Drumroll, please! Ray and I are ‘French legit’ for another year, and we are so happy. It has been quite the journey.
Our appointment at the Sous-Prefecture in Béziers was Friday, June 19th. It was so different from the initial interview to submit our dossiers. Back in March (a few days before the lockdown in France began), the waiting room was incredibly crowded, and the folks waiting seemed nervous. I know I was. Every time someone opened a door, we all turned our heads in unison. After watching so many folks walk-in hesitantly, and walk out looking dejected, I was holding my breath when I heard my name called.
It Was Not Pretty: Keeping it Real.
I’d love to say that my appointment went well, but I can’t; It was like a train wreck in slow motion. Ray’s interview mirrored mine. Our dossiers were complete, but the agent was having a bad day. It happens, I get it. A friend accompanied us (she facilitates non-French through immigration hurdles). Afterward, she mentioned she had never seen anything like it.
Our future was in a testy woman’s hands, and we were not feeling comfortable. At all.
Lockdown began the following week, and all non-essential businesses closed, including government offices. Little did I know that lockdown would run three months. As I look back, maybe the testy woman was not feeling well. Who knows?
Our visa’s expired on June 6th. Part of me was concerned because our visas had expired, but we also had our receipts showing we applied for our Titre de séjours. Besides, government offices were closed to visitors, and we weren’t going anywhere. The government did extend all visas for six- months, so there REALLY was no reason to be concerned, but that is easier said than done when you are a guest in a foreign country.
The Fateful Call
We received a voicemail from the Sous-Prefecture on June 11th. Of course, I called back and let me tell you it went to hell in a handbasket fast. The voice on the other end was not going to slow down, and it was my job to keep up with him. That was not going to happen anytime soon, and when he realized that, he hung up. We were screwed. When we had our initial appointment, we were told we’d receive a text if anything else was needed OR it was time to pay online and then come pick up our magic cards. Why the change?
I left a frantic message (read incoherent) regarding the situation for our beyond French fluent friend. She was able to reach the central Prefecture in Montpellier. Nicole was told the Prefectures had 1500 various visas that were ready to be picked up OR incomplete dossiers that needed attention. Hence the calls: too much time to text people. She was also able to make an appointment for June 19th (11:15) to pick up our cards.
New Procedures in Place: The New Normal
With Covid-19 circulating, of course, changes are in place. We were advised to wear a mask, bring a black pen, as well as the receipts from our initial appointments, proof of purchase for paying the online residence tax (x 2), and our passports. Nicole would meet us there at the appointed time (the office is closed, only open for folks with scheduled appointments at their appointment time). Well, at least it wouldn’t be crowded.
FINALLY: June 19th
Our names were checked off as the door to the Prefecture opened. It was eerily silent inside. A guard pointed to the large bottle of hand sanitizer. After using it, the three of us took a seat. The minute we sat down, our names were called. We approached a woman sitting behind a large sheet of Plexi. She asked for my passport and receipts. After reviewing my info and scanning the passport, she handed me a paper to sign. I signed, slid it back, and voila, I received my Titre de séjour. As that card hit my fingers, MUSIC BEGAN TO PLAY! We looked at each other and began to laugh. A coincidence?
Ray repeated the same steps. When his hand touched his card, MUSIC BEGAN TO PLAY! Well, I know who was there celebrating with us. I still can’t believe it happened, but it did!
So, we are legit for a while. Come next March; the process begins again. Is it worth the effort? OUI!
**This is our experience and may differ from your experience. This post first appeared on Chasing the Next Chapter.**
**This was written before Ray’s health situation changed. Are we staying in France? You betcha! The Oncologists seem excellent, and they started treatment immediately.**