To live in France full-time for our initial year here, our first step was obtaining a visa from the French consulate in Miami. Once we arrived in Carcassonne we then had to make an appointment with the Immigration Office in Montpellier for a medical checkup that would qualify us to stay here legally for the duration of that one-year visa. Three months before that expired we visited our local Préfecture (think, Federal Building, in US terms) to arrange for a time to drop off copies of our financial statements, utility bills and a few other documents to prove that we actually lived here and had the resources to support ourselves. A one-year carte de séjour (residency card) has annually been the result. We’ve been repeating that process each winter since our arrival in February 2016 and you can read about that in our blog post Fort-unate that includes a link to the post from the prior year. This week we obtained our newest carte de séjour with only a few minor changes from the previous experiences.
Although Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday here, the date of the 4th Thursday in November has stuck with us as important for another reason: it’s time to visit the Préfecture to obtain an appointment to drop off those documents mentioned above. If you’re wondering what we had to provide, we just followed the application they gave us when we made our appointment and put each original and copy in order as it was listed on the handout. The documents for each of us were:
- Current carte de séjour
- Marriage license
- Proof of income
- Bank statements
- Handwritten letter promising not to work in France
- Utility bill
- 4 passport-size photos
- Self-addressed stamped envelope
- Tax stamp receipt for 269€
We arrived a few minutes before our 9:20 AM rendez-vous, were greeted with a smile and a handshake by the security guard, dropped off our paperwork, and were back out the door by 9:30 AM. Three weeks later we each received an SMS text message, one day apart, to come back to the office to pick up our renewed cards, which we did this past week. Next stop in 11 months: we get to request a 10-year card instead of the annual ones we’ve received so far.
Reference dates for residence card renewal:
November 26—went to the Préfecture to secure a renewal appointment
January 31—appointment date to turn in documents for renewal
February 26 & 27—received SMS texts that the renewed cards were ready for pickup
Tips and additional information:
- This year’s application form asked for additional information never before requested such as language(s) ability, parents/siblings, and education.
- Our Préfecture opens at 8:30 AM and issues only 20 tickets per day to talk with an immigration officer. Appointments can be requested by email but we went in person to obtain the current application and required documents list in advance.
- Bill and I each had a set of identical documents so, for example, I had an original and a copy of each of his financial documents and he had mine.
- The term “original” is obvious for an item such as a passport. For others, like bank statements and utility bills, that can only be printed from online accounts, the first page out of the printer becomes the “original” followed by its “copy” duplicate. We marked each page with either an “O” or a “C” to make it easy for the immigration officer to find what she or he needs.
- We have never translated any of our documents from English into French. For our 10-year card application next year we anticipate needing a traducteur assermenté (sworn translator) for some of the paperwork at a price of 50€ to 100€ per page depending on how quickly you need the documents.
As always in our experience here, when you follow the rules, give them exactly the documents they want in the order requested, include a smile, a bonjour, and conclude with a merci, you get treated in a respectful and friendly manner and receive what you’ve been seeking.