Last Friday, Pat and I appeared at the immigration office in Paris. I’d read dire warnings online: They won’t receive your letter. They’ll lose your file. You will never get called for an appointment. After 90 days, without this stamp in your passport, you must leave France.
Hear ye all naysayers! We have residency stamps in our passports!!
Within two days of mailing the OFII form, Pat and I each received an appointment letter via email. We were scheduled together and the instructions (in French) were included in the letters. I set to work gathering the requirements:
- Copy of the appointment letter
- Vaccination record and proof of insurance (the letter asks for “relevant medical information”)
- Glasses (including reading glasses for the vision test!)
- One passport style photo
- Rent receipt and landlord’s ID (I took the lease as backup which they preferred)
- Printed receipt that I had paid the 250 euro per person tax online
The thrust of this appointment was to assess our health, to ensure we have a place to live, and to collect a tax. My goal was to leave with a residency stamp which would validate the visa we had received from the French Consul in DC.
The office for first time applicants in Paris is in the 11th, which is where we live. The night before, Pat and I performed a dry run and cased the place: Fifteen-minute walk. Small. One door. Slightly startled security guard wondering why an American woman had plastered her face up to the glass.
Piece of cake.
The next morning at 8:15, we joined a queue of six or eight people. At exactly 8:30, the doors opened. A woman collected our invitation letters in turn and directed us to wait upstairs. Subsequently, we were called in the order in which we entered.
From here, it proceeded like a medical exam: Room one: height, weight and eye test. Room two: chest X-ray. Return to wait. Doctor interview. She smiled, and other than asking me a few questions and reading the X-ray, checked my blood pressure. Five minutes. Return to wait.
Pat and I look healthy. Our blood pressure is fine. Our height matches our weight. I’m not sure the degree to which any of that mattered. I don’t believe the thrust is to ensure I won’t drop dead (if I drop dead, I have the mandatory insurance that will ship my remains home). I believe the thrust is to ensure I don’t spread communicable disease.
I imagine other doctors might be more aggressive. People from countries with more widespread contagious illnesses might receive more scrutiny. All I can say is our appointment was cursory.
Last, the woman who had greeted us called Pat and me forward together. She took our documents, peeled off a stamp from our file, and affixed it into our passport. Unlike the medical staff, this woman did not speak English, but she was pleasant (as measured by no sigh or eye roll when she had to photocopy my lease).
She warned us to begin the extension process five months before our visa expires. The medical is behind us and won’t need to be repeated.
Less than two hours after entering, we were done.
Pat and I have talked about whether we will extend. But I’m trying to live more in the present. At this moment, we are in France for a year. I’ll begin to think about what comes next in August.
Who am I kidding?
Every day I wake up with a different harebrained idea. In the last week, we have circumnavigated the world in a freight steamer, returned to Central America to study Spanish, and settled into a riad in Fez.
Pat smiles. It’s too soon to panic.
Yet I have validated the list of documents required for an extension. For the first time, we will need our birth certificates (something Pat does not have). This week, I sent off to have his reissued.
Just in case.
Categories: How To