Thursday, 19 July 2018

Applying for a Carte de Sejour


We currently have the right to live and work anywhere in the EU by virtue of our British citizenship. We both have dual citizenship, Australian and British. That British citizenship automatically gives us EU citizenship. Once Brexit actually takes effect we will be non-EU citizens and have to apply for permission to live and work here just like our American and Australian friends.

A titre (or carte) de séjour, as it is known, is not strictly necessary yet, and will not be until March 2019 at the earliest. However, the advice from the British Embassy, the British in Europe citizens rights support groups and the French Ministry of the Interior is all to apply now for a titre de séjour. Those already holding cartes de séjours when Britain finally exits Europe will be fast tracked into whatever the new system is.

 The Post Office in Preuilly sur Claise.

The procedure is outlined in detail on the RIFT site but I thought it worth outlining what we have personally done so far. I've been networking with others in our situation for months and literally everyone's experience with this particular issue has been different, because the Préfecture in Tours' response has been different for everyone. The Préfecture is the département (county) administrative centre.

Back in October last year I spoke to a local British couple who had applied for cartes de séjour immediately after the referendum in 2016. They were exceptionally quick off the mark and were issued cards without too much bother. They kindly provided me with an inside contact at the Bureau d'Immigration in our préfecture in Tours.

I emailed the public servant they had dealt with and outlined our particular circumstances (born in Australia, married in England, dual citizenship, arrived in France in 2009, own home, income as per last tax return, auto-entrepreneurs). The public servant replied within a week, pointing out (as I already knew) that a carte de séjour was not yet necessary but that we had a right to apply if we wished and she gave us a list of documents she wanted to see as proof of when we arrived, what our income was, proof of identity and proof of our continuous residence in France for five years. We exchanged several cordial and professional emails, then Simon and I went to Australia for a couple of months.

 Our dossiers ready to go.

On my return applying for a carte de séjour kept falling to the bottom of my to do list, but slowly slowly I accumulated the pile of documents required and put them into categorised folders. Then I counted up how many pieces of paper I needed to photocopy. Around a hundred! We figured it would be cheaper to do it at the library on their big photocopier than at home using our ink on our little home office printer. Off I trotted to the library, only to have Hélène, the librarian, apologetically tell me that her photocopier was en panne, with no hope of it being repaired any time soon.

So I popped in to the mairie with my sack full of papers. The receptionists looked horrified and very quickly told me to come back when Gérard, the deputy mayor, was there. He was apparently responsible for 'this sort of thing'. I went home, and that evening Gérard called at the house. He left clutching all our documents, marked with how many copies we needed, and promised to do them himself over the next few days. About a week later he was back, with a file of papers that had doubled in size and he had done all the photocopying. He refused our offer of payment, so we gave him a bottle of 2015 Chinon which should develop into a good drop.

In the meantime I'd bought two folders with tabbed dividers so I could slot in the various papers, index them and keep them organised without annoying the public servant who would eventually have to deal with them. The papers are loose but contained. I'd heard that fonctionnaires hate having to deal with papers in plastic slips because they take so long to get out and put back in. I hope that little touch pays off...

At that point we received a letter from the préfecture, referencing my previous email correspondence and inviting us to submit our documents within a fortnight. No mention of having to have an interview at any point. So I drafted a covering letter in my bestest French and sent it to my friend Alain to proof read. I told him it didn't have to be perfect but I didn't want it to appear like it was from some mad foreigner. He kindly emailed back with the comment that it was clearly not written by a native speaker, but was perfectly comprehensible and I didn't sound like a crazy person. He made some minor corrections, mostly gender and accents. I printed it off and attached it to the folders of documents.

Then I took the folders to the post office and asked for an envelope to send them off to the préfecture. The post office clerk suggested a box would be better and went out the back to get one. The folders only just fit and she spent a while taping it up using little pieces of sticky tape. Eventually I said I wasn't convinced by the tape arrangement and requested she tape in a single strip from one side to the other. Nope, she couldn't do that. She'd run out of tape. If I wanted the package taped up securely I would have to go round the corner to the tabac, buy some tape and come back.

By this time there was a queue of four people and the lack of tape and sending me to newsagents caused some sympathetic eye rolling in my direction. I was back very quickly and one of the people in the queue helped me tape up the box more securely. I explained that it wasn't that the documents were valuable, but I'd spent hours gathering and sorting them and didn't want to risk the package bursting open. I filled out the forms for getting notification of the parcel's arrival at the préfecture and paid the €12.50 postage. I was surprise at how little the postage was -- I was expecting about twice that.

So it's in the system and now we just have to wait. My guess is that the next we will hear will be in about six months time, but in the meantime I've made an appointment online for early October at the préfecture. I bet we just get the brush off at that point though and told we must just wait for the file to be processed.

10 comments:

  1. Keeping my fingers crossed and sending my best wishes.

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  2. Hope it all goes well with the french bureaucracy. You may well get it back if you have missed crossing a t or a 7... Ha Ha Ha Good luck.

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    1. My guess is that they will want to know more about the business and that our ID photos will need to be redone.

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  3. It's surprising to me that postal employees would tape up a package at all. In the U.S., I'm not sure that would happen. You have to wrap and seal your own package.

    Anyway, good luck. You are making me remember the process we went through 15 years ago. It all worked out very well. I'm sure your process will work out well too.

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    1. I know. I didn't mind supplying my own tape, but it was the way she faffed about with tiny bits of tape before telling me I needed my own tape that made everyone sigh and shrug.

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  4. I remember the bureaucrat being absolutely stunned that all my documents were there, in order, with originals and photocopies, in order. While waiting my turn, I saw so many people trudge out to the photocopy machine in the waiting room, stand in line, search for coins (which they only did upon getting to the photocopier, not while waiting in line!!), etc. It rather infuriated me--did they think the prefecture was going to make copies for them? And while they were looking for 20 centime pieces, everybody else was waiting longer and longer.

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    1. I've benefitted a lot from tips on exactly how to present the documents by being a member of a couple of really useful FB support groups for Brits in Europe. The frustrating thing is that the préfecture staff are not all singing from the same hymn sheet. Literally everyone I have spoken to has had a different response from the préfecture about whether they will issue the cards and how to go about it, what documents to supply, etc. It's chaos, has been for 2 years, and likely to remain so for another year at least. Unforgiveable really.

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    2. I'm afraid speaking French well has a lot to do with facilitating the process. If you stumble and fall as you try to speak, you don't get a lot of help from bureaucrats who are overworked and frustrated with trying to explain the same thing over and over again to people who don't really get it. I'm sure it works the same way in the UK and in the US. It's just that we've never had the misfortune of having to deal with such situations as immigrants have to deal with in our own countries. Confusion "...likely to remain so for another year at least..." Ha ha! It has always been like this and always will be. Just as old age is not for sissies, neither is being an immigrant.

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