Not Surviving France

I received the letter yesterday from the Prefecture. I have 30 days to exit France. A copy has been sent to the Maire and the Gendarme. I am an American, on a CDI, and own a French home. I have done nothing wrong, but my husband's Visa request to be self-employed was declined and they are now asking me to leave as well.

It has been a horrific 90-days to get to this point of knowing my fate. Perhaps a horrific 18 months since we started this journey. One of miscommunication, errors and outright hostility. Even if I could appeal the ruling, my employer is so frustrated with the process they are moving my job to the UK. My only hope is that my Avocat can buy me a little more time.

So, now I have 30 days to move myself, two dogs, and everything I own. I don't even know where to go. I don't have a home or family to return to in the US. With the speed of things in France, I doubt I could even get a moving quote that quickly. Do I leave everything behind and hope it's still here in three months when I can return legally?

I'm not looking for sympathy. I've already come to terms with what I have to deal with. The financial and emotional cost has been huge - but that is what happens when one is naive and has a dream.

I guess my message is, if you are an EU citizen and you have the legal right to move to France rejoice in how lucky you are. Even after all the pain of this experience, I still believe I am sitting (for the next 29 days) in the most beautiful place in the world. And if you are not an EU citizen, be very careful in the decisions you make. Do not assume because you are a stable person with a French employer and adequate financial means that you will be welcomed in France.

Any advice on a quick exit for myself, my two dogs, and everything I own is gratefully accepted. You've all been very kind and supportive during my time here. Wouldn't have 'survived' this long without you.

I have seen how excrutiating it is. Fair enough, I had letters from UN agencies both times I had to get a visa and got 10 years each shot, think the latter is still valid in fact. However, the USA in London were helpful and efficient. When it was apparent I did not intend to stay there on the first occasion it was done and dusted quckly. OK, the queue was a bit long. I would say the same for China, Viet Nam and India thus far, all of whom are allegedly sticky and slow. For colleagues getting visas to come back to the UK with me it was embarassing. One Kenyan whose workstation was obviously Nairobi was asked to provide evidence he intended to return to his home country. He was head of a section on a far bigger salary than he could have found by staying in the UK illegally, I could only scratch my head. Even the French, if somebody was visiting UNESCO but passing through, had to jump through a couple of hoops. Compared to the UK it was a cakewalk. I reserve judgement.

As my wife is neither a UK or US citizen and we had family weddings (my sons) in the USA and UK this year she was obliged to apply for visas for both countries. From our experience the US was a much simpler and efficient route and, further, our entry at Washington DC took less than five minutes and pleasant. The cost was acceptable and she was given a ten year visa. By comparison the UK process was bureaucratic in the extreme, required two visits (six hours each way) from our home in Brittany to Paris, copies and originals of dozens of pieces of paper, including bank statements, impots des revenus, habitation, fonciere and utility bills, original letter from my own son inviting us to attend his wedding (!), carte de sejour, marriage certificate, my wife's work details and a daily itinerary with every accommodation address and telephone number etc etc etc. The staff concerned with the application were generally unhelpful and you never got to meet the decision taker (who incidentally writes on her Facebook that she loves her job!- does she torture people for fun?). My wife was given a six month visa. Entry was not a problem as we arrived by car and the officer did not ask to see any of the original back up documents although we had been warned to bring them just in case. No wonder UK tourism bosses have complained that potential tourists to the UK are being put off. Next year we certainly won't bother going to the UK for holidays but will stay in Europe where the hassle for the time being is rather less and we will save hundreds of pounds and extreme unpleasantness by choosing to go elsewhere. The politicians and officers are all scared of the immigration issue and have as usual totally over-reacted! One dreads to think what will happen expats if a referendum goes wrong in the UK.

Ian in and out of the states on business, and as long as you have completed your ESTA form, yes it’s slow because of the queues but by and large, I have found most folks polite and helpful…but the queues can be awful, up to 2 hours if several large flights come in at the same time

Yes- my wife is in this position and will need to renew this year. Even if married to a EU citizen non EU people still need it and you also need to have the right to work.

Actually you have between one and five days before entry into the UK to have the vet-certified worm treatment done. That's new this year, as well as the scrapping of the necessary blood test to ensure the rabies jab has taken (I had occasion to ask my vet just yesterday). However, finding a home in UK that will accept you and your animals is not easy.

Someone suggested the Anglo Info forum, it's possible that someone in UK might require a home sitter with dogs while they're out of the country.

I do think that contacting the US and UK embassies will be helpful, their online resources aren't as useful as their support and information on the phone.

The US Embassy is there for US citizens, after all. Surely they are bound to help?

Good luck to you all.

I agree that research is essential and even though I benefit from access to EU countries, I still spent several years holidaying in the area that I now live so as to have a good idea of what permanently living here would entail.

That said, sometimes we cannot know everything in advance. I have lived in 8 non EU countries and in each one there were 'Oh S**T' moments when I was taken unawares by a rule, regulation, custom and so forth.

Live and learn Shirley! And it's been a very expensive lesson. Hoping that sharing my experience with other Americans will help them think long and hard about what they want to do.

Since when has immigration into any country by a non-National been easy? The wondrous days of easy immigration into Australia for example is long-gone. 'Give me your hungry and poor' from America ditto.

The whole point (originally at least) of the EU was to ENABLE the free movement of goods and people between the States. That HAS happened and does happen. Other countries only accept migrants who will not be 'a charge or cost to the State',this is has been abused by illegal immigrants - mostly seeking to improve themselves for sure, but stil at the very least queue-jumping those trying to do things legally. As a direct consequence of this all countries are tightening up their rules and regulations - a simple matter of economics.

Far from 'begrudging' as you call it (something I have never found incidentally) it is the way of bureaucrats everywhere - they follow books of rules - and that's all they are allowed to do, frustrating though it can be to those on the receiving end.

What leads most people immigrating into France as non-EU citizens into stress is they do not seem to have done their homework properly before arriving, and then being shocked not be be welcomed with open arms as some sort of Gift from Heaven.

Even when working on a Contract I took time ut to try and understand what I was walking into, understand the local conditions, rules of etiquette, what not to do mainly, and above all show respect to the host country even when I vehemently disliked some things (as in the Middle East).

This is both pragmatiuc and sensible, and of course you can't hope to know everything about every rule, but the EU entry is surely very well known by now - as is that to the USA. Abusing the system because it works against you is pointless, and it won't change anything other than raise your own blood pressure.

Note of caution! Henry Pérez is referring to human rights organisations who deal with people with political rights issues such as refugees, asylum seekers and people being persecuted for political, religious and such beliefs and practices. Donna's issue is actually a civil law issue although it can eventually reach a human rights court such as the ECHR which takes civil cases in as breeches of human rights when all other legal procedures are exhausted.

Some info on this Facebook group for you too Donna

YY to Brian. A sharp, competent lawyer could turn all this round; if nothing else, a well put together case on appeal would buy you time.

It sounds like your lawyer was incompetent so that you need to start over again. Get an immigration specialist immediately, a good one, get the whole story on paper by him/her and moving. You also appear to have a prima facie human rights case in the manner of your all round treatment since you can prove most of what you say (I presume) and a good lawyer will tell you that. Missing deadlines and not submitting what is required is not clever here in France but should be by no means the end of the line unless you throw in the towel...

I'm just 'guessing' here (again not knowing all the details) but did I see somewhere on this stream that you own a chateau that you are doing up? This could ALSO be part of the problem... the chateau thing is QUITE complicated here (having been a very UNHAPPY owner of a chateau that needed re-doing and a very HAPPY ex-owner) puts you in front of the French bureaucracy in a very unique way. Since you are dealing with the French 'patrimoine', it can be quite delicate.. If the mayor 'wants your house', you might not want to look much farther than there. I had the same problem (the mayor of the village where I had the chateau decided she wanted my chateau free of cost and then arbitrarily made up a problem with it). She almost succeeded and only didn't because I hired a ferocious (but expensive) lawyer. I agree with Liz Clark.. I would go back to the US and try to sort it out from there. I know this is a complete pain and terribly unfortunate for all concerned but I think this is the 'safest' option.

I think you understand correctly Liz and that is what we are doing. I was hoping due to the cost and complexity, to have a bit more time to return. I have come to conclusion that this hope will not be granted. The movers are coming today to quote and set a date. I've contacted the export person for the dogs. And I've found furnished lodging in the states. About 25,000 euros and we should be safely our of here. Very expensive, but the best action to take right now.

Have to say I am also confused…If I Understand correctly

1/ your 3 months visitor right started in June
2/ your husband also has no right to stay in France and you are not appealing that because of the reason for thhat decision
3/ you may or may not have a job in the UK as your employer here moves that role to the UK as you have no UK visa.
4/locally the mayor wants your house

It sounds to me as though you may need to go back to the USA and try and sort things from ther or risk staying as an illegal with all sorts of issues locally, including an “illegal” hubby and running into an enormous mess.

It takes time to get a UK visa, time you may not have now and I m somewhat confused over all of this, so you only answer maybe to return to the USA albeit temporarily

Sadly, Susan - I've paid all my taxes immediately upon receiving my bill. And they have been quite large as both an employee and a home owner. So paying taxes and contributing to the local economy definitely don't seem to be a decision factor toward the positive.

My husband did not receive the response on his application until we hired an Avocat - a year after the initial application. And the denial included no reason. My husband appealed his case and the appeal was denied. We had made a request for tribunal, but once the reasons for the appeal denial were received we withdrew. The consultant who we had hired to do our paperwork, translations, and assist in the communicatations had not done what she had said she had done. There were peices missing from our translated application and there was an important request for additional information that went unanswered. We had provided those responses later to the consulate during one of our queries, but they chose not to consider them because they were not delivered when requested.

This stream of posts totally confuse me. I'm an American and am going on 22 years here which means I got the original carte de sejour and now have renewed it twice and there was never a single issue. I originally came here with my (English) husband but we are no longer together. My guess, then, reading all of this is that the carte de sejour is actually very much 'held hostage' to the mairie... French bureacracy is notoriously arbitrary. My guess is that it is a bit like taxes long as you fill in the forms and pay what you need to and 'don't get noticed', you will be okay. Once they flag you though, it's a problem because (out of sheer pride) they feel they NEED to find 'something'. I must admit, I'm considering applying for French citizenship after hearing this's a seriously crazy story!

I thought you would have a better grasp of the essentials than me Brian.

I also think there is a lot more flexibility in France regarding such 'laws', and you are quite right about getting on the wrong side of an official is not always a good thing, but equally does not necessarily mean they are accurate either.

When living in Paris (Pantin actually) I made it my Golden Rule to get three 'official' statements, and see if two got close to agreement and follow that one.

Don't take any Civil Servant's word as absolute or final, they are mainly paper-pushers and little else. Classic case of blinkered mentality, we went to a Prefecture locally, only to be advised this was not the place for the subject to hand and we needed to go to another office in town. When we asked where it was, the lady didn't know. She asked her colleagues and got the same blank looks. The in-house telephone directory only gave the name of a building, so they suggested we talk to the Reception Desk (get rid of us).

Walking down the stairs to Reception I happened to look out of the window, and blow me down there was the building name right opposite the entrance!

Just to wrap it up ( and in a Freudian moment I typed 'warp' just then). The bureau was on holiday for another two weeks.

You gotta larf, don'tcha?