Now that we’ve lived in France in a “habitual and continuous manner for five years” it’s possible to apply for citizenship. That time requirement can vary, for example, if you got your university degree here, or have a French sibling, spouse, or parent/grandparent/great grandparent but in my case it will be a Demande de naturalisation par décret (Request for naturalization by decree). That just means that I have to be integrated into the community, have a sufficient knowledge of the language, history, culture and society, as well as the rights and duties conferred by French nationality and adhere to the principles and values of the Republic. Whew, sounds like a tall order so I’d better get started!
Although today’s blog post title sounds like a prison sentence it’s far from it; in fact, just the opposite. It refers to the ability to apply for a 10-year residence card after having lived in France for five years. We reached that milestone at the end of February and now we are holders of a Carte de résident de longue durée-UE or something similar in the US might be called a “green card”. Our French one is blue but no less significant. Previously we needed to renew our card annually to stay here legally but now we’re set for the next decade. So besides not having to pay a renewal fee of 269 € every year, what are the other advantages?
In the 2008 movie Mamma Mia!, hotel owner Donna Sheridan comments that her soon-to-be son-in-law will be publicizing her Villa Donna to the world by putting her “on the line.” She claims to be current with the new technology of “the Internets” wondering why no one has invented a machine that makes the beds. We had a similar thought recently regarding those “Internets” when we had to have several documents notarized for use back in the US. Given that a notarial act must generally be conducted within the state where the notary holds a commission, it was going to be a challenge with the Atlantic ocean between us and travel heavily restricted. Time for an “on the line” search for a solution.
To apply for French citizenship requires a lot of documents. Some of them you have to request from the US, such as your birth certificate while others like your electric bill can be printed out at home. None of that is really challenging but anything that is not already in French has to be officially translated. There is one item, however, that does involve some work: 400 hours or about 18 months of study is what I’ve seen estimated online. An applicant must prove that she or he can operate independently in the French language, understand main points in conversations, cope with most situations that could arise while traveling in the country, and describe dreams, hopes, ambitions, and opinions with supporting reasons. This intermediate level is classified by the CERL (Cadre Européen de Référence pour les Langues) as B1 and this week I received my successful test results.
To live in France full-time for our initial year here, our first step was obtaining a visa from the French consulate in Miami. Once we arrived in Carcassonne we then had to make an appointment with the Immigration Office in Montpellier for a medical checkup that would qualify us to stay here legally for the duration of that one-year visa. Three months before that expired we visited our local Préfecture (think, Federal Building, in US terms) to arrange for a time to drop off copies of our financial statements, utility bills and a few other documents to prove that we actually lived here and had the resources to support ourselves. A one-year carte de séjour (residency card) has annually been the result. We’ve been repeating that process each winter since our arrival in February 2016 and you can read about that in our blog post Fort-unate that includes a link to the post from the prior year. This week we obtained our newest carte de séjour with only a few minor changes from the previous experiences. Continue reading “Renewed”
This month starts our fourth year of living in France and I thought that this would be a great opportunity to answer a question that we are often asked, “Why are you so happy all of the time?” A good starting point that might say it all is that we live in the south of France and we’ve just received our residency card renewal to remain here for another year. That alone makes us smile. The procedure was identical to last year (Year 3 begins) which reinforces our other experiences with government and business offices here: follow their rules, give them exactly the documents they want in the order requested and in return you will be treated in a respectful and friendly manner and receive precisely what you’ve been seeking. Who wouldn’t be happy with that? But wait, there’s so much more….Continue reading “Four-tunate”
Although we tend to use March 1 as the starting date for our new life in France, the government here considers February 20 the date since that’s when our initial visa began. Americans can enter the country for up to 90 days on their airline ticket alone, but for those of us who didn’t buy a round-trip flight, you have to do a bit more work. During that initial grace period you must schedule a medical appointment with the immigration office who will then stamp your visa as valid for an additional 9 months. At the end of your first year you can trade in the visa for a residency card that must then be renewed annually using essentially the same documentation required to come here in the first place. Basically you must prove that you won’t be a burden to the taxpayers in that you have sufficient income, health insurance, housing, etc. to take care of yourself. This week we again succeeded in doing that so we have brand new residency cards.Continue reading “Year 3 begins”