The SF and I toddled off to the Préfecture in Montauban today. There it is above in its splendour. However, we were round the back in the modern annex. We wanted to renew our Cartes de séjour (identity cards). When you carry out an administrative exercise like this, you are exposed to French bureaucracy in all its glory. Read about Round 2 here.
When we first arrived in 1997, a carte de séjour was obligatory, even for citizens of other EU states, which we both are. We had to provide evidence of paternity, identity, marital status, income, residence, translations of some of this (especially in the SF’s case, being Swedish) and numerous photographs. They even wanted our parents’ dates of birth. I couldn’t remember my father’s – neither could my mother – except I knew it was in January 19XX. So I made it up. The authorities wanted several copies of all this information. They stopped just short of grandpa’s inside leg measurement.
We jumped through this hoop successfully and were each awarded a shiny laminated identity card, valid for five years. When the five years were up, renewing it was much easier than getting one in the first place. We didn’t even have to go to the Préfecture: it was all done through the Mairie. And, as proof of our acceptance by the French state, the new cards were valid for 10 years.
From 2004, a carte de séjour was no longer obligatory for citizens of EU member states. Fast forward to November 2012. We realise ours run out in early January 2013. However, we have decided we want to continue to have one. They can be very useful, for example if you are stopped by the police or if you want to pay a lot of money for something. They are proof of residence and address in France in a way that a passport can’t be.
This time the woman at the Mairie looked blankly at us but kindly phoned up the Préfecture to ask what we should do. “Come in and see us,” they said. It’s all quite well-organised down there. You tell them at Reception what you’ve come for. They give you a ticket – a bit like at the supermarket fish counter – and you wait until your number flashes up on the screen for the relevant service. The ticket even gives you an estimate of waiting-time.
The woman in the Service des étrangers who dealt with us seemed reasonably human. She even smiled a couple of times. But, since the carte de séjour is no longer obligatory for us, the irony is that to renew it we have to go through even more hoops than we did to get the original one. It’s treated like the first request.
So, we have to provide, all over again, all the information we provided 15 years ago. This time, they want to see the originals as well as photocopies. But that’s not all. You have to bring all these documents in person to a pre-arranged interview at the Préfecture, in addition to supplying a letter stating why you want the card.
Round 2 – the interview itself – will take place in January. I’m wondering if I should learn a bit of the Marseillaise by heart beforehand just to soften them up. Maybe not. Watch this space.
And, of course, the usual disclaimer. While I try to verify my facts, it’s always best to check on your own situation and take advice before doing anything. In addition, administrative rules can be flexibly interpreted between regions and even départements. So don’t assume that what happens in Tarn-et-Garonne applies everywhere else.
Read about Round 2 here.
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