Newsletter Subscribers



Survival Home in Paris

Visit our partners



Looking at Tomorrow

November 2023

“Looking At Tomorrow”

Feel like a child
Be one of them, wild
Anything you want me to do
I will surely do for you
And only you

Looking at tomorrow
No one else shall know you like I do

Have you
My wishes are true
Living for each other
Tryin’ to understand
Each other’ minds
We can learn

Looking at tomorrow
We’ll make a new horizon

I feel the sun
Body’s now all warm
Locked in your arms
Senses floating upwards into dreams
Far away

Looking at tomorrow
How could life be fuller than today?

You are brave
I’ll be your slave
Passion in the body
Building like it never did before

Looking at tomorrow
No one else will ever lead you home

Back to the Roots is a 1971 double album by John Mayall released on Polydor. Recording sessions took place both in California and London where Mayall invited some former members of his band, notably guitarists Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor. “Looking at Tomorrow” is the fourth and last tune on Side B of the album.

My choice of this title is a direct consequence of the latest news from all over. I hear people getting worried about what might happen next. Could it be something worse? What will tomorrow bring us? As an optimist by nature, how should I look at tomorrow? What should I look for? What should I look at to reinforce my optimistic viewpoint?

In the middle of all of this, I still have a desire to share with readers my column’s big anniversary, which gives me hope and allows me to look past tomorrow and the day after, and nurtures my optimism for a better world and a better humanity.

It all began at the Thanksgiving dinner held at the American church in 1993. This summer I started to think about how I would celebrate this anniversary, which is so important to me. I did not have a clear idea of how to celebrate it. Weeks and months passed and I ended up in early October with my back pretty much against the wall, still trying to come up with something. Early in October, the situation in the USA caught my attention. And just when the need to draft the November issue was becoming urgent, war started in the Middle East. All this drastically affected my desire to celebrate anything. This issue is the result. But I would still like to share an early text I worked on, where I started to open up my personal feelings and experiences.

The ten-year anniversary was a big deal to me, so much so that I titled that issue “Ten Years After.” The editor of my column at the time said this was a grammatical error and she wanted to put “Ten Years Later.” The editor was not familiar with the British band Ten Years After. As it happened, we only worked together a short time. That was not the only reason, but it was an eye-opener. I still listen to this band and I believe Alvin Lee was an underrated musician and a lot more than just an excellent guitar player.

This month, as many of you already know, I wanted to celebrate the tenth anniversary of writing this column, which is so dear to me. I would like to begin by explaining its origins and its history through my very own personal immigration experiences and those of my wife, Paula. I hope that, in this way, the column this month may benefit those newly settling in France as much as, if not more than, any or all of my past columns.

The starting of this column and everything that has come from it is extremely significant for me and, I believe, largely explains why I ended up doing the business I am in. After Paula, who is American and whose French is far better than my English, had spent four years in France and had even given birth here, she kept referring to the way French people do things as “completely incomprehensible.” Lots of Americans even say the French way is simply wrong, thereby implying that the normal way is the American way. What triggered the idea of the column was that in my experience, changing countries meant not only learning a new culture and language but also letting go of one’s old system. I realized how important it was to adapt to and accept the new country’s rules, weird though they may seem. This last change does not automatically come with mastering the language or even studying the culture. Rather, it comes more from an acceptance of and willingness to revert to being like a seven-year-old again, for all intents and purposes, learning afresh all the fundamental things needed to function normally in any given society.

Since the age of 16, I have written for pleasure. At first, I wrote in my journal, and then for about four years–during my last years in high school and my initial years in law school–I wrote short stories, poetry, and even a few pieces in English. At the time, I was just in my early twenties and was wanting to follow the most classical rules of French poetry as well as the French literary guidelines. When I moved to the USA and took up residence in the state of Delaware, I was asked by the President of the Delaware Bar if I could write an article in Delaware Lawyer. As I had just moved to the USA, it took a little bit of time and a couple of rounds with the editor before it was of publishable quality. After that, I never questioned my ability to write and be published in English as I had already done so, and when I proposed to create this column to be published in the Paris Free Voice, I knew I could craft good material. I was hoping that Bob Bishop [the editor] would like the kind of “Dear Abby” Q/A format I had in mind. I have always admired the Dear Abby column as it was practical advice with a caring way to answer.After I mentioned this latest anniversary in last month’s issue, a reader wrote me to say: 
“My goodness, 30 years! You too have worked a very long time in France, even though you are French! For most expats, your column has been a godsend. What would we have done without you? You have helped so many and so consistently. Congratulations on this time in your life well spent and appreciated by many.”

Thanks for your appreciation of the work I do in the office as well as the volunteer work I do at the American Church in Paris. In the fall of 1993, at the same time I was thinking of creating this column, I got involved with the Filipino Fellowship of the church. I found out about the immigration status of many of its members, and that was an important reason for my desire to help foreigners living in France. Because of the uncertain status of many Filipino Fellowship members, I taught myself French immigration law and learned the various prefecture procedures in order to help them with their cases. I only started this work professionally in July 1997. The work I do now is a direct development from my initial involvement with that fellowship. It is also one way for me to celebrate this 30th anniversary, being a voice for those who helped me have a career I have enjoyed.

A lot has been written about compatibility between a couple. Sometimes it feels like almost everybody wants to be a professional marriage counselor because so much unsolicited advice is frequently offered.

There are specific dynamics that exist when an immigrant holding a low-paying job, like that of a nanny or a cleaning lady, chooses to marry a French citizen. In addition to the difference in nationality, there is often a significant social class difference. This storyline of a poor girl marrying the prince is found in countless novels, movies, and so on. Much that can be said about this topic has already been expressed.

Many Filipinas feel unsettled when they have an insecure life in France. Even for those who have a legal stay in France, an appointment at the prefecture is terrifying because of the perceived risk of losing their immigration rights. They feel they have no control over their fate at that moment. This fear is real and goes deep. Among those who do not yet have legal status in France, the vast majority live that way for at least five years, and many still wait until they have been in France ten years to get their status regularized. Their daily lives are traumatic as they can be arrested any day, anywhere, and be sent back to the Philippines after a rather swift procedure. The way to avoid this is to build a file proving how long one has lived and worked in France. The Filipino population in the Paris area is quick to train newcomers to keep and organize such documents immediately.

So, to return to the idea of Franco-Filipina couples, it is not necessary to question the sincerity of such people’s feelings for each other to know that understanding each other’s life, and overcoming the gap described above, requires a gigantic effort.

This month I received a statement from a woman who followed the traditional path for many Filipino immigrants. She arrived in Western Europe slightly over 30 years ago, when she was in her early 20s, with a one-month tourist visa. She traveled long hours to reach Paris. In those days, the only way to obtain a legal stay was through a regularization procedure that meant proving ten years of illegal presence in France.

My correspondent is silent about those years, as they bring back bad memories. She vividly remembers the day she went to the prefecture and submitted an enormous file containing almost 300 different documents. Walking out of the interview room, leaving behind not just all those pounds but also the fear accumulated over the years, she felt and was a different woman. She hints that this could have played a role in what happened shortly after that day, when she met the man of her life at a Filipino gathering where one member invited a French colleague.

They eventually married after several years of living together. They have now been together 20 years and have teenaged children. Over the years, they have created a cozy home. She says it looks very much like a typical French home, with few things from the Philippines. The children speak French and English, but no Tagalog. They have occasionally visited her family during summer vacation. They enjoy themselves a great deal and have cousins to play with in English. When asked, they just say they are French.

One theme that comes up regularly is that this woman is no longer part of the Filipino groups she was in during the early years. Being married to a Frenchman and having French children estranged her from those groups.

Here is her experience, in her own words:

“Shortly after arriving in Paris I joined a Catholic church where I met some Filipinos who guided me right away. I also met other members of this church and a few became my employers and gave valuable guidance. Unlike too many sans-papiers, I was immediately put on track for immigration and had good, reliable employers who declared me. With them, I discovered my own worth. So even though I did not have a legal stay I felt confident enough to pick good employers and quickly French parents who were looking for an English-speaking nanny, giving me another reason to strive hard to speak French.

“I fully embrace the French society, as I applied what I’ve learned during my studies in the Philippines and it worked. I was happy to find a place here. Looking back, pretty much the time of arriving in Paris, I felt somewhat immune from getting caught by the French police and being deported back to the Philippines. Being well surrounded and quickly having access to French society made me fit in, appearing integrated, and I lived through those ten years without a single incident.

“Ever since I moved in with the man of my life, as early as our first month, I knew that I could not depend on him financially. This was critical, especially regarding sending money to the Philippines. This has been a constant discussion. He cannot stop me because it is my money and my salary. Furthermore, we earn on the average about the same, which each time stops the conversation on that issue. I do not depend on him. Also, it has come down to what I contribute financially, and taking care of the home and the children exceeds what he brings. It was hard for him to accept this, but it is a fact.

“I am a devoted Christian. I have not had many struggles in this regard since he follows my lead. He is tolerant of my faith. Lately, I am disappointed because our children are not practicing Christians, which pleases him. I truly hope that by backing off right now I give them time to reflect. I admit that I am very Filipina there, I would much prefer that they be practicing Christians.

“Our social life has become very French. I go less and less often to the gatherings of my Filipino friends. On rare occasions, I go without him because he does not speak either English or Tagalog. … It ruins the pleasure of going there when I need to be a constant interpreter. Of course, there is never a problem when we are with his family and his friends. So in the end this explains that.

“I must have done something good, for God has blessed me so much with an understanding spouse who is a real partner as well as loving children. For all the struggles I have gone through in the past 30 years, I strongly believe that it is worth coming to France. I have financed my father’s enormous medical bills, I was able to send my younger siblings to school, and now in France on occasion I help Filipinos who need assistance for their administrative needs. Being truly fluent in French helps one understand and mingle in the French culture and therefore be part of French society. It took me only five years of living in France to have a good level of French. That also was very unusual compared to other Filipina women I was hanging out with.

“Looking forward, what’s up next for me? Starting the naturalization procedure to become a French national! Oddly enough this desire is very recent; I have spent decades totally embedded in French society without having the desire to become French. The explanation could be that I was so busy with everything in my life that I set aside my own needs. Now seeing my children turning 18 in the next few years has created this urgency. I am ready this way for a new chapter of my life.”

She concludes by reiterating that “making the definitive move to come to Europe and then France was worth it. Almost from arrival, I had control of my life. I fulfilled my dreams of having a family and a very enriching professional life.” But she adds, “All this came with a cost: at the end of the day I cannot see my family back home very often, and communicating with my family is difficult.”

This statement illustrates several things, but especially the importance of meeting the right people in the greater community, who can almost immediately provide lodging and work. Many stay in the community, which provides better jobs after one has been here a while and makes it possible to find more stable lodging, even getting a lease all alone. Few of those who cling to the ethnic community seek outside contacts. For others, pursuing such contacts – which is often frowned upon within the group – helps them to become integrated in French society quickly, learn French early on, and build lasting roots.

Those of us helping foreigners in France need to be available for the ones who seek to live a French life, even as we respect the choice of those who have different goals while living in France, whose priority is how much money they can send to their family, rather than personal achievement as an integrated immigrant. For we who see ourselves as helpers, it is tempting to push the latter group toward integration and French fluency. By our standards, there are many reasons it would help their life in France. Our standards are not theirs, however, and we should respect that.

The energy classification for residential properties in France runs from excellent heat and noise insulation (A) to horrible (G). It is like grading in the school system. Since January 1st, 2023, it has been illegal to rent out housing units known as “energy sieves” or “heat sieves” (passoires énergétiques or thermiques), i.e., those rated F or G. The measure applies to new rental contracts signed on or after that date. On paper, this is an excellent policy, as it means improved comfort for tenants and reduces energy use, particularly regarding electricity, gas, and fuel oil. This is good for the planet.

In the last 25 years or so, France has increasingly added requirements to protect people buying real estate and tenants holding a lease. One protection involves requiring disclosure of more and more information about the place. The result is that today a prospective buyer or renter gets a standardized report that is close to what a surveyor would produce. Energy performance testing (diagnostic de performance énergétique or DPE) became mandatory on November 1st, 2006. The process of adding other requirements has been slow. It is driven by energy costs, environmental needs, and a growing concern for people’s comfort.

A major issue overlooked by the government is that, in most major cities, there is not enough lodging available. This has led to some awful scams, which hit the news once they are discovered. Today the minimum size for lodging to be considered suitable for one person is 8 m² (86.1 square feet) with a minimum height of 1.80 m (5.9 feet). Since the new law went into effect, apartments rated F or G in large cities with a lot of old buildings are being taken off the market by decent landlords and real estate agencies. Upgrading the insulation is often impractical or expensive and the apartment can lose a significant amount of living space: In apartments with modern double- or triple-glazed windows, the next step is to add thick thermal insulators to the walls.

Because of this, several people in the government, the parliament, and the real estate industry in France are asking for a pause before implementing the next phase. Here is the schedule by which the law is currently meant to take effect:
January1st, 2023: Rent freeze on F- and G-rated housing
January 1st, 2025: Ban on renting out G-rated housing.
January 1st, 2028: Ban on renting out F-rated housing.
January 1st, 2034: Ban on renting out E-rated housing.

Thus some cities may decide to be lenient when it comes to enforcing this law, possibly with the silent approval of the government. With Paris hosting the Olympic Games in the summer of 2024, it is unrealistic for the city to enforce this law when people will want to rent just about anything at any price. To avoid falling victim to crooks, one should be extremely careful regarding this legislation as it now stands. It can be tempting to want a good deal when buying a Parisian apartment. But between now and the end of 2024, it is likely to be virtually impossible to find a good deal without some nasty strings attached to it.

The office will close for three weeks over the Christmas holidays, starting on Friday, December 15th in the evening and reopening on the morning of Monday, January 8th. 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 am preparing my file to send to CPAM asking to join the French public health care program. I see the lease on their list with no mention of how recent it must be. I just located my original rental lease in my dusty files. It’s dated 01-11-2019; I used it when I asked for my visa at the US embassy in DC (back in 2019). They approved my initial long-stay visa. So, here is my question: Should I include this rental lease dated 01-11-2019 in the packet that I am about to mail to the CPAM Office? It seems reasonable to do so.



This is an excellent question. It underlines the frequent confusion between proving what your home address is the French way and proving how long you have been in France, as well as your rights regarding the place where you live.
1- Proof of address
The first issue is proving where your current domicile is. For this, the documentation must be as recent as possible. Previously, the documentation needed to be less than three months old. Today there is more leniency and it has been expanded to six months. But to avoid confusion and to be on the safe side, I advise people to stick with three months as much as possible. It is easy to get a statement from any utility provider.
2- Proof of length of stay
The second issue follows totally different logic. In some cases, two different sets of proof are needed, such as how long you have lived in France, or lived at your current address, or lived there as a married couple. In these cases, you must provide the oldest documents possible, proving when the stay in question started.
Now, in your situation, CPAM is asking you to prove both things. Proof of your address is needed because each CPAM has a geographic jurisdiction. They also want you to prove who you are in France, legally speaking, and make sure they have your correct address, since CPAM still sends a lot of documents through postal mail.
Proving how long you have lived in France is also a must, as you must have been resident in France for at least three consecutive months to qualify for this service. The only issue CPAM can raise to refuse your request of coverage is either:
1 – You are not a French resident, and your immigration status proves this.
2 – You are not enough of a resident, either because you arrived less than three months ago, i.e., “too soon!” and you need to wait or because you have not spent sufficient time in France year after year. This is where your length of stay in France is important. The older the lease, the better it is for you in that regard.
More generally on the topic of holding an “old lease,” many foreigners complain that they do not have an up-to-date lease or that the one they have expired long ago. But a normal French lease contains a provision using the words “tacite reconduction,” which means being renewed silently for the initial duration of the lease. This such a truism that if a landlord has a tenant sign a vacation rental type of lease several times, the law and courts consider this illegal and grant the tenant the right to live there as a primary residence.




I have been living in this same tiny studio for about 20 years with the same lease and never had a significant problem with the agency renting to me. At 71, my French pension barely covers two times the amount of the rent, and the CAF lodging subsidies cover half the amount of the rent. So I barely survive financially but I never consider moving back to the USA. The landlord just sent me a registered letter giving me a six-month notice to vacate the premises. I do not have the means to move to a similar place considering how low the rent is after all these years. I have some health issues and I do not feel up to charging into the jungle of the Parisian rental market. The paperwork they sent is totally legal, I asked around to check this, including seeking the advice of the ADIL (Agence départementale d’information sur le logement). This is where I learned about the fact that I have the right to stay even though the paperwork is totally legal. I do not understand how this is possible.



It is widely known that tenants in France are favored by the law and by the courts over owners. The most important protection is that owners have only three legal reasons for giving notice to a lawful tenant:
1 – The owner wants to move back into the rented lodging or have an immediate family member, a child or a parent, live there.
2 – The owner wants to sell the property empty, in which case notice must be sent six months before the anniversary of the lease. It must include a lot of information, such as giving the tenant the first right of refusal on the purchase of the property.
3 – The tenant has committed a major breech of the lease.
When you consider that it often takes three years to expel a non-paying tenant, you get an idea how long the procedure can be if the notice is properly served and the tenant stays anyway.
The above applies to everybody, regardless of age. But under the 2014 Alur law, a tenant who is over age 65 on the day the rental lease expires, and has modest resources, is protected by law (the previous age limit was 70). This protection applies to both furnished and unfurnished rentals, as long as the property is the tenant’s principal residence. In addition, the tenant’s resources cannot exceed the ceiling for allocation of the rental housing subsidy. The ceiling is €24,116 per year for a single person in Île-de-France and €20,966 in other regions. If there are several tenants (spouses, PACS partners, etc.), it is sufficient for one of them to meet the legal conditions for the landlord not to be able to give them notice to vacate.
The only way the owner can supersede this protection is by offering the tenant a similar lodging, for a similar amount of rent, in the same vicinity. The provision makes sense on paper, but in reality it is exceedingly rare for someone to own enough of the right kind of properties to make such a swap possible. Furthermore, like you, many tenants have had the same lease for decades. Since the law strictly limits rent increases, their rent can end up being a fraction of the market rate, making it impossible to find anything for the same amount.
Now comes the second aspect of your situation. It is clear that you have this right, but you must exercise it. If you do nothing, since the notice is otherwise legal, it will be carried through. As soon as possible, you need to send a registered letter stating that your right is protected by the special provision for the elderly. This means you need to enclose a birth certificate officially translated into French, proving your age. The letter must also include your French income tax documents, and I would add your CAF statements showing the amount of the subsidy paid to you. In short, it is critical to prove definitively that you meet the two requirements defined in the law: age and income. That should do the job.



Survival Home in Paris

Visit our partners



Newsletter Subscribers