Obtaining a French Residency Card
I’ve read horror stories about prefecture appointments and the difficulty involved in getting a Carte de Séjour, so I was expecting an unpleasant experience.  In my case, I was pleasantly surprised; however, this may have been because my documents were prepared by immigration attorneys and I had a French-speaking assistant who came with me.

The start to the appointment was rather ominous because the man looked at my documentation and muttered about never seeing a “European Blue Card” application before, that he didn’t know what was required for my dossier and that he hoped we were prepared to be at the prefecture for a LONG time (all in French, of course).  I came across the same lack of knowledge about a European Blue Card at the consulate – it appears that not many people take advantage of this visa, even though it’s one of the easiest ways to immigrate to France from a non-EU country.  Of course, you have to meet the educational or work experience requirements, plus a salary requirement, but then you’re entitled to the same benefits as a resident and have a path to permanent residency.
Moulin Rouge, 2009
Fortunately, the prefecture official came back quickly with the binder for the European Blue Card (aka “passeport talent”) and was able to confirm that I had all of the required documents and French translations.  Ironically, my original documents were barely glanced at.  All they really cared about were the colored copies that were stamped by the official translator and the translations.  Since I’ll have my new address within 8 days of the appointment, they also issued my card with my new address so I didn’t have to return to change it.

The official was actually extremely nice and seemed pleasantly surprised that I understood most of the French and was able to give my address and other information in French.  So, I am now in possession of my temporary card (through May 2017) with my permanent one on the way!  I officially have the legal right to live and work in France for the next four years! 😊

I might be homesick occasionally, but if I’d ever made a bucket list, living in France would have been on it.  Ten years ago, I was on my first trip to Europe and I’d been to Paris earlier in the trip, but was returning to the city for one day before I went home.  I remember feeling completely at home, which hadn’t been the case for the rest of my trip.  I thought it was just the familiarity because I’d been there before, but when I went to London the next day to fly out, I didn’t feel the same, despite speaking nearly the same language as the Brits!  When I returned in 2009, Paris was the only city that I visited for a second time “just because” – I returned to Barcelona and Rome because I’d missed large parts of both cities due to missing a flight (Barcelona) and being extremely ill (Rome).  There wasn’t anything in particular that I went back to Paris for though, other than because I really loved France.

Paris 2009 with a truly awful hair cut!

TIP: If you don’t have utilities in your name, an attestation of insurance coverage is adequate proof of address (along with your rental contract) for the prefecture.  This also worked when opening my French bank account.

Renting a House in France

There are so many new things about life here (the measurement system being metric, the language, the culture) that at times it can be overwhelming.  I was really not enthusiastic about moving because I knew it was likely that I’d have to do a move-in “inventory” and sign a contract that was all in French.  I also knew that I’d have to figure out how to obtain utilities in French.

I’m very fortunate that I have the general manager that I do!  Clearly, it’s not part of his job responsibilities to help me with my house (which falls squarely into the “personal” arena in France), but he did it anyway.  It would have taken me hours to understand everything that was being said, try to make sure the contract reflected what we agreed on and I probably would have been so distracted trying to translate that I would have missed things (which was my experience when viewing houses initially).  PB was able to quickly communicate with the owners, was meticulous about noticing everything and made sure that certain things would be done before I moved in and that they were noted in the contract (like a holder for the shower head).

If you do not speak fluent French and you know ANYONE who does, enlist their help!  The tenant is responsible for basically any damage that is not noted on the move-in report (and not normal wear-and-tear).  PB also told me to take photos of everything.  The couple I’m renting from seem like very nice people, but PB was insistent that I needed to be cautious to protect myself.

I accidentally took a photo of them while photographing chips in the paint.  The infamous PB is to the right and appears to be inspecting my fireplace.

I’d read of other ex-pats having trouble getting utilities turned on in their name (or needing the phone number of the prior occupant to switch the phone over); however, I had no difficulties.  What is strange is that the owners were able to provide my info to the electric and water company without me ever speaking to the companies myself and the bills will apparently be in my name now; this would not happen in the US!  (UPDATE: I received a form to sign and confirm)  Most of the sites for internet service asked for the prior phone number, but I was able to select an option to use my address instead.  After comparing offers, the offer from Orange was the best for my area.  Orange’s site was all in French, but I understand enough that I was able to order service (and it was supposed to be on by the 15th, then I received a 2nd message for the 21st – that turned out to be for my TV service though).  The owners indicated that I should contact the local mayor’s office to determine what to do about trash pickup – usually the website for the commune will have that info, but the one for my town is useless in that regard.  It did inform me of the rate for my tax d’habitation next year though!

For those who don’t know, tax d’habitation is a tax that renters pay, which I believe is a percentage of the rent.  It is based on where you live on January 1, but is not due until later in the year (the bill at my current house arrived in November, due in December).  This is on top of the tax that the property owner pays (which is likely passed down to the renter as well through the rent price)!