Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mailbag: Bad time to move to Paris?

A married couple, Alice and Bob, sent me an email asking if they should return to France to live. Neither have French citizenship. One interesting tidbit is that Alice has Australian citizenship and one of her parents was Scottish.


Dear Curtis,

After more than a year of a job search in the US, we find ourselves in a possible 'window' of opportunity to return to Paris, stop living on a temporary basis and start a family. We have no children, no ties to the US. But then there's this whole 'Euro/Global Crisis' thing.

The question we face is: should we give up economic safety and a pretty dull existence for a more enjoyable lifestyle (as far as we're concerned), but real risks related to employment and the future of France (is France the next Greece or even Spain?).

We hesitate between moving to Paris in the next 6 months or moving to a US city with a more European feel for a few years (saving Paris for a better economy). And we wonder when will it ever be "le bon moment"?

As an expert ex-pat, what do you think? Should we wait it out a few years, or pack our things for another adventure?

Sincerely,
Alice and Bob




Alice and Bob have quite a dilemma, but there are interesting possibilities here. I don't know what their "window of opportunity" is, so it's difficult for me to be too specific, but here are some rough thoughts.

First, it's true that France is at a very strange point and we don't know what's going to happen. It appears that the next president of France will be François Hollande, a socialist with very little national political experience. He's made a lot of promises about spending without specifying where the money is going to come from. The markets are rather nervous about him and it remains to be seen how effective he will be. That being said, the financial crisis is global and France is the fifth largest economy in the world. If they a Greek-style meltdown, they're taking everyone else with them, so I don't know that staying out of France will help. I also don't think France will fall like that (famous last words).

There is never un bon moment in my view because we cannot guarantee the future. You'll have to judge for yourself how good the opportunity is and what steps you can take to protect yourself if it doesn't pan out. It's been my experience that people who don't seize opportunities when they present themselves are less likely to seize those opportunities in the future. It may turn out to be disastrous, but you'll never forget the experience.

Also, if it's a work permit opportunity, you need to find out if your spouse will be able to work. I believe that under some circumstances, the spouse of a French work permit holder is permitted to secure work, however, unemployment in France is currently at 10%, so it will be difficult. Be sure that both of you are as fluent as possible in French to maximize your chances.

If you take this chance, be sure to look into the European Blue Card. France is now offering the Blue Card and if you qualify for it, you can eventually get long-term European Residence Permits and the opportunity to live and work in most EU countries (the UK, Ireland and Denmark have opted out).

One interesting bit is where you pointed out that Alice has Australian citizenship and one of her parents is Scottish. Have you looked into the UK Ancestry Visa? Commonwealth citizens with at least one parent or grandparent with UK citizenship can apply. If accepted, you, your spouse and dependents can live and work in the UK for up to five years. After that, you can apply for permanent residency. After one more year, you can apply for citizenship. With that, you can live and work just about anywhere in the EU. I know you want France and the UK clearly isn't, but it's a road to it and the London/Paris Eurostar makes it easy to travel back and forth.

If you decide to stay in the US and are looking for a city with a "more European feel", may I suggest you check out Portland, Oregon? I love that city and I've quite a few European friends who've fallen in love with it too.

Good luck and let me know how it works out!
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