I have had a carte de séjour in France for over six years: one with a student card, the rest as an employee. These last two years have been very rough. I have been employed most of the time but have changed jobs several times and I was underemployed for almost a year. So, to make a long story short, I have been without a valid carte de séjour for over seven months and my upcoming appointment is in two months. A couple of months ago I changed jobs so that it is now a different one from the one I had when I submitted my request to renew my card last February. At that time, I showed the unemployment documents and a part-time contract, since I had lost a good job about six months before. So I believe that I will receive another récépissé and when they see that I have a new employer as they look at the pay slips, they will send the entire voluminous file once again to have the work contract reviewed and hopefully renewed. What makes me so mad is that this summer I finally received the approval of my right to work from the DDTEFP, the Main d’Oeuvre Etrangère (MOE) office, which will be useless when it was so hard to get.
I am sick and tired of having my life in France put in danger every time I change jobs because the economy is really bad in the retail business (I work in clothing). I have a daughter born in France going to pre-kindergarten here and I live with the British father but was born American. I feel stuck in France and cannot secure my stay here. All the options for a family carte de séjour require at least that he pass his British nationality to the child but he still has too many strings attached from the UK since he is not divorced from his wife and until this is done, he cannot do anything for us. So will I have to go through this all over again in February 2011 since technically this year I have again had two employers? When can I get permanent residency?
Your situation illustrates very well how it is possible to be continuously on the verge of losing the carte de séjour even though it is clear that you have anchored your life in France for good. The double effect of the economic crisis and the sudden increase in requirements to renew as an employee jeopardize your right to renew your employee immigration status. Your private life grounds you in France, but the legal ties are not strong enough to change your immigration status. You feel that you could or even should be awarded the carte de séjour on both accounts, but for each of them you are always close to the legal requirements issued by the prefecture yet you fall short, putting your entire stay in jeopardy. The prefecture is known to deny or postpone a decision because just one document is missing or incomplete.
I need to answer your questions before explaining, in the hope that this will make the explanation easier to understand.
“So will I have to go through this all over again in February 2011 since technically this year I have again had two employers?” It is absolutely certain that because you changed jobs once again, the prefecture will apply this procedure again. I would even say that you would be lucky if it happened in February 2011, giving you the time to get ready. I fear that it could happen at your upcoming meeting and chances are that you will not be ready by then.
“When can I get permanent residency?” For me, it is quite certain that that you are not even close to getting permanent residency status any time soon. The earliest you can secure the request for a carte de résident would be in February 2013.
Now, I would like to first address the issue related to the most urgent issue, the renewal of the current employee carte de séjour, then define the concept of permanent residency since it can have more than one meaning.
I – RENEWAL OF AN EMPLOYEE CARTE DE SÉJOUR WHEN ONE HAS CHANGED EMPLOYERS
For the employee card, these are the documents that the prefecture expects:
1 – Proof that you registered with the unemployment office called Pôle Emploi right after you lost your last job; you need to update the situation with them every time.
2 – Proof that you are entitled to the unemployment subsidy, with the amount and the duration of the payment, even though you might not have received the full amount if you worked some in the meantime.
3 – The three legal documents proving that you lost your job against your will: these are l’attestation de travail, le solde de tout compte and l’attestation ASSEDIC.
4 – The official labor contract to be approved by MOE, filled out and signed by both parties.
5 – Proof that the company really looked for someone to fill the position when they hired you.
6 – The seal of incorporation of the company (called K. Bis), less than three months old and an original, not a photocopy.
7 – Copies of the last two pages of the registre unique d’embauche, the legal notebook that lists all employees, equivalent to the payroll.
8 – Copies of your employer’s last two URSSAF declarations.
9 – Copies of your employer’s last two tax declarations, usually the TVA one.
10 – Copies of your passport and carte de séjour, which you already have in the file.
11 – A copy of your diploma if you have not already provided one.
12 – A copy of the actual labor contract that was signed privately between you and your employer.
13 – The original of the letter explaining the reasons for hiring you, which should indicate definitive and compelling reasons why you were the perfect fit.
This is only the beginning of the file, since you need to convince MOE, and prove with documents, that you are the only person for the job. Indeed, even this will not necessarily challenge the veto right MOE has over the request.
Therefore the second part of the file must address this issue, but it is never mentioned by the authorities, even though it is crucial for a normal position (i.e., not upper management or cadre supérieur; the MOE veto right is lost for positions paid a monthly gross salary of 4,000€ or more).
II – PERMANENT RESIDENCY
This can be understood as either acquiring a carte de résident, which lasts for 10 years and grants full immigration and work rights, or a private-life carte de séjour since most of the latter are granted on the basis of an existing permanent status (or at least one that is defined in that way even though many romantic relationships do not last until death and children cease to be dependents at age 18)
A – CARTE DE RESIDENT
Regarding the request for a carte de résident, bear in mind that its automatic issuance after 10 years or 15 years was terminated about four years ago. You must comply with the requirements related to your situation, knowing that there are some generic guidelines regarding this special request, i.e., a five-year stay in France earning at least minimum wage, fluency in French and proof of stable and solid roots and integration in France.
You already have lived five years in France, so you should meet the requirement. In most cases, the prefecture asks for five years holding a carte de séjour, which delays some applications. In some cases they ask for five avis d’imposition, the income tax form issued in August that summarizes the amount owed on the income earned the previous year. This often means at least one full extra year is required before you can submit the request.
Earning minimum wage:
For five years, you must also have had a net income exceeding the minimum wage, which is currently about 11,000€ per year. One would normally think that if in one year your income dropped below this, then it is a “blank year” and you just add another one. In some cases, however, the préfecture demands five consecutive years with the required income in order to prove sufficient integration. As you can see, each of these elements is analyzed from several angles.
Fluent in French:
This guideline is very subjective, since the civil servant does not give a standard test, and therefore I cannot give a measurable level that would guarantee passing except complete bilingualism, which is unrealistic for most applicants.
Roots in France:
The civil servant evaluates your roots in France and how stable you are here, which in cases like yours means how stable you are in your job. You pretty much need about two years in a job to prove enough stability. This puts you in 2013 minimum. Bear in mind that anything can be used to question your stability in France, including frequently moving, going through a divorce or separation, long stays in the home country, and so on.
In closing this section I would like to emphasize that the list of documents issued by the prefecture must be interpreted a certain way, since the proof of stable and solid roots and integration in France is not mentioned as such in the list. In many ways, the list is just a base to work from; applicants should write a motivation letter and bring, in addition to the expected documents, everything they can think of that clearly points to complete integration and deep roots. The latest change of law shifted the focus from the length of stay to proof that the applicant deserves the carte de resident.
B – PRIVATE LIFE CARTE DE SÉJOUR
There are so many grounds for issuing this card that it would be just plain boring to list them, never mind explaining them. In your case, since your relationship with an EU citizen cannot legally be used, your request would be based on the American nationality of yourself and your child. The provision that you would use is Article L 313 – 11 – 7º of the CESEDA, which has been drafted in a very confusing way and which is difficult to use. In short, the foreigner must prove strong, lasting ties with France, with the proof depending on the nature of the ties. In your case, you must prove that you have had family ties in France for a minimum of five years. Since your daughter was born in France, when she is at least 5 years old you will have a good chance of getting this card. If everything works well, assuming your child is about 4 now, you could try in February 2012. This means you could ask for a carte de résident the year after, in 2013. At that time, her French birth certificate and proof of schooling in France will be the most obvious documents to include in the file.
As you can see, you have urgent and pressing matters to address now, and you will not be off the hook for a long while. My advice to you is to stay focused on the immediate issues, your upcoming appointment and the February anniversary date of your carte de séjour, which will be difficult times for you. If you handle them very well, then you will be out of immediate danger and you will have more options. My advice is that you should not take any chances: have your employer fill out the forms and give you copies of all the documents needed, and prepare a perfect file even though it was not requested for the meeting in two months. You know by now that this is what they will expect from you once they find out your situation. So your best bet is to convince your employer to do it right, and right now. I wish you good luck; you will definitely need it.