The road to this has been long and tough, but we have finally joined the ranks of the PACSed. Most of the other people in our lives think this is a much bigger deal than we consider it to be, either because they’re French and want us to have a party, or because they’re not French and don’t know what it means. Let me explain.
What is a PACS? In French, it’s a pacte civil de solidarité, which translates to a civil solidarity pact, or essentially a domestic partnership. The closest thing we have in the US is a civil union, but it’s not the same thing. It’s not recognized in other countries, so I’m still legally single in the US, but in France we now have to mark legal papers as “pacsé” instead of “celibataire”. It’s a legal status that states that we live together and allows us to declare taxes together. Additionally, it will allow me to apply for a visa called the visa vie privée et familiale, or a private and family life visa- more on that in an upcoming post. You can find another explanation of the PACS on the Angloinfo website here.
The process to get PACSed in France is relatively straightforward, and unlike a visa, as long as you have all the paperwork, you shouldn’t have any issues. The only condition is that you have to live together; as a result, it’s possible for roommates to get PACSed either for the tax benefits or to have the chance to apply for this visa.
We got incredibly lucky- I went to the tribunal of Paris’ 11th arrondissement on Thursday 1 September. As the woman was going through our paperwork, she mentioned we would need to bring another birth certificate for D. I asked why, as I had thought they were valid for 3 months. She said that the next appointments weren’t until December. Given that my visa expires in November, she gave me back the dossier, and as I was packing up I offhandedly told her that we were going to have to do it through a notary for 390€ but it was better than going back to the States. I was about to leave when she said “ATTENDEZ” (“wait!) and told me that (from what I understood) two couples had canceled their appointments yesterday. She went into the computer to look at the closest available appointment. When she said 9 September, I legitimately teared up. She gave me the convocation for the appointment and said “je vous ai economisé quatre cent euros! I saved you four hundred euros!” I thanked her profusely and danced out the door. She did end up calling to change our appointment time from 11:45am to 11am, and was nice enough to not only call back after leaving a voicemail the first time, but called again the day before to ensure that I had the correct time.
The PACS process generally goes something like this:
1) Live together. That’s the prerequisite, and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived together, though generally if you’re entering into this kind of union you probably should have lived together awhile. The other prerequisites are generally common sense: you have to be majeur, or not a minor, in your home country; legally competent to make these decisions; not already married (including in your home country) or PACSed; or be related to each other. So if your cousin is French, even if you live with them, you can’t get PACSed with them. That wouldn’t be allowed. And would be weird.
2) Gather the paperwork.
Together you will need:
- a PACS contract written yourself (you can find a template here)
- a PACS contract filled out (this one)
- an attestation sur l’honneur (on your honor) of no family relation between partners (this one)
TIP: Technically you need one of each attestation for each partner, which we weren’t aware of, but the woman at the tribunal just had us both sign the one form we had and it was okay.
The French partner will need:
- a copy of their birth certificate dated within 3 months, which can be ordered from the mairie, or city hall, of the person’s location of birth. If your appointment ends up being more than 3 months away, you’ll have to order another one. These are free and can be mailed to your home even if you live elsewhere (D is from Marseille and his were sent to us in Paris- there were 3 copies in the envelope)
- a form of ID issued by the government (EU ID card, passport) and a photocopy
The foreign partner will need:
- their passport and a photocopy
- a copy of their birth certificate issued within the last 6 months and accompanied by a certified translation. You can find your state’s online ordering system here if you’re American, and I used this translation service in Paris for my translation.
- TIP: It’s better to find a certified translator in France than to do it in your home country, just to ensure that the translation is appropriately certified. My translator will mail the translation to you, or you can find one in your area of France using this list. Depending on where you’re from, you may also need the birth certificate to have an apostille- if there’s an option to order a birth certificate for the purpose of marriage, choose that one.
- a non-PACS certificate dated within 3 months. UPDATE END 2017: The responsibility for this has been moved to the Service central d’etat civil in Nantes. The request paper can be downloaded here and you can either mail it or email it to the addresses listed in the drop-down marked À qui transmettre ce formulaire? on that same page linked above.
- a certificate of non-inscription au repertoire civil, or basically a paper saying that they have not had any run-ins with the law. This is only needed if the foreign partner has been living in France for more than a year. UPDATE END 2017: This paper is now combined with the non-PACS certificate and is ordered from the same place. The request paper, mailing address and email address can be found here.
- a certificate of coutume, or custom, from the diplomatic representation of your home country in France stating that you are not a minor, are legally competent, and are not married/in a civil partnership in the home country. If you’re American, you’ll have to come to the US Embassy in Paris to have this paper notarized and can make an appointment here.
3) UPDATE 2017: As for 1 November 2017, all PACS registrations will now take place at the mairie, or town hall, of where you live. Once you have all the paperwork together, go to the mairie (in Paris, there’s one for each arrondissement) to make an appointment. You will need the entire file, as well as both partners’ passports, to make the appointment, but only one partner needs to go make it. The appointments are often several months away, so you may need to re-order certain papers if they will be invalid by the time of the appointment (like the certificate of non-PACS or the French partner’s birth certificate).
4) Go to the appointment and get PACSed! Both partners will need to bring their passports, as well as a recent housing justification (EDF bill, rent bill, etc).
Now what? The mairie will give you a receipt for the PACS that is valid for 3 months for whatever you need it for during that time, while they register the PACS with the city hall of the birthplace of the French partner (it will now be noted on their birth certificate) and with the Tribunal de Grande Instance of where you live for the foreign partner. After the 3 months, you will need to request a PACS certificate in order to prove that you are PACSed.
Note: A PACS does NOT automatically give you the right as a foreigner to stay in France. You must still have a valid carte de séjour to stay in the country legally. It DOES give you the right to apply for the vie privée et familiale carte de séjour if you can prove one year of living together.
- French partner birth certificate: free
- Foreign partner birth certificate: varies (mine cost around $90USD to order it and have it shipped to France)
- Certificate of coutume: depends on the country (for the US it’s currently $50/45€, payable in cash at the appointment)
- Other certificates: free to order
- Appointment at the tribunal: free
- TIP: Don’t do it at a notary unless absolutely necessary! I got a quote for a notary at 390€- so expensive! However, if you’re in a time crunch, it’s cheaper than returning to your home country.
As we walked out of our appointment, D wrapped his arm around my waist and kissed me, eliciting claps from a man in the waiting room and smiles all around. Definitely a different atmosphere than what I’m used to in French bureaucratic offices!
Et voilà, that’s how you get PACSed in France! Now for the hard part…
Update 2017: I got the vie privée et familiale carte de séjour with the PACS! Read about how I did it here!
Photo: Patrick Colpron