Finally in the seventh month of my exchange I have in my possession my Carte de Sejour: which basically means that I am a legal resident of France and can leave the country and re-enter, when my temporary card (paper version) expires next month. So this is good news but the process to get here has been long, tedious and a bit ridiculous even if it does ensure the country’s safety by monitoring the immigrants coming in. I would like to share some observations I found bizarre.
1. Visa d’études/ Student Visa with the French embassy in Canada:
-The documents needed are not easy to get from the Canadian government. Example. A letter from provincial health care provider stating health coverage while abroad for the period out-of-country. Service Ontario is no longer (as of 2014) permitted to produce this letter for you but needs to be obtained through a 1-800 number and mailed to the client.
-This is also becoming a problem for applying for housing return here. Some students (potentially me) born in anglophone Canada can only order their birth certificate in the language their parents selected at the time of birth. Some students are being asked to have a professional translator translate simple English words such as Name, Date of Birth, Weight, and Country of Birth in order to be credited a return on student housing with CAF.
2. Showing documents to CROUS:
-When arriving in France we had to show all of these documents and our obtained Visa again, yet certain documents such as the Attestation de Finances (Proof of Finances) had to be specifically the letter completed in French and not the same letter from your bank stating the same information that worked in obtaining the Visa in the first place.
3. When all documents are Accepted:
-Go early to appointment. The prefecture, a government building is closed during lunch 12:00-13:00. Wait in line for half an hour. You receive your temporary card, get fingerprinted and are told to wait three weeks in order to get notice of the next step.
4. Doctor’s Appointment with OHFI: 14th of January (Month 5 of Exchange)
-Get lost because the building is hidden on a one-way street behind an elementary school and beside a grocery store. Ten minutes late, become placed at the end of the line. Everyone is ushered into a conference room and we all wait 2 HOURS before names start to be called. The actual appointment takes an hour as you wait in-between doing three steps.
a. See a Nurse: She takes your pulse, and weighs you, and measures your height (with your boots on) asks you if you take medicine, if you smoke and how much you exercise each day. Go in hall to wait for second step.
b. Get an X-Ray of Lungs: “Take off shirt and put on robe, or don’t all boobs are the same,” she tells me. “And my earrings, and belt?” I ask. “No, just the shirt is fine.” I put on a robe, then am ushered in a machine with lines and circles in front of me. The floor of the machine moves me up until my chest is level with two circles. X-ray takes place. Exit and wait again.
c. Doctor visit: He looks at my X-ray, and asks me if I have any questions. We talk about the X-ray and what he is looking for. Tuberculosis, a very rare disease for Canadians. I then asked him why I am being tested five months after being in the country, why so late? I could have already passed on diseases to many french people. He agreed and told me that it is not their fault, it is simply due to the French Administration. When our file is sent from the French Embassy in Canada it arrives first in Paris, then the southwest and then the southeast at the Prefecture where we are given temporary residency before OHFI even receives the file. I thanked him, got proof of completing the visit with the front desk and left.
5. February 27th (five days before appointment on March 3rd) a letter arrives telling my Residency Card will be available at the Prefecture on March 3rd. I had plans as it was my “March Break/Reading Week” here and didn’t go to the Prefecture until yesterday. I know that they close at noon so I tried to rush and be there for noon. In order to properly explain my frustration I need to first explain that this week has been several people shutting doors in my face.
On Tuesday when my class was finished I went to the International Office at the University to hand in my course registration for exams (seeing as french universities do not use technology to register for exams, which would be much simpler), and the sign on the door with their limited hours stated they had closed 15 minutes earlier. I could still hear people discussing inside the office so naturally as I was simply dropping off a form I knocked on the door. A woman in her fifties and a younger woman opened the door, “Did you see the sign” she said. “Yes,” I replied. “Then we are in agreement, good-bye.” Door in face. They have many Erasmus students and only three women that work in that office for a very limited amount of time each week. Tuesday – Thursday 9am-12noon, 14:00- 16:00 but notice we are not open Wednesday afternoons. In addition, a service meant to be a support for these students slams the door in your face without even asking what you need. I needed her to take my form and place it on her colleague’s desk.
In the case of the Prefecture, I make it there before noon and am put in a line. It isn’t like Service Ontario where you take a number and have a seat, because ‘Yes’ I agree administrative processes take time…but you wait in an line-up for what can be an hour. I was there for a half-hour, and just as I am approaching the ‘Pre-Acceuil’ the Before Welcome desk #3 where it is expected to wait again in a waiting room… just as I am approaching this desk, she begins shutting the metal electronic shutters and tells me that the “Retrieval of Residency Cards” takes place only in the afternoon, that they were closing for lunch and to come back in an hour.
I had not eaten lunch. I have been sick for a week-and-a-half… I left to get air. When I came back twenty minutes later, there was already a line of 40 people. There was a half-an-hour before the desk opened again, and then it took a half-hour to get through the people in front of me. When I made it to the desk it took 30 seconds, I gave her my temporary card/paper and the letter I received in the mail. I signed something, she gave me my card, I left. I made it home and ate something quick before rushing to class again.
And there you have it, my story of how I became a legal resident of France, four months before leaving, in the seventh month of my exchange.