Today I finally got to hand in my application for a carte de séjour permanent. This is the dossier I painstakingly prepared in July and mistakenly took to the Préfecture of the Gard, in Nimes, on 6th October rather than 6th December. Off I set again – before dawn, but this time on the right day.
The Gilets Jaunes were out at various roundabouts on the way to Nimes and outside the huge and unappealing Préfecture building. So I had to present my passport, explain my business, before being let in though a narrow opening of a side gate, with gendarmes and prefecture staff controlling all movements.
Inside, the Accueil des Etrangers was cordoned off from the rest of the Prefecture. It was packed with foreigners, several clearly asylum seekers. But unlike my earlier visits in those first years that we were living here, the atmosphere was business-like but perfectly friendly – non of that xenophobic surliness that I remembered. And instead of one dark room with a bullet-proof grille through which one talked, there was a large waiting room, reminiscent of British benefit offices, with six reception desks.
I was summoned to desk C and handed my dossier to the official. I felt like a smug schoolgirl when he commented on how well organised it was, unlike some of the documents they receive. I had divided the documentation required into sections:
- The actual application form, including a a statement on my reasons for wanting to stay in France
- Proof of identity – passport birth certificate etc
- Proof of domicile – official statements from the mairie and my notaire. I had collected these, though not specifically asked for, and they turned out to be useful.
- Proof I have been living here continuously for at least five years – my laboriously collated electricity and phone bills
- Proof of income – my equally laboriously produced spreadsheet (in sterling and euros) of all income, which of course fluctuates with the exchange rate, pension documents, five years of bank statements and a statement explaining the complication of the fiscal year being different in the two countries.
- Proof I have been paying my income tax – five years worth of statements from the tax office
I list all of this not to show off but to demonstrate that applying for the right to stay here permanently is a serious business. In the waiting room there were dire warnings that any incomplete dossiers would be rejected.
Enough to scare anybody away. But my official was very pleasant. As he painstakingly checked the voluminous file, took my finger prints and asked for further information, the atmosphere was relaxed, and on finding I had lived in Edinburgh, he waxed enthusiastic about Scotland. His degree had been in English and he once spent a happy nine months, based in Glasgow. He had been unable to find a job using his degree and so had ended up in administration. I trust they will make good use of someone fluent in another language, I said encouragingly. Not a chance, he replied, they don’t care two hoots. Ils s’en foutent.
I watched the official stick one of my passport photos onto what looked promisingly like a carte de séjour. But then he stuck it into the dossier. When might I hear the outcome of my application, I asked. In a couple of months, he replied, as the dossier has to be OK’d by a pyramid of officials. It was clear he was not impressed by this.
So, here’s hoping that by the end of February at the latest I should get my carte de séjour.