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AMERICANS IN FRANCE

Law change makes it easier for Americans to open French bank accounts

Opening a French bank account has been challenging for Americans in France for quite some time, but now a legal change will make access (slightly) easier.

Law change makes it easier for Americans to open French bank accounts
Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

A lot of French administrative tasks are tricky or time-consuming for foreigners, but opening a bank account is frequently very difficult – especially for Americans.

The US law known as FATCA obliges all banks that have accounts for US nationals to share information. It was intended to stop money-laundering but for Americans living abroad it has meant that many banks simply don’t want the hassle and refuse accounts to US citizens.

Numerous readers of The Local have reported being repeatedly turned down by French banks, making daily living very difficult.

But a new law that comes into effect on June 13th will make things a little bit easier.

It’s not a perfect solution, however.

The changes to the Droit au compte bancaire (right to a bank account) state that if a person has requested an account from a French bank and not received a reply within 15 days, they can appeal directly to Banque de France.

Banque de France will then designate a bank near to the person’s home address and request them to open an account for the person.

The bank is not obliged to open the account – but it does have to explain why to Banque de France if the account is refused.

The designated bank will be expected to provide the following basic services:

  • opening, maintaining and closing an account;
  • issue of bank identity documents on request;
  • a monthly statement of transactions made to the account;
  • cashing of cheques and bank transfers;
  • deposits and withdrawals of cash at the bank’s counter or at its cash machines;
  • direct debit, interbank payment or bank transfer;
  • means of remote viewing of the account balance;
  • a credit card 

The new process does not cover people who do receive a reply within the designated 15 days – but the reply is a refusal.

Previously those refused a bank account did have the right to appeal to Banque de France, but the process was more complicated and required an attestation de refus d’ouverture de compte (certificate of refusal). Now just evidence of your request is enough.

The law states: “This procedure is open to all persons residing in France or in a Member State of the European Union, to all French citizens resident abroad and also to applicants who are banned from banking.”

Article 58 of the Banking Law of January 24th 1984 states that all French citizens and French residents are entitled to a French bank account. 

However, French banks are not obliged to open an account for you, meaning that many people whose situations are ‘non typical’ such as foreigners in France find themselves repeatedly turned down for an account.

In addition to the Banque de France route, other advice for foreigners is simply to shop around – different banks have different policies on foreigners – or opt for an international account or internet banking account. 

READ ALSO What are the biggest challenges for Americans in France?

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ANIMAL WELFARE

How to adopt a pet from a French animal shelter

Around 300,000 pets are abandoned every year in France, many of them during the summer months. So if you're looking for a pet there are many lovely cats and dogs in shelters looking for a good home - here's how to go about it.

How to adopt a pet from a French animal shelter

Where to look

French animal welfare charity the Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA) is an excellent place to start – it currently lists nearly 4,500 animals available for adoption. 

But there are lots of other smaller, local organisations – it may be worthwhile dropping in to see a local vet as they will generally know of local groups seeking homes for abandoned pets.

There will be paperwork

First-time buyers of cats or dogs have to sign a ‘certificate of commitment and understanding’ before they will be allowed to buy an animal, and the same applies to those looking to adopt. 

After the signed document is delivered to the authorities, future owners have seven days to change their mind – the idea is to prevent people from ‘impulsively’ buying or adopting pets only to abandon them later. 

The SPA, certainly, demands that would-be adopters are of legal age and are willing to take part in a “responsible adoption process”.

These things take time – as you should expect for a commitment that can last more than a decade. As the SPA website says, it seeks to ensure “that each decision is carefully considered and that the adopted animal matches its new family and way of life”.

The process may include home visits, interviews and discussions to help adopters find the animal to which they are best suited – older people may not cope well with an energetic puppy, for example.

READ ALSO What you need to know about owning a dog in France

Shelter animals

Some welfare organisations ensure their animals spend some time with ‘foster families’ until they are adopted. This means that the organisation has a pretty good idea how that animal is likely to behave when it gets to its new adopted home.

It is more difficult to judge an animal’s character if it has been kept in a pen in a shelter.

It will cost money

A financial contribution will most likely be requested by the organisation from which you are adopting. The sum will depend on the age and type of animal being adopted. 

The SPA, for example, asks for a donation to cover vets’ fees of between €250 and €300 for a dog, depending on its age, and €150 for a cat or a kitten.

Another well-known animal welfare organisation in France, Les Amis des Animaux, has a slightly different scale of fees covering the cost of chipping, vaccinations – including rabies/passport in mature animals, sterilisation, worming, et cetera. 

READ ALSO What you need to know about microchipping your pet in France

What else you need to know

Under French law, pet dogs – and cats and ferrets – over a certain age must be identified and registered on a national database. 

The animal must be identifiable by a tattoo or microchip – the latter is the most common method these days – that is registered on the Identification des carnivores domestiques (I-CAD) database

The procedure to insert the microchip, or ink the tattoo, must be carried out by an approved professional. The procedure should be done by a vet and costs between €40 and €70, the shelter will tell you whether your new pet already has a microchip or not.

You might not believe it if you have walked along certain streets in Paris, but you can be fined if you fail to pick up after your pet. 

The standard fine is €68, but the mayors of some towns have imposed stricter rules in the street, in parks, gardens and other public spaces. 

The French government’s Service Public website lists other rules regarding the health and wellbeing of pets. Read it here.

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