A Watched Pot Never Boils

Believe it or not, it’s back to the prefecture tomorrow. If it seems to you like I’m there four or five times a year, it’s because I am! That said, I can’t complain too much this year considering the wonderful birthday present the French government gave me during my last visit. (Let’s just hope that relatively pleasant experience wasn’t a complete fluke, shall we?) In any case, I’ll be trying something completely new tomorrow, so cross your fingers for me. You see, I may have been here on a student visa for the last three years, but this year, I’m going to ask for a family visa

I don’t want to put the cart before the horse here, but after France passed marriage equality back in May, Michel and I started the process of having our DC marriage transcribed in the French civil registry, which will give us all the rights and obligations of a married couple here — not to mention make my immigration experience much easier. You might think that three months later, it would be a done deal … but you’d be wrong.

livretWhen I last updated you in July, the French Embassy in Washington had informed us that our application for transcription had been received and that everything was in order. But because of short staff and a backlog, they told us not to expect our livret de famille (the little family register proving domestic status) before “the beginning of September.” If you know me, though, you know that I’m not very good at waiting. Prompted by the experience of an acquaintance who had just gone through the same process, I submitted an online request to the Service Central d’État Civil in mid-August for a copy of our French marriage record, hoping that our marriage had been transcribed already and that the paperwork was just “still in the mail.”

<wonk, wonk>

What’s the old adage?
“A watched pot never boils”?
Yeah, something like that.

So we waited.

When “the beginning of September” rolled around, Michel and I were in the US on our annual vacation. The day after we arrived — September 4 — Michel called the French Embassy to check in, but nobody answered. He left a voicemail asking for a call back, and we waited … and waited … and waited … but nobody called. On September 13, Michel tried once again, he left a voicemail once again, and we waited once again, but nobody called … once again. Finally, on September 16 — the day before our return to France — Michel gave it one more try … and he reached someone! Let’s call him the Busy Bureaucrat.

Embassy of France, Washington, DC © 2005 Thierry Caro, used under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Embassy of France, Washington, DC
© 2005 Thierry Caro, used under GNU Free
Documentation License, Version 1.2

It turned out that our file was #5 in the Busy Bureaucrat’s “to do” stack. He asked Michel if there was any urgency to our request, and Michel explained that I had to go back to the prefecture the following week. That got our file moved to the Busy Bureaucrat’s “urgent” stack, and he gave us an intriguing prediction: we could expect our livret de famille in the mail within 10 days! That would be this Thursday if you count the weekends, or next Monday if you don’t. Now, based on my experience, that sounded like quite an ambitious timetable. I decided — with all due respect to the Busy Bureaucrat — to start checking our mailbox for it in about three or four weeks.

So … what does that mean for my visit to the prefecture tomorrow?

Well, I’d prefer to have the livret de famille in hand when I walk in tomorrow morning, but it’s technically not required. Just knowing that it’s on the way is good enough to ask for the renewal. After all, tomorrow they’re just going to give me a pile of forms to complete and give me an appointment to come later with all the supporting documents. That said …

“Please, please, Mr. Busy Bureaucrat,
don’t let 10 days mean two months!
I promise: the sooner we get it,
the sooner we’ll stop calling.”

P.S. — September 25 update:

Waiting at La Courneuve for the first tram to Bobigny, 5:36 am.

After spending 3 hours this morning in the cold and the dark waiting to get into the prefecture, they gave me some surprising news at the door: They’ve finally entered the 21st century, and everything I needed to do there today has to be done online! So, I went back home and did it. (Would’ve been nice to know before getting up at 4:45 this morning!) Now I get to wait five days for an email telling me when to come back with my documents. Keep your fingers crossed that our livret de famille comes before then!

P.P.S. — Read what happened next!

© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved


9 thoughts on “A Watched Pot Never Boils

  1. Good luck and lots of patience with all the paperwork. Please do keep us all updated on the outcome tomorrow. I hope this all works out really fast for you guys.

  2. Well, you’re getting closer. I have a feeling, and I think you do, too, that it will all end well. But there’s nothing like French bureaucracy to make things drag on….and on…..<3

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