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My French Story: Living in France but 'working' in the US

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My French Story: Living in France but 'working' in the US
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12:32 CEST+02:00
American freelance writer and journalist Kami Rice explains how she overcame the hurdles of the French visa system to be able to live happily in France while continuing to "work" in the US.
How did you get a visa to be in France?
 
I first came here on a student visa to study French, but kept in contact with my old freelance clients in the US during that time.
 
Then I was awarded a Compétences et Talents carte de séjour based on a website project I presented for which all the funding would be coming from the US.
 
With this carte de séjour, I was able to register as an auto-entrepreneur. For the time-being I haven't actively sought out French clients, but it's been legal for me to work for them if they come along.
 
When I applied for the Compétences et Talents visa, I had to submit a dossier containing what amounted to a business plan for my project and explain how the project was good for France and good for the US. This was essential to the application for that visa. 
 
This year my carte de séjour was up for renewal.
 
When I applied for the renewal of that visa, it was rather unclear which visa exactly I was now applying for the Compétences et Talents visa, which had been a renewable visa, or the new Passeport Talent visa, which doesn't really include the "cultural benefits" option which was how my project qualified before. 
 
It was also unclear, even after a visit to the préfecture to ask, exactly what they wanted from me in order to show that the project had advanced in the three years I'd had the Compétences et Talents visa. 
 
My website project doesn't have much money behind it, so I didn't see how I'd qualify, according to the criteria listed online for the Passeport Talent carte de séjour. 
 
Because of this I prepared a thorough update of the previous dossier and business plan, including everything I could to support the case for why it was important for me to remain in France for this project.
 
In the préfecture in Pau, this seemed to be a visa the officials at the guichets knew little about, so it was a much different experience.
 
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About three months after I submitted as much of the dossier as they would accept, the préfecture sent a letter requesting documentation proving that I make above French minimum wage.
 
The people I talked with indicated that the primary concern was whether my business / project was financially viable and whether I was making enough not to need social assistance. 
 
I make enough to support myself but not to pay for other employees, etc., so I was concerned about whether they would find my finances sufficient, but they did in the end.
 
Once I submitted that salary information, the visa was quickly approved. 
 
So essentially you are still working in the US but based in the sunny south of France? 
 
Yes!
 
It's quite a good situation. When I first came to France to study French so that I could do interviews for articles in more than one language, I didn't have a plan to stay long-term, so this is not the fruit of a long-planned project.
 
But it has all turned out very well, except that I moved from Provence to Béarn/Pau, where alas there is much more rain and much less sun than in the Provençal part of southern France.
 
Beyond American clients, I've had occasional clients from other countries, and I've done a grand total of one project for a French client.  
 
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What do you make of the auto-entrepreneur system?
 
I'll be honest, I find the auto-entrepreneur system fairly challenging to navigate.
 
It's so much more complicated than the ease of being self-employed in the US. I have not ended my auto-entrepreneur status because I want to remain open to the possibility of French clients if they crop up and because becoming an auto-entrepreneur entered me in the Sécurité Sociale healthcare system, which has been beneficial.
 
Every quarter I dutifully report online that I've earned zero euros, which is easily done, but on top of that it seems each year there is new paperwork to deal with, much of which contains terms not used in everyday conversation.
 
I've often wondered why I have to tell them so many times that I've earned nothing this year as an auto-entrepreneur. Also, I don't know many French friends who are auto-entrepreneurs, so it's been difficult to find people who can help me sort through the paperwork.
 
But it seems silly to have to pay a professional to help me know where to enter the zeros on the forms, since I've not earned anything beyond the one client project three years ago when I registered for auto-entrepreneur status.
 
The charges for that one project seemed very high, around 20 percent of the total. I thought I was paying income tax but only later learned that these were only the social charges and income tax hadn't yet been pulled from what I had earned. I've also had to pay an annual business property tax for working from my home "at the corner of a table," as a woman in the tax office instructed me to write for how much space my business takes up.
 
Given all of this, I'm actually not very motivated to find more French clients because the auto-entrepreneur system has already felt so complicated when I'm earning nothing and entering zeros.
 
How long is your visa for now and do you feel settled in France?
 
My new visa is valid for four years, one year longer than the previous visa.
 
As for feeling settled in France, that's hard to answer. I feel comfortable here, but I still feel like there's so much to learn. In some ways, the longer I'm here, the harder it is because as I plunge into French culture and French life, I'm constantly encountering another level of things that are new to me.
 
This is challenging, but it's also part of what is invigorating about living abroad: you're constantly learning.
 
Friends in the States would sign up to take an art class because they want to learn something new this year, but I have no end of new things to learn just in the course of everyday life here.
 
As for my status seeming secure, I think that before my current visa expires, I will be eligible to apply for a 10-year resident card, though I've not yet begun to investigate all those details.
 
 
 
If you have a story about living in France that you'd like to share with readers please email ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com
 
It could be about anything from the difficulties of getting a visa, to the language learning issues or just the delights of living in rural France.
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