Should I go for French Residency?

Philip Ross's picture

We have been in France now since November 2007, and I believe that after 5 years we can apply for residency ... basically is it worth doing that?

David Cox's picture

I'm not sure what the advantages may be for a UK citizen. I know that as an American I am going to do it, and keep my US citizenship concurrently. With the regulations pertaining to US citizens and banking abroad, I am unable to have an "assurance vie" in France, and it is too complex to contribute to a US retirement account. I also would like to vote. These are the main reasons I will apply for French citizenship.

James Kearney's picture

David, what complications of "Assurance Vie for Americans in France" have you encountered? I'm 70 and have life insurance coverage for our mortgage until I'm 78 when the mortgage will be finished.

David Cox's picture

Well, my wife's cousin is an insurance agent. He said that I wouldn't have a problem with an "assurance vie". When my application got up the line they denied it, and we put the money in my wife's name. The issue was the bank issuing the policy didn't want to deal with the hassles of having an American client, and all the reporting that they need to do because of that. The type of account we were applying for is more the retirement/passing on to kids type of thing that has French tax advantages if you leave it alone for 8 years. We have a separate insurance policy on our mortgage (which was another story to get, but more to do with French CDD/CDI garbage).

Sarah Hague's picture

I've been here since 1989 and have never felt the need, or had the energy to investigate the long list of papers necessary to make the change.

We are one big happy Euro family (apparently) so we can enjoy everything about being in France except the vote. That's annoying, but I'm not going to become French just to vote. (Why would I want to be French when I'm British???)

Natalie Trent's picture

as an EU citizen you can vote in local elections...however, as an American, I cannot vote in any election - you should look into it!

Cate Chambers's picture

Slightly aside of topic, but one that's making me kind of angry: I went to the local Mairie in December to be put on the register of local electors (I'm in Nantes). All that was needed on the day was the completed form, an ID card OR passport, and a Bulletin de Salaire.

I duly produced passport and Bulletin, and was issued a stamped formal piece of paper there and then to acknowledge the deed had been done. Then, Saturday's post brought me a registered letter from the Hotel de Ville, 'refusing my application' on the grounds that I did not produce ID or sufficient documentation!! Bogus, as I had done both.

They have given me until Jan 20th to 'appeal' this decision, by going to see the Judiciaire d'Instance, who will likely just shrug their shoulders. Anyone had an offputting similar experience with electoral registration? Is this a trampling over my European rights, or just some jobsworth being awkward?

BTW, the OH has been resident in France for about 23 years, and had been thinking seriously of applying for citizenship - but with bureaucratic things like this happening, and all the red tape, not to mention the expense involved, he's decided not to bother.

A few people believe that Sarky has put the kybosh on new entrants to the electoral register in case they vote against him (although I wouldn't be eligible for voting in those elections). That's one reason, I suppose - but I'm annoyed because I complied with all the requirements, etc - and they did a 'U-turn'!

AAaaarrrrggghhhh!! .... Rant over!! ;)

Brian Milne's picture

I photocopied what I took in and stapled them to the application form, took both applications in together and insisted on two receipts there and then. It was fine. Somebody in the adjoining commune did what you did and pretty well the same happened to him as you! Toss of a coin stuff again I suspect.

Cate Chambers's picture

On the day I submitted my application, I was told there would indeed be local elections in Nantes before the end of this year, as someone is due to retire.

It's the principle of the thing really, isn't it...there's no logical reason for refusing my application, and it's baffling (to my simple mind, anyway) when something like this happens.

On a similar note: one person at the Hotel de Ville (different department, and out of a much larger team) tried to halt our recent marriage plans, saying that paperwork was missing, when in fact we had supplied all that was asked for and more - it was a case of one woman at the Mairie deciding in her head that we 'didn't have the right to marry' for some reason unknown to anybody else - thankfully her colleagues were more reasonable and talked her down from her awkward stance, and our paperwork was processed correctly by another member of the team.

That has made me wonder about the 'legitimacy' of decisions made by those in power, albeit in a small office - decisions made on a whim!

Currently composing a letter to the Judiciare - no harm in sending it, we'll see what happens!

Anthony Murphy's picture

A very worthwhile rant, Cate. This I find very interesting. The word that comes to my mind is RACISM, or, direct discrimination. First thoughts - go back to the Maire, find the same person if pos, and seek an explanation. I have had minor minor dealing with both la Cour d'Instance (where I was a defendant) and la Cour Administrative (where I tried to quash a speeding conviction - I failed for purely procedural reasons). Put simply, if this is so important to you, and if simply going back to the Hotel de Ville won't do it, file a claim at the Administrative Court (court at the biggest town in your dept) - deadline for this is 3 months minus 1 day, from the date of the letter from the town hall. (Administrative Court because it is a govt. decision albeit local govt.). Most claims in French Courts are based on a (simple) letter setting out the facts of the case and what your detriment is. All important - take at least 3 copies with you; deliver in person to the court to get a stamp on it; or the what the French love the most, send it by Recommendé + AR! If you are outside of the 3 months, your claim will fail. If however, you have better knowledge, go to the Cour d'Instance. (I thought that court was just for the normal claims against someone and police stuff too). This is a govt. administrative cock-up = administrative court. Have faith ... a French builder made a claim against me for an unpaid bill (to cut a long story short), I prepared a case, defended myself in court, subbmitted my counter-claim, the French court (la Cour d'Instance de Blois) found in my favour and he had to pay me more money in damages!! (not the other way round!)

Vin Collins's picture

Is there such a status as "french residency" long as you register with the french tax authorities thats it .....when we arrived we had to apply for a "carte de sejour" and that was a bit of a bind but now its not needed.

French citizenship is another matter you must have very good french language capability and know quite a lot about french history .......... what are the benefits for UK expats, we can allready vote in Local and european elections does national elections really mean that much ??.....

I doubt its worth the red tape and the cost as nothing is free these days.


Brian Milne's picture

Yes  Sarah and Vin, I am somebody who would happily chuck away my passport and be a 'world citizen' and remain proud of my Scots origin. I would like to vote but OK I am one cross that will not change a lot so I'll put up with commune and EU until it changes to include us in national. The bureaucracy and money wasted to change nationality is almost an anachronism in contemporary Europe so why bother?

Marina Attwood's picture

Sorry to barge in with a separate question, I haven't got time to go through the whole conversation but I just spotted your comment, Vin, "when we arrived we had to apply for a "carte de sejour" and that was a bit of a bind but now its not needed."

My husband (British) and I (French) have been living in France for 10 years and when we first arrived after many years in the UK my husband had to apply for a carte de séjour. It has just expired and I was about to drive (the long way) to town to get it renewed (just when it's inconvenient for me to do so!). Is there no need for him to do so then??? Can he just stay here in France with just his british passport? I'd very much appreciate if somebody could let me know, that would save us time and hassle if you have the answer. Thanks!

Andrew Hearne's picture

Yep - they're no longer needed. I had to have one back in 2001/2002 but when I came back to live in 2005 they'd been abolished for EU citizens.

Marina Attwood's picture

Well, that's great news, thanks Andrew.It goes to show I'm not exactly on top of the ball with Admin. stuff!!

Bob williams's picture

i think you will find EU nationals with a valid passport,are entitled to reside in member states without need of an ID card, providing they have sufficeint funds. For foreign nationals the carte de sejour is still required. Unless others know different?

We moved here late 2006 and registered at the tax office 2007, and CPAM when the E106 expired in 2009..and have enjoyed being here with little or no hassles.. Oh.. except for a week ago.. when URSSAF sent a letter saying our entitlement to health cover was terminated!!!!.. a few calls to URSSAF and CPAM sorted out the mess.. the letter should have read: you need not pay cotisations this year!!!!!!

hope it helps a little.

Catharine Higginson's picture

Yes spot on Fi - they were abolished in 2004/5 (?) but I've been asked for them until as recently as 2011....


Wendy Boyrie's picture

Only if you want to vote in the national elections... or we get kicked out of Europe (or jump!)

Jayne Warner's picture

Are there any benefits apart from voting? Which would not interest me anyway. Think politician are useless the world over.

I half listened to the news a few weeks ago and I am sure they said you had to have the fluency of a 15 year old - not quite sure why that age, and also know a lot about history, name all the departments etc. I doubt my fluency is up to a 10 year olds yet :)

If the only benefit is voting I would not bother but if there were other things then I would.

Andrew Hearne's picture

I'm with you on this one Fiona, for years I haven't felt the need but with all the uncertainty at the moment I've downloaded all the forms (but haven't had the time or energy to start getting hold of all the documentation etc). It makes sense for me as my other half and kids are french leaving me as the odd one out. I'd also like to vote in all elections here and couldn't give a monkey's about the UK and what's going on there (don't have a clue anymore anyway!)

And yes after all that... do you mean naturalisation Philip or residency (which you already have if you're an EU passport holder and live here/pay your taxes here etc)

As for the language level - yes it's just been introduced so you'll have to produce a certificate of B1 level (if I remember correctly) from a test centre or other proof. I haven't read through all of it yet but you obviously need to be fluent at hte interview stage and be able to talk about French society and history and not look like johnny foreigner who just thinks it'd be nice to be naturalised!

Tracy Thurling's picture

It's also something I keep thinking about, particularly for the children, especially with them talking about changing the rules.  My children were born here and have never lived in the UK - hardly visited either so I would prefer that they had French nationality so they actually 'belong' somewhere.  At the moment they are British, by virtue of their parents but French by virtue of where they were born and have always lived, so not really either French or British and if they bring in the new laws, they will not be able to be French at the age of 14, which they can do at the moment.  Imagine not being able to vote and being excluded from many career choices just because you don't have the right passport - and a French passport is a darn sight cheaper!

Angela Nguema's picture

Absolutely Tracey, spot on.

Andrew Hearne's picture

yep - I must get my naturalisation sorted before I have to renew my british passport ;-) french ID cards are free!

Brian Milne's picture

Ooof, after the way I 'exposed' all of the French heroes Patrick Parmentier presented on another post for what they really were (Charlemagne being Belgian, etc.) I think they might fail me on attitude!

Philip Ross's picture

Hi and thanks for your reply ... No I meant just residency which I don't think is the same thing as citizenship - I don't I would want to give up UK citzenship ...

Hope you're ok


Sheila Walshe-Blackmore's picture

I'm confused.  I thought citizens of all EU countries had (under the Four Freedoms) the right to live and work in other EU countries?  Is "tax-resident" status different to "residency"?  Will be watching this discussion.

Sean Rawnsley's picture

Citizenship and residency are two totally different things. It is not a metter of you deciding to be resident -the French tax authorities make that decision! You are, to the best of our non-professional knowledge,  considered resident by the French tax authorities if you spend most of your time here, "live" here either renting or owning, and if you work here.

  A UK lawyer told us some time ago one could argue for residency in France but be domiciled in the UK if one maintained a property, investments, a certain degree of work etc in the UK and had the intention of eventually returning there. Thus you could draw up a UK will on your non-French assets. The French tax people may well look on it differently and I have yet to meet a French accountant who thinks this could be argued successfully. If the French reckon you are domiciled here this means you pay French tax on any earnings paid here but it will also mean your assets, even if they are UK assets, will be divided after your death according to French and law and not some UK will you may have drawn up. Seek professional French advice, I would say.

Ben Mongoose's picture

You are correct in stating that as an EU citizen you have an unlimited right to live and work in all EU-countries. But obtaining the French nationality is, also for EU-citizend, indeed only possible after a minimum of five 5 years actually living in France. So you're a "resident" simply by living here and a "national" by conviction. :-). And some countries require you to give up your original nationality when you apply for the French one.

But even being registered as a resident can have it's advantages: for example the (in)famous Carte Vital requires a social security number, only given to those with the legal right to reside in France.

Taxes however is an more complicated issue. Even within the unified EU-zone each country maintains it's proper tax-regime. To avoid problems, like for example double taxation if you're an UK-national living in France , countries have concluded bi-lateral (or multi-lateral in some cases) tax agreements.

Three principles are important: residency (where do you actually live), source (in which country originates your income) and nationality. The leading principle is that the country you're living in taxes your income, even if it is originating outside your country of residence. But after that, you'd have to study the tax-agreement pertaining to your situation. Some types of income are taxed in their land of origin, even if you're living in France.

I found myself in 2005 living exactly half a year in France and half a year in The Netherlands whilst my income was paid from Japan. The discussion with the 3 tax authorities involved are still going on.....

Sue Newell's picture

If you ask the Uk tax people there are so many variations - ordinarily resident, tax-resident, domiciled, ordinarily domiciled!!!  it goes on and just adds to the confusion!  and didn't I read somewhere that the French are thinking about not allowing dual citizenship - so can't be French and English - which would seem fair - bit like having your cake and eating it!  

Angela Ruth McLaughlin's picture

I think whether you're French resident is based on the facts, i.e. how many days a year you spend in the country etc. You can become French resident as soon as you enter the country. This is the status that counts vis a vis Tax and inheritance. French Citizenship, however, is another matter.  I'm sure there are advantages, but  I'm not expert enough to advise on this. 

Tim Blake's picture

Indeed - I have French Resident papers "for life" - but I gather they are no longer required...

On the other hand - if there was to be a schism inside the European Community, I think I would be first in the queue for applying for Citizenship .. Obviously voting is an advantage , but also, I have found one or two administrative "Grey Areas"  ....on the Etat Civil side of things ...  where I seem to be  disadvantaged,   by having remained a UK citizen ...