I wrote about Round 1 of our efforts to renew our Cartes de Séjour here. When we first moved to France in 1997, these cards were obligatory. They are no longer so for EU citizens but we decided we wanted to renew ours when they expired in early January this year. They are a useful proof of identity and residence in France.
The Préfecture in Montauban issued us with forms to complete, a list of documents to collate and a date for an interview to hand them over – Round 2. We were interested to note that a first demand for a card requires 12 different supporting documents; a renewal requires 15.
We duly collected all this information, photocopied it several times and puzzled over the irrelevant questions on the form. The fun started when we went to the supermarket’s photomaton (automatic photo booth) to get the three passport-sized photos required. You install yourself on the uncomfortable stool, compose your face into the appropriate expression – about to go to the scaffold – and listen to the copious instructions for several minutes before the machine takes the photo. It costs €5 a go.
Disaster. They were horribly over-exposed. I looked as if I were in the last stages of pernicious anaemia while the SF resembled something out of a Hammer House of Horror film. And we both looked as if we had just been sentenced to hanging, drawing and quartering. Convinced that these would not conform to the required standard, we decided to apply for our money back and get the photos in Montauban instead on the day of our convocation.
The Préfecture has a photomaton in the foyer. The SF duly went through the procedure and paid the dosh. Then the machine informed him that for technical reasons it was unable to deliver the photos. Another €5 euros down the drain. The man at Reception was unusually sympathetic for a French bureaucrat – and even offered to phone the photomaton company for us. But since time was running out and we already had two other refunds to claim, we went to a photo shop instead where a photographer took good shots of us for €4.50 euros each.
Lesson: don’t use a photomaton if you want half-decent photos.
Not quite over the final hurdle
After that, it all went swimmingly. We were the first to be seen at the Préfecture after lunch, although we had to wait outside in the cold for them to open reinforced gates that made Fort Knox look under-protected. I didn’t take a photo of them since I thought they wouldn’t understand that I just wanted it for my blog.
A jolly woman in the Service des étrangers checked through our applications, chatted to the SF about Sweden, took our fingerprints electronically, gave us a receipt and…wait for it…told us we would receive a convocation to collect the cards – assuming, of course, that they approve our applications. Watch this space for Round 3.
While we were there, I asked them about taking French citizenship. I believe I am eligible for dual nationality, which would enable me to hedge my bets if the UK does ever come out of the EU. More importantly, French citizenship would allow me to vote in all the French elections. Another very nice lady told us what to do and handed over a set of voluminous forms – to be completed in duplicate. Judging by the hoops you have to jump through, you’ve got to really, really, want to become a French citizen…
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