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Clé France

The French Property Network

Sep 26

Arriving in France with School-Age Children

Client's Question: "My husband and I are planning on moving out to France as it’s always been a dream of ours. We have three children aged 3, 6 and 12 and would want to send them to local schools if possible – we’re just a little worried about how easy it will be for them to integrate into school life as none of them speak good French. It’s the only thing stopping us at the moment, so any advice would be great.”

 Your two youngest children should have no difficulty in settling well. The three year old will be starting in the nursery section, and the 6 year old will start in 'Cours Préparatoire', which is the year pupils start to read and write, so the timing is good. You might like to enquire about any additional language support for your 6 year old, sometimes even small primary schools can offer some additional after school help.

That said, most children moving at this age don’t really need it, the teacher will be best able to advise. You will probably find that they are listening to what is going on around them for the first three or so months, and it is after this point that they start chatting away quite happily at around 6 months.

The local school is always a good choice where possible, as it facilitates the integration of the whole family into the community. The school and its social events are at the centre of village life, and there will be all sorts of opportunities for you to socialise and join in, from simply seeing other parents at the school gate, to serving at the school barbecue and volunteering your services to the Parents’ Association.

It is always a little more difficult moving older children. Your 12 year old would normally be in either her first or second year of 'collège' (11-15 yrs), depending on when in the year her birthday falls. School work is obviously more challenging at this stage, and she would probably be held back a year. There is no stigma attached to this, it is common practice in French schools to ensure that pupils reach the required standard before moving on to the next educational cycle. It would be a good idea to seek out some additional French tuition, if possible before you move, and then continue with that once you arrive.

However, with your older child you might like to consider other options than the local 'collège', depending on what is available to you in your area. International schools are either based on the American or English curriculum, and would offer the opportunity to continue studying in English as well as French, and therefore ease the transition. The student population of some international schools may be somewhat 'transient' though, as pupils sometimes attend for limited periods of time, say 2/3 years, so the social impact of that might be something to consider.

Blog submitted by: Sharon at Cle France.

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Sep 24

Buying a Farm in France

Farming in France holds an important position in the local communities as well as the minds of many people, both from a cultural perspective and an economic one. French agricultural life plays a role in many corners of the country and top most in Normandy and Pays de la Loire, it is therefore sad to see that following a farm owner's retirement many farms are left to drift into a state of disrepair if no one can be found to take over their running. The effect of this is that the value of the farm drops away and there are some bargains are to be had.

But the French government is keen to see farmland continue to be worked and is especially keen to see younger farmers, including those from the UK, take over the running of a farm.

The Société d'Aménagement Foncier et d'Etablissement Rural (SAFER) is backed by the agriculture ministry and provides advice and information on both buying a farm and the training available for those looking to commit themselves to running a farm, they also have an English language site.

SAFER provides assistance and advice so a quick look at the website would be a good place to start finding out more of what they offer. For example, details of the different tax regimes applicable depending upon both your family status and type of farming project, as well as advice on health and pension provision. Naturally buying a farm in France is not a decision you take lightly, but reading up as much as possible on the subject and calling on the services of  the professionals should get you off to a good start.

Another good site to find more information on Farms and Farming is the EuroFarms website which is a good place to start as it is also available in English as well as French and other languages.

How to achieve the status of farmer?

Criteria :

50% of your working time must be given over to farming activities.

50% of your total income must come from agricultural production, tourism, forestry or other activities ; these activities must be based on the farm.

At least 25% of your income must come directly from the production activity itself.
 
You must be affiliated to the Farmers Health Insurance (A.M.E.X.A.) at the M.S.A. (Mutualité Sociale Agricole).

Do I need to have an agricultural diploma to become a farmer in France?

Not necessarily. You will need to acquire Professional Agricultural Qualifications in some cases ; this is obtained either through the equivalence of the diplomas you have obtained in your own country or by validation of your professional agricultural experience.  

You will need them if you are going to request financial aid from the State and if you apply for authorisation to farm.

What is the “installation route”?

The aim of the installation policy is to encourage a large number of young candidates, capable of taking on the responsibility of a farm within the context of a viable project.
 
There are two main grants: the Young Farmers installation grant (DJA) and Young Farmers loans intended to finance installation.
 
All applicants for these installation grants must follow what is known as the “installation route”, which includes an economic approach to the installation project, professional qualifications and monitoring of the installation according to the following stages:
- Acquisition of professional capacity 
- Search for a farm and access to property
- Preparation of installation and fine-tuning of the project
- Financing of the installation project
- Validation of the installation project

I am not a member of the European Community, can I become a farmer in France?

You can become a farmer in France, however, you will not have access to State financial assistance with installation, except if a bilateral agreement has been signed in this respect with your country.

What will my application be worth, up against a French application?

At a time when the number of farms is dropping year on year, installation of young farmers has become a priority – wherever they are from.
It is the quality and maturity of the project which overrides, in principle, the origin of the project creators. (However it may be the case that local candidates, because of their integration into the local rural fabric, benefit from advantages compared to other Europeans).

Building up a mature, viable project is your surest asset and TDE is here to help you.

Thank you to the websites mentioned here for the content of this article. Happy Farming.

Blog submitted by: Sharon at Cle France.

Legal Disclaimer: The Clé France website publishes articles and client questions & responses for free, they are for general information purposes only. They do not constitute legal or other professional advice. You should not act or rely solely upon the information contained therein. Copyright © 2013 Clé France. All Rights Reserved.

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Sep 10

Paying into the French pension system

Client's Question:    I am hoping to move to Normandy / Pays de la Loire and work in managing holiday rentals. Can you please let me know how I would pay into the French pension system? And level of state pension after so many years? 

Much depends on how you are planning to work, i.e whether you will be self employed running a gite management business, or whether you will be an employee of such a business. If you are an employee, pensions are organised and handled by the Caisse Régionale d’Assurance Maladie (CRAM). The system operates on the principle that those who can no longer earn a living themselves are financed by contributions from existing workers and employers.

The two systems in the U.K and France have some similarities, in that the amount you are able to draw will be dependent on the number of years’ contributions. According to recent figures the average retirement age in the UK is 63.6 years, whereas in France this figure is 59.2, with only 15% of people between the ages of 60 and 65 still work. In France you can retire at the age of 60 but in order to qualify for a pension (up to 55% of your former salary) you need to have worked for at least 40 years. Under EC regulations, however, if you work, or have worked, in other EU countries you can combine contributions in order to qualify for a state pension here in France.

If it is your plan to be self employed, then your pension will be dealt with by different organisations. A good French bilingual accountant will be able to advise as to the level of pension you can expect to draw in France, based on the level and length of time of your contributions. A self-employed person should contact his/her professional body for more information.  

Blog submitted by: Sharon at Cle France.

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Oct 10

My French is good but what about gaining a qualification?

Client's Question: My French is good ‘A’ level standard, but now having retired to France I have some more time on my hands, I’d like to study further and get a degree. Are there any options other than Open University?  

Having found myself in exactly your position a few years ago, I can highly recommend the University of London Royal Holloway College distance learning BA degree. You can complete the degree in a three-year period if you can commit to full-time study, or spread your studies over as long as eight years.To be eligible for the course you need to have a level of French that is at least equivalent to a grade C at A Level. The overall requirements are either two or three A Level passes plus a respective number of AS Level passes or GCSEs with grade C or above.

Foreign students may apply but may be asked to demonstrate their written and spoken ability in English as well. Overseas students may have to travel to London for the oral examination, but there are venues in various countries for written examinations.

Another point to bear in mind is that you will have to refer to a certain number of library books (on top of books that you will have to buy), so you need to live near enough to a good library where you will be able to find such books.

This degree course will develop your reading, writing and speaking skills in French. You will study the origins of the French language, as well as French literature and the social, political and economic institutions of France. In general terms, you will learn to use your abilities to refine information and express your own conclusions.

There are three levels of study, each broken down into a number of full units and half units. You have to complete 12 units in all, at least three of which must be from Level 3, and all core units must be included. You must pass examinations in a minimum of nine units. In any one year, you can sit examinations in as little as one half unit and a maximum of four full units (or equivalent in half units). You have to apply separately to sit for examinations, but you will receive instructions about this from the university. On your successful completion, you will be awarded a classified honours degree.

After registering you will initially receive a student handbook, a subject guide, past examination papers and Examiners' reports, and university regulations. You will also have immediate access to the University of London Online Library, so it is obviously an advantage to apply early.

Updated materials continue to be provided throughout the duration of your study. Once registered, you will have access to the student-to-student network on the website, where you can exchange ideas. While in London, you are allowed to use the University's Senate House Library, although there is an extra charge for this. Another additional cost is the essay marking service.

Level 1 has a core translation half unit, as well as a core progression unit in written French. Additionally, there are five half units: textual analysis; introduction to narrative; linguistics of French 1; perspectives on modern France; and reading the visual.

Level 2 has full core units on translation and written French. At this level the half units are on shaping fictions; writing romance and desire; linguistics of French 2; culture and ideology; and staging the text.

Level 3 has three core half units of practical language work in written French, spoken French, and prose and translation. Three half units can be chosen from French medieval literature; linguistics of French 3; literature of challenge: the French philosophers; love and society in the modern French novel; and modern French dramatists. There is also a full unit Special Subject where the choice is from Rousseau, Baudelaire, Zola, Proust or the Medieval Occitan.

More details on all the units can be found in the prospectus, which can be downloaded online as well as applied for by post. In addition to the BA degree in French, you can combine French with either Italian or German. Visit University of London website for information on these degrees.

A degree awarded by the External Programme of the University of London has a standing equal to that of a degree awarded to a resident student at the university. It is an excellent way of gaining a prestigious qualification for anyone who wishes to study without giving up their career, or for anyone residing overseas. The syllabus covers a wonderfully diverse range of topics and includes study of medieval French texts as well as modern ones. It would be a huge commitment, but one where there is flexibility to study when and where it suits you as an individual, and to decide how much you wish to take on in any particular year.

Blog submitted by: Sharon at Cle France.

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Oct 26

Unacceptable Actions Policy

We at Cle France Ltd, believe that our clients and 3rd party service users have a right to be heard, understood and respected by all, this also includes all our agents, partners and business associates.

Occasionally, certain actions by people, clients, customers using our services can make it very difficult for us to deal with their enquiry or concern, luckily 99.9% of client contact is positive and respectful to our staff but in a small number of cases the actions of some individuals become unacceptable because they involve abuse of our staff, our company policies or our processes. When this happens we have to take appropriate steps. We have to consider whether the action, whatever it may be, impacts on our ability to do our work and to provide a service to others.

We understand that people may act out of character in times of frustration, trouble or distress, we do not view an action as unacceptable, just because a person is forceful or determined. However, we do consider shouting either over the phone or in emails (the use of CAPITALS and several !!!!! for example) or any other actions that result in unreasonable demands on our staff to be unacceptable.

It is these actions that we aim to manage under this policy.

Abusive phone call email policy

There is a range of actions we consider to be unacceptable. These are:

1. Aggressive or abusive behaviour.

2. Unreasonable demands.

3. Unreasonable levels of contact.

Aggressive or abusive behaviour.

Buying a house in France, or indeed selling a house in France should not be a stressful ordeal, especially with Cle France Ltd on your side, but we understand that people can become angry when they feel that matters about which they feel strongly are not being dealt with or responded to as they wish. If that anger escalates into aggression towards our staff, we consider that unacceptable.

Any such aggression or abuse directed towards our staff will not be tolerated.

Aggressive or abusive behaviour includes language (whether verbal or written) that may cause staff to feel afraid, threatened or abused and may include threats, personal verbal abuse, derogatory remarks and rudeness. This is not solely restricted to simple 'bad language' although, of course, this is never tolerated.

We also consider inflammatory statements, remarks of a racial or discriminatory nature and unsubstantiated allegations, to be abusive behaviour.

Unreasonable demands.

A demand becomes unacceptable when it starts to (or when complying with the demand would) impact excessively on the work of our staff. Or when dealing with the matter takes up an excessive amount of staff time and in so doing, disadvantages other customers or service users.

For example:

Repeatedly demanding responses within an unreasonable timescale.

Demanding responses from several members of staff on the same subject.

Insisting on seeing or speaking to a particular member of staff or agent before your original contact has dealt with your enquiry.

Repeatedly changing the substance of an enquiry or complaint or raising unrelated concerns.

Repeatedly demanding the address of a property for sale after being made aware of our policy of 'only accompanied viewings'.

Repeatedly posing a question time and again, when a response has already been given, because the individual may not like the answer they have received.

Unreasonable levels of contact.

Sometimes the volume and duration of contact made to our staff by an individual causes problems.

This can occur over a short period, for example, when a large number of calls or emails are received from the same person in one day. When we are dealing with a complaint or enquiry, this may occur when a person repeatedly makes long telephone calls to us or inundates us with emails or copies of information that have been already sent or that are irrelevant to the substance of the complaint or enquiry.

We consider that the level of contact has become unacceptable when the amount of time spent talking to an individual on the telephone, or responding to, reviewing and filing emails or written correspondence, impacts on our ability to deal with the matter, or on our responsibility for carrying out tasks relating to other clients.

How we manage aggressive or abusive behaviour -

The threat or use of physical violence, verbal abuse or harassment towards our staff is likely to result in a termination of all direct contact with the client or service user. Such incidents may be reported to the police. This will always be the case if physical violence is used or threatened.

Where correspondence (either letter, fax or email, electronic) that is abusive to staff or contains allegations that lack substantive evidence is received, we will inform the sender that we consider their language offensive, unnecessary and unhelpful and ask them to stop using such language. We will ask that the sender edit their correspondence to remove any offensive text and resend it, otherwise it will not be responded to.

Staff will end telephone calls if they consider the caller aggressive, abusive or offensive. Our staff have the right to make this decision, to tell the caller that their behaviour is unacceptable and to end the call if the behaviour then persists. Typical behaviour that will not be tolerated is shouting, bad language, unreasonable demands, name calling and anything else deemed unacceptable.

In extreme situations, we will tell the person in writing that we will not permit any personal contact from them. This means that we will limit contact with them to either written communication or through a third party.

With abusive or inappropriate email contact we will block the sender from sending emails to our email servers.

How we deal with other categories of unreasonable behaviour -

Where a member of the public repeatedly phones, visits our offices, raises the same issue repeatedly, or sends us large numbers of documents about which the relevance is not clear, we may decide to:

Limit contact to telephone calls from the person at set times on set days.

Restrict contact to a nominated member of staff who will deal with future calls or correspondence.

Restrict contact to written correspondence only.

Refuse to deal with further correspondence and return any documents or, in extreme cases;

Advise the person that further irrelevant documentation will be destroyed.

Take any other action that we consider appropriate to the circumstances.

Where we consider continued correspondence on a wide range of issues to be excessive, we may tell the person that only a certain number of issues will be considered in a given period and ask them to limit or focus their requests accordingly.

Where someone repeatedly demands a response on an issue on which they have already been a given a clear answer by Cle France Ltd, we may refuse to respond to further enquiries from the person.

We will always tell the person in writing what action we are taking and why. 

The process we follow to make decisions about unreasonable behaviour -

Any member of staff who directly experiences aggressive or abusive behaviour from a member of the public, has the authority to deal immediately with that behaviour in a manner they consider appropriate to the situation and which is in line with this policy. 

With the exception of such immediate decisions taken at the time of an incident, decisions to restrict contact with Cle France Ltd are only taken after careful consideration of the circumstances by a senior member of staff. Wherever possible, we will give the individual the opportunity to change their behaviour before such a decision is taken.

How we let people know we have made this decision -

When a member of staff makes an immediate decision in response to aggressive or abusive behaviour, the individual concerned will be advised at the time of the incident.

When a decision has been made by senior management, the individual will always be told in writing why a decision has been made to restrict future contact, the restricted contact arrangements and the length of time that these restrictions will be in place. They will also be told the process for appealing the decision. This ensures that the individual concerned has a full record of the decision and the reasons behind it. 

How we record and review a decision to restrict contact -

We record all incidents of unacceptable actions which have resulted in contact being restricted. 

Where it is decided to restrict contact, an entry noting this is made by Cle France Ltd in the relevant file and on appropriate computer records.

A decision to restrict contact as described above, may be reconsidered if the complainant or enquirer demonstrates a more acceptable approach. 

Cle France Ltd will review the status of all restricted contact arrangements on a regular basis and correspond with the Service(s) concerned with regard to these reviews.

thanks you everyone

© Cle France Ltd 2009

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