Ahhh…la France

I promised a post on French bureaucracy a while back, if I remember correctly.  Well, here it is: the continuing saga of Allison’s attempt to legally live in France; nay, the continuing saga of one tiny but highly significant facet of Allison’s attempt to legally live in France.

I present to you: the titre de séjour.  The residency card.

Here’s what’s supposed to happen.  Normalement, you get a long-stay visa in your home country.  You get a paper stamped on your way into France that you send in to the OFII (Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration, or the French Office of Immigration and Integration, or a big bureaucratic entity where no one knows what anyone else is doing, nor what they themselves are supposed to be doing) with a few other papers.  They send you a temporary residency stamp and an appointment with the OFII office for a medical visit and the actual card.  You go to said appointment with the correct dossier, the right set of documents, and you get your residency card.  A bit redundant, but it should work.  In theory.

Here’s what’s actually happened.  So far.  I got my long-stay visa in Chicago.  No problems, smooth sailing.  I got the right papers stamped at customs coming into France.  Nary a concern in my head.  Then the problems began.  I had three different lists from three different supposedly trustworthy sources of what documents I needed to send in to get the temporary stamp and the appointment.  In my attempts to send in the right information (because if you don’t, it’s off with your head — or close to it), I waited until late October, right before Toussaint vacations, to send in the dossier.  Which was not technically a problem, as they give you three months from your arrival date to postmark the documents.  So no real problems, yet, unless they reject my dossier.

Last weekend, I realized it had been a month and I hadn’t heard a thing.  So yesterday, I sent an email to my contact at the departmental level, wondering who I could ask about my status.  Still haven’t heard from him (no surprise there), but I got a nice present in the mail today: the response from the OFII.  Success!  Right?  Well…almost.

Honestly, I’m lucky.  They could have scheduled my appointment for a time when I won’t be in the country, since I’m going home for a couple weeks over Christmas.  They didn’t do that.  But, annoyingly, they scheduled my office appointment and medical visit on a Tuesday, my heaviest class day, which is also two days before I leave the country.  And the office is in Valence — about three hours away — so that knocks out an entire day of teaching.  Not that they could have known my schedule, but seriously??  Make the primaire assistants’ appointments on Wednesdays.  When none of us have school.  ESPECIALLY if they have to make a six-hour round trip voyage to get to the freaking appointment.

But that’s not all, folks!  Act right now, and receive a free radiologie scan, compliments of the French government!  Except wait, that’s mandatory.  And they didn’t set an appointment for me, but they gave me one single doctor’s office to choose from.  A doctor in Bourg en Bresse.  Which is…wait for it…FIVE AND A HALF HOURS AWAY.  That’s right.  I need to make an appointment sometime in the next week and a half, preferably on a Wednesday or Friday (when I don’t work), to get a scan that should probably take about 20 minutes, but will probably take about three hours, knowing the French, and travel eleven full hours round trip to get there, spending probably 70euro on train fares even with my discount card, because it’s a bus and 2-3 trains each way.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the French organizational system at work.  All I can do now is hope and pray that I get a good radiology appointment, and that all my documents are in order so I can get my residency card, which I will need to get back into the country once I leave, two days before I leave on holidays.  Wish me luck.  I may just need it.


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