Drown me in Paperwork and Visas.

While in Canada.

Not that many Canadians marry a Frenchman and try to get their paperwork straightened out to live and work in France, BUT for those that do, RECONSIDER! 

I am just kidding. But it is a lot of work. Since August this is what Max and I have been up to.

STEP ONE: Get marriage validated by French Consulate in Toronto in order to get a French Livret de Famille or what I am going to call a Family Booklet. What is a family booklet you might ask? It is a booklet one receives after being married. It records the marriage, childrens’ births, divorce, and any deaths.

  1. Marriage Certificate. This usually takes up to 12 weeks once the marriage licence has been registered somewhere in Thunder Bay, Ontario (which takes the mail time and the processing time to get the letter to the hands of the right civil servant). Get married in a less busy month than August. We were able to fax and plea for a faster processing and received it in less than a month. ONE TIP I can give though is to do the Marriage Licence in French so you will never be asked by French administration to have this document translated by an official translator. If chosen there is no way to get these documents printed in French even if Canada is bilingual. I learnt this with my Ontario long form birth certificate. Not always fun paying a translator 50 euros to translate words like Name, Surname, Weight at Birth etc… 
  2. Identity Card. This is an odd document for Canadians as we do not have these. We use Health Cards and Drivers Licences to prove who we are. This does not work for a Frenchman pulled over by a police officer. At any point in time a police or customs officer can ask for your identity card. The only other form of document one can show to prove their identity is ones passport. Max had his passport but not the card. We collected the documents needed to get the card and did this with the local city hall.
  3. Passports. This was easy as we have both and all that was needed were photocopies.
  4. Birth Certificates. Once Canadians order their Long-form Birth Certificate it remains valid for life as long as it is not misplaced. We do have to pay a processing fee though. The French need to constantly be asking for birth certificates from their government with a stamp validating that it was processed within the last three months. If it is older than the three months old and used for paperwork with the French administration it is not valid. Though it is free, it is annoying that this document is not ageless. Max did not have one less than three months old.

I believe these were all that were asked of us. They said the process would take three weeks. I cannot start my visa process without the Family booklet and all of the above documents needed to get the booklet. Even though we included a return envelope in the package my mother sent to the Embassy we received an email saying they were sending everything to the local city hall in France. I had just returned from France to DO my Visa. We were able to arrange everything so that I was able to get the documents I needed when I went for my interview in Toronto. The woman working on the Family Booklet also connected me with the hard-to-reach and very busy Visa Section at the Embassy.

After emailing the Visa Section many times about their processing times to get a Visa after one interviews and getting very little in response, I was in Canada and hearing for the first time that it only takes five days after the time of the interview to receive the Visa. I was so mad as I am not made of money and economically booked a round trip ticket that I put at the end of March in order to be sure that I would have the Visa upon returning to my husband. I guess the joke is on me because it will be too costly to change the ticket now that it is booked. But we could not have known and we did save money booking the flights together. Bref. 

Once I had the Family Booklet I was able to plan my Visa interview at the Consulat of France in Toronto. However this interview must take place within the 90 days prior to your expected arrival in France. Because my ticket was for March 26th, the soonest I could plan for was December 26th, 2016.

The Visa Section responded to my request for an appointment on the 10th of January with an appointment on the 13th of January at 9AM. Now this wouldn’t have been a problem except that I live 3 hours away from downtown Toronto plus the two extra hours it would take if caught in rush hour. I politely emailed on the 11th asking if the appointment could be moved to the afternoon to give more time to get there. In the meantime I made plans to stay with an aunt outside of the city. Thursday the 12th my Mom and I started our trip to Toronto as we had not received word that the appointment had been pushed. There was a chance of this as their email respond time is three days. Upon arrival in Newmarket I check my emails. Please come January 19th at 2:30. WHAT! I quickly responded that we were already in Toronto and that I would be there for the 9AM appointment.

We left at 6:30AM to beat the rush-hour. Arrived at 7:30AM. At 9AM I entered the Consulat to retrieve the documents they were holding for me, and then to continue to the Visa Section. Both of which had different doors, and different security to go through. Apparently the Visa Section lady I had been communicating with via email realized I was there for my appointment once I got all of my paperwork back from the lady that did the Family Booklet. “What are you doing here,” she said without saying hello. “You cancelled your appointment and it has been filled by someone else.” I had to defend myself by saying that I never cancelled but asked if the appointment could be pushed which was different. The way she was yelling and speaking made me think she was going to send me home to come back another day, something the security guard lady told me has happened before. Once in the Visa Section the woman’s personality took a 180 turn and she became a friendly person that was very easy to deal with despite the microphone not working and us having to yell through a glass separator. She even finished by telling me my French was quite good and I should consider applying for citizenship. Even though her behaviour was off, I will give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she really didn’t understand what I meant in my email. Who knows. The following Monday my Visa was ready for pick-up. WHAT! I emailed back reminding them I left a pre-posted envelope with them. “Yes. Disregard previous email. Visa and documents will be sent in the mail.” It arrived within a week.

March 26th, 2017

Left Canada to arrive in France on the 27th. Canadians are so loved throughout the world and especially in France. Going to the Customs window I handed them my passport Page 3 already open. Predicting their next question “Why are you coming into France?” or something like that, I told them I had a Visa on page 10. “But you are Canadian,” he said ironically and chuckling with a smile. ”I don’t need to worry about Canadians. Here,” he handed me my passport and let me go. The same Customs officer waved and winked at me as I left with my suitcase. I can only imagine he did not need my Visa because I am allowed 90 days on a Tourist Visa first. No idea.

Now to take care of my OFII (Office Français d’Immigration et de l’Integration) papers so I can work and apply for health care through CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurances Maladies). Last Friday March 31st we took the Demande de l’Attestation d’OFII , a form stamped by the Consulat of France in Toronto, to the Montpellier office. We also took our questions. Here is what we learned.

  1. The Attestation d’OFFI will arrive in the mail in a couple of weeks with an interview date and medical examination appointment (YAY!).
  2. OFFI does not take care of health care. CPAM does. Once I have the Attestation d’OFFI I can register with CPAM.
  3. Can I work? Legally YES. As this is marked directly on my Visa. However many employers ask for the OFII stamp to be on the Visa in the passport, to protect themselves in case the OFII rejects your Visa.
  4. When do I get the OFII stamp on my passport? In about three months after I have my interview and Integration/Welcome day. After the three-month period the Visa becomes invalid without the OFII stamp.

So this is where I am today. Not sure if the effort put into resumes and cover letters will bear any fruit because no institution respects my right to work without the stamp in my passport! This is beyond frustrating as I have been unable to work in this country since last September. It is the reason I left to get my Visa in Canada and was not living with my husband the last four months. Being an immigrant is much harder than people can even imagine.

The only thing that makes all of this a bit better is that we are not consuming more than our budget and we are stable financially even without me working at the moment. My husband is soon on vacation, which is when we will host my Uncle and cousin from Canada. We have also made plans to travel to Nice this weekend and visit with our Best-Man and one of our Best and Beautiful Bridesmaids. Then at the end of the month we will end up in the South West to visit with my husband’s uncles, aunts, and grandparents.

I am sick of this non-ending vacation I am on. But vacation time with people you love dearly? That I cannot get enough of. Bring it on!

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