prof lib visa renewal

How to Renew a Four Year Profession Libérale Visa

I always tell readers of the blog that getting a visa is usually much more challenging than renewing one, for the simple reason that for the former you are trying to prove to the French that something is at least plausible (this business will work, I am enrolled in this school, I am in a relationship with this person).  For the latter you are simply offering evidence that their original judgment was correct.

I remember how I felt in 2017 when I got a four-year card for the first time.  After three years of building my entire travel schedule for each year around a renewal, the idea of not seeing the immigration office for four years was a dream.  I said so at the time.

I’d like to say this article was four years in the making, but that isn’t true.  This is just the soonest I could write to tell you about a renewal.  And there’s not too much to say.

Below are a few key facts you should know about renewing your Profession Libérale Visa.

One Year Probation

All of us, when originally applying, are given a one-year visa (what attracts a lot of people to Passeport Talent is that it gives you the possibility of a four-year card to start).  With Prof Lib the French are using the “trust but verify” mentality: can you actually do what you said you could do in your original business plan?

Now, there’s nothing published on the internet from the French government about this (one of the many reasons this blog exists in the first place, to fill a gap of information), but if you don’t have a good first year, you are only going to get a one-year renewal, and are effectively on a sort of probation.  What does a “good first year” mean?

The French expectation is that your Prof Lib business does at least the SMIC, which at the time of this article is 1269€/month, or 15,228€/year.  For those who don’t know, SMIC is the nationally-established minimum wage.  The thinking in the French bureaucracy is, if you’re going to bother to start your own business, you should at least make the minimum wage.

Now, this doesn’t mean that if you have a “bad” first year you’ll lose your visa status.  If it’s very bad, you may.  Meaning, if you only bring in something like 2,000€ for the whole year, the French will consider this essentially a scammy method for you to stay in France, and without a wonderful explanation about how new clients are just around the corner or that you have had a major personal/professional issue, you will not get a renewal and will have to leave the country in 60 days.

But if it’s anything north of say, 12,000 € for the year, you have a decent chance of at least getting a one-year card, with the expectation that you make it above the SMIC the following year.  If it’s significantly above the SMIC, let’s say at 22,000 €/year or more, you have a good chance of getting a four-year card on your first renewal, as I did.

Renewing the Four-Year Card

Renewing the Four-Year Card follows the exact same process as obtaining it in the first place.  Your main evidence, apart from the usual proof of address, renter’s insurance, etc. will be your tax forms* and invoices.  The tax forms will be a shorthand for the health of your business and the person looking over your dossier can see in an instant your topline revenue and your take-home profit.

Many small businesses in France had an off year in 2020 (understandably) and it seems the authorities have been willing to give a pass on that year to pretty much everyone, as long as in 2021 there was an increase in revenues compared to 2020 and that there’s a through-line narrative from your previous years as well.

One reason I have seen people not get a four-year card for a few years was a lack of diversity of clients.  If you only have one whale client and no others, the French consider your business very fragile.  This doesn’t mean you need to have dozens, you just can’t have only one or two and expect them to necessarily sign off on a four-year card.

The big difference for me this time from 2017 was that instead of going to the big Paris prefecture I had come to know through two different visa classifications and three renewals, I would be going to Melun because of my recent move to the Seine-et-Marne department (77).  It would be a completely new experience for me, but that experience turned out to only differ in Covid-19 restrictions pushing a security guard out front to forbid entry to any people not already cleared on a list.

Two Complications (That Weren’t Really Complications)

I went for my appointment in September 2021 with the thought that surely I would get a new card before my planned three-month visit to the United States which would begin in January 2022.  That didn’t end up happening.

Yet, I wasn’t worried insofar as I had traveled without my residence card during the pandemic (because the card had been stolen and I didn’t want to pay to replace it) and the US authorities, which guarded the border I was focused on crossing next, didn’t care about my status in another country.

The récépissé I was given had a six-month validity, which was double the length I had been used to in the past, but I didn’t actually expect them to use that entire time. I thought to mitigate this by getting a new récépissé before leaving, but since you cannot apply for a new récépissé unless it’s 60 days from expiration, with a 17 March expiry that meant I couldn’t apply for a new one until 17 January, when I would already have been in America two weeks.  I found this out the hard way when they cancelled my appointment to get a new récépissé the morning of that appointment with an “ineligible” note in the cancellation.

As you can see from the featured image for this article, the date of my new card is from 31 January of this year, but it wasn’t until 23 February that I received the text message from the government that I was welcome to pick up my new card and could I please bring a fiscal stamp to cover the 225 € it cost them to make it (you can purchase said stamp here; what a world of difference from 2014 when I bought a bunch of stamps at the tabac!).  You still need to make an appointment to pick up the residence card, and while I’ve heard that’s been hard to do lately in Paris, in Melun they had plenty of slots for me to book.  So from start to finish, it was six months from when I showed up for my renewal to when I could pick up a new card.

So the complications were:

  1. I didn’t have my residence permit: all I had was a police report which stated that my residence permit had been stolen.  I had carried that around while traveling for the last couple of years.  As I’ve shared elsewhere, I’ve come to realize that you need your residence card for exactly zero things in France and carrying it around only risks adding one more headache if your wallet is lost or stolen.  Keep it at home.  If and when you do need to show “ID” your passport will always win and if you want you can always store a picture of the front and back of the card in the cloud.  And as I told someone recently who worried that having her passport with her new visa sticker inside stolen invalidated her visa: your right to live in France lives inside the French bureaucracy, on a computer, not in your passport/residence card.
  2. My récépissé would expire on 17 March, but I wasn’t due to land in France until 1 April.  I knew the system well enough to know that I could flash my expired récépissé, with the text message, with the convocation that I had printed out to pick up the CDS, IF I was asked.  What happened at the French border?  Was I asked for my vaccination status?  No.  Was I asked for a PCR test?  No.  He asked me to remove my mask and stamp, I was in, just like old times.  As I often say: be prepared for the French to ask for everything, but realize they may not ask for anything.

So, like I said, there were two complications that weren’t really complications.

Today I picked up the card and voila, here’s the article explaining what you need to do to renew the card.

Now some of you may be thinking…wait, Stephen didn’t you take the A2 test last year so that you could get your ten-year card?  Yes.  But I also realized then that this was the last piece of the Prof Lib story I hadn’t told.  That if you had gotten a Prof Lib, renewed it, and gotten a four-year card, you would need to renew one more time before you were eligible to apply for a ten-year card (at least five years of fiscal residency)  Part of why I started this blog in the first place was to give information that isn’t out there, and I don’t think there’s an article on renewing a four-year card, so here it is, as brief as it might be.  I figured I could wait a bit before moving on with my own next step to put together an article with this info.

Related to a willingness to wait to apply for my next big status upgrade in France is that I’m no longer in a rush.  The pandemic has proven to me that residence gives you 99% of the privileges of citizenship, at least in France, as I was able to come and go as I pleased, and was even eligible for personal and business aid from the government.

When I first moved here, I was in a hurry to get citizenship, as I was under the delusion that the French were looking for any excuse to deport me at any moment, whether I mispronounced a word or forgot a piece of paper in my dossier.  Ten years have shown me the naïveté that that was and I try to pass on a sense of calm to people who hire me to consult with them or who take my courses**.  Citizenship is no guarantee that you won’t lose your rights (ask the Americans of Japanese descent what their citizenship meant in America after Dec 7, 1941, or what happened to people of a certain race in France the following year, in 1942) and the term “permanent resident” is a misnomer for the vast majority of resident visas worldwide: almost all require some kind of residence over some period of time, and then need to be renewed…not exactly “permanent” by any definition.

Just realize you’re going to be a foreigner in France for at least a while, and get comfortable with the “odd” feeling of being a long-term guest.  You may be kicked out at any time, but rest assured, it’s not going to be because you forgot a piece of paper in your dossier, and in fact, it’s not likely to happen at all.

What’s next for me, of course, is citizenship and/or a ten-year card.  Stay tuned; I’ll keep you in the loop and try to provide a template you can follow, as always.

I am certainly happier than the photo would indicate, but as you may know, you are not permitted to smile in official French photos. 🙂

*I don’t know how many times I have to say this: you MUST FILE TAXES if you live in France, even if you don’t earn any income in France!  I know it’s not told to any of us when we get here by the French government (I only learned, as I’ve learned so many important bits of information over the last decade, due to the newsletters of Jean Taquet), but your proof of filing taxes every year are the most important documents you must have if you ever want to apply for a ten-year carte de resident or for citizenship.

**Anyone who charges more than 1000 € to help you get a profession libérale status is probably running a scam.

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