|My visa and Carte de Sejour live happily|
next to one another in my passport.
Salutations my most excellent friends!
This week is EXTRA special in that I received my Carte de Sejour, which is effectively my residency permit. With this card (in the form of a sticker in my passport rather than a laminated card), I need not apply for more visas and can henceforth live in France so long as I have an address and some income. Oh the Kafkaesque stack of papers I’ve been carrying around may soon be a relic of my past.
The following is the list of steps it took to acquire this handy little addition to my passport. It was surprisingly simple when compared with the acquisition of a visa:
- You have 2 months to acquire your Carte de Sejour after arriving in France. If you do not, then you will have to leave the country at the end of your visa and re-apply for another visa if you wish to stay past one year. Do NOT let these 2 months slip by. I let 6 weeks pass and in hindsight, should not have. I even retained a lawyer who advised me at 4 weeks to get the heck on top of this. Had there been a problem, I would have been doomed.
- At first, I tried calling the OFII office (immigration office) in Paris (http://www.ofii.fr/) to set up an appointment. This was a dead end since there is an answering machine that rambles in French at an unintelligibly fast pace. Then I tried to email them, I felt good about myself for having been proactive. They did not answer the email.
- Then I went to the OFII office in Bastille. I found it right away, since one of my favourite restaurants is very close. I had every paper I’ve ever collected with my name on it over the past year in a huge envelope. The reception desk was crowded with people of almost every nationality you can imagine. Alas, the receptionist only spoke a few words of English. They asked me if I understood French… in French. I said that I did not, but perhaps a little, because I understood the question.
- They took my passport, and this official looking piece of paper that I was given with my visa. The asked that I fill out my current address, phone number and other sundry information. After about 2-3 minutes, the explained that I’d receive something in the mail for my appointment. They didn’t ask for any papers. I was free to go. It was that easy.
- About 4-5 days later, I received about 5 pages of unintelligible instructions in French with the OFII office labelled all over the top. In the center, there was the office’s address, something about radiology, something else about 340 Euros and a date and time.
- On the date, which was 2 days after receiving the letter, I arrived at the office. Almost everything was conducted in French. I only had the papers they sent on hand, having left my Kafka-pile at home. They directed me to the doctor who asked me a few things in French, tested my eyes, blood pressure, and then sent me for an x-ray. The x-ray came back while I waited and another doctor explained that I had no infections in my lungs and that I should get a tetanus shot. Oh, I got to keep the chest x-ray!
- When I was done with the doctor, I was directed to the reception desk where they had my Carte de Sejour sticker. The receptionist asked for papers and 340 Euros in “stamp” form. WTF? She said that I can get the stamps at the tobacconist across the street and that I’d need my Kafka pile of papers… or at least my water bill (if you've been following my blog, you know how important a water bill can be here).
- On the same day, I fetched my Kafka-pile and before returning, went to the tobacconist and asked for 340 Euros in… and I didn’t know the French word for stamps… or even what kind of stamps that they were. I showed the cashier my letter. She nodded in understanding. Before I knew it I had a stack of stamps in convenient 15 euro and 55 Euro denominations totalling 340 Euros.
- I returned to the office, presented my Kafka pile, of which she only took my lease agreement (and kept it), licked the many stamps and stuck them to my application, and she stuck the Carte de Sejour in my passport.
- Lastly, I went for a glass (several glasses) of champagne.
Thanks for looking in on my story. I hope that for a few of you, this will come in handy.
P.S. If you have a few extra mouse clicks for your humble friend and Paris blogger… please “follow” my blog, or “like” it, or “tweet” it, or “share” it or whatever you young kids do on the Internets these days. Many thanks in advance.
P.P.S. For Clarification: Once you have a Carte de Sejour you can stay in the country indefinitely. You must get it "renewed" each year before it expires by going to the local police station and letting them know your proof of address and I've heard, though not confirmed, your financials... basically... bring your Kafka-pile.
Specifically for the Carte de Sejour, for the visitor's visa, I needed my proof of address, one passport picture, photocopies of my passport and visa, my passport and visa and that was it. I had all of my other papers handy, however, just in case.
If you can survive the visa process, you will have many many papers. You will have no troubles with the Carte de Sejour, and unlike the visa process, you can go back again and again if you make a mistake.