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March  2024

Victor was born
The spring of ’44 
And never saw
His father anymore
A child of sacrifice
A child of war
Another son who never had
A father after Leningrad
Went off to school
And learned to serve his state
Followed the rules
And drank his vodka straight
The only way to live
Was drown the hate
The Russian life was very sad
And such was life in Leningrad
I was born in ’49 
A Cold War kid in McCarthy times
Stop ’em at the 38th parallel
Blast those yellow reds to hell
Cold War kids were hard to kill
Under their desks in an air raid drill
Haven’t they heard we won the war
What do they keep on fighting for? 
Victor was sent
To some red army town
Served out his time
Became a circus clown
The greatest happiness
He’d ever found
Was making Russian children glad
When children lived in Leningrad
The children lived in Levittown
Hid in the shelters underground
Till the Soviets turned their ships around
Tore the Cuban missiles down
And in that bright October sun
We knew our childhood days were done
And I watched my friends go off to war
What do they keep on fighting for? 
So my child and I came to this place
To meet him, eye to eye and face to face
He made my daughter laugh
Then we embraced
We never knew what friends we had
Until we came to Leningrad

“Leningrad” is a song written by Billy Joel, from his 1989 album Storm Front. It is about a Russian clown, Viktor Razinov, whom Joel met while touring the Soviet Union in 1987. The song compares major events from Razinov’s and Joel’s lives, while drawing attention to cultural and political differences and similarities between the USA and the USSR. The song was released as a single in Europe.

I discovered Billy Joel when I moved to the USA in 1986. I was well past my teenage years when I discovered most of the 1970s rock bands that have accompanied me ever since. As my readers know by now, I choose almost all the titles of my issues from that era. I like Joel’s music because it is quite eclectic, and the lyrics even more so. What I like the most is that his descriptions are acute while showing caring and empathy. I also enjoy his sense of humor, with a drop of sarcasm when needed.

“Leningrad” talks about the Soviet Union, and I do not see much difference between it and today’s Russia. Both children in the song grew up after WWII during the Cold War. For both of them, the other’s country was a threatening enemy and the fear of war was such that it felt like it could happen at any time. Many have forgotten what it was to grow up in the USA in the 1950s and early ’60s. Listening to the McCarthy hearings in the Senate gives a fair idea of the fear and what it led people to do.

Maybe because I have loved history all my life and am interested in the history of many countries, I tend to be skeptical by nature; I do my research and form my own opinions.

Leningrad is now Saint Petersburg: After the Soviet Union broke up, it went back to the name it held prior to the Soviet Revolution when it was a former capital of Imperial Russia. The first thing I think of when I see or hear the name Leningrad is the German siege of this large city in WWII.

From Wikipedia: “The siege began on 8th September 1941, when the Wehrmacht severed the last road to the city. Although Soviet forces managed to open a narrow land corridor to the city on 18th January 1943, the Red Army did not lift the siege until 27th January 1944, 872 days after it began. The blockade became one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, and it was possibly the costliest siege in history due to the number of casualties that were suffered throughout its duration. An estimated 1.5 million people died as a result of the siege.”

Today the Russian army is fighting the war in Ukraine. The armies on both sides know they are in it for years, and defeat is not considered an option by either side.

I love the story Billy Joel tells us in his song. This kind of reaching out is possible. But 2024 is an election year, so it may be the best time to encourage reaching out against all odds.

It may be totally irrelevant, but it happens that my daughter lives in Taiwan and when I started drafting this issue, my wife was visiting her for the Lunar New Year celebration. Taiwan recently went through an interesting presidential election in which mainland China openly used all its power to get its candidate elected and he lost. Taiwan remained peaceful both during the campaign and after the election.

On January 1st, France’s salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance, better known as the SMIC or minimum wage, was raised by +1.13% to 1 398,69€ per month net (i.e., after deduction of social charges on a 35-hour workweek). For prefecture procedures, the yearly amount is now 16,786.80€ net.

Official communications always use the gross amount (before deductions), which is what employee contracts cite. The hourly SMIC is now 11.65€, the monthly gross is 1,766.92€ and the yearly gross is 21,203.04€.

Reminder: Almost all 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. I am seeing significantly increased scrutiny by the French administration about applicants’ means. Foreigners holding visiteur immigration status should make sure at least 17,000€ annually goes in and out of their French bank account. Note that if the bank is part of the European SEPA network, the administration considers it to be French.

At first, I thought it was just one person picked randomly to prove they had permanent residence in France. Now, nearly a year after the first case, I see a clear pattern, which has become quite concerning. As many readers know, the public health coverage called Assurance Maladie, delivered by the local Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAMs), is available to all legal residents in France regardless of their immigration status. The legality of one’s stay in France is easy to prove: holding a carte de séjour or any of the other French IDs that foreigners get.

But CPAM is now focusing a lot of attention on the other requirement: physically residing in France. First, it claims that it sent a letter asking for information, which none of my clients received. Then comes a much more menacing letter, stating that since they did not reply the first time, the assumption is that they do not live at that address. They are given a very short time to send certain documents, such as rent receipts, utility bills or statements, and tenant insurance. If the person has declared income to the French tax authorities, it is an excellent idea to send the tax documents.

In the worst cases I have seen, CPAM closes the account. It is reasonably easy to submit a new file, which should be done as soon as possible. My clients in this situation have all had the carte vitale, which means they have a French Social Security number, so the new coverage is issued quickly. In the end, the reality is that the coverage is suspended for a short time, as the closing takes a couple of months to go into effect, and if the person reacts swiftly the “new” coverage starts the day the file is submitted.

Nevertheless, the situation is pretty serious. This is a vivid illustration of how important it is to have a valid mailing address in France. I cannot stress this enough. The prefecture has sent regular postal mail and registered mail for decades as a way of catching foreigners who do not keep their French address up to date. CPAM is doing the same thing. It would be most unwise to think one can leave mail in the mailbox for a month or so and have nothing much happen as a result.

Everybody who goes on trips for more than two weeks should make sure their postal mail is collected, either by having someone check the mailbox every day or two, or, for absences of more than a month, by paying for the mail forwarding service from La Poste, which is reliable and cost-effective. People who maintain only a secondary residence in France and therefore do not have a carte de séjour or CPAM coverage do not face this problem; at any rate, in such cases the vast majority of communications are electronic.

There are many reasons people without papers in France choose to work as volunteers with an association. Those without enough paying work to fill up their days can keep themselves busy this way. It is also a practical means of demonstrating their ability and expertise, in the hope that someone will hire them for their skills. Also, one of the requirements for regularization is at least an A1 level in French, and being among French people helps in learning enough French for this basic level. Another requirement is a certain level of integration in French society, so the applicant must show proof of things like friendships, association memberships, voluntary work, and participation in children’s school activities. Being known and appreciated by the leadership of a non-profit can thus help when applying for regularization.

This is why I have always advised foreigners wanting to improve their French and integrate more into French society to find a local non-profit promoting a cause they are fond of and volunteer there. Even the ones who do not have any immigration issues may have a hard time meeting French people and may feel like they are on the outskirts of French society.

Undocumented aliens often ask me how can they find work. I cannot help, as finding people who trust them enough to give them work is a complex process. I advise them to seek assistance from an NGO that helps foreigners and to sign up for the French courses given by local city halls. It can be hard to get them to understand that volunteering is a good idea when they desperately need money just to get basic food and lodging.

The following article gave me the idea to write about this.

I have had many clients obtain nationality in a European country, usually Italy or Ireland, through one of their grandparents. I do not know how the procedures are done, as my professional expertise only covers French law. But such a process can make a world of difference for those who go through it and wish to live in France, as it means they no longer need French immigration status. Anyone holding a passport from another EU country has the right to live legally in France.

A few clients have asked if France offers a similar possibility. It does, but only if the grandparent and the parent remained a French citizen all their life. This means that being married or obtaining US citizenship could have triggered the loss of their French citizenship. Furthermore, French law requires proof that the parent was French at the time of the applicant’s birth.

The court case linked below addresses one aspect of such a situation: the legal concept of désuétude (non-use). In short, if you do not “use” your French nationality for a long time, you can lose it. This applies mostly to people born in the former French colonies during the colonial era. In this 2023 decision, the Cour de Cassation (French Supreme Court) struck down an appeals court decision, ruling that the applicant’s grandmother had lost her French nationality and hence could not pass it on to her son, the applicant’s father. The fact that the son had lived in France for 50 years, which would have negated the principle of désuétude, was found to be irrelevant since he was never French to start with.

Can foreign grandchildren obtain French nationality through their grandparents? This question of nationality and family lineage was clarified by the French Court of Cassation in a landmark decision on May 17th, 2023. In a case that began with a denial of French nationality to Ms. D (name withheld), born in Algeria, the court examined the concept of “ascendants” within the framework of French nationality law.

Ms. D, born on June 17th, 1992, had argued that she was the descendant, by filiation, of a French grandfather. The Paris judicial tribunal initially ruled against Ms. D, citing the application of the legal concept of désuétude as defined in Article 30-3 of the Civil Code. According to this concept, it was determined that she did not have French nationality.When Ms. D appealed this decision, the Paris Court of Appeals took a different stance. After analyzing the evidence provided by Ms. D, it was found that the conditions for désuétude were not met and that Ms. D had indeed proved she was a French citizen.

The case then moved to the Court of Cassation as the public prosecutor raised concerns about the Court of Appeals not having taken into account the paternal grandmother’s situation. The prosecutor argued that the 50-year foreign residence condition was fulfilled by Ms D’s father, not the grandmother.

In a significant decision, the Court of Cassation clarified that the term “ascendants” referred to in Article 30-3 of the Civil Code extends beyond just parents and includes grandparents.

Furthermore, it struck down the Court of Appeals’ decision to consider the residence of Ms. D’s grandmother in France, not solely the fact that her father had lived abroad for 50 years.

With this ruling, the Court of Cassation has, for the first time, explicitly stated that the notion of “ascendants” in Article 30-3 includes grandparents. However, applicants must still provide evidence that the grandparent established their habitual residence in France for the required 50-year period.

The other conditions outlined in Article 30-3 of the Civil Code remain unchanged.

While this is a significant development, applicants must still meet the stringent criteria, including providing evidence of a grandparent’s extended residence in France, to claim French nationality through lineage.

This decision reflects the evolving nature of nationality law and underscores the importance of legal clarity in matters of citizenship and heritage.

A tenant is scheduled to come this April and stay for two months. A few friends and family members stayed in the studio in early 2024. I am hoping that the SHIP studio will be occupied during the Olympics at the normal monthly rate of 1,400€. I was never interested in any kind of last-minute rental during the games.

A long time ago I asked my son, Eric, to sculpt a stele representing a tall ship. I never got it, as he moved out of France about a year ago. But his last Christmas gift to me almost does the trick. Now I need to figure out how to display it.

I now own a parking space in the building just across the street from my office in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. The rent is 100€/month, all charges included. An initial deposit of 100€ is required.

The parking space is in the first basement of a residential building at 58 rue Montreuil. The space is 10 square meters (107.64 square feet). It is the space on the right in the photo accompanying the ad linked to below.

Secure access by beeper. The access gate is somewhat narrow, so suitable for smaller cars, although my Peugeot 2008 (4.16m x 1.74m) fits fine.

Best regards,



I am faced with a very complicated issue now that I want to send out my visa application since I will have my appointment with VFS Global in San Francisco in less than two weeks. The website states that I must provide at least the following:
“A travel document (original + copy) in good condition, issued less than 10 years ago, with at least two blank pages, which is valid for at least three months after the date on which you have planned to leave the Schengen Area, or in the event of a long stay, which is valid for at least three months on the date on which the requested visa expires. However, in the event of a duly proven emergency, this final requirement may be waived.”My passport expires in March 2025. I have asked that the visa start on May 1st, 2024, filling out the form with France Visa. I have asked VFS Global several times after I managed to get through to someone after countless attempts. They all state that I cannot submit an application for a long-term visa until I get a new passport. I read on the French Embassy website that the visa in this situation will last less than one year but it will still be a VLS-TS, which I can renew. I am ready to lose those two months of immigration status as I want to settle in France with my wife and children. Do you believe that VFS Global will enforce that rule? I cannot think of how I could claim this is an emergency so I can get a new passport in such a short period of time.


VFS Global employees are just paper pushers and they attempt to ensure that your file gets to the French consulate in Washington, DC, where the file is seriously reviewed. They should let your file go through the normal system and let the DC consulate make the final decision. It is common to renew one’s passport at the American Embassy while living in France. Your current passport complies with their only requirement: it is less than 10 years old. The fact that you will register your visa once you arrive in France, giving the information in your current passport, and that you will renew your immigration status with a different passport does not create a problem for the French administration. So you have identified what should be the only drawback: you will lose two months of French immigration and it would appear that you have excellent reasons to make this choice.
A message found on the Washington, DC, French consulate website regarding this matter opens a possibility to contact them directly if you face a dead end in dealing with VFS Global.
“For general information regarding visas, please visit the official website DO NOT CALL THE FRENCH EMBASSY OR ANY OF THE FRENCH CONSULATES IN THE US. The visas office in Washington DC does not answer requests with the only exception of proven difficulties. If, and only if, you think you are in such a situation you may send an email to:”
Since you have tried a few times, I assume including by email, you can document those attempts to comply with the guidelines for contacting the Washington consulate by email. There you should get a positive answer allowing you to submit the visa request with your spouse and children so the family can travel together.
In the old days, it was possible to contact the visa office at the consulate after just one failed attempt with VFS Global without having to build a case that you were unable to submit your request. The language used, “proven difficulties,” must be understood the French way: you need to prove that you have been blocked repeatedly and not just have received a negative answer.
In other words, submit what would look like an appeal case to the consulate, and give it its best shot. I truly hope you can have it fixed in time.



I had an easy time getting the visa and the first renewal, as the husband of a French citizen, from the French DC consulate. A few documents with our address in France, the marriage license. That was just about it. It is now the third time I have been denied my request to renew a year later. They are asking for all kinds of stuff we do not have, such as a joint bank account, the French joint income tax document, the secondary health insurance called mutuelle covering all the members of the family, proof the children are registered in school called attestation de scolarité. I never imagined that the renewal would be so difficult when they accepted the original documents a year ago and issued my card. None of us is covered by the public health care system. I work for an American company and we have excellent coverage for everybody, including overseas; we use our American bank accounts and the American credit cards we have. Since we do not earn money in France, we did not see the need to declare to the French tax office, and the children go to a tiny private English-speaking school that has no ties with the French administration. I just want my carte de séjour renewed, I am married to her, we all live in the same house, what is the problem with the prefecture? Is there a way to explain to them that they are wrong in asking me all this? I have the right to run my life the way I want it.


This will not be easy for you to hear, but although you are an American citizen, you are also a French immigrant who must comply with French regulations. You must secure your French immigration status and you absolutely must bend to the prefecture’s demands, as the prefecture will never bend to you in any way. Judging by your description of the situation, you have managed to go wrong at every step.
First, I am going to paste and then translate the provision that defines your immigration status, with the most relevant parts in bold:
Article L313-114° A l’étranger ne vivant pas en état de polygamie, marié avec un ressortissant de nationalité française, à condition que la communauté de vie n’ait pas cessé depuis le mariage, que le conjoint ait conservé la nationalité française et, lorsque le mariage a été célébré à l’étranger, qu’il ait été transcrit préalablement sur les registres de l’état civil français;
Le renouvellement de la carte de séjour délivrée au titre du 4° de l’article L. 313-11 est subordonné au fait que la communauté de vie n’ait pas cessé, sauf si elle résulte du décès du conjoint français. Toutefois, lorsque l’étranger a subi des violences familiales ou conjugales et que la communauté de vie a été rompue, l’autorité administrative ne peut procéder au retrait du titre de séjour de l’étranger et en accorde le renouvellement. En cas de violence commise après l’arrivée en France du conjoint étranger mais avant la première délivrance de la carte de séjour temporaire, le conjoint étranger se voit délivrer, sauf si sa présence constitue une menace pour l’ordre public, une carte de séjour temporaire portant la mention “vie privée et familiale”.
Article L313-114: A foreigner not living in a state of polygamy, married to a French national, on condition that the communal life has not ceased since the marriage, that the spouse has retained French nationality, and, if the marriage was celebrated abroad, that it was previously transcribed into French civil status registers;
Renewal of the residence permit issued under 4° of article L. 313-11 is subject to the fact that the communal life has not ceased unless this is due to the death of the French spouse. However, if the foreign national has been subjected to domestic or spousal violence and the cohabitation relationship has been broken off, the administrative authority may not withdraw the foreign national’s residence permit but may renew it. In the event of violence committed after the foreign spouse’s arrival in France, but before the temporary residence permit was first issued, the foreign spouse will be issued with a temporary residence permit marked “private and family life”, unless his or her presence constitutes a threat to public order.
Now, let us review each of the changes you must make quickly to have a chance of securing your French immigration status:

1. All French citizens living in France must be covered by the French public health care program called Assurance Maladie. It does not matter how good your employer’s plan is, your spouse and children are legally obligated to have Assurance Maladie coverage. The prefecture is checking that your family complies with the law in this matter. It is extremely common to add to this coverage a secondary health insurance policy called a mutuelle – so much so that French employers are legally obliged to provide all employees with such a policy. A family plan includes all the members and it constitutes proof of living together.

2. You must declare your worldwide income to France, as France taxes the household and all of you are legal and fiscal residents of France. The fact that you do not owe French taxes on foreign-earned income does not exonerate you from making this declaration. By the same token, a tax document identifying the number of people in the family proves that you live together.

3. As an immigrant in France, you have a legal obligation to have a French bank account that you use to pay your daily French living expenses. Having no French bank account is illegal for a French immigrant. But unlike what many believe, the prefecture does not require you to open and use a joint bank account to prove financial solidarity between spouses. Submitting the French bank statements of each spouse proves the normal financial solidarity of the couple, especially if only one spouse works.

4. Schooling the children is a legal obligation. No matter how small the school is, no matter whether it is hors contract, it is capable of issuing a statement proving that the children are enrolled there. There is nothing wrong with opting for such a school; personally, I think that since you now live in France it is a good idea to give the children a strong education in the language of the non-French parent so that they grow up bilingual. But, added to everything else you have said, wanting to school the children away from the French system could be frowned on by the French administration.

Your fundamental question is one that I hear all the time from foreigners dealing with the prefecture once it comes time to renew their status and thus face a real review. They do not understand why it was so easy the first time and so difficult to renew. I like to explain it this way:
1 – The first immigration status, whether it is the VLS-TS visa or the first carte de séjour, is issued because the French administration gives you the benefit of the doubt. You have little or no track record in France and therefore it is impossible for you to have the required French documents. When you have just arrived it is impossible for you to have the fiscal documents since the tax declaration is done the following year. Also, it always takes months, or even years, to finalize the CPAM registration. Therefore the prefecture does not really review your situation until such time as you are supposed to have settled and have all your French paperwork in order. Then, however, they expect full compliance with the requirements.
2 – The prefecture review focuses on the immediate past, as indicated above, but also as much as possible on the future. The prefecture likes to have some reassurance that the situation on the day they review your file, which grants your current carte de séjour, will last for the duration of the card they will give you. In other words, there is an unspoken element of you proving the likelihood that your life will continue as it is for another two years (in your case).
I believe that anger, frustration, and impatience motivated your final comments – and I truly feel for you. But I want you to realize what you are saying. Even though the two countries are vastly different, I hope you will understand the comparison I’m trying to make. You witnessed first-hand what your French spouse went through in the American immigrant procedures. Take a second to imagine the consequences if she had said the same things to the ICE police as you said in your question to me. If she had said to the officials handling her immigration file, during the interviews in their office, “What is the problem with these police officers? Is there a way to explain to them that they are wrong asking me all this?” do you think she would have been allowed to leave freely? Do you think she would have continued to be an American immigrant, or would she have been deported? You need to adapt to France the way she adapted to the USA. Just as she managed to remain an American immigrant, you will manage to remain a French immigrant.



I am in the process of applying for French citizenship after having lived in France for over five years. I recently graduated from the American University of Paris and I am living in Paris. One of the items being requested is a Bordereau de situation fiscale datant de moins de 3 mois portant sur les 3 dernières années. Do you know where I can get this document? I have been living and paying taxes in France for the past six years but I never heard of this document before..


In answering your question, I need to explain three principles of naturalization:
1 – You need a perfect record when asking for French nationality
The applicant must be grounded and integrated in all aspects of their life in France, and be able to prove it, to have a chance of obtaining French nationality. To put it in a somewhat joking way: In the USA you pledge allegiance to the country and the flag; in France, you are asked to prove your allegiance to the country. The demand for proof of perfect integration starts with full compliance with French fiscal and social laws. In this respect, one could see it as a test of loyalty to France.
2 – Consequently, you must be up to date with taxes
The file asks for the last three avis d’imposition sur le revenue, which is the income tax bill issued after you declare your taxable income. The declaration part of the fiscal obligation is checked this way. You must also prove you are up to date on the payment of all the taxes owed for the same three years. The document that proves this is the Bordereau de situation fiscale. It lists chronologically all the taxes that were owed and the payments received, both national and local taxes. For you to be in good standing, the end balance in this document must be zero. As a taxpayer, you should have an account on the tax office website. There will be a selection of various statements on the website; choose the bordereau and click on the icon to get a PDF copy.
3 – The naturalization procedure triggers a complete police background check
A lesser-known aspect of naturalization is that the French police do an intensive and extremely detailed investigation of the applicant’s life in France. One of the documents required is proof of no criminal record in all the countries the applicant has lived in for the past ten years. (If the applicant has lived in France for more than ten years, this is not required.) It is the equivalent of having the FBI check you out. Do not lie or omit information in this file; the applicant must be totally transparent on the topics reviewed. The chance of success is a lot better if the file has complete information, including any incidents you may not be proud of. In such a situation, writing a cover letter detailing your life and explaining the incident is much better than having the police find out and give it the worst interpretation possible.


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