Friday, May 2, 2008

And so it begins

I've been reading for months now fellow expatriates' experiences with the infamous carte de sejour that in my particular situation is required to hold if my intention is to reside in France - which is the case! I've heard everything from horror stories to fairy tales from others' experiences dealing with French prefectures. I'm still not completely sure what to expect when Gui and I make our first appearance at the local prefecture in Boulogne (where we will, presumably, be residing). Actually, the whole apartment thing is proving to be very important for the carte de sejour - we have to show proof of our residency within the bounds of the prefecture, as well as an unceasing communauté de vie (community of life...or sharing a residence), presumably in our own place with both of our names on a mortgage or lease. So, I can't actually start the process until we've signed for a place, which puts a little more pressure on our apartment-hunting process.

What I've gathered about the carte de sejour (cds) so far, is this:
#1, I will need to make an ungodly amount of copies of everything I have with my name on it, with Gui's name on it, and that proves in any way my existence as his foreign-born wife (translated if need be)

#2, I shouldn't expect to have copies or originals of everything I need on my first visit (from what I've heard, I think it would be setting some sort of French record if I could get it all done in one go)

#3, I will have to submit to a medical exam that consists of taking off my top, squishing my boobs against an x-ray machine and answering questions about my smoking habits

#4, I will be asked politely if I'd like to have to sign a contract that indicates my willingness to receive French values and integrate within its society. This contract will require my presence at two day-long classes, one on French history, one on French culture, and will also test my French speaking abilities in order to prescribe the appropriate number of language course hours they will offer me for free. As cool as free sounds to me, I'm pretty sure my lowly skills will get me stuck in a 400-hour program (that's the maximum) that will mandate a 35-hour week of learning French for 12 weeks. Now, don't get me wrong, I'd love to do just that - all my life, in fact - but I need to make some money, yo. I'm ready to get back to work. Even though I read somewhere (actually somewheres since I saw it on two people's blogs) that the French government will compensate you for your time if you have to take classes on a full-time basis. Problem is, I haven't read this on any official website and I haven't worked since November of 2007 (a disbelief even I struggle to fathom)!! Why would they compensate a (now, technically) housewife-ish foreigner like me?

And finally, #5, I should expect for this entire process to take anywhere from 4 months to a year (which is a little comical since the first cds is pretty much always issued for only a year's time...or so I hear). And get this, you have to apply for a renewal cds two months prior to the expiration of your original cds. Oh, the Frenchness of it all. Who says the French system is a bureaucratic nightmare? Hogwash.

This all brings me to another topic that I'm still struggling to sort out about my move to France. I'm still stuck about what to do when I finally get there. I'm still waiting for a reply from a school I applied to long ago, which in my mind indicates a negative response to my application for admission to their master's program in Paris. I'm going to give them a call on Monday, fo' sho' though. I seriously think I should pursue a year-long master's degree at this point, but my bank account and bills are begging me to get back to work.

Can I really make someone else pay my bills? That's yet to be seriously asked or answered, so I'll wait until that time comes (if ever). But, I'm finding the whole dependency thing is not really for me. I think my my ego is too big, my mind too enthusiastic and my eyes too coveting to not be making and spending my own money. I'm still at a selfish point in my life, where I want to satisfy my wants and pursue my goals at whatever cost it takes (this is likely why I haven't yet joined my more mature friends who are impregnating themselves by the droves). So, there lies my predicament - stay jobless another year to get a master's while my husband pays my bills OR find a jobby-job asap and get back to acting like a real adult. It'll be interesting to see how this one turns out. No doubt I'll be letting you know.

3 comments:

Evolutionary Revolutionary said...

Hmmmm, its interesting to read about the transition period! As my search for Au Pair work becomes more and more a very realistic "This is going to happen!" type search, I'm starting to get a tad anxious about the bureaucratic side of it all. I'm going to have required French classes to keep my Visa as well - but, um, I really need them!!!

As for the work thing - why stress? I think this a really good chance to "think outside the box" and come up with an a typical job that might rid you of the ridiculous paper trail (and not leave you feeling like a kept woman!). I mean, I'm SURE that French people have personal shoppers, non?

Whatever you do - don't start poppin' out babies till you're ready!

Misplaced Texan said...

Haha! Thanks, Juliette! You can rest assured that I won't be popping out any babies any time soon...that's what my friends and family are for.

The paperwork process (at least the part that's in the States) is actually much easier than it makes you feel. I was SO ridiculously nervous at the French consulate, and it was all for nothing. They barely looked over my paperwork, and asked me only the necessary questions. I was outta there before my scheduled appointment time.

But I will heed your advice when the process begins on this side...I'm going to remind myself to ignore the stress and be happy with my existence in this amazing city! Bonne chance for you, too!

Misplaced Texan said...

Oops. Sorry, Juliet, I totally misspelled your name in that last post...I guess I want to Frenchify everything more now. :)