Studying abroad in France - use my old EU citizenship or my new American one?
July 17, 2007 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Duel US and UK citizen studying in Paris... should I be getting a student visa or a residence permit?

A little bit of background information:

I'm was born in the UK but moved to the US when I was 3. I became an American citizen last year and have been educated virtually my whole life in the American education system. I'm now a college student planning to study abroad (not with my school, but through another American school's program) this upcoming fall semester in Paris.

Here's the problem: I have a British passport and an American passport, both current, and I don't know which 'identification' I should be using in terms of the legal documents I need to get to be able to study in France. From what I understand, as an EU citizen I would only need a residence permit. (I'm staying for just over 90 days.) But I'm also an American citizen with an American passport studying at an American institution, which would mean I need a student visa, right?.

So I guess my questions would be:
- Any dual citizens out there dealt with this kind of dilemma within the EU, specifically France? What kind of legal pitfalls am I looking at if I'm not careful?
- Am I better off using my more current American passport and citizenship to take the student visa route, or should I stick to identifying myself as a UK citizen and get a residence permit, which would perhaps be easier and quicker? (That's the other problem - I leave in a month, and I know I'm cutting this all very close. I'd appreciate an honest approximation of how long this will actually take to a lecture about how I should have started sooner.)
- *Is* getting a residence permit as an EU citizen easier and quicker?
- Can I be working on getting this documentation once I'm in France, or do I have to have it all figured out on my way in?

Any help would be really appreciated. Google and the study abroad program people are NOT giving me straight answers (if any at all.) Even the French consulate hasn't returned my emails.

Oh, and if it helps to know, I've already registered with the new CampusFrance system and I'm waiting for them to clear my application.

Thanks in advance for any help.
posted by Muffpub to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your university in France should do all of the paperwork for you and you shouldn't worry about getting a student visa. All this stuff will come together.

But the only difference that I see between being an EUer versus an American is that you're cheaper as an EU student. BUT since you're not paying your university, rather you're paying an American university to send you over there, it really shouldn't matter. If you're being processed through an American university it may make things a tad easier to "be" an American citizen.
posted by k8t at 7:29 PM on July 17, 2007

You might want to use your UK passport if you intend to do any paid work. I don't know the rules around residence permits, but as an EU citizen you can just show up with no paperwork ahead of time, while as an American you would need to have a visa etc.
Bear in mind that should you later decide to stay longer, the EU passport would be much more flexible.
posted by bystander at 7:43 PM on July 17, 2007

It's almost certainly way, way, way easier to do all of this as an EU citizen - that is, using your UK passport as the one you mention to the immigration/visa people.

Here's a site dealing with higher education in France linked to from the French Embassy in London's website, explaining many of the details for what sort of permits you need and what you need to do before and during your stay.

This page on the site specifically says that as an EU citizen, you'd need to obtain this after you arrive:

Temporary residence permit for citizens of the European Union
Citizens of European Union countries (holding a national identity card or current passport) are entitled to stay in France for up to three months. For longer stays, they must apply for a European citizen's residence permit (carte de séjour communauté européenne), which is issued free of charge for renewable periods of up to one year at a time to students taking recognized courses of higher education.

The same site tells you where to apply for the permit, what proof you need to submit, and how long it takes to receive.

To sum up:

- enter France on your UK passport
- apply for the permit described above with the documents they request, some of which you might have to obtain in advance or translate/notarize

Also, perhaps since you're just staying for a little over 90 days, you could go to France on the UK passport, head to Morocco for the weekend, and then reenter and leave France on your US passport, and file no paperwork at all. I'm not recommending this, because I have no idea if it's something you'd get in trouble for, but there it is.
posted by mdonley at 7:48 PM on July 17, 2007

Going with the U.K. passport is definitely the way to go.

For the sake of illustration, if you decide to go w/ your American credentials you absolutely *will* need to acquire a visa before you leave. They've changed the procedure recently, you have to first register with Campus France before you can apply.

Then, you'll have to gather a bunch of documents, and apply in person at your region's French consulate. The good news is you can usually get your visa same day.

So yeah, go for the EU residency permit.
posted by timelord at 7:59 PM on July 17, 2007

Best answer: As a EU citizen, it's your right to live, work and study in the other EU countries and you won't even need a residence permit.
posted by snownoid at 8:13 PM on July 17, 2007

Best answer: A more official source.
And here's a site about your rights as an EU citizen.
posted by snownoid at 8:28 PM on July 17, 2007

You should check with a local French consulate before you go. As far as I know, you do not get to pick whether you're British or American when you go to France. Instead, France gets to choose whether to deal with you as a Briton or American. I would be very surprised if you weren't treated as a UK citizen if that's more advantageous to you, but you never know.

There are almost certainly treaty relationships which govern this sort of thing, and dealing with multiple-nationality people is surely an everyday boring thing to most any consulate.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:46 PM on July 17, 2007

Response by poster: You guys are corroborating what I was thinking. Thanks everyone.

So if that's the case, here's a follow-up that I'm not sure anyone will be able to answer, since CampusFrance is so new... I already registered with CampusFrance since I was told to by my school to do so, and I also declared my American citizenship when I registered (again, I was told to do so.)

But from what I understand, since I'm an EU citizen, I didn't even have to register at all? Does anyone know if this is going to cause confusion or problems somewhere down the line?
posted by Muffpub at 9:06 PM on July 17, 2007

But from what I understand, since I'm an EU citizen, I didn't even have to register at all?

Talk to the French government. Maybe the relevant law says that anyone with an EU citizenship does not need to register, so you wouldn't need to. On the other hand, the relevant law might say that anyone with a non-EU citizenship must register, and you do have a non-EU citizenship.

Or it might be an issue at the school level, where they don't want to have to explain to the feds why this British person didn't need a student visa, or don't have established mechanisms for dual nationals.

Do not fuck with immigration agencies, even innocently. There is a French consulate in Boston who can actually give you real, accurate information instead of the half-assed assumptions, guesses, and analogies that people here can give you. Talk to the consulate.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:57 PM on July 17, 2007

Definitely talk to the consulate, and do it sooner rather than later. And those cartes de séjour are a real pain in the bum to get for non-EU types. Expect to compile a great wodge of documentation, some of which you will need translated by an official translator («traducteur assermenté», in the phone book).

I am sure your host institution can be of help. Don't let the bureaucratic go-around get you down, living in Paris is a kick.
posted by Wolof at 12:38 AM on July 18, 2007

Best answer: I'm a dual Australian/UK citizen. I spent six months studying in France last year, and had absolutely no contact with immigration aside from showing my passport on arrival and departure. I haven't heard of CampusFrance, but on a quick scan it looks more like a government agency to encourage and help people from outside France who want to study there - nothing 'official' about it. There is a lot of other paperwork and crap involved in moving there for a while, and I imagine that your program told you to register with them so they can help you with your bank account, housing, etc. However, they look helpful, so why not email them?
posted by jacalata at 12:49 AM on July 18, 2007

Oh yea, and as far as you not 'really' being English, or whatever - I only have citizenship because my mother was born in England and emigrated when she was less than a year old. Yours is still perfectly valid.
posted by jacalata at 12:50 AM on July 18, 2007

Gah - and of course the passport I showed when I arrived/left France was my UK one. They don't even need/want to know that you have another one.
posted by jacalata at 12:52 AM on July 18, 2007

Follow jacalata's advice. She's right on the money

...and don't bother about the residence permit (especially if your are there only for a few months), unless you enjoy wasting your time dealing with a truly Byzantine bureaucracy. Believe me, nobody will care. There's enough illegal immigration in France to keep the authorities busy and off the back of EU students.

posted by bluefrog at 6:20 AM on July 18, 2007

You have an EU passport. Make the most of it. As far as the French government is concerned, you're a rosbif with a funny accent.
posted by holgate at 6:43 AM on July 18, 2007

Haven't previewed but it is no longer necessary to have a residency permit if you have a current UK passport (and don't allow the local flic tell you any different.
posted by Wilder at 12:48 PM on July 19, 2007

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