I adore my lawyer and I’m recommending her to everyone.
As you may have guessed, I met with my lawyer and had an amazing experience. She works entirely in French, in a small office near one of the train stations. Totally unassuming, with old wood floors and cloth covered couches. E and I went together, partially so that we could be sure that we would understand all of her advice, and partially so that I had someone to rely on if I wasn’t able to express my questions or concerns. I think he was almost as anxious as I was to receive the lawyer’s advice!
She had printed out the long email that I sent to her with various questions and possible paths to explore for legal residency. We talked through some of my situation – when I arrived in France, the various visas that I have held, the particular deadlines associated with my current visa – before turning toward the future.
As a student, I am entitled to a 12 month terminal visa called the “Autorisation Provisoire de Séjour” (APS) which, as long as I produce my diploma, will not be denied by the Prefecture.
During that 12 months, I must convert my status to “salarié” by obtaining a “contrat de travail à durée indéterminée” (CDI) which is a contract, like a salaried position in the US, that does not have a defined end date. This is in contrast to a “contrat à durée déterminée” (CDD) which is a similar to a contractor’s position in the US, whereby a contract includes a specific end date. Alternatively, if I am unable to secure a CDI and convert to “salarié” status, I can register as an “auto-entrepreneur” and become a small business holder if I am able to prove that I have enough revenue.
At this point in time, I am interested in working within a firm, rather than being an independent, one-woman business, so the CDI is my main goal. This will be a very, very lofty challenge, but I’m networking like my life depends on it, and I’m hoping to shake the trees until a CDI falls out. It may take me several months, but I’m ready to try.
If I’m able to secure a CDI, then I will be able to submit my change of status and receive a Carte de Séjour for one year, renewable each year as I prove that I am still working with a CDI.
If I’m not able to secure a CDI, and if I’m not interested in becoming a small business, then I am able to apply for a “visa vie privée et familiale” (VPF) specifically because E and I are living together. This visa is similar to a visa for marriage, but it is afforded to people who can prove that they have been living together for one year, with favourability given to those who have entered into a “Pacte civil de solidarité” or PACS.
We’d talked about getting PACS’d for months now, mostly because E’s taxes might not be as high if we are officially together in the eyes of the state. Our landlord honestly encouraged us to get PACS’d in 2015, but we didn’t end up doing it in the flurry of moving, a huge summer at work for E, and then the beginning of my graduate program. We had a lot going on, you know?
The lawyer encouraged us to PACS at our earliest convenience, although the time you establish a PACS does not matter, whereas the time you’ve been living together is very important.
During the next year, while I’m still on the APS visa and hunting for work, I’ll apply for citizenship. Surely that will make for a calm Fall! In the process, I’ll have to declare my nonexistent student revenue so that I get a tax number, and print out loads of banks statements, plus electricity and internet bills.
The lawyer cautioned me that while happy surprises come around all the time, I’ll likely be rejected in my first request. That said, a first request is looked upon favourably when you make a second request, so while it will cost me some money to apply unsuccessfully, it’s money and time well spent.
All in all, it turns out that I’ll be taking all 3 of the paths that I originally thought were mutually exclusive. For now, I’m guaranteed another year in France, and by June of 2018, I’ll need to know if I’ll need to apply for the VPF visa. My lawyer really alleviated a lot of my concern when it comes to visas, legal residency, and legal right to work, and I’m feeling like I can really focus my energy on applying for jobs and aggressively pursuing my CDI!