Help me move to France to live and possibly work
March 27, 2004 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning on moving to Europe at the end of this year. Most likely start out in the French countryside of Brittany, where it is semi-affordable to live. Moving from the states. Any advice on working within France and renting a flat while there. I plan to go over on my passport and extend my stay every 3 months or so. Basically looking for first hand experience from those of you who have moved from the states to France (or neighboring countries) and if you have any advice, pointers or tips to go about planning my move it would be highly appreciated. I plan to do much music while over there, but it will not generate enough to sustain a living and France is not a definite locale to start from. I have also been contemplating Vienna and Berlin. Thanks in advance and I would be very interested to hear from others who have moved or have friends who have.
posted by otisfodder to Travel & Transportation around France (23 answers total)
US passport or EU passport?
posted by blue mustard at 3:21 PM on March 27, 2004

It would be a US Passport. Going over and extending my stay until I can become a resident. It's all very new and any advice would be excellent. I've done research online and besides knowing basics I've always found first hand experience means a lot. Thanks!
posted by otisfodder at 5:43 PM on March 27, 2004

Going over and extending my stay until I can become a resident.

You mean entering as a tourist and just staying? I'm not aware of any country where that's legal. And you DO NOT want to fuck with immigration law and immigration agencies.

You'll find immigrating to France, or to Europe in general, a hugely complicated, expensive, and difficult endeavor. What you're doing is going after France's equivalent of a green card, which, I assure you, they'll guard at least as jealously as the US does its green cards.

If you're thinking of just up and moving to France, you can't (at least not legally).

posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:14 PM on March 27, 2004

Expect the same difficulty in finding a real job as you will get with legitimating your immigration status. France guards high-tech jobs in particular. I'm eager to hear different, because I've always wanted to do basically exactly what you're saying (ah... Provence!) but have routinely learned that it's more or less impossible without some in. I wish you luck. If you pull it off, share the wealth.
posted by scarabic at 6:18 PM on March 27, 2004

Check out the magazine and website Transitions Abroad, which has a number of links to expatriate websites.
posted by arco at 6:19 PM on March 27, 2004

I plan to go over on my passport and extend my stay every 3 months or so.

It looks like you can't do this, though. According to this, which I found by doing this, your entry entitles you to three months cumulative, during any six-month period.

As a side note, somebody I know got an offer to work in France after he finished his graduate degree. In order to get the work visa he needed, the company had to provide all manner of documentation to immigration (or its French equivalent, whatever it is called), and it came close to falling through because the company sent incomplete paperwork the first time around. That, and it sat on some french bureacrat's desk for 2 months without being handled.

It's not as simple as going over there and expecting them to forget about you.
posted by contessa at 6:25 PM on March 27, 2004

Thanks for all the words and links. I've heard it's going to be very hard to get over and your posts also confirm and add to the knowledge bank. I'll probably have to do the 3 month thing only, come back and go again. Much thanks again for the words. - Otis
posted by otisfodder at 9:27 PM on March 27, 2004

My two cents, hope it's not too late: I went to Spain and upon entering, they gave me a form which I filled out - one half was kept by customs on the way in and one half had to returned upon my leaving. Nobody asked for the thing and when I mentioned it to a steward on the plane, he shrugged. Thus, don't even think about customs officials. Just go to Europe, hang around, and go from country to country every couple of months. The plan is flawless!

And what's the worst thing they can do? Deport you back to the USA? Free ticket!
posted by crazy finger at 9:37 PM on March 27, 2004

plan on your work visa papers being six, seven months late (or later). Things may have changed as of recently, but I doubt that much could be done to jump-start the slug paced lethargy and apathy that is the French bureaucracy.
posted by jazzkat11 at 10:02 PM on March 27, 2004

crazy finger, that's extraordinarily bad advice. Not giving back the form might cause no problems. On the other hand, it might mean that Spain thinks you never left and went out of status, and you mind find yourself being banned from Spain (and the rest of the Schengen zone, maybe, if Spain is in it) for some term of years. Which could really ruin your honeymoon in 5 years when they turn you away at the border. And which would make it much, much harder to actually emigrate to there later.


And what's the worst thing they can do? Deport you back to the USA?

Put you in jail, if they feel like it. Dump you into a detention camp / center until they feel like actually shipping you home. Fine you. Fine anyone you worked for, who might well try and take it out of your ass once you're home. Confiscate all money you illegally earned while in France, including the money you already spent. Never let you back again, or bar you from entry for a good long while.

Informally, they could beat the shit out of you while you're in custody, or allow other prisoners to beat the shit out of you. Hell, a group of other detainees could beat the shit out of you, even if the relevant authorities are trying to keep that from happening.

No, that's not likely. But dumping you in a camp is one part of the vast arsenal of ways to fuck up your life that immigration agencies have at their disposal. I repeat, DO NOT FUCK WITH IMMIGRATION.

I'll probably have to do the 3 month thing only, come back and go again

No no no no -- it will be illegal for you to engage in paid activity while you're in France. Illegal. Go to jail, pay fines illegal. I don't know how they work it for people who want to be wandering musicians -- normally, you'd have to have a job offer in hand, preapproved by the relevant French bureaucracy, before you could even start the process.

Talk to your "local" French consulate, explain what you want to do, and they'll tell you what you need to do to make it happen. You can probably do it, but not without some blood, sweat, and tears, and not without planning well in advance.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:24 PM on March 27, 2004

"Talk to your "local" French consulate, explain what you want to do, and they'll tell you what you need to do to make it happen. You can probably do it, but not without some blood, sweat, and tears, and not without planning well in advance."

Will do for sure! Much appreciated. Advance planning like this is very good. I'm in no immediate hurry so it's excellent to hear feedback on this. Thanks again all.
posted by otisfodder at 12:04 AM on March 28, 2004

Once they ship you home, they take your passport.. You are no longer allowed to enter any country that requires passports.
posted by mbell at 1:44 AM on March 28, 2004

Same thing happened to me as to crazy finger when I visited Spain 18 months ago. But like ROU_Xenophobe, I'm extremely cautious about immigration officials, and sent the leftover half to the nearest Spanish embassy with a letter of explanation. It seems to have worked (or to have been completely irrelevant), because I was able to visit Spain again last month with no problems.
posted by rory at 3:31 AM on March 28, 2004

my experience (chilean getting permanent residence in the uk; englishman getting permanent residence - as of last monday, yay! - in chile) of immigration is that if you're not from a "bad" country then officials are pretty helpful and lenient (where "bad" is defined by whatever cultural tensions exist in that country). if you're not on their blacklist and are educated and have your own funds, they tend to grant permission for whatever you ask for.

however, you *must* read gemma bovery.

oh, and welcome to the outcast never-at-home-anywhere club. ;o/
posted by andrew cooke at 6:09 AM on March 28, 2004

sorry. gemma bovery
posted by andrew cooke at 6:09 AM on March 28, 2004

also, vienna and berlin are very different to being stuck in the middle of the french countryside. obvious observation, i guess, but your choice seemed odd.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:13 AM on March 28, 2004

Why would France let someone who has little money and a wandering muscian into the country? Heck, I got turned away from CANADA just because I didnt have enough cash. The reasoning being, if I got into trouble or broke down or got sick etc.. they didnt want to deal with me. Makes perfect sense once you start thinking about it, being a US citizen has certain freedoms and rights that dont transfer across borders.
posted by stbalbach at 8:13 AM on March 28, 2004

[paying a bit more attention to what's planned] you know, if you want to live on little money it makes a lot more sense to go to a less developed country. it doesn't have to be back in the stone age - chile has "all the modern amenities" (at least in santiago!), and i live better than i did in the uk on less money. food is almost free.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:22 AM on March 28, 2004

And what's the worst thing they can do? Deport you back to the USA? Free ticket!

As per ROU_Xenophobe's point, they can also give you what I used to colloquially know as the "fuck off stamp" in your passport. It means, "Fuck off and don't come back to Spain"; and as Spain is part of the EU and there are common immigration policies for all of the EU, you might get locked out of the EU too.

Working without papers is okay for travelling etc., lots do it, but you don't want to do it all your life, as there is no security, and the jobs are usually crummy and in the end boring. If you *really* want to go to Europe *long term* to become a resident, look for a good job and do the paperwork, or find a spouse. Don't do it with a backpack and little money. I'm not saying don't backpack with little money, but that's another adventure, with different tactics and pay-offs (one of which is usually a desire to go and see another country rather than settle in the one you are in).
posted by carter at 8:30 AM on March 28, 2004

Oops, France; same same.
posted by carter at 8:32 AM on March 28, 2004

Also, read Sedaris, this in particular.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:38 AM on March 28, 2004

Definitely do not fuck with any country's immigration service. Also, do not lie to immigraton officers, ever ever ever.

The "free ticket" on deportation is not necessarily free. The airline is required to transport you, that's true. But they can also choose to dun you for the price of the ticket. Besides that delight, you also have the dreaded "refusal" stamp in your passport, which can make travel difficult.

Other ways to come to Europe for longer than 3 months:

Student visa--expensive and working rights are limited, but you are here long enough to get a feel for whether or not you will be able to get a decent job, and hey, you might learn something too. (I hasten to point out that actively seeking work-permit-level employment while on a student visa is technically illegal in most countries);

Work permit--very jealously guarded, and particularly so in France, but still possible to get if you have a highly in-demand or unique skill set;

Ancestry--if any of your grandparents were from an EU country, you may have the right to an ancestry visa for that country, and eventual citizenship. Worth checking out if you think it's at all possible.

Marriage--some European countries recognize same-sex couples as well;

Special programs--the UK has several special immigration programs for various classes of applicants ("working holidaymaker" and "highly skilled" are two of them). Other countries may have something similar going on.

Refugee status--unfortunately, running from the Bushies is not considered a legitimate asylum claim. ;^)

I moved to London 2 years ago on a student visa, and now have a settlement visa with full working rights. I did it all legally. It wasn't cheap, but it's possible if you're committed and lucky.
posted by Tholian at 1:33 PM on March 28, 2004

The EU has been undergoing several changes in work-permit policy lately - if a citizen of any EU member wishes to work in another EU member nation, all that person has to do is go to the immigration office (don't fuck with them! They're hard enough to deal with when it's all legal and there are no problems - this after a year in southern Germany as a student) and request a work visa, and it will be gratned. I don't know if this reciprocity applies for non-EU citizens with an EU work permit for one country - maybe not, if France closely guards its work permits and (say) the UK doesn't. (I wouldn't know for fact - just an example.)
posted by danbeckmann at 7:07 PM on April 2, 2004

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