“Every (wo)man has two countries – his/her own and France”
At the end of the month, my daughter has an appointment at the “Centre de Réception des Etrangers” to renew her 10-year Carte de Résident, the same type of visa as mine.
A Carte de Résident is a visa for non-European citizens and is obtainable only after several years of residence holding more temporary visas. In my personal case, my visitor visa (Carte de Séjour) was renewed every year for ten years before the Carte de Résident was granted. It was an arduous task and I got to know the ins and outs at the Préfecture de Police pretty well during that time.
Erica’s visa process didn’t begin until she was 18 years old, and with the help of immigration attorneys, was able to acquire the 10-year visa after not too many years of renewals.
Until now, I hadn’t thought seriously of getting French citizenship. We didn’t seem to need it. Our residency afforded us all of the privileges we wanted with the exception of voting. That has now changed for me with the election of Donald Trump as the status and future of the U.S. is so uncertain.
The U.S. allows dual citizenship and France has permitted it since 1973. Having nationality in France would protect my daughter’s and my connection to France offering full rights in both countries, including voting rights, and also provides for freedom of travel and residence in any European Union country. This is a biggie!
Having French nationality also affords the possibility of renouncing my U.S. citizenship, should I ever choose to do that. According to Forbes.com in an article published just this past weekend, more Americans in the third quarter of 2016 are renouncing their citizenship, not because of Donald Trump, but because of FATCA tax laws. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, enacted in 2010, taking years to implement because of all the opposition, is the main cause of Americans leaving their homeland for greener pastures.
FATCA is a topic we have often talked about as it concerns all of us living outside the U.S. It’s designed to uncover offshore bank accounts of undeclared income, but it imposes regulations on foreign banks to reveal American account details or they risk big penalties — making it difficult and expensive for the banks to comply. For this reason, Americans are no longer welcome on the international banking scene. Since 2008, the numbers of renouncement are 18 times higher.
FATCA isn’t enough to convince me to get dual nationality or renounce, but the future of America under the leadership of this new president is. While I don’t believe that Donald Trump is another Adolf Hitler, it is possible that history will repeat itself in some other form. It wasn’t long after Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in January of 1933 that he managed to turn Germany into a one-party dictatorship. When the Jews attempted to emigrate from Germany, they were highly taxed (90%), but the worst of it was their inability to find other countries willing to take them in. Albert Einstein was one who left and renounced his German citizenship, moving to the U.S. in 1933 and stating: “I shall live in a land where political freedom, tolerance, and equality of all citizens reign.”
As long as that remains true of the U.S., then I won’t be caught with the problem, but from what we’ve seen and heard during the election campaign, upholding those values isn’t so “carved in stone.” Having dual nationality will guarantee my rights to live in France as long as I live, without fear of deportation.
If you stay in France less than 90 days, you need no visa at all. And while on the 91st day, the authorities are not coming to take you from your bed to deport you, it’s wise in today’s day and age to have legal residence for longer stays. To acquire this permission, you must begin with a temporary visa that must be applied for from your home country prior to arrival. Almost everything you need to know is on the official French site.
The visa is not difficult to acquire, just bureaucratic. There are a few “Catch 22’s” that are more logistical than not — such as proof of medical insurance, proof of your ability to support yourself, and proof of having a residence in France. All of these are possible to obtain in advance in order to pass their test of qualifications. The toughest part is not in the hurdles, but in dealing with the bureaucrats themselves. The “fonctionnaires” (civil servants) at the consulates in the U.S. can be even more difficult than those we find at the Préfecture de Police in Paris because they hold the “plum” jobs living in the U.S. and think very highly of themselves! Those in the smaller towns of France are by far the easiest to deal with.
Every immigrant I know has had a different experience at the Préfecture de Police, some good and some bad. I’ve had both and through trial and error, discovered ways of making it more pleasant by using strategic charm tactics!:
* Speaking French helps, so if you don’t speak well, bring along a friend who does — preferably a French friend, as that shows your willingness to integrate into French life.
* Bringing more paperwork than is required is another good tactic — as if you’re missing anything at all, they may send you home with your “tail between your legs.”
* Show off your sense of humor — if you can get the clerk to laugh and like you, you’ll have a better shot at being treated well. Complement them — but not in a way that seems like you’re just “buttering them up” — make it natural and genuine, like noticing their child’s photo on their desk or asking where they had their gorgeous nails done!
Sounds silly, but it’s human and it works — at least most of the time. I can tell you loads of stories that either bring tears or laughter from the dozens of visits I’ve made to the Préfecture, but have survived them all.
The best advice I can give someone starting out on this process is to have professional advice and assistance. Some people sail through it without representation, but others may find it overwhelming and need someone to guide them through the maze of bureaucracy. If you wish to discover not only how to get a visa, but how to make the move successfully, you may want to spend some time with me during a consultation so that I can share with you valuable information and experience as well as our valuable resources. (See adrianleeds.com/home/consultation-services ) If you’re past that point and need immigration advice, then by all means, contact Christine Sullivan at Fragomen Worldwide.
As Thomas Jefferson said in his autobiography: “So ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, In what country on earth would you rather live? Certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice? France.”
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Don’t miss our newest House Hunters International episode “Paris With A Texan Accent” which airs Tuesday Nov 22 10:30pm ET9:30 CT Wednesday Nov 23 1:30am ET12:30 CT. After discovering she had familial ties to Paris, Texan Janet wanted to plant roots in her ancestral home. Michael supports Janet’s dream, but he’s nervous about buying a second home in pricy central Paris… Let us know what you think!