Eight weeks after submitting the dossier to renew my residency permit, we contacted the sub-prefecture once again, partly out of frustration and partly out of directive: We were told on July 12 that a delay of two months would be abnormal and cause for alarm. So …
After several calls this morning and a long wait online, Michel finally reached someone who could help: the person who actually handles notifications to pick up residency permits. She informed us that the Prefect is the sole person in the Prefecture of Seine-Saint-Denis who has the authority to sign residency permits (which apparently bear his actual signature—not some stamp or printed signature) and that he does it “when he has the time.” In a department like Seine-Saint-Denis (with a 1.5 million-person population, of which 22% are immigrants), you’d think that would be a full-time job with only one person doing it. The Prefect has many substantial duties other than putting his signature on residency permits, of course, and the backlog apparently includes dossiers from as far back as June, pre-dating mine by at least two or three weeks.
The silver lining is that all the stress I’ve been under about possibly having to change the plans for our trip to the US appears to have been for naught. We were told today that, should I receive a letter informing me that my permit will be available while we’re scheduled to be in the US, there’s no need to worry—I can simply pick it up when I get back to France. Of course, no one told us that two months ago when we first posed these sorts of questions. Back then we were told that I would have a convocation (an appointment on a date certain) to pick up my permit. Apparently, we had heard that from someone in the process who didn’t understand how the procedure worked beyond her piece of it. That might be true or it might not be, but for my own mental health I’m going to trust that the process really is that broken.
Michel is betting that I won’t even get the letter until the end of the month and that the date when my permit will be available will be after the October 11 expiration of my récépissé (the document that proves I’m in France legally now that my visa has expired). I guess if that’s true, I’ll be walking around as an undocumented alien for a while. If the police pick me up, I can always say, “Don’t arrest me, guys! You know how bad French bureaucracy is. I’m just waiting for my letter from the prefecture.”
Now, before someone attacks me for complaining about French bureaucracy and tells me that I need to go back to my own country (which happened in a comment to this post), I recommend that they watch video below. I’m only saying what everybody in the world already knows, and what the French joke about themselves (and even immortalize in children’s cartoons).
Astérix and Obelix in “La maison qui rend fou” (“The office that drives you crazy”)
It’s in French, but you don’t even need to understand the language to get the gist of what’s happening.
So let’s all just laugh it off. That’s how I’m getting through this.
© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved