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When I’m Sixty-Four

July-August 2021

I would like to wish you all you a great summer and a very nice vacation, enjoying the freedom of the moment.
I will start mine in ten days 

When I get older, losing my hair,
Many years from now, 
Will you still be sending me a Valentine, 
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine? 
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door? 
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, 
When I’m sixty-four? 
You’ll be older too
And if you say the word, 
I could stay with you. 
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone. 
You can knit a sweater by the fireside, 
Sunday mornings go for a ride. 
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more? 
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, 
When I’m sixty-four? 
Every summer we can rent a cottage
On the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear. 
We shall scrimp and save. 
Grandchildren on your knee: 
Vera, Chuck and Dave. 
Send me a postcard, drop me a line, 
Stating point of view. 
Indicate precisely what you mean to say, 
Yours sincerely, wasting away. 
Give me your answer, fill in a form, 
Mine forever more. 
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, 
When I’m sixty-four?

Well, not quite – I just turned 62, the ripe age to retire in France. Some days I feel as old and in as bad shape as the song states. By the way, we do not have grandchildren yet! My birthday was yesterday.

After over two difficult years, I am seriously looking forward first to my vacation, starting in a few days on July 9th, as well as decreasing my workload starting in September so it is compatible with my age. One thing needed is stricter control over my schedule. Way too often I meet clients at lunchtime so I can accommodate their urgency. In retrospect, I realize this is no longer sustainable.

Even though there should be no more curfew or confinement in the foreseeable future, I have enjoyed getting home in time for dinner, and will make sure I continue to do so.

I am happy that I continue to have projects I want to do and the desire to get a few things done, both personal and professional. I have no intention of retiring but I have come to terms with the fact that I need to slow down. I also count on the pandemic being pretty much behind us: even though it will be a new normal, things will likely settle down to the extent that I can put together robust plans for my clients, knowing the rules and regulations are no longer liable to change overnight.

Another song sung by the young about being old and at the end of a career, like “When I’m Sixty-four,” is a French one. “Quand j’étais chanteur” (when I was a singer) came out in 1975, when the artist, Michel Delpech, was only 29 years old. It is a bold move by young artists, early in their career, to sing about its end. The vast majority of people do not like to think about getting old and what it means in terms of staying fit physically and mentally.

Western culture glorifies youth, being athletic, having a perfectly toned body. Asian and African cultures, by contrast, traditionally value older age, which they associate with knowledge, wisdom, authority.

I have been a fan of John Oliver since his debut with The Daily Show. His Wikipedia bio states:

“John William Oliver (born 23 April 1977) is a British-American comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host. Oliver started his career as a stand-up comedian in the United Kingdom. He came to wider attention for his work in the United States on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as its senior British correspondent from 2006 to 2013. … Since 2014, Oliver has been the host of the HBO series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

I watch this program online the Monday after it airs, when it becomes available on YouTube. Recently Oliver addressed two topics that resonated with me personally.

“hair, specifically black hair” on May 10th 
The first was “hair, specifically black hair.” I have been a member of the African Fellowship of the American Church in Paris since 2003. I have learned a lot and continue to be honored to feel I belong there. This connection has led to many interesting situations stemming from cultural differences and my need to quickly adapt. Oliver’s commentary in his May 10th segment called “Hair” was 100% right: Either you were born with it or you have no idea what it means, unless you have been personally confronted with the issue. I was amazed how balanced the program was. Although this white, British-born man admitted he had no grounds for addressing the issue, he managed to explain its many facets in a caring way.

Like him, I am a complete outsider. I had no idea about this issue until I was faced with it. About 15 years ago, I met with a friend from Zimbabwe one Saturday afternoon in Paris’s Chateau Rouge neighborhood, which is largely African. Most everything from the continent is available, and almost as much business is done on the sidewalk and even the street itself as in the shops. Eventually we went into beauty product shops. She went in first and I followed. What I was used to seeing, regarding hair care, was not there. Instead, I discovered a new world. Even the topics of discussions were different.

Eventually, I walked into one such shop first, momentarily blocking my friend from view. “A fish out of water” would be a major understatement. I was met by the saleswomen with total disbelief. It was inconceivable that I could have any business there. Clearly, I did not belong. A few seconds later, my friend stepped up and the situation went back to something more normal.

That is how I became familiar with this issue and with the huge disconnect between the standard hair care industry in the Western world and what it means to have black hair. 
You can watch the segment here:

“Asian Americans” June 7th 
About a month later, Oliver’s main topic was Asian Americans. My wife and I used to be active members of the Multicultural Couples group at the American Church, which was started about 15 years ago. The members were often Franco-American couples, but not always. I remember a Spanish-Russian couple who had to do everything twice – wedding, baptisms – since their families were traditional and religious, so the ceremonies had to be first Catholic and then Orthodox. Stuck in the middle, this couple had to deal with all kinds of issues, the most obvious being juggling how and when to celebrate Christmas and Easter.

Another couple who caught my attention were both East Asian. Their story was a true eye-opener, and still fascinates me all these years later. In both cases, their parents came from the area of Wenzhou, a port city in Zhejiang province, China. Thus they spoke the same dialect, ate the same food, were raised with similar parental styles in the same culture and traditions. During their courtship, they felt they had everything in common and there were no cultural differences for them. Only after they married and had lived together for a while did they realize how far apart they were culturally. The husband was born and raised in Canada and the wife in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. One was a Canadian citizen, educated in Canada, with Canadian reflexes. The other was French, with French schooling and everything that goes with it. Unlike the other couples in the group, they had never expected to have to adapt to each other’s culture and deal with obvious differences.

On June 7th, John Oliver’s segment titled “Asian Americans” dealt with the diverse population in the USA with origins in Asia, especially Southeast Asia. Along with Chinese immigrants, with whom they are often conflated, these people have been the victims of racist aggression in recent years, especially since the beginning of the pandemic. John Oliver discussed the stereotypes associated with Asian Americans. Regardless of whether they reflect reality, stereotypes are hurtful. 
Once again, I was impressed by how easy he made it seem to explain complex issues in

Recalling these episodes of Last Week Tonight was an attempt to choose some lighter topics and stay as far as possible from the political issues of the moment. It is aligned with my job which is, among other things, to adapt to the cultural differences, which I face while trying to help foreigners living in France.

On consecutive Sundays, June 20th and 27th, France held elections for the regional and departmental levels. Turnout is always lower in local elections than in national ones, which involve presidential elections. This time, the vast majority of eligible voters stayed away, setting a record low of 33.28% voters. Of course, everybody has an explanation and blames others for the situation. I do not believe there is just one reason or one person to blame. But a particular reason I have heard makes sense to me, although I am sure it is not the only one and may not be the most important.

France’s regions have their roots in provinces that were formed after the fall of the Roman Empire. They have always had strong cultural identities. Even today, some have their own languages, not always with Latin roots. Law No 2015-29 of January 16th, 2015, turned 22 historical provinces into 13 regions, thus aggregating areas that often had little in common except being next to each other. In American terms, it would be like joining Texas and Louisiana in a single unit just because they share a border. True, Brittany and Corsica were left alone in the reorganization. Both had suffered terrorist attacks in the 1970s in campaigns for independence from France. This may have deterred the central government from changing their status. These two exceptions could make my comparison with Texas and Louisiana less pertinent.

The real issue is that one motivation for voting is to feel engaged in matters. Ideally, it is things like knowing the candidates personally and having an opinion on local projects that draw people to the voting booth.

Also, there were two elections at the same time, as the one for thedépartements had originally been scheduled during the pandemic. The structure of the départements has scarcely changed in 200 years. I cannot remember France ever conducting elections for two levels at once, though this is the norm in the USA, with multiple ballots.

Many think the French democratic system is in crisis. If the low turnout in June proves to be an isolated incident, COVID-19 may be one of the main reasons. But I am not convinced of it.

For a long time, I was asked almost daily when the French consulate in Washington, DC, and VFS Global’s offices would fully reopen. Now information I am getting through my clients indicates that things started to move after June 9th, and it seems that everything was back to normal by the 21st. That is so recent that I do not know how easy the visa issuance is, the timeframe for each type of visa, and so on. Overall, though, this is going to facilitate my work a lot, making it much easier to help clients plan their immigration projects.

Advice on French administration websites says if you could prove you settled in France before December 31st, 2020, you had to file your request for an EU card by June 30th, 2021. Then the actual carte de séjour must be available before September 30th. Those who settled after December 31st have no EU card available and they have to prove grounds for residency as defined by the six types of cartes de séjour:

  • – visiteur
  • – étudiant
  • – salarié
  • – vie privée & familiale
  • – commerçant & artisan
  • – passeport talent

Hence, I strongly advise British people to ask for immigration status immediately by booking an appointment with VFS Global. The challenge is to put together a file corresponding to one of the choices above. In my experience, many British people got used to coming and going, having part of their life in France, while never establishing solid roots that would enable them to obtain a carte de séjour. It will be a rude awakening to find out that they need to ask for a visa and give a reason in order to spend more than three months in France!

The tenant of a primary residence is well protected and almost nothing can be done to jeopardize the right to stay there. As almost everybody knows, it can take about three years to expel a non-paying tenant. I have reported on a case where a tenant lost their right for running an Airbnb rental business, and common sense indicates that engaging in criminal activities and living in deeply unsanitary conditions would also affect the right to stay.

Now a court decision has shed light on a more obscure provision: occupying the premises. One would think it is evident that a person would only pay rent for a long time if they live there. But the pandemic led to situations where people left their rented lodgings vacant for a year or more. Even if such a pandemic occurs only once a century, situations where rent is paid for months or even years, without anyone staying there, exist more often than one would think.

The tenant of the main residence must occupy it “effectively and continuously,” i.e., at least eight months a year, failing which the lease may be terminated. The Cour de Cassation, the French Supreme Court, in a ruling on May 6th, 2021, shed some interesting light on this issue. It involves the terms of the standard lease, which state that the tenant must occupy the lodging. This is also a provision in French law.

Obligation du locataire d’occuper effectivement et personnellement le logement. Lorsque le logement est occupé à titre de résidence principale, le locataire est tenu d’user paisiblement des locaux loués suivant la destination qui leur a été donnée par le contrat de location (loi du 6.7.89 : article 7).

In other words, “The tenant is obliged to effectively and personally occupy the dwelling. When the dwelling is occupied as a principal residence, the tenant is obliged to use the rented premises peacefully according to the purpose assigned to them in the rental agreement.”

Here is a summary of the case in question: In 2014, the landlord wondered if the tenant still occupied the premises, even though the rent was paid. He went to court to obtain the right to verify the tenant’s presence. A bailiff forced the lock and observed that the apartment “had not been inhabited for a long time.” This was confirmed by the minimal water consumption and the presence of unopened mail dating back to 2008. The tenant lost the lease as a result.

I am sure it is extremely rare for a tenant to pay rent on an apartment left empty for years. Still, many foreigners are unaware of the importance of the primary residence, and therefore of choosing one. The primary domicile address is the cornerstone of a large part of the French legal system, despite the fact that in 2021 hardly any postal mail is still delivered.

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.

Dreamboat Annie was the band Heart’s first album. A reader challenged me to title the next issue this way. Two years ago, for the July 2019 issue, I was faced with the same challenge with “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens. This time the challenge is much more difficult.

I would like to remind everyone that there will be no August issue.

Best regards,


I would like to answer the legal question and then add some scenarios showing some obvious problems with your premises.
Being self-employed in France, with a SIRET ID number, makes you a full resident of France, which means you legally and fiscally reside in France, regardless of where you are physically located. No matter where you are, you have a legal obligation to declare to France all payments your self-employed work generates, all over the world. This income is taxed in France. You can on occasion hold employee positions in foreign countries where you have the right to do so, either because you are a national or because you obtain the right. This is compatible with the self-employed French immigration status that excludes being an employee in France, as the job is in a foreign country where France has no jurisdiction. Being eligible for the carte de résident means having to prove a minimum of five fiscal years in France. Holding French self-employed status allows you to prove that.
1 – Holding a four-year carte de séjour
a – Several missions as a consultant and two years outside of France
During this entire time, you pay French income tax and French social charges (to URSSAF). You declare your entire income to France. Nothing here threatens your French residency. You need to make sure that you keep a French address and that someone handles your postal mail and has a postal power of attorney so they can pick up any registered letters

b- Several missions as a consultant and a part-time employee position outside of France
You have an employee position that demands that you spend time outside of France. It does not affect your French business, as you still report enough income to France. The prefecture, at renewal time of your immigration status, sees that your French business secures your right to stay legally in France. By the way, such missions can be done in France or elsewhere; it does not make much difference.

c – A full-time position in a foreign country lasting a year or more
This situation would most likely create a dangerous situation for you. It is not working full time that creates the problem but rather the fact that your French self-employed activity could decrease significantly, putting your immigration status in serious jeopardy. Your carte de séjour was issued and renewed because you had a taxable income at least equal to the minimum wage. If your French income dives below this minimum for a year or more, you de facto legally lose the right to your French immigration status. Even if you maintain your French income above the minimum but it drops by half or more, the prefecture will ask you for a detailed explanation, especially since your foreign employment income will appear on your French tax documents. If your foreign salary exceeds your French income, how can you prove that your French business is your anchor in France, where your primary residence is and, in this case, is supposed to be?.

Your focus at all times must be on ensuring that your French business, at the very least, generates the majority of your income. The second focus is on maintaining steady French business and, if there is a dive, being able to explain it with business reasons, such as loss of a client, poor health for a few months, and so on.

2 – Holding a one-year carte de séjour
In this case, you must be in France to submit the request for renewal of your immigration status and again to pick up your card. The annual scrutiny by the prefecture makes this incompatible with working for a year or more in another country as an employee. Your passport will show your travels in and out of France. Your spending pattern as reflected in your French bank account statements will show if you are in France or not. Although usually you would only have to show professional account statements, if the prefecture questions your presence in France, it will ask for your personal account too.
To conclude, you have auto-entrepreneur profession libérale fiscal status. This means your annual sales must stay below 70,000€. All things considered, this is a low amount to take a foreign job without jeopardizing your French immigration status. I would also remind you that the prefecture has direct access to many databases of divisions of the French administration, including URSSAF. Therefore, even if you hold a four-year card, the prefecture can learn about your French business decrease and send you an appointment to demand an explanation, with very little notice. In short, while the scenario you describe is legally possible, in your case it is virtually impossible. Again, your French self-employed business is the only thing enabling you to hold the carte de séjour profession libérale.


You raise a lot of different issues, which have an impact on each other, making it difficult to sort out and explain. So I will go chronologically, which should make it easier to answer.

1 – The long stay visiteur visa and related carte de séjour
Now that this immigration status is now being issued again, the next time you are back in the USA, go through VFS Global and then the French consulate to get the long-stay visiteur immigration visa. It requires you to prove means, a French address, and health coverage in France. A year later you submit your request to the prefecture and get a carte de séjour.

2 – Becoming a French fiscal and legal resident
You have a huge financial interest in declaring your Parisian apartment as your primary residence as soon as possible. This means you have to declare your worldwide income to France and you might have to pay a professional to do this declaration. But here are the benefits you getting by doing so:

The taxe d’habitation, the local tax paid by the tenant, which I assume was between 3,000€ and 4,000€ a year, will be less than 1,000€ for sure and maybe as low as 500€. A primary residence gets a significant discount, while a secondary residence is punitively taxed.

The wealth tax starts being owed when the value of real estate owned in France reaches 1.3 million euros, and I am pretty sure that you are paying it. Claiming the place as your primary residence allows you to discount the market value of the apartment by 30%. At the very least, it means a substantial decrease in the amount of tax to be paid, and you might not have to pay it at all, as this reduction could put it below the threshold.

When it comes to capital gains tax, France does not tax the sale of the primary residence. The main requirement is to prove that you have had your primary residence there for a minimum of two years. This should not be too difficult to do while you look for a new place.

3 – Buy the new place through an SCI and have your children be shareholders with you
This requires a complex decision, but the scenario I have in mind would address your priorities, let you pass the apartment to your children, and minimize estate taxes and other gift taxes.

Creating an SCI (Société Civile Immobilière) with your children presents two major issues.

  • a – Should you wish to sell, you would not benefit from the above-mentioned tax break even though it is your primary residence, because the owner is the SCI and not you. This should not be a problem, however, as you plan on passing it onto your children.
  • b – Because you will be a French legal and fiscal resident, there is a limit on how much you can give your children tax-free, and the gift or sale of shares must be recorded with the local business court, the greffes du Tribunal de Commerce.

It also has considerable advantages, however. 

  • a – You can gift the shares without going through a notaire and therefore do it at reduced cost.
  • b -Since the ownership is split among the partners, the risk of having to pay the current real estate wealth tax is slim.
  • c – You can be a minority shareholder, even with a tiny portion, and still have a preferential or even perhaps exclusive right to live there during your lifetime.
  • d – Because of this flexibility, you can pass on the ownership of the shares in such a way that it reduces the net worth of your estate.
  • e – The bylaws should be drafted in such a way that no new shareholder can come in except with a complex unanimous vote, which keeps your children’s spouses out of the SCI. Normally the expenses occurred by the SCI should be split according to ownership ratio. But if you have its exclusive use, you may bear all costs, such as like the condominium charges and local taxes such as taxe foncière(property tax).
  • f – The SCI is an excellent legal set-up should you all decide to rent out the place: It is a corporation, it can itemize expenses, and one can even draw a salary managing it. The profit is then split among the shareholders.

This is a solution that should be seriously considered, for all the reasons above. It should give you a long-term plan of action that covers just about all your goals and concerns.


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