Expat Essentials

Stephen Heiner: How to Renew a four-year Profession Liberale Visa in France, Pt. 2

(Editor’s note: This post, the second of two, on renewing the Profession Liberale Visa appeared originally on The American in Paris. It’s reposted here with permission. You can jump to Pt. 1 here.)

I always tell readers of The American in Paris that getting a visa is usually much more challenging than renewing one, for the simple reason that for the former you are trying to prove to the French that something is at least plausible (this business will workI am enrolled in this schoolI am in a relationship with this person).

For the latter you are simply offering evidence that their original judgment was correct.

Below are a few key facts you should know about renewing your Profession Liberale Visa:

Two Complications (That Weren’t Really Complications)

I went for my appointment in September 2021 with the thought that surely I would get a new card before my planned three-month visit to the United States which would begin in January 2022. That didn’t end up happening.

Yet, I wasn’t worried insofar as I had traveled without my residence card during the pandemic (because the card had been stolen and I didn’t want to pay to replace it) and the US authorities, which guarded the border I was focused on crossing next, didn’t care about my status in another country.

The recipisse I was given had a six month validity, which was double the length I had been used to in the past, but I didn’t actually expect them to use that entire time. I thought to mitigate this by getting a new recipisse before leaving. But since you cannot apply for a new one unless it’s 60 days from expiration, with a 17 March expiry, that meant I couldn’t apply for a new one until 17 January, when I would already have been in America two weeks.  I found out this out the hard way when they cancelled my appointment to get a new recipisse the morning of that appointment with an “ineligible” note in the cancellation.

As you can see from the featured image for this article, the date of my new card is from 31 January of this year, but it wasn’t until 23 February that I received the text message from the government that I was welcome to pick up my new card and could I please bring a fiscal stamp to cover the 225 euros it cost them to make it (you can purchase said stamp here; what a world of difference from 2014 when I bought a bunch of stamps at the tabac!).

You still need to make an appointment to pick up the residence card, and while I’ve heard that’s been hard to do lately in Paris, in Melun they had plenty of slots for me to book. So from start to finish, it was six months from when I showed up for my renewal to when I could pick up a new card.

So the complications were:

  1. I didn’t have my residence permit: all I had was a police report which stated that my residence permit had been stolen.  I had carried that around while traveling for the last couple years.  As I’ve shared elsewhere, I’ve come to realize that you need your residence card for exactly zero things in France and carrying it around only risks adding one more headache if your wallet is lost or stolen.  Keep it at home.  If and when you do need to show “ID” your passport will always win.  And as I told someone recently who worried that having her passport with her new visa sticker inside stolen invalidated her visa: your right to live in France lives inside the French bureaucracy, on a computer, not in your passport/residence card.
  2. My recipisse would expire on 17 March, but I wasn’t due to land in France until 1 April. I knew the system well enough to know that I could flash my expired recipisse, with the text message, with the convocation that I had printed out to pick up the CDS, IF I was asked. What happened at the French border? Was I asked for my vaccination status? No. Was I asked for a PCR test? No. He asked me to remove my mask and stamp, I was in, just like old times. As I often say: be prepared for the French to ask for everything, but realize they may not ask for anything.

So, like I said, there were two complications that weren’t really complications.

Get comfortable with being a long-term guest of France

Today I picked up the card and voila, here’s the article explaining what you need to do to renew the card.

Now some of you may be thinking … wait, Stephen didn’t you take the A2 test last year so that you could get your 10-year card? Yes. But I also realized then that this was the last piece of the Prof Lib story I hadn’t told. That if you had gotten a Prof Lib, renewed it and gotten a four year card, you would need to renew one more time before you were eligible to apply for a 10-year card (at least five years of fiscal residency).

Part of why I started this blog in the first place was to give information that isn’t out there, and I don’t think there’s an article on renewing a four-year card, so here it is, as brief as it might be. I figured I could wait a bit before moving on with my own next step to put together an article with this info.

Related to a willingness to wait to apply for my next big status upgrade in France is that I’m no longer in a rush. The pandemic has proven to me that residence gives you 99-percent of the privileges of citizenship, at least in France, as I was able to come and go as I pleased, and was even eligible for personal and business aid from the government.

When I first moved here, I was in a hurry to get citizenship, as I was under the delusion that the French were looking for any excuse to deport me at any moment, whether I mispronounced a word or forgot a piece of paper in my dossier. Ten years have showed me the naïveté that that was and I try to pass on a sense of calm to people who hire me to consult with them or who take my courses**.  

Citizenship is no guarantee that you won’t lose your rights (ask the Americans of Japanese descent what their citizenship meant in America after Dec 7, 1941, or what happened to people of a certain ethnicity in France the following year, in 1942) and the term “permanent resident” is a misnomer for the vast majority of resident visas worldwide. Almost all require some kind of residence over some period of time, and then need to be renewed … not exactly “permanent” by any definition.

Just realize you’re going to be a foreigner in France for at least a while, and get comfortable with the “odd” feeling of being a long-term guest. You may be kicked out at any time, but be rest assured, it’s not going to be because you forgot a piece of paper in your dossier, and in fact, it’s not likely to happen at all.

What’s next for me, of course, is citizenship and/or a 10-year card.  Stay tuned; I’ll keep you in the loop and try to provide a template you can follow, as always.

*I don’t know how many times I have to say this: you MUST FILE TAXES if you live in France, even if you don’t earn any income in France! I know it’s not told to any of us when we get here by the French government (I only learned, as I’ve learned so many important bits of information over the last decade, due to the newsletters of Jean Taquet). But your proof of filing taxes every year are the most important documents you must have if you ever want to apply for a ten year carte de resident or for citizenship.

**Anyone who charges more than 500 euros to help you get a profession liberale status is running a scam, period.

About the author:

Singaporean-born American Stephen Heiner lived in Paris from 2013 to 2021 after living in Asia and the United States for most of his life. While he has an undergraduate degree in literature, he also has an MBA, and he’s very much the man who enjoys studying financial statements as much as he enjoys reading essays by G.K. Chesterton or James Howard Kunstler.

He visits his family in the U.S. and Singapore each year, but in the meantime enjoys his dream city, which he finally had a chance to move to after selling a company he built over a number of years. 

You can find him on twitter and instagram @stephenheiner.

You can also follow his immigration journey on The American in Paris blog, where Stephen also offers consulting to those interested in relocating to, and/or making a life in, France.

You can read more of Stephen’s work here in Dispatches’ archives,

You can read more about France here.

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