“All I have is a voice." (W.H. Auden)

Paper Chase

It’s that time of the year again. Time needed to prepare, collect, and review the documents necessary to apply or re-apply for a carte sejour; the temporary resident card indicating permission to stay in France as a visitor without need of a visa. The card that husband tells me I need to continue to renew so that, one day perhaps, I can graduate to a 10 year resident visa.  One hopes.

 

France, as in other countries, requires a visa for visitors who plan to stay for longer than 3 months. When we applied for a 6 month stay visa in January 2013 at the consulate, the officer mentioned another document that I needed or should fill out.  “Just in case you plan to stay longer” he advised.  Whatever, I thought, just give us our 6 month visa!

 

When we finally arrived in France, a local friend reviewed the additional document and suggested that she write a letter to accompany the mailing to Montpellier. This is the capital of Herault and our region’s prefecture (sort of like a State government, I guess).  I also had to submit a number of documents such as copies of our passports, visas, financial resources, letter from husband indicating his approval of our stay and committing to supporting us, letters from the schools accepting our daughters, etc. Much as I tried to get into the process, my immediate attention was required by the girls as they began school and in getting our home organized as we settled for the next few months. 

 

Despite my almost deliberate neglect, I found myself getting notified to appear in Montpellier for a physical exam. I called up another local friend and asked her to accompany me. I dreaded this rendezvous.  Having been turned down by a French health insurance company earlier in the year for a pre-existing condition (now recovered), I feared that the prefecture would give me a bad health review. But I feared more the idea of the gendarme coming after me for a no-show.

 

Once we arrived in Montpellier, I was interviewed then advised to take a vaccine that is specific to my cohort.  “It is advisable,” the doctor said, “but not obligatory.”  Then on to radiology. The technician pointed to a closet like cabin and instructed me to take off all clothing above the waist and to wait. There were no robes or towels in the room. And the doors on either side were locked and can only be opened from the outside.  At least, I was not exposed to other waiting people. Then the door opened, the technician summoned me and took X-rays. Once the X-rays were done, I waited for another interview to complete the “health examination.” Then I was given my X-rays and a one page document stating that all is well. I was to present this paper to the sous-prefecture (like a county government) when I apply for the carte sejour.

 

So, armed with more paperwork (many of which had to be officially translated in French) and the required online reserved meeting confirmation, my friend and I arrived in Beziers.  My name was called, I was seated and then proceeded to submit each document that the fonctionnaire (woman civil servant) checked off the list. She entered my information in the computer, collected all the necessary copies, and then it was done.  I was in the office for about 15 minutes. Tentatively, I asked, “C’est fini?” She nodded so I asked about a receipt (recepisse); a document that indicates the application is in process.  I was told to return in a week and to request this in the front office.  I did.  Not sure whether it was necessary since I did not leave the country anyway.

 

Two months later, two days before we departed for Barcelona then the States, I received notice to pick up my carte sejour. The rest of the family left for Barcelona sightseeing and I followed two days later, carte sejour on hand.  It was a relief! 

 

So now, and every year for the foreseeable future, I have to renew the carte sejour.  Today, with my scheduled online reservation and my good luck friend along, we returned to Beziers.  We hardly sat down when my name was called (and we were 15 minutes early).  The very friendly and welcoming fonctionnaire collected my documents, asked me if there were changes in my family status, and if I can write down that I do not intend to work in France.  Fortunately, I had a letter ready and I submitted this to him (aided by Google Translate, of course). I asked whether he can give me a 5 year card and he said it was not possible although he would prefer it because it would mean less work for him. Less stress for me, I volunteered. But it was not to be. We were both bound by the rules.

 

And so the deed was done.  The meeting was over in 10 minutes.  When I asked if I can get a recepisse, he told me I do not need it as my current carte sejour is valid until July.  And I would receive the new one then.  So I am good for another year… and another chance to get anxious all over again!   Oh joy!!* 

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14.07 | 08:01

Beautiful! Vive la France!

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17.02 | 01:57

France is awaiting your return, Betty!

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16.02 | 10:07

Such a wonderful experience for all! Truly a beautiful region filled with lovely people, excellent food, and soothing wine! Am looking forward to returning.

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07.09 | 14:44

What a joy for this to be shared. I am reading several times, soaking it in and making my own movie in my mind of this adventure. So excited for you three!

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