Why do the French authorities want birth certificates less than three months old?

Most foreigners living in France are asked at some stage to deliver a full birth certificate that is less than 3 months old. Why three months?

If you’ve even seen a French birth certificate of someone who has been married, you will understand why.

French birth certificates are “annotés” which means that any change in civil status is recorded on the birth certificate itself – marriage, civil union, separation, divorce, remarriage, death … It’s like a personal history rather than a record of a single event. This is also the purpose of the livret de famille*.

As a result, the French authorities always ask for a recent certificate, which is defined as less than 3 months old. Birth certificates are obtained from the town hall of the place of birth and are free of charge. You simply send a photocopy of your identity card and a stamped addressed envelope with a cover letter saying who you are and what you want and they usually arrive in a few days. You can also go to the town hall in person. Since February 15th 2019, birth certificates can also be obtained in multilingual versions (i.e. all the languages of the European Union).

In most countries other than France, birth certificates are not annotated. As a result, there is no reason to submit a certificate of less than 3 months, nor a translation of less than 3 months. Unfortunately, a lot of authorities are not aware of this. I am a sworn translator (Orléans Appeal Court) and have just translated a UK birth certificate for a British citizen who is getting married in a neighbouring town in the Loire Valley because the local town hall simply knows nothing about the regulations and my client doesn’t want to mess around.

I have personally used the same Australian birth certificate for countless cartes de séjour, two marriages, one divorce and a successful application for French citizenship. Each time, I explained that “les actes de naissance en Australie ne sont pas annotés.”

On the French official website service-public.fr, it says:

Un acte de naissance, de mariage ou de décès demeure valable tant que les éléments qui y figurent n’ont pas été modifiés.  https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F10449. i.e. a birth, marriage or death certificate remains valid as long as the information given in the certificate has not been modified.

So that, theoretically, is all you have to quote to an authority that asks for a certificate less than 3 months old. Good luck!

*livret de famille: this is a little booklet you are given when you marry. It is added to each time you have a child. It also records divorces and deaths.

Exchanging an Australian driver licence for a French licence

A driver licence issued by a country outside the European Union is only recognised for one year once the person acquires “normal residence” in France, normal residence being defined as the place in which you live for at least six months (185 days) a year due to professional or personal attachments. If you are a foreign student in France, however, you can drive with your non-European licence during your studies.

Where to apply?

Since 4th August all applications are on-line at https://permisdeconduire.ants.gouv.fr/Actualites/Echange-de-permis-etranger-faites-votre-demande-en-ligne

See instructions below

Who qualifies?

To qualify, your licence must be valid and issued by the country in which you had normal residence at the time.

If you have an existing driver’s licence that is less than three years old then your newly issued French licence will also be a probationary one until a three-year period has elapsed.

When to apply?

The deadlines are as follows:

1st carte de séjour : Less than one year after your card was issued

Visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour: Less than one year after the date of validation by OFII.

N.B. If the deadline for filing your application was between 12th March 2020 and 23rd June 2020, you have until 23rd September to file your application via the on-line procedure.

It’s best to start the process a couple of months ahead of time as some documents may require a little time to acquire.

What do I need?

An Australian driving record or traffic history and a driver licence

First you will need an Australian driving record or traffic history, which is normally only available to the driver themselves. It can be ordered on-line but must be sent to an Australian address usually the last one on record. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to officially change your address to an address in Australia where the record can be sent. The system is different for each state. All the relevant links are given at the end of this post.

A passport photo

Proof of address

Proof of residence

Translation into French

You will then need to have your licence and driving record/history translated by a court-certified translator. The official list can be found on the Court de Cassation website https://www.courdecassation.fr/informations_services_6/experts_judiciaires_8700.html#experts.

This is the official list of certified translators in France. All other lists are usually agencies in disguise. Translation agencies cannot be certified themselves, only the individual translators who carry out the work which is usually outsourced.

You can have the translation carried out by a translator living anywhere in France. There are no fixed prices for certified translations in France so they can vary considerably. You will need to take your licence and history to the translator in person or send them a good quality scan by email or a colour photocopy by post. A good quality scan means that it must be done with a scanner/photocopier and not a phone unless you have a special app.

Translators usually ask to be paid in advance by bank transfer, PayPal, etc. The translation is sent back by post. I personally prefer the “lettre suivie” solution. A sticker costs about 40 centimes and means you can track the letter which will be deposited in your mail box and not have to be collected at the post office if you’re not home, like a registered letter (lettre recommandée) does.

On-line application process

All applications are now made on-line at https://permisdeconduire.ants.gouv.fr/Actualites/Echange-de-permis-etranger-faites-votre-demande-en-ligne

1/ Register on the website

2/ Follow the steps (you can use Google Translate to help you))

3/ Photo:

You will need an approved passport photo. This can be obtained in most photo booths (see complete list for Photomaton on https://reseau.photomaton.fr/. You can also use a photo app: https://freeappsforme.com/passport-photo-apps/

4/ Proof of address: 

The most common documents are your phone bill and electricity bill.

You can also ask your landlord to write a letter saying that you are being hosted by them (lettre d’hébergement). Don’t forget to include the date you arrived. The person should say you have been continuously living with them since a specific date. You will need a copy of their ID.

5/ Proof of residency:

You can use your “titre de séjour”, stamps in your passport, a letter from your landlord, lease receipts, a letter from the town hall in small towns, or anything else that will prove you have been living in France for the specified amount of time.

What happens next?

After your application is examined, you will be systematically asked to provide your original licence.

You will be contacted by the authority concerned and issued a certificate of secure deposit (ADS) for your Australian driver licence.

You can use the ADS to drive while waiting for your French licence to issued, within the limit of the date of expiration of your Australian licence.

How long will it take?

The processing time will vary according to the complexity of your application and mainly depends on how long it takes to check your right to drive (driving history).

How can you track your application?

You can write an email or phone CERT de Nantes – Suivi de l’échange du permis de conduire

By email : cert-pc-epe-44-usagersEPE@interieur.gouv.fr

By phone : 02 55 58 49 00

If you move during the process

Email the above address, together with a pdf version of proof of domicile and the ADS (i.e. interim licence) or, if you haven’t received the ADS, your birth name, given names, date of birth and nationality of the licence.

The French licence is then posted to your home address.

What sort of licence will I get?

The licence is not probationary unless the original licence is less than 3 years old.

The issue date indicated on the licence is the issue date of the French licence. The licence is valid for 15 years from the issue date (except when a medical check-up is needed, for drives of HGVs for example).

If you would like me to translate your documents (I am certified as a translator by the Orléans Court of Appel and live in France), you can phone 06 76 41 99 43 or write to kneipp@kneipp-traduction.com. To know more about me professionally, you can check out my website www.kneipp-traduction.com.

Good luck!

All information taken from the official government site https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1460, verified in august 2020.

LINKS TO OBTAIN AN AUSTRALIAN DRIVING HISTORY/TRAFFIC RECORD

NSW https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/request-driving-record

QLD https://www.service.transport.qld.gov.au/applyformytraffichistory/public/Welcome.xhtml?dswid=-9714

VIC https://billing.vicroads.vic.gov.au/driverhistory

SA https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/driving-and-transport/licences/drivers-licence/check-your-driving-history

WA http://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/rsd_help/index_2073.aspx

TAS https://www.transport.tas.gov.au/registration/information/search_applications

ACT https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/1581/~/act-driver-licence-information#!tabs-7

NT https://nt.gov.au/driving/driverlicence/renew,-change-or-update-your-licence/apply-for-your-driver-licence-history

Compromis de vente vs promesse de vente

All property transactions in France take place in two steps: first, after the seller has agreed to the price offer, the seller and buyer sign a promise to sell in the form of either a promesse de vente (unilateral promise to sell) or a compromis de vente (bilateral promise to sell). This can take place privately, in a real estate agency or in a notaire’s office. Then, usually about 3 months later, when all the conveyancing has been done, both parties sign the acte de vente to close the sale.

The first time I purchased a property in France, in the early 1980s, I was told that it was better to sign a compromis de vente rather than a promesse de vente so I was surprised to learn recently, when asked to interpret during the signing of a promise to sell in a notaire’s office that it was a promesse de vente and not a compromis.

Despite my research I was not able to really determine the difference between the two so I asked the notaire, who told me that he only used the promesse de vente agreement. His explanation did not fully satisfy me, apart from the fact that the promesse de vente would appear to be in the purchaser’s favour and the compromis in the seller’s favour. Also, a real estate agent can only use a compromis de vente agreement which probably explains why I was told it was preferable. Real estate agents who have obtained the corresponding certification can prepare the compromis without going through a notaire and the price of the agreement is included in their commission. The promesse de vente is an acte authentique which means that it is always signed in front of a notaire.

After looking at my own records (my husband and I have bought or sold 8 times, 3 times with a real estate agent and 5 times privately), I discovered that there was a compromis de vente each time a real estate agent was involved and a promesse de vente all the other times. However, I have since attended a training course on the subject for court sworn translators and have updated my knowledge on the subject. Here are my conclusions.

Promesse de vente or unilateral promise to sell (the least common)

The seller promises to sell the property to the future buyer at a price agreed upon by the parties thus giving the future buyer exclusivity for a pre-determined period (usually two to three months).

During this time, the seller cannot promise to sell the property to anyone else whereas the future buyer can cancel the sale if they wish to, the only drawback being that they will lose the indemnité d’immobilisation or reservation fee (which roughly corresponds to non-refundable earnest money) if they do not go through with the sale. The reservation fee is usually 10% of the sales price.

If the future buyer does go through with the sale, the 10% is deducted from the price still to be paid.

To be valid, the promise of sale must be registered with the tax department within ten days of signature and if the reservation period is more than 18 months, it must be signed at a notaire’s office. This particular point may be changed in 2020. The registration fee, paid by the future buyer, is 125 euros. The fee charged by the notaire for preparing the agreement is not fixed by law and is usually about 200 euros. You should ask the notaire beforehand.

Compromis de vente or reciprocal promise to sell (the most common)

The seller and the future buyer both undertake to conclude the sale at a price determined jointly. Legally, the compromis is therefore a sale. If one of the parties wants to pull out of the transaction (except if the one of the conditions precedent is not met), the other party can take them to court and force them to do so, in addition to claiming damages. However this can be a very lengthy process.

When the compromis is signed, the purchaser pays earnest money (dépôt de garantie) corresponding to 5% to 10% of the sales price. The earnest money is deducted from the final sales price.

The compromis de vente does not have to be registered with the tax department. However, if there is a dispute about the conditions precedent, the parties will both be bound by the agreement, unless the dispute is settled amicably between the parties or by a court decision. In the case of a promesse de vente, both parties are released from the agreement if the future purchaser decides not to buy. The vendor cannot change their mind and the agreement is immediately enforceable without going to court.

Cooling off period for purchasers – promesse de vente et compromis de vente

Whether you sign a unilateral promise to sell (promesse) or a reciprocal promise to sell (compromis), you have ten-day cooling-off period (délai de retractation) during which you can decide not to purchase the property. The letter stating your intent must be sent by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt to the seller. If you go through a notaire, this can be done electronically.

Whatever the reason for cancelling the sale, any amount paid by way of reservation fee (indemnité d’immobilisation) or earnest money (dépôt de garantie) during the cooling-off period will be reimbursed. The 10-day cooling-off period starts on the day following the day on which the promise to sell is signed at a notaire’s office or, if a private promise to sell is signed, at the first presentation by the postman of the registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt containing the agreement.

For example, if the letter is sent on 10th of the month and the first presentation is the 12th of the month, the cooling-off period will begin on the 13th and end on 22nd at midnight.

Conditions precedent – promesse de vente and compromis de vente

I mentioned the question of conditions precedent (conditions suspensives) earlier on. These are conditions that must be met for closure of the sale to take place.

Whether the promise to sell is unilateral (promesse) or reciprocal (compromis), the seller and buyer can agree to insert one or more conditions precedent in the agreement. This means that if events defined as conditions precedent do not take place before the final sale, the agreement is null and void.

  • Examples: the purchaser’s bank loan is refused; the municipality has a pre-emption right; a serious town planning easement is discovered. In these cases, the amounts paid by the purchaser are refunded.
  • A compromis de vente can also contain a clause called a “clause de dédit” (retraction clause) which enables the seller and/or the purchaser to cancel the sale without giving a reason, in return for leaving the other party an agreed-upon amount. However, this practice is very rare.
  • The above clause must not be confused with the penalty clause, which exists in most compromis de vente according to which the purchaser must pay the seller a fixed amount in damages if the purchaser refuses to go through with the sale.

To sum up, if you are purchasing a property in France and you want to be able to cancel the sale without giving a reason (and are prepared to lose the 10% reservation fee!) or if you want to guarantee the date of sale, then you will need to sign a promesse de vente at a notaire’s office.

If you are selling a property in France and the purchaser needs to get a mortgage loan, it is also better to sign a promesse de vente because if the loan has not come through on the stipulated date, you can simply walk away from the sale and find another buyer. If you have signed a compromis, you will have to go through the court to have the sale cancelled which can be a lengthy process.

In all other cases, you can choose either a promesse de vente or a compromis de vente, but if you are going through a real estate agent, then it will be necessarily be a compromis de vente unless you specifically ask for a promesse de vente through a notaire.

Whatever you choose, you will have to sign the final deed of sale at the notaire’s office. I strongly advise choosing your own notaire (in which case the fees are split between all the notaires involved), not because of any possible dishonesty on the part of a notaire, but simply because you will always have an unbiased opinion.

My second recommendation is to make sure you understand EVERYTHING in the deed of sale (which you can request beforehand). Some real estate agents are competent to explain all the details. Otherwise you can call on a sworn translator who can also be present during the sale.

For all inquiries, please contact Rosemary Kneipp at kneipp@kneipp-traduction.com or phone 06 76 41 99 43.

Buying property in France #1 – Finding your dream home

Even when you speak the language and have lived your whole life in a country, buying a property can be stressful and challenging. Doing so in a foreign country makes it a little more complicated.

I have lived in France for over 40 years and have been directly or indirectly involved in the sale or purchase of a large number of properties. Real estate rules have evolved over the years and regulations are much stricter than before.

There are basically two ways of buying property in France: you can deal directly with the owner or go through a real estate agent or website. In both cases, the final sale will be handled by the notaire. “A Notaire is a legal specialist with a public authority mission who draws up authenticated contracts on behalf of his clients. He is self-employed”.­ The notaire himself also sells properties on commission.

1/ Buying through a real estate agent or website:

Real estate agents have to have a licence and a diploma, which requires a minimum of 2 years’ training after the end of high school. Those with higher diplomas (bachelor’s or master’s degrees) are entitled to draw up a promise to sell and manage apartment buildings.

In France, the real estate agent’s fees (usually 5 to 7% of the sales price) are nearly always paid by the buyer. The promise to sell agreement is included in the fee but the buyer and seller can choose to go through a notaire. Agent’s fees are different from notaire’s fees and taxes.

2/ Buying directly from the owner:

With the many possibilities offered by the Internet, more and more people want to avoid the real estate agent’s commission and buy directly, through French websites such as LeBoncoin, SeLoger, Logic-Immo, pap (particulier à particulier), Superimmo, Figaro Immo, SeLoger Neuf (new homes) and Superimmoneuf (also new homes). There are other international websites such as Greenacres.

The buyer can deal directly with the owner and can even sign a promise to sell with going through a notaire if they wish.

3/ Buying through a notaire:

The notaire is often approached by local people when buying or selling as they feel they have a better legal guarantee.

4/ Real estate agents vs private sales

Which should you choose? A real estate agency or a private sale?

If you don’t speak French or have little legal knowledge, a private sale will be more complicated unless you are really sure of the person you are buying from. Despite the fact that there is no commission, it might be more difficult to bring down the price with a private owner who often overvalues their property for sentimental reasons.

For the buyer, it is important not to let the personality of the owner cloud their judgement, even if they speak English.

In the more popular areas of France, real estate agents often speak English themselves which can make life much easier for buyers. They will often take you to view several properties just to get a good understanding of what you are looking for. It is easier for a buyer to say “no” to a real estate agent than to a private owner. Also, it is the agent who negotiates the price, not the buyer. However, some agents are very persuasive. You should make sure you feel comfortable with the person showing you around and don’t feel bullied into buying something you don’t want!

Real estate agencies can be nationwide such as La Foret, Square Habitat, Century 21 or Orpi, which will give you access to all their properties in France, or independant, in which case they may be a member of the real estate agency federation, FNAIM, which will provide you with a better guarantee than a small agency working on its own.

The agency will usually ask you to sign an agreement under which you cannot deal directly with the owner of a property you have viewed.

5/ The next thing is to draw up your criteria, the things that you absolutely must respect such as price, amount of work to be done, location in an urban or rural area, size, aspect, type of flooring, type of heating, etc. Having to replace the roof or put in a new heating system can be very expensive.

Other factors to look out for are the land tax (taxe foncière) which can be quite expensive in some areas, rates (taxe d’habitation, which are being phased out but still applicable for people in higher income brackets), cost of heating (you’ll need to see the actual bills), shared expenses and the financial health of the joint owners if it’s an apartment building (if there is a swimming pool, lift, caretaker, extensive grounds, it will cost more to run).

6/ It can also be helpful to use the services of a person who speaks your language and knows the area, especially if you live far away or are dealing with private owners. This is a service I am happy to offer.

Next step – viewing and signing the promise to sell.

Rosemary Kneipp, sworn translator with the Orléans Court of Appeal. www.kneipp-traduction.com  kneipp@kneipp-traduction.com or 06 76 41 99 43

How much does a certified/sworn translation cost in France?

Before I answer the question, a little terminology. Although many people say “sworn translation” and “traduction assementée”, the correct terms are “certified translation” and “traduction certifiée”. It’s the translator who is sworn or assermenté by the court, not the translation.

First, what exactly is a sworn translator (traducteur assermenté)?

In France, a sworn translator or “traducteur assermenté” is also an “expert judiciaire” and attached to either a Court of Appeal (Cour d’appel) or the Cour de Cassation (Court of Cassation or Final Court of Appeal). There is a second list of translators, known as the “liste du procureur ou TGI” but they are not “experts judiciaires” and mainly used for court work in rare languages.

How do you become a sworn translator?

To become a sworn translator, you must have French nationality and be able to prove that you are capable of translating any documents that may be required by the court, police authorities, etc. You do not have to be a professional translator but knowledge of the legal system in France and the countries in which your foreign language is spoken, is essential. The application process takes a year and candidates are approved by a council of sworn translators at the Appeal Court where the application is made.

There are two separate categories: translation (written) and interpretation (spoken). You can apply for one or the other or both and for just one language or several. Applications are submitted in January and the translators / interpreters are sworn in during December. The initial accreditation is for 3 years, followed by 5-year renewal periods, provided the translator/interpreter has fulfilled their obligations.

How do you find a sworn translator?

You can find the list of sworn translators on the website of the Cour de Cassation: https://www.courdecassation.fr/informations_services_6/experts_judiciaires_8700.html Lists are available on other websites but they are mainly designed to offer translation services. You can use the services of a translator anywhere in France.

What are the rates for translations?

Rates for court translations and interpretations are strictly controlled (and not very well-paid).

There are no official rate recommendations concerning certified translations for private individuals. Rates are left entirely up to the translator.

Why do sworn translations always seem so expensive?

A sworn translator is like any other self-employed person in France. They have to pay social contributions in addition to overheads (computer, official stamp, colour printer, paper, envelopes, stamps, wifi connexion, office space, heating, etc.). Some translators have to charge value-added tax of 20%.

The Court also requires that sworn translators attend at least one training session a year.

The documents translated for private individuals vary enormously which makes it impossible to propose a “set rate” for most documents.

The most time-consuming part of many certified translations is the layout as the translation has to resemble the original insofar as possible. Once you have the templates in your computer, the translation itself may not take very long, but you need to accumulate a lot of templates. For example, there are at least 10 different UK birth certificates and the same number of French driver licences. There is a different birth certificate for each state of the United States, not to mention marriage certificates which often have a licence attached. Each state of Australia also has different documents. Driving licences and driving records vary considerably from one country to another and from one state to another.

Scanning documents to make pdfs can take time as well. First, you have to print the original and translation, then stamp all the pages, add a register number and sign them. You then have to scan them one at a time and create the corresponding pdf files.

So, what about actual prices?

The price of a fairly standard birth or marriage certificate can vary, according to the translator and the origin of the document, from 25 to 65 euros or more. The best solution is to find a translator who is specialised in your country’s documents e.g. UK, Australian, US, etc. as they will be able to offer better rates because they already have a lot of the templates. Some translators offer a discount for a large number of documents (naturalisation application, for example).

For one-off non-standard documents, the translator usually charges per word. It seems that the price ranges from about 18 centimes a word to 25 centimes. For longer, more complex documents, it is best to use a translator whose mother tongue corresponds to the target language.

As a sworn translator, I have come to specialise in UK and Australian civil registration documents (birth, marriage, divorce, adoption certificates), Australian and US driver licences and records, French civil registration documents, French driver licences, French diplomas and transcripts (diplômes and relevés de notes), French real estate documents including promesse/compromis de vente, acte de vente and procurations (power of attorney).

What will you need to give the translator?

In the past, before the existence and widespread use of email and scans, translators asked to see the original documents.

Today, many translators work via email particularly with the increase in on-line applications for applying for titres de séjour and exchanging driver licences, for example. At some stage, the applicant will be required to submit the original documents so the authorities will be able to compare them. A copy of the original always accompanies the translation. It is unusual these days to stamp originals.

If working by email, you will need to send the translator a proper scan of the document, not just a photo with your phone. UK documents, in particular, are often outsize and you may need to go to a printer or photocopy shop and have them scan the document and send you the file.

The translator will then give you a quotation and turnaround time and ask to be paid in advance by bank transfer, PayPal, Revolut, etc.

I usually send a pdf of the translation to the customer to check name spelling and numbers in order to avoid errors.

The translation is then printed out, stamped and signed and assigned a number from a register kept by the translator. The translation and original are then stapled together unless a pdf is required.

If a hard copy is needed, I prefer to send it by “lettre suivie”, which is a tracked letter that arrives in the customer’s letterbox.

The French authorities always require the original translation and not a photocopy unless it’s an on-line application, so you may need to order more than one copy. There will be an extra cost.

If you are interested in having a document translated, you can consult my website www.kneipp-translation.com and send an email to kneipp@kneipp-traduction.com to obtain a quote.