01 August 2009

Residency permits

We had good news yesterday, I think, about one of the realities of living here in France as American citizens. The reality is that we both must always have an up-to-date residency permit in our possession. The permits are granted by the people at the prefecture up in Blois and up until now have been renewable every 12 months. We got our first ones in September 2003, so this year’s application was our seventh.

Because we are two Americans, not one American married to a French citizen, we are in a more delicate situation than most English-speaking immigrants. In fact, the British and Irish, as Europeans, no longer need residency permits at all in France or the other European countries. The borders are open for them, and they can come and go as they please, with no formalities imposed beyond getting a French driver’s license if they stay here very long. Americans married to French citizens also have a special status, of course.

American tourists are allowed to stay on French territory for three months at a time without any kind of visa. The U.S. passport suffices. Since we moved here in 2003 with the intention of staying, we had to apply to French consular officials for a long-stay visa before coming into the country. And as soon as we arrived we had to apply for a carte de séjour up in Blois, our area's administrative center.

Callie headed out for her morning walk in the vineyard

This year, we decided the time had come for us to apply for a 10-year residency permit, called a carte de résident, rather than just continue with our annual permit, the carte de séjour temporaire. The card granting us “temporary residency” rights categorizes us as visiteurs in France. That’s funny, because we are residents for tax purposes — anyone who resides in France for more than six months out of the calendar year is a resident in that year for tax purposes, but not necessarily for immigration purposes.

I made a phone call to the Service des Étrangers (the immigration office) at the prefecture in Blois back in June when we received the annual letter telling us it was renewal time. The phone rang 12 or 15 times before anybody picked up. The woman on the other end of the line seemed a little harried. I told her I wanted to apply for the 10-year card and she asked me if I had a regular income — a retirement pension, for example. I said I did. She said that I should write the prefecture a letter explaining my situation and requesting the carte de résident.

Send that letter in along with all the papers you normally send for your renewal, she said, and we will examine your file. The documents we send every year are our birth certificates with translations; copies of our U.S. passports; copies of the residency permits that are about to expire; proof of our address (for example, a recent utility bill); and, most importantly, documents proving we have the financial resources to live here for another year without seeking remunerated employment.

So we wrote our letters of application — they have to be in French, of course, so if you don’t write good French you need to get help from someone who does — and we sent them in with all the other papers, hoping for the best.

Peaches are no exception to the great fruit crop
that we're getting this summer around Saint-Aignan.

A couple of weeks ago, our neighbor, who is the mayor of the village we live in, invited us over for the evening. She is good friends with Josette, the woman we bought our house from in 2003 — they were neighbors for many years — and Josette was actually staying with the mayor and her husband for a few days. We consider Josette a good friend too.

We hadn’t all gotten together in a while, and we were sitting out in the garden talking about life here and local happenings over a glass of wine and some finger foods. The subject of other English-speakers who live and own property around Saint-Aignan came up. There seem to be quite a few of them, but not many Americans. That led to a discussion of our legal status as foreigners and residents here.

I told Madame le Maire (don’t think my use of the title means our relationship is formal and stiff — she is my age and we are on a first-names basis with her and her husband) about our application for the 10-year resident’s cards this time. I was happy when she offered to make a phone call in support of our application to the prefecture in Blois. I hadn’t wanted to bother her with it, because I know she has a lot of responsibilities as mayor of the village (pop. 1200).

A couple of weeks went by and I wondered if the mayor had remembered to make that phone call, but I didn’t want to be pushy about it. I figured if the powers-that-be refused our request for the 10-year cards this year, we could always apply again next year. Then I could ask for the mayor’s support.

We'll be harvesting eggplants/aubergines soon,
to go with all the tomatoes.

Yesterday, Walt went out for a walk in the vineyard with Callie late in the afternoon. He came back with the good news. He ran into the mayor and her husband, who were out on a bike ride, while he was walking. They stopped and talked for a couple of minutes.

Madame le Maire told Walt that her office has received an inquiry from the prefecture about our status and standing. “They want confirmation that you own your house,” she said, knowing that we do. “They want to know if you speak French,” she said, also knowing that we do. “And they want to know if you are ‘integrated’ into local life and village activities,” she said.

“Integration” into French society and the ability to function in French are important considerations here. Owning your own house is important too, I think — it means you have a long-term investment and a commitment to staying. Madame le Maire said she and her staff would be supplying “the right answers” to all the prefecture’s questions.

So it looks like we are on our way to getting our long-term residency permits. That permit is different from the short-term permit in an important way: it allows the holder to seek employment in France. Don’t worry, though. We have plenty to do in the house and garden without going out to look for gainful employment.

Of course, nothing is certain yet, and the decision won't be made for at least another month. We're keeping our fingers crossed.


  1. That is GREAT news! It sounds like everything is going to work out for you guy.

  2. Congratulations.

    Next step is to get naturalized without losing your American citizenship, just like I did when I got naturalized without losing my French citizenship. Great news!

    I'll still keep ALL my fingers crossed!

  3. Well done (so far)! The number of TV programmes I've seen about British people who've moved to France on a dream and not really made the effort to integrate - it's shaming. See for instance:


  4. Justin, thanks.

    CHM, I'm not sure about naturalization. At this point in my life, I'm not sure it's worth the trouble. If we get the 10-year cards, that might be enough.

    Patrick, I read that post about the two categories of Brit expat. We don't fit into either (besides the fact that we are American). We're not patrician and we don't have children. I did teach French in the U.S. at one point in my life. I think Daphne is far too hard on the Vienne and Creuse departments. They are both beautiful.

  5. Best of luck to you. Bureaucratic decisions always have an element of uncertainty until you have the paper in hand. We went through this when we moved to Scotland a few years ago.

    CHM's idea sounds wonderful. Can it be done?

  6. Yes, Bill, it can be done. The U.S. government is no longer allowed to take away your American passport just because you've been granted a passport by another (friendly) country. France has always allowed dual nationality; the U.S. more recently so.

  7. I didn't know that the US is allowing dual citizenship. It used to be that only Israel deserved that right. It is good news. I am not looking forward to my phone calls (if I can get a human being) to the french consulate to get European passports for us. I do know that July and August are not good months to deal with "l'administration" though. Ken, what is the "chevalet" Walt is writing about? Is to put the wood on to make it easier to cut?

  8. Congratulations! Madame le Maire really helped you out on that one.
    You should get your citizenship here. Then when people ask you "oh are you English?" You can reply, "No, we're French!"

  9. Bonnes nouvelles Ken.Hope you get the official response soon.

    If I were you I would get the French citizenship - no more visas for visiting some countries :-)

    I am pretty sure that , if you decide to move to and live in Paris one day, you will have more time to visit places outside l'hexagone.

  10. Fantastic news! Fingers crossed that you'll have the new 10 year card in hand very, very soon.

  11. Dedene, good point! It would be fun to say that.

    TB, it's not the time but the money that is lacking.

    Nadège, do you not have a French passport? And yes, the chevalet is a sawhorse, useful for cutting firewood for the winter.

  12. I'm happy that you won't have the hassle of filling out those forms every year. Way to go!

    Those eggplant will go nicely with your tomatoes. I made some moussaka the other day using lots of garden goodies. I hope it freezes well since I had a lot left over.

  13. Evelyn, can you imagine? Ten years without having to worry about it. Of course, at the end of ten years, it will be major stress time. But hey, I'll be 70 by then. Maybe stress decreases with age.

  14. Let's hope that stress decreases with age! I won't bet on it though.

    Hmmm for a while I thought Walt had ordered an easel. Chevalet can be lots of things, even the holder for scrabble tiles.

    Lewis loves his chevalet.

  15. Congratulations!
    Ken, did you read Dedene's post from a day or so ago, about Guédelon, the chantier médiéval in Bourgogne? Very intriguing!!

  16. That's a big step. I hope it goes smoothly. You illustrate a big advantage of living in a small town. You know the mayor, and she can help you. Wonderful!

    Hope Walt makes a yummy peach tart or pie or cobbler with those amazing looking peaches.

    Are you working with the tomatoes today?

  17. Isn't is great to live in a small town?!

    I hope you get the 10-year cards. It would be a great step.

    It doesn't seem all that long ago that you, Walt, and Collette were passing through on your way to France. My god, time flies!

  18. Ken
    read your blog once in a while while but glad you are about to get your French residency papers. Do not if remember me from slow travel, Pedmar.
    I just met some of the old timer in Paris a while back. As you know, I am one of those married to a Frenchie so French even before coming to live in France back too in august 2003.
    take care,and best of luck

  19. No, I do not have a french passport! When I got my US citizenship, I had to give up the french one; I was then immatriculated at the french consulate (I worked there for 6 months when I first arrived in LA). It was so much easier to travel with a US passport. Once in Roissy, a "douanier" was looking at it a little longer than usual. He saw I was born in France... He gave it back to me and just said "ben alors"? I just shrugged my shoulders. There is also the fact that I do not like to deal with french "bureaucratie". In the US, 99% of the time, the people are very nice and helpfull. Not so much in France. (They think like they are doing you a big favor and are sometimes condescending and have that attitude of "why are you bothering us?"); That is why I really feel for you and "Loulou" (etal) going through this agony. Hopefully, the cards are in the mail. I don't want to congratulate you yet, but it seems like you might get them soon.
    It does help to have a nice mayor for neighbor.

  20. Tom, it is amazing how fast time passes, isn't it? I remember that visit to Sidney in May 2003 so well...

    Nadège, France has changed greatly since the early 1970s. Back then, the bureaucracy was difficult. Now it seems very reasonable, and the people we deal with smile and are friendly. It's a different world.

    Ginny, I didn't do too much with tomatoes today. There are so many more of them ripening that I'm waiting a day or two before I start making sauce with them all.

  21. What fantastic news for you both! I hope it all goes through as smoothly as it seems to be.


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