Category Archives: Legalities

Replacing An American Passport in Paris

passport-1

Photo credit: Ann Mah

If your American passport’s been lost or stolen, take a deep breath.  Writer and Paris blogger Ann Mah has taken the guesswork out of the process with this informative post (originally posted on her site annmah.net).  Many thanks to Ann for allowing us to repost.  And be sure to check out Ann’s new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating which is getting rave reviews.  It’s the perfect gift for your favorite Francophile (including you.)  Did I mention the recipes?

by Ann Mah

After my passport was stolen a few weeks ago, I went to the U.S. Embassy in Paris to replace it. (Though my husband is a Foreign Service Officer, his assignment in Paris ended last year, and I visited as an ordinary American citizen.) A lot of people are intimidated by the American Embassy — and it is a bit of a fortress — so I thought I’d share a few tips to smooth your path in case you need to urgently replace your passport in Paris. Learn from my mistakes, friends!

After you discover the loss of your passport:

Report it to the French police. This will probably take hours, but it helps guard against passport fraud and/or identity theft. Also, I found the gendarmes extremely kind, sympathetic (and one of them was pretty cute).

Visit the U.S. Embassy in Paris website, specifically the page U.S. passport services and read the information carefully. I don’t recommend phoning the Embassy switchboard as the website is extremely helpful and offers all the information you need. Bottom line: if your passport was lost or stolen, you can apply for an emergency replacement in person, without an appointment, by showing up at the Consular Section of the US Embassy, Monday-Friday, 8.30 am sharp. (Note: The embassy is open during regular business hours, but closed on French and American holidays.)

What to bring to the embassy:

Bring your forms, completed in advance. Go to the U.S. passport services page. (Really, I cannot emphasize this enough.) It will tell you which documents you need and give links to the forms, which you can print and complete in advance. You can also fill out and print the forms on computers at the embassy, but the system there is not reliable (I had trouble printing, for example) and I got yelled at when I asked for help.

Bring your wallet. You will be charged for your new passport. They take Euros, US dollars, and credit cards, including American Express.

Bring lots of loose change — specifically one- or two-Euro coins. If you are applying for an emergency passport, you can take the photos at the embassy, but the photo booth only accepts change and on the day of my visit the change machine was out of service. Loose change is also handy in case you want to buy a snack or coffee from the vending machine.

Bring something to read to pass the time — a book or magazine. There will be a lot of waiting.

Note: If you are applying for a regular (not an emergency) replacement passport:

You cannot take your passport photos at the embassy. Instead, take them before your visit — I recommend the day before. Photo Madeleine — a five-minute walk from the embassy (41 rue Boissy d’Anglas, 8e) — shoots photos that meet the required regulations. Also, bring a pre-paid Colissimo envelope. The embassy will ask you for this so they can send your new passport back to you. You can buy the envelopes at the Concorde métro station. The embassy also sells them via vending machine, but they cost €25, the vending machine only takes change, and the change machine was out of service the day of my visit.

Your visit to U.S. Embassy Paris

Make sure to arrive at 8.30 am, or slightly earlier. You’ll wait in line to go through security. You cannot bring your cell phone, i-Pad, laptop, or any electronic equipment into the building, but you can check them at the guard hut. I also had to check my Kindle, which made me very sad as it was my only form of entertainment. Don’t bring a Kindle.

Be prepared to spend several hours at the embassy. I arrived at 8.30 am and didn’t leave until after 12 noon. The lines are long, especially on a Monday, when everyone who has lost their passport over the weekend applies for a new one. The good news is, I found my fellow passport theft victims to be extremely friendly and chatty and their stories of being robbed on trains and in markets were fascinating cautionary tales. I also thought the Embassy personnel was also very professional and polite (except for the woman who got testy with me about the printer).

Don’t expect to receive your passport immediately. If your flight is scheduled for the same day, change it to the next. I saw a woman in tears because she hadn’t changed her flight –even though she’d read the website, (which clearly states “we cannot guarantee that we can issue a passport in time for same-day travel”) she didn’t believe it. Believe it.

There is a clean bathroom.

If you have a question, ask a security guard. There are a few of them wandering around the waiting area. I found them all very friendly and helpful.

With any luck, your emergency passport will be ready the same (or next) day and you’ll be able to go home, a smarter traveler with a good story under your belt.

The Skinny on Getting Married in Paris

Today’s post is reposted with permission from Parisian Party, the blog of Kimberley Petyt, an American wedding planner living in Paris.  Kim has been creating events for almost 10 years, both in the U.S. and in France.  Her firm, Parisian Events, caters to the English-speaking community in Paris – people who either live here on a long-term basis, or come to Paris just to celebrate their wedding or special event.  Her specialty is combining traditional American elements with classic Parisian elegance- and ending up with fresh, stylish, “oh la la” events that keep guests talking for ages after!

by Kimberley Petyt

le baiser de l'hotel de ville, doisneauFrom the classic Technicolor dance scenes of An American in Paris to more recent films like Moulin Rouge and Amelie Poulain- for many Americans, Paris is the epitome of romance. And what could be a more romantic place to get married? For most couples, after deciding to get married in Paris, the first thing they do is make a giddy, “so crazy this just might work” phone call to their local French consulate, where they are instantly jerked backed down to earth by their first official French Non: “Mais, mademoiselle! C’est impossible! You must live in France for 40 days before you can marry in France. Impossible! Why are you calling me? Au revoir!!” Click…. And for some couples, that will be that. In a flash they’re swept directly to Plan B, their local country club with a Paris themed reception, do not pass Go, do not collect 200€…

Some couples, though, will want to see the dream through- they may choose to have a legal ceremony in their own country, and then come to Paris for a symbolic ceremony. Symbolic ceremonies aren’t legally binding, but are as romantic and as meaningful as you’d imagine them to be. I’ll post more about symbolic ceremonies in the future. This post, though, is for the hard-liners- those couples that are ready to dance with the big boys, to run the gauntlet, fight the fight… Getting legally married in France as a foreigner will be one of the strongest tests to your “coupledom” as you’ve probably gone through so far. Forget about Couples Fear Factor: if you can survive this, you can survive anything…

The Nitty Gritty

What the curt civil servant at the embassy told you is true. In order to be legally wed in France, one of the couple needs to have lived in France, in the district around the city hall in which they plan to marry, for a minimum of 40 consecutive days before the wedding. Some sources say 30 days, but you have to add on an additional 10 days for the city hall to publish the Banns – a public announcement that is put up in City Hall for 10 days preceding your marriage that lists your names and your impending marriage date so that any estranged husbands or wives have one last chance to find you before you’re married off…

Before asking for that sabbatical from work, though, you should know that this one little detail is actually a big one. You must show 2 proofs of domicile (“justificatifs de domicile” )- a gas or electricity bill (a cell phone bill doesn’t count), a rent receipt, a lease, a French social security card, etc. If you are planning on renting an apartment here on a short-term lease in order to meet this marriage requirement, know that it could take several months before you receive any of the above documents. Another option is to live with a friend or relative, and have that person sign an attestation d’hébergement sur l’honneur. This is a statement swearing that you have been living at that persons residence, and that they take responsibility for you if you happen to be a drug trafficker or illegally downloading “Desperate Housewives” or something. There is a ton of small print on this one, including a huge fine and a short trip to the guillotine if its ever found out that you, in fact, Paris City Hallwere not living with them.

If you are able to meet the 40 day requirement, the first thing you want to do is to get the most recent list of required documents from the city hall (mairie) in which you plan to marry. Most of these documents have specific time frames in which they must be dated before being submitted, so it’s important to get the list as soon as you can. Here is a general list of the documents that you will need to be legally wed in France. It’s important, though (and I can’t stress this enough) that you get the official, most up-to-date list from the mairie in the district (arrondisement) that you are planning to marry.

A valid passport or a French residence permit (“carte de sejour”)

A birth certificate (”extrait d’acte de naissance“): Most city halls require that you present an original copy of a complete birth certificate (with full details of your parents) issued within 3 months of your wedding date along with a sworn translation. You have to get the translation from a sworn translator (”traducteur assermenté“). Sworn translators are listed at every “mairie”.

A certificate of celibacy (”attestation tenant lieu de declaration en vue de mariage ou de non-remariage“) less than 3 months old

An affidavit of law (”certificat de coutume“) Many mairies request an affidavit of law (”Certificat de Coutume”) in addition to the affidavit of marital Status from foreigners. The affidavit of law certifies that the American citizen is free to get married in France and that the marriage will be recognized in the United States. Only an attorney licensed to practice in both France and the United States may execute this document.

A medical certificate (“certificat médical prénuptial”): You both must get a pre-nuptial medical certificate which says that you were examined by a doctor “en vue de mariage.” (Don’t get nervous, girls- it’s just a standard check-up plus a couple of blood tests: blood type, syphilis, rubella and toxoplasma…) The marriage banns cannot be published until medical certificates have been submitted to the mairie. The certificates must be dated no earlier than two months before the publication of banns. Any qualified doctor can perform the medical examination (the Embassy publishes a list of English-speaking doctors).

Proof of domicile (”justificatifs de domicile“) (see above)

A “certificat du notaire“: If you are planning on having a pre-nuptial agreement, you must go through a lawyer (a notaire) who will provide a “certificat du notaire” which must be submitted to the mairie as well. It must have been drawn up no more than 2 months prior to the marriage.

If there are no pre-nuptial contracts, then you will be married under the communauté réduite aux acquets. This means that what each of you owned personally before the marriage, or whatever comes to you afterwards through inheritance, remains your own, individual property. Only that which is acquired during the marriage is owned equally by both parties. (If you’ve ever seen or read Le Divorce, this scenario may look very familiar to you…)

If either of you were previously married, you must provide a certified copy of the death certificate of the deceased spouse or a certified copy of the final divorce decree.

In addition to all of the above, you will also have to choose and provide information on your witnesses (”temoins”)- 2 to 4 people who will act as sort of your best men and/or maid of honor, and sign the registry after the marriage ceremony. You will need to provide their names, addresses, their professions and photocopies of their passports with your dossier.

All of this needs to be presented to the Mairie in time for them to check and approve your documents before posting the Banns- they typically ask for your completed marriage file 10 days before their publication, but I usually suggest that my clients submit their dossier sooner than that- the curt civil servants will almost always insist that there is a document missing, sending you into yet another frenzy of frantic phone calls and emails.

When all has been accepted and approved, you will receive word from the Mairie of your wedding date and time (you can request a specific date and time ahead of time, but they will assure you that nothing is confirmed until the dossier has been approved). Keep in mind that you must be legally married in a civil ceremony before you will be allowed to have a Catholic church ceremony in France. After your civil ceremony, you will receive a “Livret de Famille” (Family Book) a sort of wedding certificate that also has pages for all of your future children. This little blue book is the Holy Grail. If you live in France, this book will make your administrative life here a lot easier pretty much until the day you die (in which your death will be noted in said little blue book). If you don’t plan on staying in France, think of it as the ultimate wedding present.

Getting married in a foreign country is rarely easy. A Parisian wedding is just a bit more difficult than that. But if you are willing and able, the lasting memory of exchanging your vows beneath the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, or in the cobbled halls of a centuries-old chateaû is worth a few months of frustration.

Like I said, if you can survive all of the above, your marriage will be built to last.

 

Filling Out Forms

Another in a series of posts drawn from ielanguages.com, an incredible, free on-line French language resource created by Jennie Wagner, an English lecturer at the Université de Savoie in Chambéry, France. Jennie has graciously allowed Posted in Paris to repost several of her tutorials. Make sure you follow the links in each post back to her site for the sound files.

Ah French bureaucracy.  Can’t avoid it.   There are forms to be filled out everywhere — at the bank, la poste, the prefecture, school, even the grocery store.    Here are a couple of key vocabulary words to remember.  Click here to go directly to the ielanguages site for the sound files for some of these words.  Scroll down to “Filling Out Forms.”

contact information: les coordonnées

last name: nom

first name: prénom

maiden name:  nom de jeune fille

address: adresse

birthdate: date de naissance

place of birth: lieu de naissance

ville: city

pays: country

nationality: nationalité

marital status: situation de famille

single: célibataire

married: marié(e)

divorced: divorcé(e)

widowed: veuf (veuve)

Signed [city] … date: Fait à … le 

birth certificate l’acte de naissance

passport: le passeport

visa: le visa

residency card: la carte de séjour

receipt: le récépissé

application: le formulaire / la candidature

enrollment form: la demande d’inscription

Remember the date format in France is day/month/year instead of month/day/year and that you generally capitalize your last name, but not your first name: Jean-Paul BOUCHER.

And keep in mind that 99 percent of the forms you fill out will start with “nom” ( which is your last name) first.

The Route to a French Drivers’ License

You may be terrified at the thought of driving in Paris.   Some people manage quite well without ever getting behind the wheel.  But eventually you may find that your kids’ activities, your work assignments, or even vacation plans require some driving.  You don’t have to drive around the Etoile but you do need to know the requirements for driving legally.

If you’re a tourist, your home country license and an international driving permit are valid during your vacation.   And if you’ve moved to France, you can continue to drive legally for one year on your home country documents.   (The year begins from the date on your carte de séjour.)  Some authorities suggest that you get an official translation of your foreign driver’s license but frankly, I’ve never heard of anyone having this done.

After one year, you can only drive legally and continue coverage with your auto insurance company if you have a French driver’s license.    If you are a resident of one of the 14 states in the U.S. listed below, you are in luck because you can actually exchange your existing license for a French license.  (These states have an agreement with the French government to issue U.S. permits to French citizens living in those states.)  The states are:  Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia.  If you don’t live in these states and you don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a French license otherwise, you might think about getting a license in one of these states before you become a resident of France. The residence requirements for getting a driver’s license in some states is very loose and in the long run, this can save you a lot of time and money.

Residents of the Canadian provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Newfoundland can also exchange their licenses.  If you have a valid driver’s license from another EU country, this is also recognized as legally valid.

The exchange process is handled by the préfecture of police and like many other administrative processes, can take awhile. The sooner you start, the better. According to the U.S. embassy Web site, you will need to have the following documents:

  • a form to request the driver’s license (available at the préfecture).
  • your U.S. or Canadian driver’s license with sworn translation in French. (For married women, if maiden name or married name does not appear on the driver’s license, a statement or official document showing both names is required.) Some préfectures may also require a “notarized translation” done in the form of a sworn affidavit.  American citizens may obtain this at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy by appointment only for a $30 fee, or the euro equivalent; each additional seal provided at the same time in connection with the same transaction will cost $20, or the euro equivalent. For information on notarial and authentication services at the U.S. Consulate in Paris please refer to: http://france.usembassy.gov/usc_notarial.html.
  • proof of current address such as statement of domicile, electricity bill or rent receipt.
  • your carte de séjour with photocopy of both sides.
  • two French passport size photographs.

Students generally are permitted to use their home country driver’s license for the duration of their studies. 

If you are not a resident of one of these states or provinces nor a student or if you decide to act after the one year window, then you will need to pass both written and behind the wheel driving tests.

For the written test, you sit in front of a slide show which is basically a picture of a scene outside of a windshield of a car.  There are typically 40 multiple choice questions, often very tricky,  in French.   If you don’t speak French very well, you can ask for the help of a translator.  (Check on the details about translators before you sit for the test:  one source suggests that a friend or a relative can actually serve as your translator; others indicate that you have to use a translator from your prefecture’s list.) 

Once you pass the written exam, you can take a driving exam with a French examiner.  You drive around for about 30 minutes, perform two maneuvers (for example, parallel parking), and answer two basic questions about the inside and outside of the car (for example, showing where the hazard lights are).   The driving exam must be completed with a dual command car.   As a result,  you will have to go through a driving school (auto ecole).    Fair warning:  the price of driving school can be quite steep.

Once you’ve passed,you will have a probationary license valid for three years with six points, half the number of a regular license.  If all goes well, and no points are deducted during the three year period, you will receive a full-fledged license with 12 points and no expiration date.

 Resources

The fine print for U.S. citizens driving in Paris  (from U.S. embassy Paris Web site)

A personal story with lots of details from Jennie en France:  http://www.ielanguages.com/license.html

Study materials for the exams (in English) courtesy of the Webs site, Americans in France

The one Paris area driving school everyone always mentions because they cater to English speakers

Carte de Sejour: Your Ticket to a Legal, Long-Term Stay

A number of folks have mentioned that this site badly needs a post on the ins and outs of getting and renewing a carte de séjour, that important piece of legal paper that you will need if you intend to stay in France for longer than the three months allowed for tourists or the 12 months allowed under certain longer-stay visas.  Since there seem to be as many stories about the carte de séjour process as there are Americans in Paris, because the rules are constantly changing and somewhat arbitrarily applied, and because I am not a lawyer, I’ve been loathe to take this on.

Enter Loulou, self-described queen of French cheese, expat living in Languedoc-Roussillon, and author of the blog, Chez Loulou.  Exasperated with answering dozens of individual e-mails but still wishing to be helpful to those with the urge to move to France, she has embarked upon a multipart tutorial that covers the territory from the question, “why do I want to live in France” to the full blow-by-blow account of how she secured French citizenship.  It’s all interesting but for those particularly interested in the carte de séjour process,  start here with Loulou’s post:  Moving to France Tutorial Part 4: The Carte de Séjour.

A thousand thanks to Loulou and bon courage to the rest of you.