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Survival Home in Paris

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May 2024


The Trial (German: Der Process) is a novel written by Franz Kafka in 1914 and 1915 and published posthumously on 26 April 1925. One of his best-known works, it tells the story of Josef K., a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor to the reader.

In my teens, I read several books by Kafka. I like his ability to describe his main characters’ feeling of helplessness, caught in something unstoppable and nonsensical to which there is no way to adjust. That is what makes his stories scary. Unlike in The Trial, the norm is to live in a normal society governed by the rule of law. The procedures, the timing, the people involved, and their respective rights and obligations are clearly defined and known. There is a sense of security about knowing these things, about being able to anticipate the next step. The scary part as described in The Trial is that the crime is not known, and the people in charge of the trial are not known. The story describes a completely arbitrary procedure where the private individual has absolutely no rights. This is what happens under the rule of a dictator.

The world appears to be focusing on a trial occurring now in a tiny Lower Manhattan courtroom. I have listened to the commentators, the parties, and their lawyers with great interest. The defendant’s description of what he thinks is happening sometimes could vaguely resemble the plot of The Trial.

I am used to court proceedings where the defendants and their lawyers dispute every element the prosecution presents in the best way possible, with facts, proof, explanations, and so on.

There is a street in the 5th arrondissement called the Rue du Chat-qui-pêche (“the fishing cat”). It is one of the smallest streets in Paris, being 1.8 meter (6 feet) wide and 29 meters (95 feet) long. Built in 1540, it survived Baron Haussmann’s 19th-century demolition rampage. It is not the oldest street in Paris (a title variously claimed by Rue Saint-Jacques, Rue Mouffetard and Rue Saint-Rustique in Montmartre). Today, Fishing Cat Street is fully pedestrian.

With Paris hosting the Olympic Games, a lot of new infrastructure has been built, both within the city and outside it. In addition, work is being done to reduce the street lanes dedicated to cars and trucks in favor of public transport vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and so on. As a result, today 11.2% of Parisians use bicycles, and only 4.3% cars and trucks.

I always send revised information on the tax schedule, as the dates change every year, but this time I should have sent it earlier. Sorry. I hope this information is still soon enough for everyone.The paper version of the 2023 income declaration must be filed in France by midnight on May 22nd, 2024. The declaration forms have been available at on April 13th. That is also the day you could start filing your declaration on the same website. To do so, you need your tax ID number (numéro fiscal) and a password.

If you are making your first income declaration to the French tax office, you should do so using the paper form and checking the “first-time” box on the form (CERFA #2042) where it says Vous déposez une déclaration pour la première fois cochez (“Check here if this is your first declaration”). It is possible to get the tax office to give you the information needed to declare for the first time electronically, but I advise against it because using paper documents makes it much easier to see and understand how the system works.

Note that the deadline for online declarations is later than that for paper declarations. The schedule depends on your postal code:
• Départements 01 to 19 must file by midnight on May 25th.
• Départements 20 to 54 by June 1st.
• Départements 55 and up by June 8th.

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 under the impression that the quarterly declarations are their only fiscal obligation.

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) who are living in France and therefore are French fiscal residents
• have a French employer
• run a French business, even something like tutoring schoolchildren in English.

Occasionally you may have a year with no tax owed to France, either because you only had foreign income not taxed in France or because your taxable income is too low. Then a problem can arise if the prefecture wants to see your income tax bill (avis d’imposition sur le revenu), as happens with many types of immigration status.

Unlike in the USA, filing is a two-step process. The income declaration is sent in, with no payment attached. Then, starting in August, the tax office issues the avis d’imposition sur le revenu based on the declaration, and the deadline to pay the income tax is September 15th.

Many organizations in France, in both the public and private sectors, may require you to furnish an avis d’imposition. For example, the Caisse d’allocations familiale (family subsidy bureau) uses this document among others to decide if applicants deserve aid and, if so, how much.

Recently two clients got caught in what I call the walk-through scam. This is how it works.

At the end of the lease, the final walk-through is meant to describe the lodging with all imperfections – scratches, stains, chips, and so on. This document is compared to the initial one, which describes the place as perfect with nothing broken or stained. With each item described in the final one that was not mentioned in the first one, the tenant is liable for compensation to the owner. If the scam is well done, 100% of the security deposit can be lost this way.

To achieve this result, the agency or owner rushes the initial walk-through. The new tenant is usually ecstatic to have found a nice place and has been chosen among numerous candidates. With this mindset, it is difficult to be critical of the place and see all the tiny holes in the walls, the stains, and the cracks. So the unscrupulous professional manages to have this walk-through done in record time. When the tenant asks for something, it is not written down, but a verbal answer is given that has no legal weight. In one recent example, the plastic WC cover was obviously broken and the answer was: “Buy a new one and deduct the price from the rent.” With no signed document to this effect, however, the tenant will never get reimbursed. When the money is deducted as instructed, the agency sends a second notice for rent not paid and never acknowledges the agreement.

Considering what is at stake – the security deposit is often a large sum – the tenant is better off being accompanied by someone used to this procedure. The definitive way to avoid this problem is to hire ahuissier (bailiff), a neutral professional who will describe everything and take pictures. No one can dispute what is stated in the huissier’s report.

People expect the prefecture to hand out a list of documents for every immigration status; the applicant must provide all the ones mentioned and sometimes a lot more, depending on the specifics of the situation. But for two types of passeport talent status, this kind of list is not provided: sub-category 9, primarily for performing artists, and sub-category 10, for internationally famous professionals in the scientific, literary, artistic, intellectual, educational, or sporting fields.

I regularly have to deal with the issue of how one defines being an artist today. I often work with foreigners seeking to prove that they qualify for one of those two types of immigration status. They do not care how they are defined. Many enjoy combining multiple activities, some of them artistic and others not. Yet their entire career is driven by art.

Rather than trying to define something whose definition today can be extremely difficult to pin down, I propose that such people ask for sub-category 10: internationally famous professional. That way they do not need to define themselves, as the category is wide enough for the vast majority of what they do to fit in.

Then the focus when putting together the file shifts from “What do you do?” to “Who do you work for or work with?” “Where do you work?” “Where is your work seen?” They only have to prove that they work in an artistic environment and that famous people recognize them as artists.

Instead of the usual list, the prefecture asks for documents establishing the applicant’s reputation in a scientific, literary, artistic, intellectual, educational, or sporting field and attesting to their recognition by their peers. These include:

  • 1. Articles or studies in the specialist press, reference works, etc., show the foreigner’s recognition by their peers.
  • 2. Proof of participation in festivals, biennials, trade shows, conferences, study days, and the like, including letters of invitation.
  • 3. Documentation of national or international awards, grants, artist residencies, distinctions, and medals in France or other countries.
  • 4. For artists, proof of the nature and size of the places where the foreigner wishes to perform or exhibit or has already performed or exhibited.
  • 5. Other documentation of the nature, purpose, and duration of their professional project in France.

This broad description fits the way I describe how to put together the file for this status. Below are the prefecture’s suggestions in French.

«Tout document de nature à établir sa notoriété dans un domaine scientifique, littéraire, artistique, intellectuel, éducatif ou sportif et attestant de sa reconnaissance par son milieu professionnel :

  • 1. la reconnaissance de l’étranger par ses pairs : parution d’articles ou d’études dans la presse spécialisée, ouvrage de référence… ;
  • 2. la participation à des festivals, des biennales, des salons, des colloques ou journées d’études : production des lettres d’invitation… ;
  • 3. obtention de prix (nationaux ou internationaux), bourses, résidences d’artistes, distinction et médailles en France ou dans d’autres pays. ;
  • 4. pour les artistes, qualité des structures dans lesquelles l’étranger souhaite se produire ou exposer ou s’est déjà produit ou exposé.
  • 5. tout document visant à établir la nature, l’objet et la durée de son projet sur le territoire français.»

I often refer to Ellis Island and the former US immigration procedure to explain the French legal procedure for obtaining and registering a VLS-TS long-stay immigration visa before and after the person lands in France. The final step of the procedure on the French side consists of two different steps that are not clear to many people. This leads to confusion, which makes the procedure a lot more difficult.

The first step is police clearance and the person has no criminal record. The normal procedure starts at the airport when the passport is supposed to be checked and swiped to make sure that you are not a criminal. In reality, border police officers seeing an American passport tend to do the absolute minimum, so you may need to remind them that the passport contains a visa that needs to be stamped. 

Once settled, the foreigner needs to register the visa through the Agence Nationale des Étrangers en France. The registration triggers the issuance of the French foreign ID number, which identifies the person as an immigrant. This concludes the police check.

After having registered, the person must undergo a visit with doctors at the Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration (OFII). Many clients ask me how long after the registration this visit takes place. Right now, it is difficult to know. It used to be about two months or less, but today it is commonly closer to four months and has even been up to six months.

This visit used to be just a medical exam, but now it is an orientation session, including a short movie introducing France, the signature of the contrat d’intégration républicaine (CIR) promising to comply with French law, and a test of the person’s French language level to determine if they need French lessons.

There is also a four-day civics course, which is mandatory for all CIR signers. It aims to help in understanding French principles and values, as well as the practical aspects of French society. The course covers:

  • 1. French institutions
  • 2. health
  • 3. work 
  • 4. housing 
  • 5. support for parents, early childhood and childcare, school, educational guidance, and children’s rights.

All the above must be done by foreigners so that they obtain a multiyear carte de séjour or a carte de resident.

The SHIP studio should be available on June 1, as the next tenant is scheduled to come in April and stay for two months. I finally have a dedicated website for this studio finalized and the link is below. It has actually been months since I started working on the site but I got busy helping clients. So I do hope the SHIP studio will be occupied during the Olympics – at the normal monthly rate of 1,400€.

As I was working with my webmaster to put together the SHIP studio website as part of my website, he came up with the idea to have a page dedicated to subscribing to my column. His idea was to introduce the column and its history with a space to subscribe at the bottom on this new page. Previously, there had been a small space in the upper right corner of the home page. The subscriber page is now available and can be accessed directly:

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

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

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

The office will be closed for seven weeks over the summer holidays, starting on Friday, July 5, in the evening and reopening on the morning of Monday, August 27. As always, I will be reachable by email for emergencies and important matters. This year, because of the Olympics occurring in Paris, I will be away from Paris for most of that time. But the service I offer of receiving mail for clients will continue while the office is closed. And Sarah or I will honor the prefecture meetings already scheduled, as well as a couple of other engagements.

Best regards,



I have a four-year student carte de séjour. I have not attended any classes for the last two years. I spent close to six months in 2022 in the USA to be with my family as my grandmother was dying. I admit I had to leave France to take a break as I ended up being severely depressed for most of the COVID-19 pandemic alone in my room.
My card is going to expire in the fall. I have been looking for work but I have two serious problems. Employers are questioning what I have done those last years and the fact that I hold student immigration status.
At the same time, a few of my previous American clients contacted me to work with them again as a freelancer. I am happy that I can pay my bills again! I have been feeling a bit better now and am ready to figure out what I have to do to stay in France. Maybe I could be a consultant in France starting with the money I am making right now.
I am guessing that I will have to gather documents from my French doctor, my psychiatrist, and my therapist. I hope that the prefecture will accept statements from these medical professionals to explain some of the months I was out of school and when I quit altogether.
The truth is that I am scared that I will be deported regardless of the file I submit to the prefecture. I cannot imagine that they will accept my request to change my status. I will show up at the prefecture with a four-year carte de séjour where I expect I will have to face a crabby civil servant, and for three of those four years, I have done nothing. I was not even in the country for months and months.I am discouraged and angry. I think that, that despite all the efforts I want to make to put together a convincing file, they may not even look at it and will send the police after me. Can they understand what I went through and act humanely?


I totally understand how you feel. You are right that you face a real challenge, which needs to be addressed. The best way to do that is to divide your file into three parts:
• Your studies in France
• Your medical condition then and now
• A well-thought-out self-employment plan that will entitle you to get the related carte de séjour.
Procuring various documents showing that you were a student in France should be quite simple. Explaining your situation during those years will require comprehensive statements from your medical professionals, and you will need to work with them so that their statements cover the vast majority of the last three years. Don’t allow feelings of guilt and shame to prevent you from contacting doctors and other members of the medical corps. Remember that most people in the French health industry have no problem writing a statement vague enough to account for such a situation. The main reason is obvious: medical secrecy. Doctors are bound by an obligation of complete confidentiality and so must be vague in describing what happened to you and how long they treated you. If you get a statement from your French doctor, your psychiatrist, and your therapist, it will be pretty obvious what you went through. You just need to be careful how you describe the situation in your cover letter so that it matches what these professionals say.
Here is the list I use to prepare this type of file:

1. Passport
2. Titre de séjour
3. Proof of address in France
4. Business plan, in which you should include all media coverage you have had anywhere in the world regardless of the language. This will be a strong way to prove your expertise as a professional.
5. Cover letter in French presenting the services you would offer, your experience, and the business plan
6. Résumé/CV
7. Diploma related to the work proposed
8. Proof of experience in the field
9. Letters of interest in your work from French residents 
10. Bank statement showing about $22,000 or 22,000 euros 
11. French tax documents.

Start by drafting the letter, along these lines: Say a few words about your education and diploma(s). French people make a big deal about diplomas and the university you went to. Then sum up your career in the USA. Do not just repeat a section of your résumé, but demonstrate that you have the expertise you need to deliver services to a French clientele. Then describe your studies and experience in France, putting them in the best possible light under the circumstances. Present the above in a way that enables you to create a panel of services, which you describe one by one. Your top asset is that you are a native English speaker who is an expert in the topics you describe. Then detail your billing policy in a way that allows for expansion, showing the annual billing you project over the next three years. This is only what you hope to make; you will not be held accountable if you do not reach these goals. The last section details your personal and professional expenses.
In your case, after the part about your French studies, there should also be a section explaining why your medical condition lasted so long.
Once you have the letter drafted, conveying a positive, uplifting message about almost conquering France all by yourself, you will feel much better. You will be reassured that the doctors’ notes will allow you to have the right to submit your change of status request. Even if you have no French clients, but just your current American clientele, it should be enough to renew your immigration with a one-year carte de séjour
If this procedure is handled as described above, you run very little risk of failure. It is all about attitude and self-confidence. Good luck, and believe in your success.



I moved into a very nice Parisian apartment and renewed my carte de séjour with my EDF contract for electricity to prove my address. EDF informed me that my monthly payment was too high and that I would receive a refund at the end of the first year of this contract.So when I got a call from an electric company I thought was a subsidiary of EDF to update my contract to the new amount for the next 12 months. I was not suspicious at all, especially since this man kept saying that my payments would be lower. I received an email almost right away and it turns out it was a provider I never heard from. When I did some Google research, I saw that this provider has a terrible reputation for scamming people. How can I get out of this trap? These people are crooks! So when I got a call from an electric company I thought was a subsidiary of EDF to update my contract to the new amount for the next 12 months. I was not suspicious at all, especially since this man kept saying that my payments would be lower. I received an email almost right away and it turns out it was a provider I never heard from. When I did some Google research, I saw that this provider has a terrible reputation for scamming people. How can I get out of this trap? These people are crooks!


One consequence of the French electricity market deregulation was that several new companies entered the market. EDF, the former state-owned provider, is still dominant. Some small providers are regularly caught committing illegal practices, but the court system is slow and thus not a real deterrent.
So your new provider ignores your complaints or your threats and continues to consider you a lawful client even though you had no intention of changing to them. The solution is practical and does not require any legal action. 
This company abused the fact that it is now an open market and clients can change providers easily by signing a new contract with the new provider. There may be a mandatory minimum duration, but as soon as you have the right to change providers again, contact EDF and ask to have your contract reinstated. Since your first contract with EDF was fairly recent, you should be able to get the same terms. Instead of your having to fight the bad provider, EDF will deal with them to enforce your choice. Stay firm and ignore pretty much everything the new provider sends you. Be careful not to be tricked into delaying the transfer or unwittingly signing with them again.
Do not blame yourself for having been tricked by them – they are good at that. This advice is valid for all such situations. If you are not sure who is on the phone calling you, stop the conversation and call your trusted provider, your bank, and so on. That will considerably diminish the chance of your being a victim once again.



I have had a consultant carte de séjour for a couple of years. I lost that card as I did not dare to ask for its renewal as I was sure I would be denied. My taxable profit was under 10,000€. At the time, I was in a relationship with a French guy. We got PACSed while I was sans-papiers and that was not a problem. Getting all the American documents was difficult. I asked for regularization about a year ago and a few days ago, I had my appointment at the police station in the 17th district of Paris. This was not the prefecture I was used to dealing with. They were happy with my file, even though they criticized it the whole time they were reviewing it. Indeed I got the récépissé, which was valid for six months, and I was told that I would get my new carte de séjour in about three months or so. In all of this, one thing does not make sense: the récépissé mentions self-employed when I asked for the private life immigration status and they told me that this is what I was getting. Should I go back and ask this to be changed? For sure I do not want my old card anymore


The prefecture follows a logic that makes sense considering its system. Even though you were sans-papiers for a few years, your file stayed open the entire time. The procedure the prefecture follows is that it always refers to your current or old status until you obtain a new one. The fact that your file was accepted at this initial level and that you were told you would pick up the card in a couple of months or more, does not indicate that your request was fully approved. A normal file goes through at least two other reviews at a higher level. Yours might undergo even more since it is a regularization. Clearly, when your appointment was over, no decision had been made. Your previous status was certainly self-employed, so this is what was mentioned on the récépissé. I understand your concern. It feels as if you did all that work for nothing. Rest assured, you have a 90% chance of success since the prefecture pre-approved your file before sending the appointment out to you.
I would also like to review other issues you raised. You should have asked for the renewal of your immigration status even though your annual billing was significantly below the minimum. In a letter, you would have explained how it happened, what you did to fix the problem, who your new clients were, and so on. The prefecture only denies such a renewal request after two or three years of income being below the required minimum, which is French minimum wage (SMIC) as a taxable income. In short, for a profession libérale consultant, your annual billing should be 26,000€, which gives you a taxable income of 17,160€ when the SMIC net taxable income is 16,784€. I believe that 26,000€ is a lot easier to remember. I do not know your precise numbers but renewing your old status should have been your first step. 
Many joke that French people must have a crabby gene in their DNA. I warn everybody that it is very difficult to read the attitude of the civil servants working at the prefecture. Some say nothing and show no emotion, and one assumes that because they were not critical, the file has been approved. But as a matter of fact, this is a bad sign. The norm is to ask for some information and extra documents. Some criticize what they see in the file as they go through it. It gives the impression that they think the file is catastrophic. If the file is excellent, the explanation can be that the documents are not in the order they want and it gives the initial impression that many documents are missing. Others ask for the documents one at a time, and the applicant cannot give them fast enough. I could go on and on about this, as there are many more explanations for their behavior.
Although it appears to be in a police station, the prefecture branch called “centre de réception des étrangers” on Rue Truffaut in the 17th arrondissement is separate from the station, and has a separate entrance. The normal French immigration procedure never involves the police. Applicants only meet civil servants whose status is similar to that of the people working for the DMV in the USA. Being sans-papiers means being an undocumented alien, so having to walk up to the police station and be a few feet away from the police can be scary, which I understand. As it happens, this is currently the only branch of the prefecture left that is linked to a police station.

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