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Magic Man

April 2021

Cold, late night so long ago,
When I was not so strong you know, 
A pretty man came to me. 
I never seen eyes so blue. 
You know, I could not run away it seemed
We’d seen each other in a dream. 
Seemed like he knew me, he looked right through me, yeah. 
“Come on home, girl” he said with a smile. 
“You don’t have to love me yet, let’s get high awhile. 
But try to understand, try to understand
Try, try, try to understand, I’m a magic man.” 
Winter nights we sang in tune, 
Played inside the months of moon
“Never think of never let this spell last forever.” 
Well, summer lover passed to fall, 
Tried to realize it all. 
Mama says she’s worried, growing up in a hurry, 
“Come on home, girl,” Mama cried on the phone. 
“Too soon to lose my baby yet, my girl should be at home.” 
“Try, try, try to understand, he’s a magic man, Mama, ah, 
He’s a magic man.”

“Magic Man” is a song by the American rock band Heart released as a single off their debut album, Dreamboat Annie. Written and composed by Ann and Nancy Wilson, the song is sung from the viewpoint of a young girl who is being seduced by an older man (referred to as a Magic Man), much to the chagrin of her mother, who calls and begs the girl to come home. In an interview, Ann Wilson revealed that the “Magic Man” was her then boyfriend, band manager Michael Fisher, and that part of the song was an autobiographical tale of the beginnings of their relationship.

I saw this band in the summer of 1981 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and I believe I own just about all their albums. As I was going through the biography of the band recently – which in effect means the lives of these two sisters – I realized how autobiographical and intimate the lyrics were.

Nevertheless, the lyrics are timeless, describing a situation that must have occurred time and again ever since the origin of the human race.

The choice of “Magic Man” as a title has nothing to do with romantic love. Rather, I am following with great interest the way former President Trump is still seen as a magic man. The American tradition has been that the former president disappears from the media and starts a new chapter of life as a private citizen. Both Mr. Trump’s decision to stay in political public life and the idolatry I see with many Trump followers are unusual departures from the past. Note this statement made on March 14th 2021 by Dr. Anthony Fauci on the “Fox News Sunday” program. Asked whether vaccination numbers among Republicans would increase were Trump to encourage inoculation, Dr. Fauci said: “I think it would make all the difference in the world. Trump is a such a strongly popular person … it would be very helpful for the effort for that to happen.”

Since the March issue, titled “Lean on Me (Tonight),” I have continued to be interested by the evolution of politics in the USA, France and several other countries: Policies, long-term visions for the country, political stands – in short, what used to fuel the political debate – seem to be declining. Today, way too often, I hear world leaders saying things like, “Trust me, I know what I am doing and I am taking care of you, I am protecting you.”

Considering how low the ratings of politicians and journalists are, it is clear that public trust is at an all-time low. Many believe this is a direct effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although it is true the pandemic has greatly corroded people’s confidence in their representatives and politicians in general, I think the problem has existed for a long time.

People should not believe in a magic man – or magic woman, for that matter. The only exception might be teenaged hearts beating with romantic love for the first time: young people are entitled to live this kind of love at least once in their life. That is why I find Heart’s lyrics so vividly depict that reality.

The issue regarding PUMA and CPAM has never been properly solved. It stems from what was clearly an error in drafting the law. The basic rule is that people insured under PUMA currently pay a premium of 6.5% of worldwide income. But for some reason the law excludes foreign retirement income. The system does not charge anything if the declared income is less than 9,032€.

The very popular visiteur immigration status requires proof of either income or assets equal to at least minimum wage, which is 14,772€. So it would follow logically that all foreigners with visiteur status should pay something toward their health coverage. However, almost all of them are retired people receiving pensions and Social Security as the majority of their income, and those sources of revenue are excluded from the calculation, sometimes with the addition of royalties, rents, trust funds and the like. As a result, the income from earned income rarely exceeds the 9,032€ limit, even though the global income is considerably over this limit. So the system puts them in the same category as indigent people and both groups pay nothing for health coverage.

The prefecture requires proof of payment of the related health coverage premium to be submitted in the file. In normal circumstances this is a totally legitimate request. As I have explained above, if the foreign retirement income were included in the calculation, there would be no problem.

Since PUMA has existed, the Paris prefecture has vacillated between accepting and refusing the Assurance Maladie coverage issued by CPAM. The visiteur immigration status is issued when the applicant complies with the legal requirements, providing proof of sufficient means as described above, plus the address of the primary residence in France and comprehensive health coverage valid in France. When it is impossible to prove that the applicant is paying for such coverage, the request is refused.

That is what is happening at the moment. Concerned applicants then have to purchase a private policy duplicating the coverage they already have. Since most are retired and hence usually over 65, the premiums of such policies are expensive by French standards and few insurance companies issue them. Furthermore, what the prefecture is asking applicants to do is illegal: once a person is covered by Assurance Maladie, French law forbids their being covered by a private policy. It is also illegal to terminate public coverage in order to take out a private policy.

A few times over the years, the prefecture has demanded proof of termination of Assurance Maladie coverage, which impossible unless one moves away from France permanently and therefore loses the French immigration status.

For the time being, there is no good solution; the best thing is to purchase a private policy and make sure it can be cancelled once the carte de séjour is retrieved. In the past, the prefecture’s refusal to grant visiteur status in such cases has seldom lasted for long. Thus, when it is time to renew the card a year later, chances are that the policy have once again been reversed. I saw this latest change occurring in September 2020. I have no idea what triggered it.

Both common sense and a communication from the prefecture held that it was better to request French immigration status before the end of 2020, when the UK was still in the European Union, than in 2021. Last year after the prefecture reopened, I accompanied British citizens and helped them submit files showing whether they had been in France for more than five years or less. This was sometimes difficult to establish, as many people went back and forth, never really securing the status of France as their primary residence.

Since January 2021, the procedure has radically changed. The prefecture asks for the usual identification, proof of address and proof of means. There is no longer any question of proving seniority in France. Before, the issue was whether the carte de séjour would be valid for one or five years, but today everybody gets a minimum of five years. Furthermore, the carte de séjour is issued free of charge, as if the British citizens were still in the EU. That being the case, the card is sent in the mail by registered letter.

What surprises me the most is how easy the procedure has become. One reason is that now, to get an appointment at the Paris prefecture, the applicant sends the basic documents by email, so when the appointment is given, the documents are put in the file the prefecture prepares. Still, there is often a need for an update, so it is critical to bring all the documents requested just in case. I have no idea what will happen on July 1st 2021 when the current six-month transition period is over.

Regarding the more mundane topic of income tax, I would like to remind everybody that paper versions of the 2020 income declaration must be filed in France by 20th 2021midnight. The declaration forms are available at on April 8th. That is also the day you can start filing your declaration on the same website. To do so, you need your tax ID number (numéro fiscal) and some access codes.

First-time income declarations to the French tax office should be prepared using the paper form, and the “first time” box on the CERFA #2042 form where it says Vous déposez une déclaration pour la première fois cochez” must be checked. It is possible to obtain the needed information from the tax office to declare for the first time electronically, but I tend to advise against this, because it is a lot easier to see and hence understand how the system works if the filer is looking at paper documents.

Note that if you file online, the deadline is later. The schedule depends on your postal code:

  • départements 01 to 19 must file by midnight on May 26th.
  • départements 20 to 49 by J by June 1st.
  • départements 50 or higher by June 8th.

An important reminder: If you are a French fiscal resident (i.e. if you hold acarte de séjour or an immigration visa validated with an OFII stamp, and comply with the requirements), you must declare your worldwide income to the French authorities even if you have no income in France and do not have the right to work in France. There is no penalty for neglecting to file, but not meeting this obligation is illegal and can have consequences.

You are a French fiscal resident if you: 

  • stay in France 183 days in a calendar year, whether you have legal immigration status or not
  • have immediate family members (spouse and/or minor children) living in France
  • have a French employer
  • run a French business, even something like tutoring schoolchildren in English.

Reminder: if you are self-employed in France, the quarterly declarations sent to URSSAF do not constitute income tax declarations, which must be sent to the tax office. Many foreigners are convinced that the quarterly declarations are their only fiscal obligation.

Now that income tax is deducted at the source, the amount owed is often low, sometimes even zero. But a problem may arise because the prefecture wants to see the income tax bill from the tax office, the avis d’imposition sur le revenu, before issuing almost any immigration status.

Unfortunately, the tax office is slow to send the avis, mainly because :
1 – The page dedicated to the declaration on the website is not open all year long, so very late declarations must be done on paper, slowing down the process.
2 – Once tax season has ended, if no tax is owed, there is no incentive to prepare the avis quickly.

Until recently the answer to this question had a very easy answer. A French bank corporation was registered in France with headquarters in France; was a member of the Association des Banques de France; had physical locations where clients could go; had an International Bank Account Number (IBAN) starting with FR; and so on. Then two things happened.

The first was that all EU countries became members of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) on February 1st 2016.

Wikipedia: The aim of SEPA is to improve the efficiency of cross-border payments and turn the previously fragmented national markets for euro payments into a single domestic one. SEPA enables customers to make cashless euro payments to any account located anywhere in the area, using a single bank account and a single set of payment instruments. People who have a bank account in a eurozone country can use it to receive salaries and make payments all over the eurozone, for example when they take a job in a new country.

In other words, there is now a European banking system using the same currency, the euro, which allows transactions, mainly automatic payments and wires, to occur throughout the system automatically, without banking fees. This involved French utilities in 2016, asking clients to sign new SEPA-compatible forms to enable automatic payments to continue.

Internet banking
The first online bank, the Dutch bank ING Direct, was established in France in 2000. Over the years, more and more online banks have opened. Some are subsidiaries of traditional banks, but not all. They give French residents access to full online banking services from non-French banks. They are all in the private sector, with healthy competition regarding service quality and costs.

The IBAN of an account is linked to where the banking corporation is registered. It starts with the country code – FR for France, DE for Germany, and so on. The French administration was not ready for that, and it has created a serious problem whenever the administration needs to make a payment to the bank account of an individual living in France. Their system is so antiquated that it blocks all payments to any accounts that do not have IBANs starting with FR.

With online accounts having become so popular, the consequences are catastrophic, especially for those unfortunates who are dependent on their regular payments from the Caisse d’Allocation Familiales. The administration is doing its best to fix this situation but is having trouble because the requirement of French residency prevails. With all European countries in the SEPA system, an IBAN not starting with FR is seen as an indication that the account holder lives in a different country, even if the entire file shows French residency and a French physical presence. Unlocking the system after verification could be possible.

The position of the prefecture
By definition, the prefecture is concerned about where an applicant lives. As everybody knows, virtually the first document asked for is proof of address dated less than three months back. So the issue of non-French online banks is again a problem. For many types of immigration status, applicants have to show bank statements. For visiteur status, for instance, the applicant must prove that he/she spends at least the amount of minimum wage in France, and this sum has to be deposited in the French account from a foreign source. A similar requirement holds for all types of immigration status based on self-employed activity registered in France. Payments received must match amounts invoiced, and the prefecture asks for the transactions to be highlighted on a copy of the statement, submitted in the file, to make them easier to identify. For a profession libérale status the applicant must show a minimum of 23,000€ in annual billing, of which 65% is taxable: 23,000 x 0.65 = 14,950€. (The minimum wage is 14,772€, so 23,000€ is an easy target to keep in mind.)

All this is easy to demonstrate as long as it is shown in a French bank account, which brings us back to the same problem. I have never asked the Paris prefecture which banks are accepted and which are not, although I recently found out that TransferWise, now called Wise is not considered a French bank for theprofession libérale immigration status. The current rules significantly narrow the choice of banks for opening a professional account since it will be scrutinized by the prefecture. Sooner or later I will have to ask the prefecture for a list of acceptable internet banks, given the problems this issue causes!

I wish the available information on lockdown and international travel would remain valid long enough for me to give my readers reliable advice. We are living through challenging times, and almost all Western countries are prone to rapidly changing their policies order to better fight the Covid-19 pandemic. On March 18th, the French government announced a strict lockdown, with complex rules on what activities gave inhabitants the right to be outside. This policy was pretty much abandoned on March 20th, the day after it went into effect. The restrictions no longer constitute a lockdown, since there is no limitation on travel within a radius of 10 km (6.2 miles). The government announcement on March 18th envisioned these restrictions stopping on April 20th if the infection rate was under control by then. But in the current situation, reaching that goal seems unlikely in the Paris region and several other areas.

International travel has also been severely affected. The official governmental position is that the borders are sealed unless you can show exceptional and truly compelling reasons to leave or enter. But I know of large numbers of non-French people who have been leaving or returning to France, none of whom had problems at the airport, so I question how well this policy is enforced. I am aware of just one case, in which a 20-year-old Tunisian national and Italian legal resident, coming to France to visit his father for spring break, was denied entry. The reason was that he had no proof of means, i.e., he was traveling with hardly any money. He did not have valid proof of the address where he planned to stay and could not prove that it was his father’s residence. In short, it had nothing to with to do with the restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Under normal circumstances, any EU resident (which he was) has an automatic, undisputed right to travel to another EU country. Travel within the Schengen zone is supposed to be equivalent to domestic travel.

So, please take the following information with a grain of salt:

Guidelines issued on March 12th:
1 – It will no longer be necessary to have a compelling reason to travel to or from Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea or the United Kingdom.

For travel to and from those countries, other restrictions on movement remain in force: among other things, it is still necessary to present a negative PCR test result done less than 72 hours before departure.

2 – The list of compelling personal reasons has been extended to include all family relationships and add new situations linked to family separation for:

  • married couples and couples in civil partnerships (PACS), where one member lives abroad for professional reasons.
  • minors attending school in France whose family home is abroad.
  • separated couples with children where adult lives in France and the other abroad.
  • students taking competitive examinations and those returning to their main residence in France.

Templates for exceptional international travel declarations will be updated at

Over the holidays, my assistant, Sarah, took an interesting initiative and created a new Facebook page. It is a good move for her, since she and I both moderate it. She can show off her expertise and her ability to give good advice and clearly explain solutions. She does this in French, leaving the queries in English to me.

Since I am already active in a few Facebook groups and my website is my main showcase, I did not feel I needed such a page. On the other hand, it should no doubt benefit her sooner than later.

You are welcome to join:

The office will be closed for a month and a half, starting Friday, July 9th, and reopening on Monday, August 23rd. As always, I will be reachable by email for emergencies and important matters. My service of receiving mail for clients will continue while the office is closed.

Best regards,



I am an American and I have always intended to get some kind of long-term permission to stay/reside in France. Sadly, I procrastinated… and I am now kicking myself.

I want to apply for a carte de séjour. Have you heard anything about the border opening to allow Americans to travel to France in the near future? Pre-Covid, I traveled to France 3-4 times a year to stay in my Parisian apartment, but since I never overstayed the 90-day limit visitor, I didn’t concern myself with getting a visa.

If it seems that France is ready to open her borders to Americans, I might take a chance and book a ticket soon, knowing I might have to cancel it. Or should I wait until you feel it is time to go over everything I need to do to prepare for my arrival? For example, friends have told me in the past that they had to register as much as six months in advance for their in-person appointment to apply for the carte de séjour. I would like to secure an appointment by August or September at the prefecture after my arrival on the ground in Paris.

Would it be worth trying to get an appointment before I travel? Or would I be able to make an appointment only after I arrive in Paris?

Also, I would like to know what the difference is between a long-term visitor visa and a carte de séjour. And what is the difference between a carte de séjour visiteur and a carte de séjour residence? These are the questions that are causing me to hesitate.

1. Do any of these residency or visitor status change the holder’s right to travel into and out of France?

2. Fiscal residence – does the carte de séjour residence make one an automatic fiscal resident? And for the visiteur

3. Is the carte de sejour visiteur a prerequisite to applying later for the normal carte de sejour residence?

4. Applying for visiteur: is it likely that France would open to tourists before the consulate started accepting applications for the visiteur visa? Or would it be automatic that they would occur at the same time? If the consulate is not accepting visa applications, and France opens its borders to US citizens (I am now 65 and fully vaccinated) would I then just travel on my US passport and hope that I can apply for the visiteur status when I am on site in France?


I need to review some fundamental aspects of French immigration law. But first I must stress that right now that no visiteur visas are being issued. I constantly get asked when the French consulates will resume full service, but I do not know and have learned to stop making projections.

1 – The law and procedure
There are three levels of residency status in France, either by nationality (French and EU nationals) or as an immigrant holding acarte de résident, or carte de séjour. carte de résident, but there are six types of carte de séjour.

  • Visiteur
  • Étudiant
  • Salarié
  • Vie privée & familiale
  • Commerçant & artisan
  • Passeport talent

Each of the six has subcategories, which we do not need to deal with.

All six categories involve first getting a long-stay (immigration) visa bearing one of the names mentioned above.

What you call “carte de séjour residence” does not exist. No carte de séjour bears that name. Some rights of French residency, however, are conveyed by some of the carte de séjour types named above.

Henceforth I will only talk about the carte de séjour visiteur, which is the one mostly likely to be of interest to you.

You will be starting from scratch, which means going through all of the following steps.
1 – Prepare a file to submit to VFS Global, the company to which several countries subcontract the initial review of requests for visas.

2 – Go online and fill out the two forms, one for VFS and the other for the French consulate. This will get you an appointment with the VFS branch nearest you in about one month, or even sooner depending on the season. (The vast majority of visas are for students and are issued in August and September.)

3 – At the appointment you submit the original of your passport, your file and proof of payment of a non-refundable fee.

4 – All this goes to the French consulate in Washington, DC, for review. In normal circumstances, you would get your passport about a week later with the immigration “D” visa, marked VISITEUR and noting that you need to register upon arriving in France. This visa, called VLS-TS (Visa de Long Séjour valant Titre de Séjour), is valid for one year.

5 – Soon after your arrival in France, go online and give the requested information to the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII) to validate the visa and get a physical appointment to make sure you are in good health.

6 – OFII normally gives two responses: first it approves your registration, acknowledges payment and issues an identification number; later you get a medical appointment in an OFII facility, after which you go to the office another day to pick up your personal documentation.

7 – Two to three months before the visa expiration date, contact the prefecture to secure an appointment to renew your immigration status and ask for a carte de séjour visiteur.

I always go back to this issue: moving to a new continent is no joke. It requires extensive preparation, which can take months or, more often, years.

8 – At this meeting, your request is approved and you get a récépissé (a temporary ID) that is valid until the plastic card is ready.

9 – After buying a fiscal stamp, go to the prefecture one more time to pick the plastic carte de séjour card.

Visiteur status can serve as entry-level immigration status. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the tourist status you are used to. So far you have been traveling with only your passport, taking advantage of the Schengen visa waiver program that allows you to stay within the Schengen area up to 90 out of every 183 days.

Although I will not detail the entire procedure, it is possible to register with a caisse primaire d’assurance maladie (CPAM), which enables you to be covered by the French health care program called PUMA as part of the services that Assurance Maladie (the French health care system) provides.

2 – The consulate is partly closed
Right now the very popular visiteur immigration status for people with your profile is not being issued, so you need to wait. There is no indication that this service will resume anytime soon. Both countries have made significant progress in the fight against Covid-19. Once the pandemic is under control, I am pretty sure the facilities will be reopened.

Keep in mind that once you gain immigration rights for France, you will have the right to come in even when the borders are closed. It is only at times like now, when the borders are under very tight control, that it is truly difficult to travel in and out. Given the number of people traveling in and out of France, it is clear that travel prohibitions are not really being enforced, at least for North Americans.

To sum up, I understand and respect your frustration and your regret at not having gone through the procedure long before the pandemic. Now, sadly, your choice is simple. You could try to create conditions allowing you to get a visa that is available now. For instance, how much time, money and energy would it take to comply with the requirements of a passeport talent subcategory? This would mean, for example, submitting a convincing plan to create a business in France. But your objective is not really compatible with this type of visa.

Or you could be patient and wait until the French consulate again offers all types of long-stay visa. I know how unpopular it is to propose “wait” as a solution. While normally there are ways to sneak in, betting on the lenient treatment North Americans tend to get, we are living unusual times. So all people who manage to enter France as foreigners now hold an immigration title and should travel with significant proof of both a strong anchorage in France – ideally French income tax documents and other tax documents for the France side – and documentation of the seriousness of their situation in the USA, meeting the definition of “exceptional hardship”.

Try to consider this waiting period as an opportunity to prepare the file for the French consulate requesting the visa, so you will be ready as soon as it is possible to submit it.


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