If you can’t say anything nice …

Hey everybody! Guess what? I have my new family visa residency permit! I picked it up this morning at the sub-prefecture in Saint-Denis — the little satellite office of the main prefecture in Bobigny. You’re surely thinking that I must be on cloud nine, right?

Well, read on …

First, let me take you back a few days. Do you remember when I applied to renew my residency permit and change my status from “student” to “private and family life”? That was almost three months ago. My récépissé (the little paper proving I’m legally here even though my old permit has already expired) is valid only until February 18, so I decided to e-mail the prefecture this week to check on the status of my file. I got a response on Tuesday:

Bonjour, Votre carte est disponible …” “Good day, Your card is available …


I wrote back immediately, saying that I’d come to pick it up as soon as possible and asking how much the fees were. I got impatient, though, and decided not to wait for a reply. I’d just go down to the sub-prefecture and ask about the fees directly. (My sixteenth visit to the prefecture since April 2011.) That was yesterday. They told me that I’d need 106€ in revenue stamps, my passport, my récépissé, and my old residency permit in order ro pick up the new one. So I collected everything I needed and went back this morning bright and early. (My seventeenth visit to the prefecture since April 2011.) When I got my “you are number X” ticket at the front door, I was number A002. Yes! Just one person ahead of me. It seemed like today was going to be my lucky day!

At the service window, the agent quickly located my file with my new permit, and as she prepared the paperwork for me to sign, I asked her how long the new permit would be valid. (I was hoping for ten years, but expecting one.) When she furrowed her brow, though, I realized something was wrong.

“Oh … there’s a problem with your card.”

<dum dum dum dum … >

“I need to call my manager.”

< … dum dum dum dum duuuuuum>

This did not bode well.

When the manager arrived, he spoke briefly with the agent, then took my file and escorted me to another desk in another part of the sub-prefecture.

“They made an error at the prefecture in Bobigny. Your card has already expired.”

<dum dum dum dum … >

Yes! Believe it or not, my “new” residency permit had an expiration date of December 18, 2013 … 2013! The prefecture had apparently simply copied the dates from my old card. I simply couldn’t believe it. The very apologetic manager reassembled my file and said he’d send it back to Bobigny for “priority” processing.


“Can you tell me how long will it take to receive the new card?” I asked hopefully.

“Several weeks.”

The word “several” echoed in my head.

“But my récépissé expires on February 18. Could you give me a new one?”

“Unfortunately, sir, I can’t. You will have to go back to Bobigny after it expires to ask for a new one.”

< … dum dum dum dum duuuuuum>

You all do remember Bobigny, right? Waiting in line for 3 hours just to get inside? The “spot-brokers” selling places farther ahead in line? Arriving at the service window only to be told that there are no more tickets available for the day and to come back the next morning even earlier? Essentially being treated like cattle in a holding pen?

Yeah …

… so …

… I’m not pleased.

Of course, I could rail on and on about this like I did earlier on the phone with Michel when I was France-bashing, but I’m just too tired right now. Besides, my mother taught me that if I can’t say anything nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all. So, I’m just going to keep my mouth shut until I have something positive to say about the lazy, incompetent, insouciant paper-pushers at Bobigny and Saint-Denis …

… or I could just go sit by Clairee Belcher:

© 2014 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved


8 thoughts on “If you can’t say anything nice …

  1. I have always wondered what the people behind these desks/windows do all day and how are files processed. Just if you’re wondering, it’s almost the same in the U.S. for processing any visa, green card and citizenship. It’s a whole new world out there when it comes to counting on people to do their jobs correctly, you just happened to experience it in France.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s