• France's news in English

Life may get easier for expats settling in France

Oliver Gee · 22 Jul 2015, 16:51

Published: 22 Jul 2015 16:51 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
French expats who return to France often go through the same struggles as the rest of us expats. 
For example, how can they show their French payslips to a prospective landlord if they don't have any? How can they ensure their children's foreign education is accounted for properly? And how can they get their foreign driving licenses recognized in France?
Perhaps it's due to this legal red tape that more than half of French people who have lived abroad for more than six years simply don't return. 
This statistic was addressed in a report spearheaded by Socialist Party Senator Hélène Conway-Mouret, one of the 12 senators tasked with looking out for the interests of French people living around the world. 
She says there is something of a stigma attached to French expats in general, with her report quoting one French expat who said they were " treated like thieves" upon returning.
"We wanted to address a lot of the clichés about French expats abroad, which are often negative," Conway-Mouret told The Local.
"There are often suspicions that these people are fleeing the country, when actually they just want to discover the world, work, study, or move for love. We want to break these obsolete clichés and show that France is a modern country that's totally a part of globalization."
She added that while it was "a shame" so many of the 1.6 million registered French expats didn't want to come home, these people had a right to be out in the world, just as so many foreigners have chosen to come to France. 
Conway-Mouret's team submitted their findings, which were based on responses to thousands of questionnaires, to the prime minister on Tuesday, detailing 49 proposals aimed to make life easier for French expats arriving back home in France. 
And some of the proposals, the senator noted, would also help other foreigners coming to France. 
"We're not trying to set up some new category strictly for French expats to get them on a fast track to benefits that others won't get. These measures being proposed will have a broader impact, and will help a lot of people. This is a report that's based on what people expect and what they have been waiting for," she told The Local. 
Here are six examples that would have particular benefits for all expats:
1. Accepting foreign finance proof
The report suggested that landlords should accept more than just French payslips to judge tenants' financial resources. The senator noted that this change would be particularly beneficial for students on short-term visits.
2. Less translation
The report proposed a drastic cut down on the translation to French of foreign documents, suggesting that translations are only carried out when "strictly necessary".
3. Relaxing school sign up rules
Currently, it's a nightmare to sign up a child for school from abroad if you don't have an address in France. The report suggested allowing registration using a work address, or even the address of a parent. If parents can't provide any of these, the report suggested temporarily providing the address of the Mairie.
4. Recognize children's foreign languages
A system should be introduced to more easily recognize children's foreign language abilities, including an introduction of tests that can be taken from a distance.
5. One foreign driver's license system
Aligning all Prefectures on the same regulations for recognizing foreign drivers licenses.
6. Connecting an official phone line
It might sound like a bit of a no-brainer, but not all official bodies in France are accessible by phone from abroad. The report suggested that these phone numbers should be accessible from anywhere.

(People queuing to leave France at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. Photo: AFP)
Conway-Mouret, who herself has been an expat for 25 years in Ireland, admits that the current system needs an overhaul. 
Story continues below…
"There's too much energy wasted on endless meetings and appointments, and needing to produce ten times too many documents at every stage," she said. 
She hoped the report would mark "a big movement towards simplification", adding that Prime Minister Manuel Valls was pleased with what he saw.
"He is a man of action and said he wanted to see the proposals put in place as soon as possible," she said, adding that she expected results "as soon as autumn".
And it appears the changes couldn't come soon enough for France's estimated 2.5 million expats living abroad (of whom 1.6 million are registered).
The report noted that 57 percent of them were concerned about getting back into France's health system if they were to move home, that 54 percent worried about finding a job, and that 54 percent had concerns about finding a home. 
Of the French expats who do return home, 59 percent come for work-related reasons while 21 percent return for family. 
Many, however, plan to stay away, with 53 percent of French expats who've spent over six years abroad claiming they don't intend to come back.
A recent study found that two thirds of French expats don't plan on returning home within the next five years, citing a more attractive professional life abroad. 

(Senator Hélène Conway-Mouret. Photo: AFP)
Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France sees biggest drop in jobless rate for 20 years
Photo: AFP

Good news at last. But it's unlikely to keep President François Hollande in his job.

Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available