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BRITS IN FRANCE

‘So grateful for opportunities in France’ – from new arrival with no French to police high-flier

She moved to France at the age of five with her British parents, not speaking a word of French but now Georgia Ellis has completed her education and been accepted onto a fast-track programme for high fliers in the French police.

'So grateful for opportunities in France' - from new arrival with no French to police high-flier
Photo courtesy of Georgia Ellis

Georgia Ellis, 24, came to Charente, in 2002, at the age of five, when her detective parents decided to swap the busy UK capital for a quieter, slower, life in the rural south west of France.

And now the naturalised French citizen is following in her parents’ footsteps – becoming one of just 35 people to qualify for a place on a fast-track scheme in the French police.

Georgia didn’t always plan on a career in the police, but said: “I’d got to the end of my studies – and I think with everything going on with Covid as well, I thought it’s interesting to do something that helps society and that has a direct impact on the community.” 

Understandably proud mum Maggie said that Georgia knew next to no French when the family arrived in 2002: “Bonjour, au revoir, merci and s’il vous plaît – that was about it,” she said.

“We’d come on holidays together over a period of about 18 months together with her – and she always seemed to communicate with children on the beach … kids just get on, don’t they?”

READERS TIPS: How to raise bilingual children in France

Georgia, she said, was thrown into the deep end with learning the language just about from day one.

“When she got to school on the first day, the headteacher had changed from the one we had meetings with earlier – and they had no idea who this child was who had turned up… They found one teacher in the school who spoke a bit of English and it all fell into place.”

But, like many young children before and after her, Georgia soon picked up the language. “It was about six months before she could fully understand what was being said to her, and about 12 months before she was fully fluent.

“She was lucky in that she was the only English child in the tiny school she was at – she had to speak French, there was no alternative.”

Several years later, after passing through collège, Georgia moved away to board at a lycée Angoulême because she wanted to learn Chinese, where she studied a language bac.

“She did find it quite easy to pick up languages,” Maggie said, “and she got a mention très bien in her bac.”

READ ALSO How learning a language as a child opened up France and the world to me

From there, she studied languages and law at Nantes, including a six-month Erasmus period at Grenada, Spain. She was accepted into an international law and global governance Masters at the Sorbonne – and spent six months in Melbourne, returning to France shortly before the Covid-19 lockdown. 

It was about this time that Georgia’s French nationality came through. She had applied shortly after the Brexit vote in the UK, and had been approved in 2018, but her time in Australia followed by the health situation delayed the formalities for some time.

“She wanted to do something to give a bit back to her adopted country – and this was more or less the first time she thought of a career with the police.”

Maggie added: “Georgia has achieved all this through her own hard work, determination and perseverance, and the education system here in France that has rewarded her endeavours with the chance to study abroad, and to obtain her degrees and Masters, without having to incur student debts.

“She has worked in hospitality when her study workload allowed, in order to make a little extra for living expenses but both she and we are so grateful for the opportunities and lifestyle that France has afforded us.”

To get to this stage, Georgia had to go through an intensive preparatory course, including physical and written examinations. 

And the hard work starts again in September, when the fast-track course begins in Lyon.

Georgia explained that she could end up working anywhere in the country once her training period ends. “When you finish your training period, a list of postings comes out, and where you can go depends on your ‘rank’ at the end of the training period.

“Most of it’s in ‘securite publique’ – which is mainstream policing. You can choose to go to Paris, or what they call the Provinces – other towns. For the beginning of my career, maybe going to Paris will be a good idea.”

Even then, her life will not be exactly settled. “We have to move about a lot. The first posting is two years, and then we have to move every four years. You can do that a lot more easily in Paris, because you can move to different places in bigger police stations.”

But she’s hoping her placement period during training will be rather closer to home. “For the placement, we get to choose where we do that – I’m hoping to do that in Bordeaux because it’s not too far away, but I don’t know the city that well … and the south of France would be nice at some stage!”

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VISAS

Second-home owners and retirees: French visitor visas explained

Within the complex world of French visas there exists two types of visa labelled 'visitor' but these are in fact very different documents, and have implications for your residency, tax liabilities and visits to France.

Second-home owners and retirees: French visitor visas explained

If you’re a non-EU citizen and you want to spend longer than 90 days out of every 180 in France then you will need a visa – and there are many different types of visa depending on your personal circumstances.

We take a look at the different visa types and how to apply for them HERE.

But a frequent cause of confusion is that there are two visas commonly known as a ‘visitor’ visa – but are in fact completely different documents giving you vastly different rights in France.

It would be much easier if one of them could be rechristened, but here we are;

Short-stay visitor visa

Technically known as the visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur – or VLS-T – this visa is perhaps the better named one as it is for visitors – by which we mean people who don’t live in France.

This is a six-month visa and it’s most commonly used by second-home owners who don’t want to be constrained by the 90-day rule, although it is also used by others who want to make longer trips to France without working.

The crucial point about this visa is that you are not a resident of France, you keep your residency in another country, most usually your home country.

Not being a resident in France is important because it imposes certain limits – for example if the borders were closed again for whatever reason you would not be allowed entry to France as a visitor (unless you had an essential reason) – but it also exempts you from certain duties that are imposed on residents, such as making the annual tax declaration.

You can obtain one six-month visitor visa in every 12 months – because by the government’s reckoning if you spend more than six months of the year in France then you are a resident.

We’ll let them explain: “If you are spending between three and six months a year in France in total, you are not considered as a resident in France. You will have to apply for a temporary visitor visa – visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur.

“If you spend more than six months a year in France, you are then considered as a French resident and must apply for a long stay visitor visa (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur).”

You can apply for multiple short-stay visas, but only with a six month gap in between them – so far example you can have a visa from January-June 2021, then another from January-June 2022, then January-June 2023 and so on. But you can’t have a visa from January-June 2022 and then September 2022 to February 2023.

During its validity period, you are exempt from the 90-day rule in France (and only in France, the rule still applies if you travel to another EU/Schengen zone country) and your passport doesn’t need to be stamped when entering or exiting France.

Once the visa expires, you revert to being constrained by the 90-day rule, with passport-stamping.

READ ALSO How does getting a visa affect the 90-day rule?

You can find full details of the requirements for a short-stay visitor visa HERE, but one important thing to note is that you must give an undertaking that you will not work in France. 

Your visitor visa does not entitle you to register in the French health system, or to obtain a carte de séjour residency card.

READ ALSO Can second-home owners get a carte de séjour?

Long-stay visitor visa 

This visa – formally known as the visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur or VLS-TSis, in our humble opinion, quite misleadingly named, as people who have this visa aren’t visitors at all, they live here.

The long-stay visitor visa is for people coming to France to live who don’t intend to work or study – it’s most commonly used by retired people.

With this visa you are a resident of France, so have extra rights such as being allowed back in to the country if the borders close and being able to register in the French health system. But with rights come responsibilities, including having to file the annual French tax declaration (even if all your income comes from outside France, such as a pension from your home country).

Like the short-stay visitor visa you need to give an undertaking that you won’t work in France in order to get this visa, and you will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means to support yourself while you’re here without becoming a burden on the French state.

Just like the other types of visas for residents, after obtaining the long-stay visitor visa you are then able to get a carte de séjour residency card.

Time spent in France on a long-stay visitor visa counts towards the minimum residency period if you intend to apply for French citizenship.

You can find full details on how to apply for the long-stay visitor visa HERE

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