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QUE MARIANNE ÉTAIT JOLIE- How beautiful Marianne was

December 2014

In 1972, the French singer-songwriter Michel Delpech wrote and performed the song « Que Marianne était jolie » (How beautiful Marianne was), imagining the female symbol of France as a woman appearing during the French Revolution and an allegory of what should France look like. As Wikipedia tells us, Marianne is a national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason, and a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty. Marianne is displayed in many places in France and holds a place of honor in town halls and law courts. She symbolizes the Triumph of the Republic, a bronze sculpture overlooking the Place de la Nation in Paris. Her profile stands out on the official government logo of the country, is engraved on French euro coins and appears on French postage stamps; it also was featured on the former franc currency. Marianne is one of the most prominent symbols of the French Republic, and is officially used on most government documents. Marianne is a significant republican symbol, as opposed to monarchy, and an icon of freedom and democracy against all forms of dictatorship. Other national symbols of France include the tricolor flag, the national motto Liberté, égalité, Fraternité, the national anthem La Marseillaise, as well as the coat of arms and the official Great Seal of France.

I would like to wish you all
I am looking forward to the year to come, 2015.

It is well known that when a foreigner requests French nationality, he or she must prove complete integration and therefore demonstrate an excellent level of French and a good knowledge of what is happening or has happened in France. But that is not the only case where such knowledge is required. The other, which is almost as well known, is when requesting the carte de résident, which lasts for ten years. Since the issuance of the circulaire de régularisation des sans-papiers by Manuel Valls, at that time the Minister of Interior, on November 28th 2012, some fluency in French has been required to obtain this status, and it is measured according to the length of time lived in France. Recently in the waiting room at the Nanterre prefecture, I witnessed French helpers acting like teachers, quizzing applicants on the names of the members of the current French government, the French motto, the names of the various symbols of the French republic, and so on. It felt more like waiting for an oral exam in high school than an administrative procedure. I can testify that the civil servants are not really testing a level of French conversation but knowledge of French politics in the large meaning of the word. My advice to applicants: read a newspaper every day and start having those conversations about politics that French people love so much!

FYI, the questions and their answers:
The motto of France: Liberté, égalité, fraternité
The Minister of Interior’s name: Mr. Cazeneuve
The name of the female symbol of France: Marianne

April 2011
A reader sent me a very long message reporting on what has been happening in many language schools now that self-employed status has been made much simpler. To make the long story shorter, I have boiled down and paraphrased much of my reader’s report.

-I have seen all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff going on in relation to business English or ELT [English language teaching] and the status of « self-employed » [auto-entrepreneur]. Maybe some of your readers will not be surprised to hear that URSSAF at the national level has heeded certain calls, since it is now enforcing new, tougher guidelines and has introduced a stronger requirement (tougher obligation on reporting, etc.). So regarding the point you make in your March column, about determining who is really self-employed, I agree that there is a lot to be said on this matter. For my two cents, I will describe what I have seen (of course, I am only one person so it is difficult to draw any valid generalizations). But it looks obvious to me that it is going to become a free-for-all. Here are some of my observations.

-The March issue of your column states: « What happens to some of my clients is that someone, most often an URSSAF inspector, audits the individual and the company to find out if the relationship is truly an equal one and therefore the self-employed status is valid, or if the autoentrepreneur is actually a subordinate and therefore should be an employee. »

-Actually, I have worked as an employee (2007/2008) in a training center. What could be considered the lines of subordination were relatively easy to identify, i.e., a formal contract, guaranteeing a number of hours, with a convention collective underlining the contract, a manager (pedagogical), a totally NON-transparent system for allocating the clients or determining which teacher went with whom, etc.

-And then you have a situation today which is more akin to what you and I would consider to be « free market » goings on:
-I have received emails from training centers with numéro de formateur or registered by the DRTEFP [direction régionale du travail, de l’emploi et de la formation professionnelle regional department of labor, jobs and continuing education] that have acted under what I would consider false pretenses. In other words, send a résumé (but really this is just camouflage for putting you automatically on their external list and mailing me), with no consent on my part, and that constitutes an offer. This goes as far as saying nous prêtons les supports

-Usually on the « independent » job boards you begin to see the same pattern and the same « usual suspects » who will never give an indication of what the « hourly price » is for the « course » and of course there is never any indication of what line of subordination exists.

-Another laissez-faire attitude is that NO one compels an individual, whether self-employed or not, to respond to any of these adverts. What can one say about all this? The person who runs this site is VERY EXPLICIT about what he wishes to achieve on the site and that the individuals who register or « announce » MUST not do it under a corporate status, etc.

-So, there is everything and anything out there. Quite how an URSSAF inspector is expected to keep a watchful eye on all of this is completely beyond me, since you would need a planning/coordination apparatus that would dwarf anything that was put in place by the USSR!

More recently, here is what another reader sent me:
-I read your November newsletter with great interest and I think I know where you might have gotten your inspiration for this month’s topic! I wanted to share with you the website where I originally got the idea that I could teach English as an auto-entrepreneur while in France on a student visa.

-Here is a extract from this website: You can work as a freelancer as well as be on a contract in France. Nowadays some language schools prefer their teachers to be registered as freelancers « auto-entrepreneurs » in French. We show you how to set up as a freelance English teacher, get plenty of freelance work and do well at interviews. Think about getting a website and business cards done (both can be virtually free these days).

– “Remember”  if you are American or do not have an EU passport, you will need an official « student » visa to be able to teach in France legally. Once you have one you can teach here for up to a year and are treated just like a EU citizen. To get this visa you need to follow a French course at an official organization. We can help you arrange your French course in Toulouse with our friends the Alliance Francaise just mention this on your application form or contact them and ask for M All this should be done several months in advance while you are still in your home country.

-After my meeting with you this week, I realize how misleading their website is and that the important phrase I overlooked was you can teach for up to one year. There is no mention on their website on how to renew or extend your student visa!

Not all such sites give bad information. One an agency placing teachers has this to say regarding visas on its website:
For non-European candidates, a visa allowing you to work in France is needed. We are not sponsoring Working Visas The jobs we have being only part time positions, unfortunately, it is impossible for us to sponsor your requests to obtain a working visa.
Which types of visa allow me to work with Speaking-agency? Several types of visa allow you to work with us. Here is a list of the main ones:
– student visa
– working holiday visa
– vie privée et familiale visa
– resident card

I would have preferred a more accurate description but considering the overall situation, I am very happy to read this.

The office will close for a week for Christmas starting on Friday, December 19th, and reopen on Monday, December 29th. 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.

Best regards,


Indeed, residency for EU citizens is very different. Any EU citizen can move to another EU country without an immigration document, and can stay there and work without any documentation other than a passport. It is analogous to moving from one American state or Canadian province to another. This family had non-EU citizenship and therefore, yes, they needed to wait longer to request this immigration status.
Your status of being PACSed to a French citizen is one of many situations that allow the issuance of the carte de séjour mention vie privée et familiale. The provisions in French law that define such situations are the articles from L. 313-11-1° to L. 313-11-11°. The most interesting one in my view is L. 313-11-7°, which is very vague and covers many situations. The idea is to cover situations that are outside clearly defined conditions by the other articles. In short, an undocumented alien whose situation does not match any condition defined in the law can still obtain a carte de séjour because the right to a private, often romantic life in France is more important than applying the other provisions of the law. The evaluation is based on a mix of time spent in France and the existence of a strong, often romantic relationship. The stronger the relationship and the stronger the partner’s anchorage in France, the shorter the time necessary to obtain the status is. This is why establishing a PACS with a partner who is French or an EU citizen, and living together in France for one year, grants the right to a carte de séjour mention vie privée et familiale. The idea is that the PACS is very close to marriage and therefore the tie is very strong so the waiting time is very short. At the other extreme, it takes ten years for a single person with no romantic relationship to create a similar strong tie.

In the case of the family mentioned in the November issue, none of the family members are French or EU citizens and therefore they must stay in France together at least five years even though the couple is married.

You raise another issue when you assume that a child born in France is automatically French, similar to what would happen to a child born in the USA. But most countries I know about do not grant immediate citizenship to a child born there. As far as I know, American law in this respect is truly an oddity. A child born in France to two foreign parents can claim French nationality first at age 13 and only if he/she is still living in France, then also at age 18. The immigration status of the parents at the time of birth makes no difference in this situation. While article L. 313-11-6° states that the parent of a French minor is entitled immediately to the carte de séjour mention vie privée et familiale, waiting for the child to turn 13 is clearly not the fastest way to obtain the card; waiting five years is much faster.



We know that under the previous French administration, the conservatives did all they could to tighten up on immigration and to make it more difficult to get French citizenship, including adding things like a written French literacy test even though I believe it was illegal to do so. Have things loosened up under the current administration, and is it a little less difficult to get French citizenship?
I am in the middle of my second ten-year residency card in France and thinking about finally applying for citizenship. Will the length of time I have lived as a resident speak in my favor in this process? What about financial status? I know that you have to provide proof that your taxes are paid up, but do the authorities do anything like running a credit check to see what your financial status is before granting citizenship? Are they less likely to grant citizenship if your income has not been very high? If you are nearing retirement age, when do you become eligible for a French pension?


I would never believe what the French government states about political orientation regarding immigration status in France. My experience is that unless there is a law that is passed, or the equivalent, everything else is but vague promise.
Even though the written test of French knowledge is no longer required, I would not automatically call this « things loosening up, » as there are so many other issues that the administration can use to accept or refuse an application.

I always say that the most important requirements are:

  • être assimilé(e) à la société française, notamment avoir une pratique suffisante de la langue française, qui sera appréciée lors de l’entretien en préfecture and être de bonne vie et moeurs, c’est-à-dire ne pas avoir subi certaines condamnations.

This is an extreme case of understatement on the part of the French administration. A casual reading gives the impression that these are easy requirements to meet when they are really quite strict. They must be understood in the type of « old French, » so to speak, in which they are written.

So, être assimilé(e) à la société française is too often seen as meaning « fitting in » with the French masses, but the way it is understood by the administration is that the applicant is more French than the average French citizen. And while une pratique suffisante can be seen as meaning enough to get by, in reality it literally means -a sufficient practice, i.e., knowledge, which leaves the actual requirement totally open and impossible to measure.

Put the two together and the upshot is that candidate is expected to know almost as much as someone who has gone to French school since first grade and who as an adult reads the newspaper daily!

As for être de bonne vie et moeurs, this is no longer much of an issue, since it is easier now to have a different lifestyle than the average one or what is considered proper.

I am just trying to show that, written test or not, there are still plenty of ways for the government to make the procedure easier or harder just by indicating to the administration how these requirements should be interpreted. The list the préfecture has issued mentions that the applicant needs to show either a DELF diploma (diplôme d’études de français langue étrangère) or something equivalent, or proof of having tested at the B1 level in French no more than two years before at a licensed school (constatant le niveau B1 validant la réussite à l’un des tests délivrés par un organisme certificateur). I would remind my readers that this level of French is already required to obtain a carte de résident, which shows that the requirement is not specific to French naturalization and therefore, objectively, the expectation is not as strict as it once was.

Still, the guidelines are issued by whoever is minister at the time, and they are supposed to be pretty much the same everywhere in France, but the evaluation of everything is subjective which is an issue that the written test was intended to get around.

Nevertheless, the statistics show clearly that approvals of requests for naturalization have doubled, so there is no doubt it is now easier than it used to be.

As for whether the length of time you have lived as a resident speaks in your favor in this process, the answer is no: what is measured is not really correlated with time spent in France. But in practice, the longer the stay, the more favorable the initial impression is. Still, the applicant is expected to have reached a given level after a long time in France. I hear this comment quite often: After having lived in France for so long, you should know that. So it is a double-edged sword and can end up working to your detriment.

You ask: What about financial status? I know that you have to provide proof that your taxes are paid up, but do the authorities do anything like running a credit check to see what your financial status is before granting citizenship? No; there are no credit checks in France such as, for example, those which are run in the USA, and the few French banks that tried to establish something like this ended up in criminal courts. Yes, France is quite different! But one should always remember that there is an in-depth investigation of the applicant by the French equivalent of the FBI, so all the details of the applicant’s life are known. Therefore, someone who is often overdrawn at the bank or has a lot of ongoing loans has a harder time obtaining French nationality.

You also asked: « Are they less likely to grant citizenship if your income has not been very high? » As long as your revenue exceeds the minimum wage, it is not a handicap as long as you can live within your means.

Your question about nearing the age when you would be eligible for a French pension hints that you think that if you start getting money from the French social system it will be held against you. Interestingly enough the préfecture comes to the exact opposite conclusion, not just for retirement but also for unemployment benefits, lodging or family subsidies paid by the Caisses d’Allocations Familiales. But the true French welfare programs deny you the right to secure immigration status or, of course, to obtain French nationality.

That is why this question could be seen as demonstrating that you have not yet mastered French logic, i.e., the French way to approach these issues. It makes me wonder if you are ready to submit a successful request. You should have no problem putting together the needed documentation, which consists of things that are considered reasonably easy, though it takes time and a lot of energy. But I can imagine you during the meeting answering questions and trying to explain things from this point of view. That would be mind-boggling for the civil servant, who would get the impression that nothing you say is clear, and would probably put a negative evaluation in your file.


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