Americans Helping Americans Abroad

Coping with French Administration

It is rare that AARO has a presentation about immigration to a country, but since so many AARO members live in France, we made an exception. Jean Taquet and his wife, an American, are AARO members. He studied law in France and then lived in the United States for many years, becoming an associate of the Delaware Bar Association. Upon returning to France, through his contacts at the American Church, he became an expert on immigration to France. He was also a regular contributor to the now defunct “Paris Free Voice”.

French Logic

Jean started the talk by telling the audience that France is logical. This got a good chuckle, but he continued to explain exactly how that logic works. It starts with the French Revolution and having to deal with the old elite (aristocrats) and establishing a fair system for all to be equal under the law. This was achieved with the Napoleonic Civil Code. The way that France can maintain its republic is by treating all equally and that means through identity, not aristocratic rank. Identity is established by name, date and place of birth, domicile, and profession. Your name, your birth certificate, and proof of where you live and what you do. (Reporter’s note: In France, the extrait d’état civil, which is the birth certificate document, contains more than just your birth information, which is why the administration frequently wants to see a recent one.) That is the logic behind the constant request for documents.

Visas and Titres de Séjour

Immigration happens in two steps. First, in your country of origin, you get a visa and you enter France through immigration control at the airport. You are in the country, but you are not yet authorized to remain. The second step is the appointment at the OFII, which is the health check, similar to the Ellis Island check-up immigrants had to go through upon immigrating to the US. Successful completion of the OFII checkup means your papers get stamped. You no longer talk about a visa; you have a “titre de séjour” and can now go to the Préfecture to complete the process and remain in France under the terms of whichever “titre” you have.

There are six main types of titres de séjour available to Americans, details of which can be found on the service public website. The “passeport talent” looks promising as President Macron has made a point of encouraging upscale immigration.

Once you have a “Carte de Résident”, a 10-year card, similar to a greencard in the US, you may live outside France for 3 years during that time.

The Préfecture

When you go to the Préfecture, you hand in your paperwork to a civil servant. That person’s job is to take the paperwork and check that everything is there. He or she then goes to the back office, where the file is handed to another civil servant, who reads the file and makes the decision, based on the regulations: yes or no. The first one returns with the file and hands is back to you with the decision.

There is no point in arguing or getting angry at the person in front of you. The civil servant who receives the file is not the one who makes the decision. This is to avoid any attempt at bribery.

Why do they keep asking for a proof of address? It’s an integral part of your identity: name, date and place of birth, address (with proof), and profession.

Before Questions:

French law favors the underdog. In landlord/tenant relationships, that is the tenant. It means that it can be very difficult for a landlords to get rid of bad tenants or simple recover the lodging for their own use. That is why landlords are so picky and require so much paperwork and guarantees.

A Notaire is not a Public Notary. A notaire represents France and as a representative, collects taxes and acts as a legal advisor. When you buy a home in France, the 7-8% “frais de notaire” is mostly tax, not the notaire’s fee.

Health Coverage. When French social security was created, one working member of the family (the father, in most cases) had a social security number and all his dependants (non-working wife and children) fell under his care. Times changed and with rising unemployment and divorce, many people were falling through the cracks and were no longer covered.

CMU (couverture médicale universelle) was created to cover everyone residing in France. Foreigners who wished to enter the system were required to pay 8% of their worldwide income to become covered. Many AARO members preferred not to enter the system and chose medical coverage from MSH. (see the event report)

PUMa (Protection Universelle Maladie) is new. Everyone is covered, individually. There is some confusion about it since no one has been billed yet. AARO members who have paid for private insurance (MSH) have received letters saying they will be billed for 2016 coverage under PUMa, even though they have not registered in the sécu system. The problem seems to be that PUMa is getting its data from the tax office, not the Securité Sociale. AARO is supporting an effort of a group of lawyers to untangle the regulation. As of the date of the meeting, December 18, no one had yet actually received a bill. This does not concern those working in France, who pay for and are covered by Securité Sociale through their employment.

Residence and Taxes

You must be very careful in declaring your residence. The Taxe d’Habitation is payable by whoever resided at the address on January 1st. You are a resident of France if your life (family, work, interests) is in France and or you spend most of your time (more than half the year) in France. There is a difference between declaring a primary or secondary residence as far as the taxe d’habitation is concerned.

As far as income tax is concerned, if you reside in France and or if you work in France, you must declare your worldwide income to France. This is residency based taxation. You declare your worldwide income to the country where you reside and pay taxes. As an American, you must also declare your worldwide income to the US. This is citizenship based taxation, since you do not reside in the United States, but are still liable for taxation on worldwide income. There are tax treaties in place to take care of most instances of double taxation. AARO has been advocating for change in the US to end citizenship based taxation.

Q&A

The questions were varied and pertained to personal situations, which Jean answered in the most generic way so that everyone could benefit. Please watch the video.

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