Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our Carte de Séjours

When we moved to France for the first time back in 2008, we got our Long Stay Visa and then had to go to the Prefecture within 3 months of arriving in France to get our  carte de séjour, which is a residency card.  But this time it's a different process.

From the 1st of June 2009, long stay visa holders will be allowed to reside in France for up to 12 months according to the validity of their visa and purpose of stay. They will no longer be required to obtain a residence permit (carte de séjour) from the French local authorities (préfecture) as long as their visa is valid. However, they will have to apply for a carte de séjour at the préfecture if they intend to stay for more than a year or if they are renewing a resident permit such as vie privée et familiale.

What we had to do this time was register with the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII). Once we arrived we had to make a copy of our passport page showing when we entered France, copy of our passport, our address in France, the residence form that was included with our visa application, stamped by the consulate when they granted our visa and we had to send it in to OFII.  Then we had to wait until we heard from them.  We sent ours in November 1st, 2010 and 2 weeks ago we received the letter from them with our appointment time of Friday 25th of February at 1:30.  We would have a medical exam and a chest x-ray (to rule out TB) and an interview.

We brought with us:
* passport,
* a proof of accommodation in France (lease, utility bill, etc),
* one ID picture (of your head only),
* payment for the processing fees of 55 € for workers and students or 340 € for visitors.  Yes,         340 € for each of us!  What you have to do is visit the Trésor Public to get "timbres" which   are stamps with a value, get enough to cover the 340 euros and bring them with you.

We were in Spain 3 days leading up to our appointment and we tried to re-schedule it, but here is where being here in frustrating.  We called the office no less then 15 times trying to get a hold of someone.  It would ring 2 times, you'd get a message saying they'll be right with you, the message would play 3 times and then you'd get disconnected.  It happened over and over and over.  Argh!  So we cut our climbing trip short by 3 days to make the appointment.

The office we went to was in Toulouse.  We arrived at 1:30 and we thought we'd have to wait forever, but we were pleasantly surprised with how smooth things went.  1:30 we went in, 1:35 we had our interview, 1:50 we had our x-ray, 2:00 we met with the Doctor, 2:15 we met with the final person who reviewed all our documents, asked a few questions and placed our new carte de séjour on one of the pages in our passport and by  2:30 we were out of there.  Amazing!  I guess you pay the big bucks for service, although they could answer their damn phone.

So, we are official...for 1 year.  We plan to stay after the 1 year, so in August we need to visit the Préfecture in Montauban and request another year.  I'm not sure it will go as smoothly, I have heard it could be a nightmare and a long day, but I won't worry about that until August.  Right now I'm just glad we have our carte de séjours.

When I was in with the nurse for the medical interview I heard Bruce talking to someone in English.  When I went out into the waiting room he was talking to a couple and he told me they were American and introduced me.  He then told me they were from California, from Los Angeles and actually lived about 2 miles from where we did.  Small small world.  They are retired and just moved here in September and live about 20 minutes from St. Antonin.  They are hoping to stay too.  The didn't speak French, so we helped them with what was going to happen during the appointment (because they people at OFII didn't speak English).  Lovely couple and I'm sure we'll see them again soon.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From one extreme to the other

When we moved here in 2008 for our 1 year sabbatical we had to get a car.  We didn't want to spend a lot of money and a friend (you know who you are) recommended someone here in France who she bought her car from.  We contacted him, told him our budget and he sent over some pictures of cars.  We picked a little 1985 Peugeot station wagon (break as it's called here in France).  We wired him money and he would meet us and have all the necessary documents/paperwork for us to get it registered here in France.  Easy yes?

So we arrived in Paris and rented a car, big enough for the two of us, 2 large bike boxes, 2 dog crates and our luggage and drove over to the Dordogne department to meet our car dealer.  When he drove up in the car we almost fell over.  It looked much much older than in the pictures and the door had been dented (just happened 1 day before).  Our new little Peugeot was a very old man.  When we got in it we noticed that it didn't have headrests (can you say whiplash?), no seat belts in the back, no air conditioning, no radio.  Alas, it's our car, we bought it, so we signed the papers and drove it off to our new home in the Aveyron, well Bruce drove it, I drove the rental car.

 In Albi, we had to park on a hill because our starter went out (bump start)

In Belgium getting from fries from the Frituur!

We named him Claude, because that was the old man's name who had owned it before (it's only owner).  Claude wasn't new and shiny, but he got us where we needed to go.  We could put the seats in the back down and throw our bikes in, or put the dogs in, or carry fire-wood.  He took us to Belgium and all over France.  The problem with Claude was that he stuck out like a sore thumb and we found out in the winter that he only gave us heat when he felt like it.  We had the oldest car in the area, maybe in the Aveyron.  Everyone seemed to have new cars, but who cared.  The Gendarme knew us too.  We were pulled over 3 times.  The first time for no reason, probably because he was old (the car not Bruce).  That was an interesting experience.  The Gendarme checked our paperwork for the car and Bruce's license.  There were 3 police and they drove this big van type of thing, they took Bruce to the van and unfolded the "table" in the van and then they all got in, with Bruce.  30 minutes passed and he was still in there.  One of the guys was looking through this huge book.  Finally after 1 hour Bruce came back to the car, they didn't ticket him for anything, or tell him why they had pulled him over, but they were obsessed with his California drivers license and his International license and thought he had to change it over after being here for 3 months for a French license, but he couldn't find the answer in the big book.  He told Bruce to go to the Prefecture and check.   Then 2 weeks later, driving through Villefrance the same Gendarme saw us and pulled us over, wanting to see if Bruce had indeed checked with the Prefecture to see if his license was good here.  He asked us in French, "did you go to the Prefecture" and Bruce, being the honest guy that he is said "No" and tried to explain that he was sorry and he'll go today.  He did never go.  I got pulled over on my way to the gym (alone, no license, no passport, no identification) because our plates were not from our department.  Nobody told us that when we got into the Averyon we had to change our plates because they were from the Dordogne.  So the police ticketed me and told me to go "right now" to the dealership to get new plates.  I did!  We sold Claude in October 2009 when we returned to the states for 400 euros.  It was sad to let him go, he served us well and as far as I know is still on the road. 

We we returned in October 2010 we knew we wanted another Peugeot, all the mechanics can work on them and they are very reliable.  But we knew we needed a nice new car, for the business and for piece of mind.  We found a 2010 Peugeot 207 (break) for a good price.  And now we have gone from sticking out like a sore thumb with old Claude to being invisible.  Every 4th car you see is a Peugeot and every other car is grey, like ours.  We finally blend in.  We have even tried to get in the wrong car a couple times!  We haven't been pulled over by the cops, we have official plates, valid insurance, etc.

Our new Peugeot 207 sw

no that's not our house in the background

It was fun and an adventure having Claude but it's nice having our new car, she's reliable, has air conditioning, heat and a radio.  We haven't picked a name for her though,  nothing seems to fit,  yet.