Look what I got!

I like how the city I was born in was Frenchified.

I also registered to vote when I picked it up and J came with me to register at his new polling place (he’s been voting at the old one for a year). The woman at the mairie who handled these papers is also the one who handled the marriage application so she filled in a nom marital on my voting registration. I didn’t notice but J did and fortunately so because there’s obviously no nom marital on my ID card and I would likely have been unable to vote had she not fixed it.

I’m now free to circulate at will!

More Naturalization

Warning: This is a pretty boring administrative post!

Thanks to my sick leave and slowly increasing mobility, I was able to take care of one administrative procedure the past few weeks: applying for my French national ID card.

I’ve been in administrative limbo since I received the letter this summer telling me that I acquired French nationality on June 10th. I still had my titre de séjour (though logically it should have had no real value for a French citizen) till August 31st so I still went to Spain this summer on vacation. But since it expired I’ve felt pretty limited as far as leaving the country. I haven’t even had a real pièce d’identité on me since I don’t carry my US passport around with me for fun (especially now that it’s my only ID…). But mostly I haven’t had any way of proving my right to be in France, other than the letter I received in June.

After getting married in July, I was unsure whether to notify the naturalisation service or not. During the application process you are definitely supposed to let them know about any change, like your address or marital status. But technically my application process was over! I did end up e-mailing a scan of the acte de mariage to the naturalisations department at the prefecture who sent it on to somewhere and also told me that my papers should arrive sometime in September.

I don’t think that happened. I e-mailed the service at the beginning of October asking if my papers were in and if I could come get them and never got an answer. So I sent the exact same e-mail (seriously, copied and pasted) at the beginning of November when I did get an e-mail in response and a phone call for an appointment to pick them up. So I picked them up on a Friday morning, and they only included an excerpt of the official decree that naturalized me and my French birth certificate. That birth certificate had been printed on July 7th, before the wedding. I assume I could have asked for another copy of it any time since then! But since it was so old, I asked the guichet at the prefecture if I could get a newer one at the prefecture at the mairie in Poitiers, to which that woman said yes.

WRONG. The very nice man at the mairie in Poitiers told me that I would have to ask for it from Nantes where all French citizens born abroad have to do it. He showed me the phone number but I just asked for it online once I got home. (He also remarked on how weird it was that the naturalisation people couldn’t tell me that.)

The new birth certificate (with the marriage marked on it) came Wednesday and I immediately went to the mairie of our village to drop off my application for my French ID. It involved two ID photos, a justificatif de domicile (I took my taxe d’habitation eugh it was so expensive this year), a form to fill out on which I did NOT write a nom d’épouse, and the birth certificate. I have to call back in three weeks to see if it’s come in.

I actually asked for two copies of the birth certificate so I can next go on to applying for my French passport. Except that one costs money and requires another trip into town so I’m dragging my feet.

Naturalized

In preparation for the wedding, or more like the marriage, I’ve been getting my file ready to change status for my next titre de séjour. I even went so far as to get another copy of the translation of my birth certificate, and went over to the CAF for an attestation from them. Turns out it was all unnecessary because…

I’ve been French since June 10th!

Yesterday I slept in, ate lunch early, and got in the car to drive to La Rochelle to get my bac papers to grade. On my way out I thought about checking the mail but was entirely too lazy to do that. So, four hours later, when I got home, Julien had left an unopened envelope on the kitchen table from the French Ministry of the Interior.

Of COURSE it was my naturalization letter! I had planned on getting down to work immediately on my bac papers, but obviously had to go into town to celebrate instead. I feel like everyone should see it printed on my forehead, but of course nobody knows unless I tell them.

So I canceled my prefecture appointment for my now-unneeded titre de séjour and e-mailed a copy of the letter to my employer. I’m unfortunately, as far as I can tell, in some paper-less limbo now that means travel to the US or outside of the Schengen zone is potentially complicated, so fortunately I didn’t have any trips like that planned. Within six months I should get my French birth certificate and be able to request my French national ID card and passport. I’ll be awaiting it excitedly.

It’s been a great summer so far: a great birthday last Friday, a new nationality, and soon, a wedding.

Naturalisation: Drop-off and Interview

At 8 o’clock this morning I stepped out of the house and into my car to go to the prefecture for my 9 o’clock appointment, to drop off my nationality application. It should really only take twenty minutes to get to the prefecture, but it was rush hour, so I was taking no chances. And it’s a good thing I didn’t, because almost every road to get to the centre ville of Poitiers these days is apparently blocked off, or slowed down because the other access roads are blocked off. I was shivering in front of the prefecture at 8:40, waiting for it to open with about fifteen other people.

At 9:08 no one had called my name, and since I had class at 10:15, I went to the info desk to ask what was up. The desk agent happened to simultaneously receive a phone call from the naturalisation office asking me to come upstairs.

I was nervous about getting to school for 10:15 and I was right to be, because it wasn’t actually just a drop-off appointment, but also the interview, which I was not expecting or prepared for. I hadn’t really taken the time to think about what I might say about the valeurs de la République, about laïcité, about the veil being banned in public places (yes she did ask me about that!). She seemed fairly satisfied with my answers, though I did sort of feel some pressure to adhere to everything France claims to be about and to show my patriotic side, which was weird. I mean, I love France, but I’m not used to giving speeches about it.

If I’d been prepared I probably would have said more about a lot of things. There were some quiz-like questions about the name of the national anthem, France’s three-word motto (the way she asked this question totally threw me off, I had no idea what she was talking about), at what age students can leave school, etc. She also wanted to know what television I watch (umm… Les Reines du shopping? No I didn’t say that, though I did mention Dans la peau d’un chef), what French press I read (not much, much more into novels), what music I listen to. It felt strangely like an inquisition but I felt pretty confident in my affection for all things French.

There are some papers I have to send in that weren’t on the list (the calendar of our home loan payments, an attestation from the CAF…). There isn’t another interview. She told me the average waiting time for an answer is 9 months. I told one of my colleagues this afternoon and she said, “Enough time to have a baby!” Also, I got to work at 10:05, despite another road being blocked on the way there.

One other paperwork-related note—there were a few documents where she kept the original: my birth certificate, its apostille, and my FBI background check. I sure as hell hope they do not lose that last one because it will be a b*tch to get another.

Why become French?

A month from now I have an appointment to drop off my application for French citizenship.

Sometimes when I mention to people that I’m applying to be “naturalised,” they ask me why out of curiosity.

It’s true that French citizenship will simplify a thousand little different things for me. The rectorat will stop bugging me and creating unnecessary paperwork every year while waiting for me to renew my residence card. I’ll be able to stop renewing said residence card. I’ll be able to stop paying the 100-euro yearly tax to get that residence card. I’ll be able to stop asking for my American birth certificate six months before whatever official date demands it, in spite of the fact that American birth certificates never change (unlike French ones, where your marital status is marked). If our wedding were happening later, I would be able to avoid going to Paris for a certificat de coutume, again.

Am I forgetting anything? Feel free to add to the list of minor and major inconveniences of being a (legal) foreigner in France.

But really, that’s not the reason I want citizenship. Most of those things would happen anyway after three years of marriage with J.

The real reason I want citizenship is that I love France. I’m still gaga for it after all these years, even if I’m less rosy-eyed about it.

Sitting in an airplane as it lands in Paris still gives me a rush of satisfaction (even though I hate CDG). Walking through the downtown of a French city and looking up at the sky toward the historic buildings still gives me butterflies in my stomach. I love hearing it’s the country of “les droits de l’homme,” even if, like in the USA, that’s a value we have to defend all the time. I love the wine, the cheese, the tiny adorable villages, the weekly and daily markets. I love speaking the language, all the time.

France has also changed me in big and small ways. For a while, I dressed way cuter, and my fashion sense is still very different, even if this cute headband is lost and these sunglasses have broken.

France has also changed me in big and small ways. For a while, I dressed way cuter, and my fashion sense is still very different, even if this cute headband is lost and these sunglasses have broken.

These past couple of years I have nonetheless sometimes admitted to myself that if J and I broke up I would probably give up and move back to the States. I would probably have to, legally, but I also feel that so much of my French life has been built with him that France would be too tied to him to give me such satisfaction again alone. Who really knows. These two loves can be mixed together without me worrying too much.

Living in France has also become part of who I am and what I feel like I’m good at. When J is doing some athletic thing that I could never do, I try to remind myself that he’s never moved to a foreign country on his own, learned to speak the language fluently, and built a life out of putting two worlds together.

Add to all of these feelings the fact that J and I want to have French babies, and it’s not like I could really ever up and leave France without leaving ties behind once that happens (fingers crossed).

But my love for France will always be the first reason that I want to be French. I want to be able to politically engage, to vote and show that I care about this place and how it’s run and how that affects other French people, both new and old.

Nationality Application, Part 1

On September 15th I’ll have lived in France continuously for five years. In anticipation, I started collecting the papers for my nationality application over a year ago when I went in to the Prefecture for my titre de séjour appointment. Things are coming together pretty well now and I hope to drop off the application in October.

I have to say, my parents were a big help. For some of the documents, I couldn’t ask for them. The person concerned by the document had to (for example, my dad’s birth certificate). As soon as I mentioned this to them, they got all of the documents they could (both birth certificates and the marriage certificate) AND took care of the apostilles.

Surprisingly, though, the people at the naturalisations department of the prefecture are shockingly humane and logical as far as French bureaucracy goes. It’s like they spend years getting foreigners used to their strict, unreasonable rules, and then for the nationality request everything makes incredible sense. Here are the two examples I have.

1) The language test. For the past few years, every nationality applicant has had to prove proficiency (level B1 or B2, I don’t remember) in French. Manuel Valls (previously Minister of the Interior, now Prime Minister), waived this requirement for everyone who has a French university level diploma. He also said anyone who fails the test can make it up during the naturalisation interview. I was going to go ahead and take the test, but it turned out it cost 68 euros, and let’s face it, those are 68 euros I’d rather spend on something else. So I wrote to the minister of the interior to ask if the CAPES could validate my level of French. I got an answer a couple of months later (in the meantime the government had changed—bad timing) from the prefecture saying that yes, the CAPES would work fine.

2) The criminal background check. A lot of Americans in France have encountered the problem of the FBI background check in France. The FBI wants your fingerprints, and no one in France wants to take them for you (something to do with rights). A few years ago for the CAPES, I jumped through the hoops of getting my fingerprints taken by the American Aide Society in Paris, which no longer exists. I requested and got my FBI background check but never actually had to show it to anyone for the CAPES. So I held on to it. I was getting ready to get my fingerprints taken in the US this Friday when we’ll be there briefly before we go to Canada, when it occurred to me that I should at least ASK if the document from 2011 was still valid. I e-mailed the prefecture last Thursday night and got an answer Friday morning—yes of course it was.

So now I just have nine pages to get translated, a bordereau de situation fiscale to receive from the centre des impôts, and my bulletins de salaire for the summer to pick up at the rentrée. Then I can call the prefecture and make an appointment to drop it all off. This is happening a tad sooner than I thought, since I expected to have to wait for the FBI background check to come back. To be honest, it’s possible I’ll get a ten-year card from the prefecture this fall and the nationality request won’t be so pressing. But I didn’t bother to provide the documents necessary under the pref’s separate “carte de résidence” list this summer, so I’m not counting on it.

In other news, tonight J and I will take the train to Paris, to catch a flight to Vancouver tomorrow. We’ll sleep in Vancouver tomorrow night and head down to the San Juan Islands Thursday to meet up with my family, chill out, and go to my brother’s wedding Saturday. Then Sunday we’ll work our way back up to Canada to go to the final day of the Squamish Music Festival, with, among others, Atmosphere’s show at 7 o’clock. I am SO pumped. (Of course, the wedding will be fun too.)