P: PACS: Passionate Partners Pledging L’amour

Mon chéri and I at our Baby Shower (Juin 2015).

The sun was a radiating orange  when mon chéri and I took the 25 minute walk to the Notaire. I was in shorts and a dressy top; he was in jeans and a tee-shirt. What can I say? We were meant for each other. 😉

On June 15, 2015, my boyfriend and I entered into a PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité) contrat. I’ve mentioned our pact herehere, and here. But, I’ve yet to discuss the confusion that comes with entering into a civil union – confusion brought on by a mariage-focused société.

For exemple, mon chéri is no longer my “boyfriend” – by signing a contrat, in front of a notaire, vowing to love one another and to live together for the rest of our lives, we’ve taken our relationship to another level. By asking, “how’s your boyfriend?” You demote our relationship. I cringe every time I hear this question – hell, every time I hear someone use “boyfriend” to refer to mon chéri. But, I don’t blame you for using it because you don’t know what to use in its place.

What can you use? I struggle with this one. Before the school year started, I was calling mon chéri, “my partner”. The problème with this is that it invokes “same-sex” relationships. So, people are surprised when I follow a “my partner” sentence with, “he…” In France, no one understood why I used this term. At the lycée, students asked, “ok, so, that means he’s your boyfriend?”

…Um…no.

My neighbor calls him, “ton mari,” your husband. At first, I personally didn’t accept this title because I was under the impression that he hadn’t earned it yet (aka we aren’t married). I accepted that it was her title to use because, let’s face it, we really are husband and wife with or without the church saying so. So, while we’ve already pledged our love in front of a notaire, we haven’t yet done so in front of a priest. But, after months of “how’s your husband?,” I realize that he doesn’t need to spend tons of money on a ring nor declare his love for me in front of a priest to be called my husband. We declared our love in front of God the day we fell in love. I don’t think I’d call him my husband while in the U.S. (as it would confuse a lot of people), but it certainly makes things easier in France to use the term – especially since PACS is exactly like mariage in that it’s an option on governmental papers (so, “my PACS husband” works out very well). I have opted for the term ‘my fiancé‘ when explaining my relationship with my students; however, I’m not sure if this would be an acceptable term to use in the U.S. Since there’s no ‘ring’ obligation. And, sadly, a lot of Américains agree.

Thankfully, in France, we have all of these options (with the exception of adoption as a couple*) through our PACS. It amazes me that so many Américains don’t want civil partnerships to have the same rights as married couples. I don’t understand the “validité” of this argument in a société that is supposed to have a separation between religion and state. After all, not every couple has the same religious beliefs and not everyone is ready to spend the money on an extravagant church wedding. Sometimes, a civil union is just more logical and practical.

So, we’ve gone the PACS route. And, sadly, I still haven’t found a good term to use. So, if you have any ideas…please comment!

*A PACS couple has the right to adopt, but not as a couple, instead one personne from the union would complete the adoption. ♦


This is part of a blogging challenge: Topics ranging from A-Z. You can follow my challenge by clicking on the links below:

A: Adulthood: The Age of Absolute Ambiguïté 

B: Bilingue: La Vie is Better Being Bilingual

C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

D: Death: Dealing with the Décès of My Dad

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

F: Food: Fancy or Faulty in France?

G: Going: Going Going Gone!

H: Home: My Heart Has Two Harbors

I: Interests: Intelligent, Insightful, Incredible!

J: Joy: La Jalousie is Overcome by La Joie

K: Khimar: Kind and Kooky Knitted Clothing Traditions

L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

M: Musique: The Many Musicians Making Love on the Streets of Aix

N: Naughty or Nice?: Not Only Noticing the Différences, But Also the Similarités Between France and the U.S.

O: Obéi: Only Open to Obeying the Rules of the Road in…

P: PACS: Passionate Partners Pledging L’amour

Q: Questions: A Queen’s Quest for Clarté

R: Raisons: Riding on the Pony of Real Reasons (to Take the A-Z Challenge)

S: Study Abroad: Smiles and Sadness Set the Scène

T: Travel: Time to Hit the Trail!

U: Under the Influence: An Ugly Upward Climb Until Reaching the Summit

V: Vulgarité: Venturing out into the Vast and Voluptuous World of Cultural Différences

W: Walking: The Wise and Watchful Médiéval Wanderer

X: Xenial: A Xenodochial but not Xenophobic Host in France

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Visas: le choix de ta vie

“So, are you going to stay in France?” is the #1 question I get from family and friends (yet, everyone already knows the answer). After hearing (or reading, in some cases), “yes/oui,” this next question always follows: “How are you going to make that happen?” That’s a very good question.

Unfortunately, staying in France (legally, of course) is not easy for US citoyens. Especially the type that prefers to make her way in the world as an independent super-hero.

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Let’s face it: The easiest way for US citoyens to reside in France and have the right to work is to get married to a Français/e. In this case, it doesn’t matter if you marry after your visa expires (or if you’re in France as a touriste for 90 days) because you’re entitled to a long stay visa for the spouse of a French national. So, you can return to the US, apply for this visa, and BAM! You’ve got a valid French visa that you can change into a CDS (Carte de Séjour). And this visa is free! There are two main types of CDS that apply to this blog post: Carte de Séjour Vie Privée et Familial (gives you working rights – you have the right to this CDS immidiately following mariage to a Français/e) and the Carte de Séjour Mention Visiteur (no working rights). There’s one label I don’t want to be attached to: mariage for legal immigration rights.

The second ‘easiest’ option is to apply for a long-stay visitor visa. There are several downsides to this option depending on your reasons for wanting to live in France. First, it doesn’t come with the right to work; however, similar to the spousal visa, with this type of visa, you have the right to apply for a CDS mention visiteur. Normally, this type of CDS will not give you the right to work, but can be renewed each year. If you marry a Français/e or PACSFrançais/e and have lived together for a year, you have the right to change the CDS mention visiteur into a CDS vie privée et familial. Second, the eligibility process for the long-stay visitor visa is long and strenuous. Not only do you have to prove that you have enough money in your account to support yourself for one year (normally, this amount is equivalent to SMIC, the French minimum wage of $23,000 for the year), but you also have to prove that you have a job in the US, to prove that you have health insurance for the year, to prove that you have a place to stay, to explain what you intend on doing, etc… Most of these requirements seem logical, after all, the French government wouldn’t want you to become a poor person out on the streets for the year that you’ll be residing there. But, for someone who has already built her life in France, this visa is ridiculous. If I were to apply for this visa, I would have no problems in the housing and health insurance department (according to French law, I’m entitled to MGEN for a year – even if I don’t have a job next school year); however, there’s no way that I have enough money in my account to fit the monetary requirement. Also, I’ve been living and working in France for the year, so, I wouldn’t be able to prove that I have steady income from the US. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like I would be approved for this visa.

The third ‘easiest’ visa option is the long stay visa for studies. In addition to studying in France, this visa allows you to work up to 20 hours a week. Unfortunately, my wallet isn’t ready for me to enroll in grad school (I’m still paying off undergrad). Though, I’m considering enrollment at the University of Cambridge Aix-en-Provence campus in order to obtain the DELTA (Diplôme in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). This would open the door to many more overseas teaching opportunities and would take less time than grad school. It’s also perfect for people who are already registered teachers. If I were a Française, I would take the Capes or the Agrégation examens. These are the two main examens that all future teachers must pass. The problem with these examens is that they are very difficult to pass… Even for Français/es. Despite this fact, I’d be willing to try them if I had the option. They’re very prestigious examens, too. With either one of these examens under my belt, I would be able to teach as a normal française (and receive the same pay!). Here’s to dreaming.

Of course, the option that I prefer is by far the most difficult way to reside in France: finding a job that will sponsor a work visa for a US citoyenI’m lucky to have been accepted to work with TAPIF this school year and to have the option to renew my contract for a second time; however, before I applied for TAPIF, I spent months looking for a job that would hire me. I found nothing. Well, I found several that wanted to hire me, but none of them wanted or had the means to sponsor my visa. Thus, I’ve come to the conclusion that TAPIF is the easiest way for a US citizen to reside and to work legally in France. However, there are some stipulations: the TAPIF candidate must have already graduated university with at least a bachelor’s degree and must be between the ages of 20-30. The program can only be renewed once and program renewal doesn’t guarantee acceptance. But, thankfully, after about a month on the waiting list, I’ve been accepted to teach during the 2015-2016 school year! This time, I’ll be in secondary education, which should be interesting… if it’ll be anything like teaching in the US, I’ll probably be as tall, if not shorter, than the kids and look about the same age, too. But, if the kids turn out similarly to my students in French I and II in the US, then, it’ll be a blast! 

Throughout the past seven months, I’ve learned that sometimes independent super-heroes need to give up their powers for a day and give in to the system. Thankfully, the system allows for the option of PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité), or civil union.

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A vision of my petitte famille by one of my CM2 students.

So, while mon chéri and I fit the bill for mariage in the lovey-dovey sense, we come out empty handed in the financial sense. So, the PACS is our way of compromising. It’s “free” if you don’t count all of the documents a US citoyen needs and it’s similar to mariage in that the PACSé couple and the married couple is legally bound to support each other financially and must live together. Mariage has a hell of a lot more benefits than PACS; however, PACS is a safer, more cost-friendly way to “test” out the legal side of a relationship. In fact, “more than 40 percent of [disolved PACSé contracts] were not in order to break up but to permit the pacsé partners to move on to an official marriage.” Thus, PACS is more of a way to see if the couple can handle the legal side of being together.  It’s also much easier to end than is marriage. For example, to disolve the PACS contract, one of the partners simply heads to the Tribunal d’Instance and submits her/his case to end the contract. It’s free and, normally, there aren’t any lawyers involved. Mon chéri and I don’t intend to end the PACS, but it sure is good to know our rights. Also, I have the right to one of the previously mentioned CDS – depending on how long we’ve been living together. Since we’ve been living together for over a year, I have the right to a CDS vie privée et familial. If we didn’t have “un an de vie,” or a year of living together, then I would only have the right to the CDS mention visiteur. One important note: To get the CDS, you have to have a valid visa type D (longue visa).

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So, what happens if you PACS after your visa expires or if you PACS while being a 90-day visiteur? According to the Consulat Général de France à Chicago, the only option for PACSé partners is to apply for the long-stay visitor visa. In fact, the consulat advised me to get married! Saying, “le PACS ne garantissant pas les mêmes droits en matière d’immigration que le mariage” (“PACS doesn’t guarantee the same immigration rights as does mariage“) and that PACSé partners don’t have the right to apply for the spousal visa. Yet, PACS guarantees the right to a CDS. Confusing, I know! In any case, I decided to try to extend my visa in order to have the option of the CDS before my visa expires. I suggest everyone tries this option first as it avoids quite a bit of hassle in trying to decide which visa you’ll get approved for.

It’s been about 2.5 months since my file was sent from the Préfecture in Aix to the Préfecture in Marseille; however, I still have yet to receive la convocation (an appointment at the Prefecture to extend my visa). During this time, I’ve traveled to and from the US/France. According to the French consulat in Chicago, US citoyens must return to the US immediately after the visa expires. Apparently, the only way we can return in France (right away) is on a new visa. Otherwise, we have to stay in the US for 90 days before we can return to France as a visiteur. According to the Préfecture in Aix, however, US citoyens can return in France (right away) without a visa but with proof of PACS.

So, when I visited family and friends in the US for 3 weeks, I had every intention of applying for an assistant-ship work visa; however, I never received my work contract. I was told by the woman at CIEP who’s in charge of English assistants that I would receive it in Juin. Then Juillet happened… still no work contract. So, I ended up returning to France without a new visa. At border control, I anticipated being asked a billion questions – questions to which I had prepared responses. For example, border control should let me back in France because I have to attend la convocation, I’ve been PACSé and thus am legally bound to live with my partnerand for insurance purposes (I have proof of insurance through MGEN for the entirety of my pregnancy). But, I never had to beg border control to let me back in. Instead, he took one look at my passeport photo and then stamped my passeport and told me to have a nice day! So, who’s really keeping track of how long US citoyens stay in France? Maybe it’s counted but nobody cares. Either way, it worked out to my advantage. Now, I’m playing the waiting game with the Préfecture in Marseille.

So, Santé to the hope of being approved for a visa extension (once I finally receive la convocation)! ♦

Partners bound by PACS

There’s quite a bit of information regarding PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité), the French version of a civil union, floating around the internet; however, there’s not much information relating to PACS and the south of France. Since every tribunal tends to be différent, I was anxious about what to expect at the tribunal in Aix. So, here’s my PACS story:

In March, mon chéri contacted the Tribunal d’Instance (information such as the address and phone number about the tribunal in Aix can be found here). There are 2 tribunals in Aix: the Tribunal d’Instance and the Tribunal de Grand Instance – it’s important not to mix up these two. The Tribunal d’Instance handles all PACS cases. Due to the number of people applying to PACS on a daily basis (and the fact that PACS is only offered on specific days during the week), it’s important to schedule the appointment to PACS early. As with most legal matters, an appointment is required and it can take up to 2 months before being able to book one. Mon chéri and I called the Tribunal at the beginning of March to schedule our appointment. We thought that would give us plenty of time to book an appointment for April. Boy, were we wrong! Our appointment was decided for May 20 and then re-scheduled for June 23 since I hadn’t yet received my birth certificate (which I sent a month before for getting the apostille – my mom finally received it in the middle of June – It took over 2 months!). Since we were scheduled to visit my family in the states on June 18th, we had to make a serious decision: change the flights or find a Notaire. After comparing prices for changing the flights and the price of a Notaire, we decided to go with the Notaire.

After scheduling the appointment, it came time to make sure all of the documents were ready. Required documents for French citoyens vs. US expats are not the same. Of course, expats need more documents as nothing’s ever easy for us.

Here’s a list of required documents for a US expat and a Français/e to PACS at the Tribunal in Aix (it’s important to have all of these documents ready by the time of the appointment & it’s important to note that the tribunal does not accept photo copies of any of these required documents)*:

  • 1 US birth certificate (It must be dated less than 6 months from the PACS appointment. The French are very particular about the length of time for important documents, so, make sure to request a copy of your birth certificate within this 6 month time frame, otherwise the tribunal will not accept the birth certificate. Requesting a birth certificate is different depending on the state; however, it seems that most states use Vital Check as an online way to request this document. Also, the cost differs depending on the state. I paid nearly $60 for mine because I had to use UPS to have it shipped overseas.)
  • 1 certified French translation of the US birth certificate (A list of certified French translators can be found here. The fee can be as low as 50€. It’s also important that this coincides with the 6 month time frame for the birth certificate.)
  • 1 apostille for the birth certificate (This can be attained by finding the appropriate facility that handles apostilles in your state of birth and then sending your birth certificate with the apostille application, a money order, and a self-addressed pre-paid envelopment to the facility. The cost for an apostille varies by state. An apostille is a form that certifies the validity of your document for foreign governments. Here’s an example of an apostille application for Illinois. This also has to coincide with the 6 month time frame for the birth certificate.)
  • 1 certified French translation of the apostille (A list of certified French translators can be found here. The fee can be as low as 50€. It’s also important that this coincides with the 6 month time frame for the birth certificate.)
  • 1 Certificat de Coutume for the US citoyen (This can be attained by booking an appointment at the Consulat Général des États-Unis d’Amérique in Marseille or in any city that has a US consulat, filling out this form, and bringing it with you to your appointment. A Certificat de Coutume for a US citoyen is a document that states that the US citoyen is not married and is not in a civil union. As of March 2015, the cost for a Certificat de Coutume is $50 or 48€.** The time-frame allowed for this document is 3 months, so, don’t request it too early.)
  • 1 Certificat de non Pacte Civil de Solidarité for the US citoyen (fill out the form and submit it online here. As one of the steps in the online application process, you’ll have to submit a scanned PDF of the identity pages in your passeport, your birth certificate, and a certified translation of the birth certificate. This form comes from Paris and states that you are not already PACSé. After submitting the document online, it takes about 2 weeks for it to arrive to the south of France. If you prefer the old fashioned way: the form can also be filled out and post mailed or delivered in-person to the Tribunal de Grand Instance de Paris with a copy of your passeport, a copy of your birth certificate, and a copy of the certified translation of the birth certificate. The time-frame allowed for this document is 3 months, so, don’t request it too early.)
  • 3 copies of the Pacte Civil de Solidarité (This is the PACS contract that you and your partner created. This is an example of the contract – simply, copy/paste it into a word document and fill in you and your partner’s information.)***
  • 1 Attestation sur l’Honneur de Résidence Commune (This is an example of the contract – simply copy/paste it into a word document and fill in you and your partner’s information. This attestation states that you and your partner will live together.)***
  • Attestions sur l’Honneur d’Absence de lien de Parenté (this is an example of the contract – simply copy/paste it into a word document and fill in you and your partner’s information. This attestation states that you and your partner have no blood relation. You need 2, 1 that you sign and 1 that your partner signs.)***
  • The US citizen’s passeport
  • The Français/e I.D. card
  • 1 l’Acte de Naissance for the Français (this can be ordered online from la Mairie. The time-frame for this document is 3 months.)
  • 1 Justificatif de Domicile (an EDF bill (electricity bill) is the most likely justificatif to be accepted. This proves that you live in the jurisdiction of your tribunal.)

*Each tribunal tends to demand different documents; however, this post focuses on and speaks only of the tribunal in Aix-en-Provence (and the US consulat in Marseille) and PACSé between a US partner and Français partner.

**This amount is the exact amount one must pay at the Consulat Général des États-Unis d’Amérique in Marseille in 2015.

***The Notaire doesn’t have quite the same requirements as the tribunal because the Notaire makes these contracts for you…and he should since you’re paying about 350€ for his service.

After signing the PACS contract, then the non-french citoyen can head to the Prefecture and demand a carte de séjour. It seems simple… but nothing ever is as it seems. More on this procedure is to come. ♦

The Perks of Partnership

“Same-sex couples gain the right to marry” has been displayed on headlines all throughout le monde. Throughout the years, this media outbreak gave me false hope for friends and family faced with this situation. As I came to realize last month, same-sex couples do not have the right to marry. In fact, it wasn’t until I was scheduled to visit family and friends in the US  when I truly realized this level of discrimination against same-sex couples. There’s a difference between knowing that discrimination exists and experiencing that discrimination firsthand.

In France, as in many countries in le monde, opposite sex couples have the option of mariage or PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité), the French version of a civil union. In France, same-sex couples have the option of PACS (edit: According to a Notaire in Aix, same-sex couples do not have the same option of mariage as do opposite-sex couples – Despite the headline, “same-sex mariage becomes legal in France”. It’s possible that his facts are mixed up, but he’s a professional Notaire, so, he makes contracts between same-sex couples on a regular basis.). Mon chéri and I have decided to go the PACS route as it’s more affordable and practical than mariage. We may fit into the opposite-sex couple category, but the same laws with PACS apply to us as with same-sex couples. In France, those laws seem to be enough (the right to be on the same health insurance, the right to live together, the right to a Carte de Séjour…); however, when one partner is Américain(e), things start to get complicated. For an Américain(e) to change the visa status to the Carte de Séjour, he/she must already possess a longue visa. This is where the problèmes begin. The US partner of the PACSed couple doesn’t have the right to the spousal visa, so, the only other option is the Visa Visiteur/Touriste

So, what do PACSé couples do when one partner gets denied or doesn’t meet the requirements for the Visa Visiteur/Touriste? There should be a separate visa for PACSé couples. But, for now, these couples are forced to stress over how they will be able to build their lives together, a stress that I find very offensive. When entering into a PACS relationship, the couple has to (1) schedule an appointment at the Tribunal or (2) schedule an appointment with a notaire. The couple “signs their lives away,” so-to-speak, by defining and legalizing their future life together. This legality has mariage written all over it. So, why are PACS couples still experiencing this “second-class status” discrimination? I’m baffled. I guess we should’ve chosen the mariage route, eh?

However, there is some hope at the end of the tunnel: today (Friday, 26 June 2015), the US supreme court legalized same-sex mariage. So, although the discrimination among couples in civil unions (PACS) and couples in mariage continues to exist, at least same-sex couples now have the option of mariage. ♦