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Survival Home in Paris

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Riders on the Storm

May 2021

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm
There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet family will die
Killer on the road, yeah
Girl, ya gotta love your man
Girl, ya gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm

I have already used this title for the November 2016 issue. “Riders on the Storm” is a song by The Doors from their 1971 album L.A. Woman.

I am sure I am not the only one feeling that we are riding a storm. There are many reasons for that. Among them are issues raised by the Covid vaccines and constant changes in the sanitary guidelines. We are being given so much information so rapidly that it can seem that people are contradicting themselves. I am fully aware that the situation is evolving quickly. Pausing a vaccine rollout to check the health implications makes perfect sense and should be very reassuring; I just wish it actually felt that way.

Now some people feel they no longer have to worry and can resume having a more normal life. They are riding the storm with confidence. Things are still rocky here and there, but they are staying on top.

Others still feel like the storm is sweeping them off their feet and they are being carried away, still not controlling much in their life and feeling like they are getting contradictory information that makes it seem the country is doing better and worse at the same time. They get financial assistance but still no job in sight.

It is clear that in the USA things are moving, with both sides of the aisle adopting policies at the federal and state levels. From afar it seems like a race in which each side is hoping to score enough points to secure the lead.

For different reasons, I, too, am dealing with uncertainties, making it difficult to have a smooth work environment, due to the continual, eleventh-hour modifications to my schedule. The prefecture can be quite unpredictable and this is not always for the better. Between last-minute changes by the French government and the uncertainty over what the rules will be next week or next month, it is complicated to plan the next visa request or upcoming change of status, whether for those going to the USA or coming to France. In my experience, even when the rules are very harsh, one can adapt if it is that way for a long time because it is predictable. When the environment starts to change, especially for the better, it often creates a lot of emotional trouble as hope and fear collide inside people.

This is a different kind of storm that is always difficult to deal with. Let us hope that the current changes take us all to a more secure and safer world overall. Right now, being patient may be the hardest thing to do.

For over a year, I have been using my bicycle to travel almost everywhere in Paris and its immediate suburbs. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have seen a steady increase in the number of cyclists, especially those I consider professional people.

Many, like me, get to work by bicycle. There are also food delivery people on duty day and night. A new phenomenon is the cargo bikes that compete with small delivery trucks. They are big in all directions, as much as 153.5 cm (5 feet) high and 200 cm (6.5 feet) long, weighing some 20 kg (44 pounds). With cargo volume of around 570 liters (20 cubic feet), they can carry 60 kg (132 pounds). I remember seeing such vehicles for the first time in Copenhagen, delivering cases of Tuborg beer, in the early 1970s.

Any significant change in Paris leads to animated debate on the part of both public and elected officials. I see major improvements regularly being made to the areas of the streets dedicated to bicycles of all sizes. While Paris for bike riders is not yet comparable to any small city in a Nordic country, I still enjoy the fact that it is increasingly safer to ride. At the same time, so many people are cycling that traffic is catching up with the improvements. At rush hour in some parts of the city, I have seen what I call cyclist traffic jams with 15 or more bicycles stopped at traffic lights. On the Right Bank, what was meant to be an inner-city expressway was opened in December 1967 but has been limited to pedestrians and cyclists since September 2016. Every day I ride up and down the streets flanking the Canal St-Martin, which are closed on Sunday to the regular traffic, and now there are hardly any cars, even during the week.

My appreciation of this trend is in contrast, of course, with the strong opposition of people who drive in Paris, who are disadvantaged by the situation. But the trend is here to stay, so people have to adapt to an environment they may not like. The car has symbolized so much for so long that a world or just a city without cars is unthinkable to many. One change is already visible in the way the car industry advertises new models. When I was young, it was all about power and speed. Then it was about comfort, safety and fuel efficiency. Today, finding the right message is complicated. Should one push electric cars or hybrid models? Can one promote huge SUVs without backlash on social media?

The thoughts that I have when I am cycling are much more mundane: I am aware of the traffic around me, hoping to be on time for my next appointment, and so on. This travel time has become one of reflection, planning my day, thinking about various clients’ cases. Occasionally my thoughts wander here and there.

To explain the recent radical change, I need to describe the previous procedure, how it is different now and what the consequences can be.

There were two procedures, depending on whether the foreigner already lived in France or did not yet have a French immigration status.

For a foreigner living in France
1 – The applicant was responsible for putting together the file asking for the work permit and submitting it to the prefecture. Such files were often considered sensitive, as they gave details of the company ownership and the payroll, amounts of sales tax and social charges paid, and so on.

2 – After the first appointment, the prefecture could sit on the file for anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, even though the regulations assumed that action would be taken right away. That aspect of the procedure was already bad even before the pandemic brought horrendous, disproportionate delays in issuance of the permits, leaving the foreigner incapable of getting things moving. Often the prefecture would say, “The file is not here anymore; check with DIRECCTE,” and DIRECCTE would answer, “We never received the file – the prefecture has it” because the file, being on standby, was technically not with the prefecture anymore.

3 – DIRECCTE (the Direction Régionale des Entreprises, de la Concurrence, de la Consommation, du Travail et de l’Emploi) had two months to answer but there were no consequences if it took longer. Some branches were known to stay more or less on schedule but others were notorious for taking way too long.

For a foreign applicant outside of France
1 – The employer would submit the file to DIRECCTE and the answer would come more reliably.

2 – The file would end up at the French consulate nearest where the prospective employee lived, and the visa would be requested.

Before, there was a DIRECCTE in each département. On April 1st, 2021, they were replaced by DREETS, which stands for Direction Régionale de l’ Économie, de l’Emploi, du Travail et des Solidarités. The new body resulted from a merger of DIRECCTE and the services chargés de la cohésion sociale.

DREETS does not include the office called Main d’Oeuvre Étrangère, which formerly issued the right to work as an employee. As a matter of fact, this department no longer exists! Currently a different office in the French administration is in charge of issuing employee work permits. Now it is only the employer who submits the file through a national website. This change could be excellent news, as the employer is in charge from A to Z. This means there should be a lot less resistance to giving out these documents. Of course, some employers distrust the administration and will never volunteer to give this kind of information to an office in charge of reviewing the situation, as it is too much like an audit.

However, on paper at least, the change fixes two of the issues that most affected prospective foreign employees. True, there is no track record yet on how the new procedure works, especially in regard to the length of the wait for a response. It would be good to know whether the guidelines have changed, as it can be assumed that the employees of DIRECCTE were not transferred to the new division of the French administration.

Here is how it is supposed to go on now:
1 – The employer requests the work permit on a dedicated web page (see below).
2 – An automated email is sent to the employer confirming that the request has been submitted.
3 – If the answer is favorable, the employer and future employee receive the work authorization by email.
4 – The future employee attaches the permit to the long-stay visa application or carte de séjour request.

These are the main pages concerning the procedure.

At the time of publication, all I know is that the French government plans a May 3rd announcement on several changes regarding travel restrictions, following a decision taken at the EU level.

Below is a translation of the beginning of a Le Monde article about the current state of affairs. Covid-19: European Union ready to open its borders to vaccinated American tourists This is a “recommendation” from Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, which has yet to be approved by member states.

Tourists from the United States will be allowed to visit the European Union (EU) in the coming months provided they are vaccinated against Covid-19, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday April 25 in an interview with The New York Times.

Something that happened this month at the prefecture illustrates a change I had not seen coming. Since the prefectures reopened in May 2020, the trend has been to rely heavily on email exchanges and pages on the official website, in Paris and virtually all over France. I have grown used to sending a complete file, or sufficient documents to secure an appointment, as attachments. I also make sure the documents are printed and ready in the file when the meeting starts. The rule has always been that the applicant comes with the complete file.

I have already mentioned that since January of this year, the procedure for British people has been a lot simpler and they get a five-year residency pretty much automatically. The documents sent must prove their identity, address and the date when the residency in France began. As I noted earlier, this can be problematic since many live in both countries.

With one recent client, the appointment came soon after we sent the request by email. I assumed that the client understood that what we sent needed to be in the file the day of the appointment. But the person showed up at the prefecture with only passport and pictures, no file. I became quite anxious, trying to figure out how we could get all the documents we were going to be asked for. Our number was called, and the conversation started with a request for the passport. That was all, for the moment. The prefecture had printed everything and considered it sufficient. The meeting continued with fingerprinting and signing of the form. Then we were asked to provide a document proving residence at the Parisian address in 2020 (i.e., before Brexit took effect). We went back to the waiting room and spent some time finding access to utility accounts. Finally, we got a couple of documents, which were accepted. I honestly admit that I felt unsettled the entire time we were in the prefecture. I still strongly advise my British clients to have the file ready, including proof of presence of about one year. But be aware that you might leave the prefecture with your file unopened.

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 will no doubt benefit her. I do not have the time to monitor this forum and so far, it has been fairly quiet. Sarah is still figuring out how to handle this new task, being quite busy herself. I am sure it will be a great space for exchange, and hope it will pick up in the near future.

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 seeking your advice or counsel on the French visa process, having attended the Nomadic Network events featuring your recommendations about moving to France in the past.I came to Bordeaux on a tourist visa to reunite with my French “life partner” after Covid separated us. We have since applied three times for the Formulaire 1 visa found on to acquire a long-term stay visa. Based on the responses we have received, it appears I do not fall under the currently allowed categories.At this time, I am still employed full-time in the United States and meet the financial requirements to support myself, but I just cannot seem to figure out the perfect combination to stay here.Ultimately, I want to acquire a visa so I can live with my partner and ensure free travel back and forth between the United States and France, as France is now becoming my home country.Do you know of an agency, counselor, or lawyer who could help advise me and my partner on the best course of action? Do you know of other options?


I see several issues that must be addressed differently. Right now you do not have permission to stay in France and the Covid-19 pandemic is the only reason you have not been told to leave ASAP. Since you are romantically involved with a French citizen, you could be interested in obtaining permission to stay on grounds of your private life. It is impossible to obtain a “long-term stay visa” from the prefecture, as it issues only residency cards, the normal procedure for which starts with getting a visa from the consulate via the company VFS Global. Showing proof of working in the USA as an employee, while signing under oath that you will not work in France, could create some serious problems in terms of obtaining a visa. You are much better off showing proof of sufficient savings and getting an affidavit of lodging and support.

The bottom line is that either you organize your stay in France as an undocumented alien, planning to obtain private life immigration status, or you go back to the USA to get a visa. I would like to detail your situation and the solutions.

1 – In the immediate future
You are in France without an immigration document. You will not get a carte de séjour right away, even if you qualify for one. The fact that you qualify for visiteur immigration status does not mean you will get it. The only thing you can get – if you qualify – is an autorisation provisoire de séjour (APS). It requires you to demonstrate that you are “stuck” in France for health reasons, that you fear for your life should you be forced to go back to the USA. Given how recently you arrived in France, it might be possible to convince the prefecture that you need one. Your age and current medical condition are among the elements taken into account.

What is critical is your ability to prove that you cannot go back to the USA, not the fact that you have arrived in France and would like to stay as an immigrant.

Without an APS, your stay in France will be seen as illegal and you will not be able to request immigration status unless you are in a situation that allows régularisation d’un(e) sans-papiers (legalizing an undocumented alien).

2 – What do you do until you can request immigration status?
There are two ways to approach this question:

a) If you plan to marry or form a civil union (PACS), you can stay in France the entire time so you qualify for regularization, either under a PACS plus solid proof of living with your partner for a year, which can start before registration of the PACS, or marriage plus solid proof of living together for six months, exclusively after the wedding. Note that the regularization procedure takes a while but you do not have to go back to the USA to ask for an immigration visa.

b) If you plan to go back to the USA and ask for a visa when the consulate fully resumes its work, note that the visiteur visa may not meet your needs. If you eventually get married or PACSed, you will become a French fiscal resident, so earning at least some of your money in France will make more sense and will give you access to the French social system, including health coverage.

You may have chosen visiteur to make things simple and easy, knowing that it would give you a year to get PACSed or married.

As you can see, the sooner you decide as a couple what is best for you two, the easier it will be to plan the months or years to come.

Note that, from what I can see, undocumented Americans living in France need not fear deportation so that is not something you have to worry about.

3 – What are your choices of immigration status?
a) Vie privée (private life) grants unrestricted right to work and so is seen as the best status to obtain – and, accordingly, the prefecture is very strict concerning the proof of living together. Few documents qualify. You must prepare well in advance to be sure to have the right documents. You will need, at a minimum, one document per month with both your names on it: internet provider bills, all utilities, tenant insurance policy, etc. The prefecture prefers a joint bank account but if you follow my advice you can do without it.

b) Your employment in the USA allows you to earn money while being physically in France. Yes, this is somewhat compatible with visiteur status, but emigrating to France as you have done transforms your life, and sooner or later you may want to change this situation. If it is not your private life that anchors you in France, it can be your work.

In that case, visiteur status could be seen as a way to obtain a legal stay while buying time to decide which choice to make.

One type of carte de séjour, called passeport talent, has 10 subcategories, allowing you to put your professional plans first, knowing there will be a related immigration status.

Now, having said all that, let us review your email. I believe you are referring to the visa waiver program, also called the Schengen program, which allows you to come to France as a tourist (not as an immigrant) and stay for 90 days. You do not have an immigration visa.

The website essentially states what I explained above:
“To request an appointment at the prefecture: form n°1. You entered France legally with a short-stay visa, a long-stay visa bearing the mention “temporary exemption” or without a visa.

“You are exempted from applying for a residency permit for the duration mentioned on your visa or up to 90 days if you are exempted from a visa or hold a residency permit from another European Union country. After this period, you must not remain in France illegally. If you wish to reside in France permanently, you must contact the French consular authorities in your country of origin, or in any other country where you are legally entitled to reside, to apply for a settlement visa.

“Please note that under these conditions, you can only apply for the following residency permits: Spouse of a French national, Parent of a French minor child, Entered before the age of 13, 10 years of presence in France (Algerians and Tunisians only), Family member of a foreigner holding “EC/EU long-term resident” status (the application must be submitted within 90 days of entry into France), Family member of a European national, Victim of domestic violence or trafficking in human beings, Sick foreigner/accompanying a sick foreign minor, Foreigner fulfilling the conditions for acquiring French nationality, Veteran, Born in France, Exceptional admission to a residency.” Please note that what the website calls admission exceptionnelle au séjour corresponds to regularizing an undocumented immigrant and refers almost exclusively to private life situations.

You want your immigration status to come in the form of a long-stay visa, carte de séjour and récépissé, among the more common documents issued by the French administration.


Survival Home in Paris

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