband with a good chance of staying in France. You could even have the right to work under the private life status, which carries full rights to work in France. In short, make sure you know where the real dangers are.


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