Two very meaningful moments last week…

  • We applied for and received our second year visas (Carte de Séjours) and
  • We filed our first French tax returns. Wow. All in one week!

Our second year visa

  • During our Friday May 17, 2019 visa appointment, after we handed in our visa paperwork and were waiting for our info to be processed, I actually got a few tears in my eyes, thinking of how far we’ve come.
    • We’ve had French visas for one year
    • We’ve lived here for almost 10 months
    • And now we’re successfully embarking on year two. Wow.
  • I’ve added details about visas, taxes, France’s regions and departments, and our wine region below.
  • And the below photo – Vibeke and Jeff are very happy that our visas and taxes are done!

Visa Year 2 – What we Did and How it Went

  • We again hired Inimex to help us with Year 2 – that’s the French agency that helped us apply for and receive our first French visas.
  • This time it was easy! Paperwork was relatively simple, and Carcassonne is our Préfecture (or “county seat,”) so we were able to just walk from home to our Préfecture building (administration building in the center of Carcassonne) to bring in our paperwork.*
  • It was just a formality – as long as you have the right paperwork, the Préfecture employee types all of the information into a computer, and we walked away with our temporary permit, which allows us to stay here and travel until we receive our one-year residency cards (visas) (about a month from now.)
    • We’ll receive a text when our residency cards/visas are ready. No appointment needed to go pick them up – we’ll just bring our temporary permits and pay €269 for each visa.
  • Now that we know the process, we’ll do it on our own next year. But it was very very nice to have Inimex’s help for our first-time renewal.
  • An Inimex representative attended the appointment with us, and Jeff asked her if people get rejected. She commented that, for our type of visa, as long as applicants submit the correct paperwork, and can show that they have the required amount of money, no one gets rejected.
  • She also said that it’s much more difficult for people who want to work here to get visas.
  • *In October 2018 we had to go to Nice to finalize our Year 1 visa paperwork. I’ll explain why in another email/post. Nice is a 6-hour train ride from here, and we stayed two nights and made a mini getaway out of it, which was very enjoyable. But truly, it’s so much nicer to be able to walk 15 minutes from home to renew our visas!
  • Below the tax information, I’ve shared info and maps about France’s Regions and Departments.

Filing our First Year French Taxes

  • I picked up our tax forms from our tax office in April (our tax office is a 10-minute walk from our house, at the foot of Pont Vieux, our 700-year-old pedestrian bridge.)
  • Taxes were due May 16
  • My friend Emma (she’s British, and speaks perfect French) and I spent time together translating the forms, and I think I could have filled them out and filed them myself.
  • But, wanting to make sure we did it perfectly, I hired Rachel Thomas-Bonnet for €150 to fill out and file our forms. (She was recommended by friends.) She made it very easy. She asked some questions, I answered in email, we didn’t need to provide any backup paperwork, and she filed our forms for us.
  • We’ll hear in August if we owe anything but we shouldn’t because:
    • All of our income last year came from the United States
    • The U.S. and France have a reciprocal tax agreement, which means that we don’t get double taxed on income earned in either country.
  • If we do get a tax bill from France (which will be a mistake), Rachel will deal with it and make sure we don’t have to pay taxes.
  • Next year, we’ll have to pay taxes in France on any income that we earn from the rental apartments we’re building in our home here in Carcassonne.
  • French taxes filed – another huge relief!

About France’s Regions and Departments.
Continental France is made up of 12 Regions (13 when you include Corsica.) I think of our Regions as the equivalent of states in the United States. Check out the map #1 below. We live in Occitanie, and the arrow shows approximately where Carcassonne is (the arrow’s not exact, but close.). Keep reading to learn a little bit about our departments (counties), and why we were able walk to our visa appointment.

Map #1 below – France’s regions

France’s Departments (what I think of as Counties.)
Within France’s 13 mainland regions, there are 96 departments. We’re in the Department of Aude (see map #2 below with a black arrow pointing to Carcassonne. The red region that the Aude and Carcassonne are in is again Occitanie.)

Map #2 below – France’s Departments

Map #3 – The Department of Aude
Below is a map of the Aude department. For example, Narbonne, which you can see on the map, is about an hour drive away from Carcassonne, and people who live in Narbonne have to come to Carcassonne to apply for their visas and other things. This isn’t something we knew when we chose Carcassonne, but, as I mentioned above, to us, being able to walk from home to apply for our visas is another of the many benefits of living right here.

And just two more tidbits.

  • In 2016, France combined many of what were, prior to 2016, 22 administrative Regions into 13. In our area, the Languedoc-Roussillon Region was combined with the Midi-Pyrenees Region, which created Occitanie.
  • Many people don’t know that Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine-producing region in the world. And you can easily see it by driving throughout our countryside – it’s carpeted with absolutely stunning vineyards. One of our favorite table wines is an excellent Chardonnay (which is NOT buttery or oaky – of course, and thank goodness) from Vignobles de Carsac, a winery that’s a 12-minute drive from home (8 km, or 5 miles from home). I purchase this favorite Chardonnay of ours for less than €3 per bottle ($3.35 US.). Oh, yes, you can find wine for higher prices, but for an excellent every day wine, well… just saying 🙂
  • Below, a wine country photo I took last Sunday, May 19, from Domaine Camel Joseph, which is about 20 minutes from home.



  • Noel Riley says:

    I truly adore reading about your life and witnessing it also through your voice when we talk. I love reading about it all and will gleefully share with my girlies so they can appreciate your writing too. We just love you so dearly!!!! Thank you for sharing as you do. You are a gift to the world, my big sister!!! XOXO

  • Paul Kayaian says:

    Brilliant and incredibly informative post! Packed with excellent information – merci beacoup!

    • Vibeke Arentz says:

      You are so welcome, Paul! I’m very glad the information was helpful.

      • Paul Kayaian says:

        BUT..But, what about all the maddening indecipherable laws? The stamp, restrictions and endless bureaucracy? The frustrating paperwork and fee’s? There MUST be some of this, non?

  • Lyman Black says:

    Extremely helpful and informative, especially for someone who is considering relocating to Carcassone.

  • Serghei says:

    Thank you for the info, please keep this up! I was curious as to, if you were renting and keeping the same utilities, entertainment, food costs, what do you think the two of you would need a month in Carcassonne? Thanks!

    • Vibeke Arentz says:

      Thank you so much for your comment and your question! One of the many things that makes this area so appealing is that people report that two people can live (albeit modestly) here on one person’s social security. So it is very affordable. We know of people who are renting comfortable two bedroom unfurnished flats for 400 euros per month. Our entire bill per month for internet + cable + my mobile (which includes unlimited free calls to U.S. landlines) + our landline phone (which includes unlimited free calls to U.S. landlines and mobiles) is only 82 euros per month! Food costs are a little less than in California. I’ve compared our budget to a few others from this area that I’ve seen on line, and all show between 1300 euros and 2200 euros for two people per month. The higher amount includes rent of 1100 euros per month. Cheers!

  • Andréa JANSEN says:

    Agree, keep this up!! It would be interesting know if the government has offered relief because you’re not perhaps able to keep your flats rented due to the Covid ?
    FYI, the SMIC is approximately 1200€/ month.

    • Vibeke Arentz says:

      Hi Andréa! Because we didn’t earn any income from our apartments before the lockdown. I didn’t consider applying for relief. We were fortunate, though – in August our two flats rented for more than 20 nights! Plus we had a small number of rentals in Sept and Oct. A real surprise and bonus during such an odd year. Cheers!