As you can imagine, the immigration offices here in France have played (and continue to play) an important role in our transition. Since we are staying in France for more than three months, we were required to get a visa while we were still living in the States. Getting our visa involved putting together a large portfolio of documents detailing our purpose in France, how long we intended to stay, proof of income, proof of health insurance, and more. We currently have a Visitor visa which allows us to live in France, but we are prohibited from working for an employer here in country. Getting our visa involved a trip up to the French Consulate in Chicago. While tedious, it was a fairly straightforward process (find our blog post about our visit to the consulate here).
So, where does that leave us now? When we received our visas while we were still in the States, we also received a form that we had to mail into the immigration offices in France within 90 days of our arrival. This form tells the immigration offices, called L’Office Français de L’Immigration et de L’Integration, or simply OFII (pronounced O-Fee), that we want/need to get our carte de séjour. The carte de séjour is required for anyone staying in France over three months. (Note: We have heard that if you are staying in France for over three months but less than a year, that you might not need a carte de séjour. As this does not apply to us, we never investigated further, but if you find yourself in this position, it would be worth checking out.)
We mailed our form into OFII within the first few weeks of our arrival in France (mid-January). Pre-2017, the process to obtain a carte de séjour involved one visit to an OFII office to receive a medical exam and submit additional paperwork, such as proof of residency and payment. As of January 2017, the procedure changed. Instead of one visit, there are now two visits. Essentially, OFII split up the medical exam into its own appointment and the administrative side into another appointment.
We received our letter stating the date for our medical exams was in late March. With Maddie in tow (the older girls were in school), we headed up to an OFII office in Montrouge (~ 1 hr commute by train/bus). Our appointment was scheduled for 1 pm, but we were advised by others to get there early because a line starts to form. The “appointment” is a large group appointment where about 40-50 people are taken in for their medical exams, so it’s essentially first come-first serve.
Thankfully, we were near the front of the line and ushered in pretty quickly. As part of the medical exam, the nurses took our height, weight, blood pressure, and checked our vision, but the crux of the appointment was the x-ray that checks for tuberculosis (TB). At the very end, you are called into a doctor’s office where you are informed of the results of your x-ray, and then get a special form with an all-important stamp signifying that you have passed the medical portion for the carte de sèjour.
Glen’s whole process went flawlessly. He was done and had received his stamped paper in less than two hours. For Jessica, it was not so simple. Everything went fine until it was time to discuss the results of the x-ray with the doctor. She informed Jessica that her X-ray showed some abnormalities and that she would have to take more. To make a long story short(-er), Jessica ended up getting 6 x-rays that day over 4+ hours, and instead of leaving with the coveted stamped paper like Glen, she left with a referral to a pulmonologist to follow-up on her x-rays.
So this is where the Glen and Jessica’s OFII accounts differ. A few weeks after the medical exam, we both received letters notifying us of our second appointment where we were supposed to receive the carte de séjour in our passport. We collected all the required forms and papers, and went to a different OFII office in Créteil (1.5 hrs by bus). When our names were called, we went into a small office with an administrator who reviewed our paperwork. Jessica had received a medical form from the pulmonologist stating that she had “passed,” which is what she brought to the appointment. However, the form given was not the official form that had to be in the dossier. So, unfortunately, no carte de séjour for her yet. Thankfully, Glen had everything (and on the right letterhead with the right stamps!), so he could get his carte de séjour in his visa.
(As a side note for those who might need to go through this process, since we’re on a visitor visa, our carte de séjour cost 500€ total (250€/each). You must pay via timbres, which can be purchased online through the OFII website or at Tabac shops which are in all the cities in France. We opted to buy ours online.)
Where does all of this leave us with our carte de séjours? Obviously, Glen is good to go (praise God!), and we just need to look at renewing it before the end of December. For Jessica, she is currently working on getting the correct form with the right stamp from the first OFII office in Montrouge where she had her medical exam. Thankfully, we have a wonderful woman who works at our language school who has been helping us with phone calls and understanding the ins and outs of the system. Once Jessica receives this form, she must go back to the second OFII office in Créteil to get her carte de séjour.
It hasn’t been as straightforward and as easy of a process as we would have preferred, but moving to another country is never without it’s challenges. We are especially thankful for the friends who have helped us watch the girls on the days we’ve had our appointments.
The title of this post indicated that this was just Part I, so once Jessica’s situation is resolved we’ll follow-up with the results. Our prayer is that this will come quickly and without any more hiccups. If you are in the process of moving to France and need more details on the immigration process, please feel free to reach out to us with questions. While we can’t promise we will have the answers, we can always help you to find those who do!