42 Days and Counting (up, not down)

Photo: “valid until October 11, 2011” © 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

Yesterday marked six weeks since my third visit to the prefecture at Bobigny to renew my residency permit. You may have read my earlier posts here and here about the bureaucratic nightmare that is the renewal process. If not, take a look; it will give some color to this update on the ongoing ordeal. You see, my student visa expired on August 15, and I now carry a récépissé with my passport. It’s a piece of paper with my photo on it issued by the préfecture that proves that I’ve asked for renewal and temporarily extends my legal residency. It was issued during that third visit on July 12 when I dropped off my dossier, complete with a pre-addressed, stamped envelope so someone could send me a notice when my residency permit was ready. The récépissé is valid for three months—until October 11. That’s plenty of time for the French immigration authorities to print up a residency permit and tell me when to come pick it up … right?


Last week, after five weeks of daily disappointment when the letterbox yielded no pre-addressed, stamped envelope from the sub-prefecture, we called to check on my status. First problem: The number provided on the information sheet with my récépissé doesn’t even work—”non-attribué” (not a valid number). Well, that inspires confidence. So we did a few Internet searches and got bounced back and forth among offices (and a recording) until we found another number specifically for questions about the status of residency permit renewals. Awesome! Second problem: That office is only open—get this—Tuesdays, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Must be nice to be the dude with those working hours! Finally, yesterday morning (day 42), we called the number during the magic 3-hour answer window. Third problem: No one picked up the phone.


Next week, we’re supposed to be in Metz for a week to hang out with family and, on September 24, we’re leaving for the United States for two weeks. I have this sinking feeling that, despite all reasonable expectations to the contrary, I may not have my one-shot, “come and get it” appointment for my permit until some time after I’m scheduled to be in the United States. That would be par for the course with this story.

42 days and no response? I mean, come on, that’s longer than the rain that put Noah in the damn ark! That’s longer than Lent! Well, it is August in France, after all, and we all know what that means.

Breaking News

We just got someone on the phone:

Yes, the dossier has been received and registered. Everything is in order.

When can we expect the appointment?

Well, you know, it’s the holidays [translation: the entire month of August], so there’s a delay. I can’t say when.

Okay, thank you very much.

Well, at least Sécurité Sociale will pay for my stomach ulcer surgery.

© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved


2 thoughts on “42 Days and Counting (up, not down)

  1. I’m a bit fed up with all those speeches about French bureaucracy, and holidays .
    By the way, is any of those anglophones aware of how easy or difficult it can be for a foreigner to obtain a resident permit in the US or the UK ? It would be interesting to know before complaining .
    But I’m glad you could get a surgery for free . You might realize that it is the same spirit which created free healthcare for everyone and this bloody bureaucracy . Somewhere there’s a relationship between both, as there’s a relationship between the bloody holidays and noon closing and the cool aspects of French life .
    There’s a way to avoid this hustle, and living in America should satisfy you, as well as the millions of Brits , German, Dutch who settled here . Maybe this way we could afford again to buy houses in our own country .

    1. It’s quite interesting that you can have such overtly negative reactions to objective observations and subtle humor based upon them. Just to clarify a few points for you, as it is clear you need it:

      (1) I don’t really care if you’re tired of hearing complaints about French bureaucracy, but I don’t like hearing them either. I’d prefer not to make such observations, but the facts are what they are, so get over it.

      (2) Of course I’m aware of how difficult it is for someone to get a residency permit in the United States. If you had read more of my blog, you would know that I’m married to a Frenchman. We live in France because it’s easier for me to live here than it is for him to go to the United States. If I were going through this process with him in the United States, I’d write about it. But I’m not. The fact that it’s “harder” there doesn’t make it “easy” here. It doesn’t erase the objective difficulty of this process, or my subjective reactions to it (nor those of my husband or the rest of my French entourage).

      (3) I didn’t have a surgery that was paid for by Sécurité Sociale. That was humor. It is a reference to the fact that Sécurité Sociale would probably pay for surgery for an ulcer created by the stress of the renewal process. It’s subtle, I know. Satire usually is. So sorry you didn’t grasp it.

      (4) I’m a social democrat, therefore I am a proponent of social welfare programs that help the poor and those in need. I also know that bureaucracy is necessary to manage such programs. That doesn’t mean that I (or my French husband, my French family, or my French friends) can’t complain about the inefficiencies of it. To be frank, what I say in this post (and two others, I think, that recount the travails of this process) are things that many French say about French bureaucracy (at least among themselves). If you are French and you live in France, you probably know this as well. (I don’t know you, so I will give the courtesy of not assuming anything about you or your background or your circumstances.) If that is the case, feigning ignorance of it because a foreigner is commenting on it really isn’t appropriate.

      (5) As for the “cool” aspects of French life, please see this post: http://wp.me/p1jg1T-3t.

      (6) See (2) above. Once again, it really is better to know to whom you’re speaking before you react based on assumptions that you know things you clearly don’t. As for affording a house, I’m sorry that I can’t help you with that. I’m not in the housing financing business. I certainly had nothing to do with the rise in housing costs in France. We live in a rented apartment in La Courneuve.

      Finally, there’s a subtle nativist attitude in your post that is fairly repugnant. I love France, and I love Paris. I also LIVE here, so I also see the aspects of real life and that includes the ugly side. It’s not all baguettes and sparky lights on the Eiffel Tower here. I write about what I experience in my daily life: the good, the bad, whatever comes. I certainly won’t sugar-coat my observations to assuage your patriotic bombast nor anyone else’s. So, if you’re “fed up” with what you’re reading, I suggest you stop reading it and look somewhere else. This is not a French tourism website.

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