We finally each have our official residence permit, called the carte de séjour. This is what we will renew every year until we will have been here five years, at which point we can apply for “permanent” status, and, citizenship if we so desire.
The renewal process is fraught with anxiety and administrative hassle, because of the paperwork required, cost and timing issues. Applicants are required to apply two months prior to the Carte’s expiration, and in some French cities, like Rennes and Angoulême, an applicant can easily book an appointment online. In more messy Nice, you simply show up to the Prefecture hours in advance to get in line, along with hundreds of other immigrants, and hope you are seen that day, before the booth shuts down at 11:30am. Some people have had to return multiple times.
Typically, at that point you receive a six month temporary extension of your permit in the form of a Recipisse, and four or six months later you are supposed to receive a text or email that your Carte is ready for pick up. You must pick it up in person.
In reality, this doesn’t always happen. One of us got the text, the other did not.
You then get in line again to pick up the renewed Carte. Sometimes it’s ready and sometimes it’s not. You can understand why this is the biggest headache of all for expats living here.
One is required to carry the Carte on your person at all times. Technically, a gendarme can ask you for it at any time. However, many people, fearing its loss through pickpockets or carelessness, store it safely and only carry photocopies
I don’t know what permits immigrants to the US have to apply for and deal with, but I imagine the process is similar. When you move out of your home country, there will be paperwork.
Our experience this year was complicated by the fact that our official address all last year was in Cognac. So we had to travel to Angoulême, the department’s administrative center, to pick up our permits. Luckily, we were able to confirm they were ready for us, and once there the process was very quick and efficient. The trip from Nice was long and tiring, and we did a round trip consisting of planes, buses and trains in 48 hours. Now that we have established our residence here in Nice, we will be able to stay local for the foreseeable future.
Angoulême, by the way, turned out to be a lovely city of gracious limestone buildings and lively cafes to be stuck in for a few hours. It’s also the graphic novel/cartoon capital of France, host to an annual international festival of the “Bande Dessinée.” All over the city, starting with the train station, murals and decorations commemorate the city’s high status in the cartoon world. I am almost sorry not to have a reason to return.