La Préfecture de Police in Paris as seen from Notre Dame
Half French by Osmosis
Thursday, December 4, 2003
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Dear Parler Paris Reader,
It seemed rather apropos that Jean Taquet should open his column this month with a story about the OMI (Office des Migrations Internationales) and changes in the immigration laws. I thought of him while I was at the Préfecture de Police yesterday, collecting my own “carte de séjour” and trying to reschedule my daughter’s appointment at the OMI. In fact, upon leaving, I called him to report in — he’s forever polite about seeming to be genuinely interested.
If any of you have ever dealt with the immigration “fonctionnaires” (civil servants) at the Préfecture, you know that it’s a task that creates a knot in your stomach hours before setting foot at the front door. For nine years now, I’ve endured it, like the rest of you. This time, I chose to go just before the lunch hour was over (1:30 p.m.) to test if the lines would be shorter than first thing in the morning. Yes! No line at all. In fact, I waited about five minutes, and during that time was amused by the head of the Office de Retrait des Cartes de Séjour who was verbally abusing everyone else in the office for not doing their tasks to her satisfaction, then joked with her that perhaps she hadn’t had lunch yet (which humored her, thank goodness!). My “dossier” was misfiled which didn’t make her any happier, but lo and behold, it was there awaiting my signature and off I went with my 10th visa in hand. Next year, I am entitled to apply for a ten-year “Carte de Résident” and I’ll be home free.
One friend of mine who has been living in Paris more than ten years — illegally with no visa at all, traveling to and from the States freely, with the help of Jean Taquet, is getting her Carte de Résident without having gone through the ten years of renewing a Carte de Séjour as I have. I’m jealous! He explained: “One current provision states that living in France for more than ten years, even if part or all of it is without legal residency status, earns you full residency status. But, of course, it is virtually impossible to stay in France that long without earning any income.” She managed by working as a consultant for a variety of international firms and maintaining the U.S. as her tax home. She’s not the only one operating this way, so this is good news for those who are in this predicament.
The second task was to go to the OMI desk to change the time and date of an appointment for my daughter to a week later when she returns from school in New York. The medical exam at the OMI (in the suburb of Bagnolet) is the final hurdle to getting her ten-year Carte de Résident. If she doesn’t take the exam by the date scheduled, the application is annulled and we’d have to start all over again. This is crucial!
The woman at the desk there (which strangely happens to be number 13) is the sourest I’ve encountered. She was almost 30 minutes late returning from lunch, never stops blowing her nose and if a smile came across her face, it would crack. I cringed as I approached the desk and politely asked her to make the change in the appointment. “Malheureusement, Madame, c’est pas possible.” It turns out she can only MAKE the appointments, not CHANGE them! To do that, you must request it in writing. A new knot in my stomach emerged…now I must construct a sweet letter in French and send it off “tout de suite” to have it done in time. Jean Taquet said, “I could have told you that you couldn’t make the change there!” Thanks, Jean, too late. (One small reason why it pays to be advised in advance.)
According to Jean, we may be assessed a fee for the visit to the OMI…which I’m sure was costly when I went the first time in 1994 (about $200). So, we’ll see…but I’ll be prepared to pay and there won’t be anything I can do about it. My main concern is just getting the appointment changed, fulfilling the obligations so that my daughter can have this important right to be in France, now that she’s lived half her life here and is half French by osmosis.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. To read Jean Taquet’s column in its entirety, visit /parlerparis/practicalanswers.html
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