My client Jasmine came to me after working with an immigration lawyer who hadn’t been successful in renewing her visa. She had been in France for several years, and was a photographer – a hugely talented photographer, at that.
She had been in France on several different visas, first as a student learning French, then on a Long Stay Visitor visa she’d gotten when she’d PACSed her French partner, to the vie privée after they’d been living together for more than a year, then back to Visitor after they’d broken up. Despite the failed relationship and her inability to work in France while a visitor, she loved living in Paris, and didn’t want to go home permanently. While she traveled regularly back to the US to work as a photographer and earn money to fund her life in France, she dreamed of being able to do photography all over Europe and help people to create magical experiences.
She dabbled in photography in France, but didn’t want to grow her business because she knew she wasn’t authorized to work and that getting caught could jeopardize her ability to stay in France.
She knew she was good at what she did, that her photos were beautiful, and that she deserved to create a life for herself pursuing her dream.
There was only one problem: her visa status. An immigration lawyer had helped her to put together an application for a change of status in Paris, and then, when that failed, a new “profession liberale” visa application in the US, but both were turned down, for two reasons.
One: she was unsure of being able to make enough money for the “profession libérale autoentrepreneur” visa by doing just one type of photography, so she wrote a business plan including *every* type of photography she was capable of doing, from weddings and portraits to real estate listings to tourist photo shoots. Her business plan was unfocused and lacked detail, and a skeleton of what it should have been. (The lawyer, to whom she had paid an obscene sum of money, just collected the documents, but didn’t help with actually putting together the business plan or tell her how to make her application stronger.) She didn’t translate the detail of the dream in her head onto the page, which made it look like she didn’t quite know what she was doing.
Two: To make matters worse, the wording on her website suggested that she was *already* working in Paris, on the Visitor visa, even though she technically didn’t have the right to be working. She had just prepared her website as part of creating her business idea, but the préfecture and later, the consulate, didn’t see it that way.
In the game of French bureaucracy, you only need one strike to be out, and that was two.
After multiple failures to change her status, the lawyer ended up having to get her a new “Visitor” visa status, and she lost all of that accumulated time she had spent in France as a student and then as the PACS partner of a French citizen, and she had to start ALL over on her immigration procedures and on her track to becoming a French permanent resident and citizen. She could have given up, or found it too frustrating and upsetting to have to continue spending time and money on regularizing her visa status. She could have decided, as many people do in this situation, to work in a non-so-legal way, which would have prevented her from paying taxes, from staying on French healthcare, and would have ultimately made it so much more difficult to fix her status later.
She didn’t get upset, or frustrated. She held on tight to her belief in her photography business and her ability that things would work out in the end.
We began working together by renewing her existing visa and developing a plan for her change of status. I explained the problems with her previous application and asked her what she wanted to focus on – and we discussed strategies for ensuring the Préfecture wouldn’t get the wrong idea.
I helped her to renew her visitor visa, so she could apply for a change of status directly in France, without going back to the US *again*, and then, we got to work on her business plan.
We niched down her business, focusing on her main skill sets and the type of photography she REALLY wanted to be doing. We got her letters of support from friends, previous clients, and a few potential clients who wanted to hire her for their ongoing photography needs. We set her rates and projected her finances.
It was a long, drawn out process, especially since the prefecture requested more information about her marketing strategies and business structure after we submitted her dossier, as DIRECCTE thought it looked like she was starting a photography studio – requiring more money and more equipment – and wanted to be sure that she could pay her business expenses. (She’s actually an autoentrepreneur).
It took over a year before she FINALLY got her carte de séjour, but now, Jasmine is doing an AMAZING job, photographing events all over the city, and traveling to other parts of France. Last year, she had her photos featured in a national publication, and she continues to thrive as she has secured her 4-year carte de séjour, is engaged again to a French man, and is well on her way to permanent French residency and naturalization.