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Americans in France: New language requirements and healthcare charges

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
Americans in France: New language requirements and healthcare charges
An exam room in Paris. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU / AFP)

From new language requirements to making sense of French healthcare charges and a symbolic moment for foreigners in France, here's our latest newsletter for Americans who either live in France, visit frequently or plan to move here some day.

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Welcome to The Local's "Americans in France" monthly newsletter for members, featuring all the news and practical information you need as an American resident, visitor or second-home owner in France. You can sign up to receive it directly to your inbox before we publish it online via the link below.

Dear Americans in France,

A lot has happened in the past month. In the last edition of this newsletter we were waiting to see how France's Conseil constitutionnel (constitutional council) would rule on the immigration law.

Their decision came out in late January, and the council ended up rejecting many of the headline-grabbing amendments such as limits on benefits access and citizenship for foreigners, as well as tighter rules on family reunification.

Nevertheless - they maintained portions that will have large impacts on Americans (and all non-EU foreigners) living in France. 

The most notable change has to do with increased French language requirements, and there are three groups to be affected: those applying for a first-time carte de séjour pluriannuelle, a first-time 10-year carte de résident, and citizenship. 

Before you begin to worry, take a moment and consult our FAQ guide, as we may have already answered your question.

On top of that, there are several groups who will not be affected by these changes. For example, the changes to the multi-year cards (the pluriannuelle and the 10-year carte de résident) will only affect first-time applications, so if you are renewing then you are in the clear. 

Other groups will eventually have to show a minimum French level, but it will take several years before they need to take a test. 

Still, I understand and empathise with the stress over these changes. I am in the process of applying for French nationality and I do not relish the thought of sitting (and paying for) another language exam. One reader aptly described the new rules as 'moving the goalposts', others felt the changes hinted at a rising anti-immigrant sentiment in France.

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In other events, we have an ongoing 'Americans in France' survey that you can fill out to let us know the topics you would like to see covered, as well as offering any tips to other Americans considering making the move.

Several readers have mentioned healthcare as a topic they would like to see The Local cover more often, and many have expressed confusion about how to go about signing up for French healthcare in the first place.

It's true that it can take a frustratingly long time to get your 'carte vitale' (healthcare card) in France. You can start by consulting our guide for requesting your carte vitale. Once that step is done, you will want to register with a primary care physician. When choosing, you can use the app/website Doctolib to filter based on those who speak English and those who do not. 

One area of French healthcare that remains especially confusing to many is the CSM annual healthcare charge (sometimes referred to as PUMa).

This may seem straightforward, but in practice many readers have expressed confusion over the seemingly random application of the charge each November. After speaking with some experts, we found that the situation is especially ambiguous for American retirees.

And finally, the Armenian-born Missak Manouchian was panthéonisé, or inducted into the Panthéon in Paris, this week, marking a symbolic moment for foreigners in France.

This is France's highest posthumous honour, reserved for those who have played a vital role in the country's history, and Manouchian was the first foreign WWII Resistance fighter to be laid to rest in the Panthéon.

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He is not the only foreigner to have been panthéonisé - there are other naturalised French citizens, like Polish-born scientist Marie Curie and Franco-American dancer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker who have received the honour.

While dealing with French admin and learning the language can be challenging, it is nice to take a moment and remember that as foreigners we do have an important role to play in French society.

As always, feel free to get in touch or leave a comment. You can reach me at [email protected]

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