I’ve been had

That’ll teach me to be overly eager.

…by overly efficient French bureaucracy.

Some explanation: To renew my vie privée carte de séjour, I have to have a PACS attestation that’s less than three months old. My prefecture appointment is July 2nd. Last year, when I wrote to Paris to get the attestation, it took three weeks to get it. So I thought I’d be all on top of things and write them on March 23rd. I’d get the attestation around two weeks later, right?

Wrong. Sigh. The Tribunal in Paris must have turned that attestation around in like five hours. I got it on March 26th. It’s worthless to me.

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Trust no one!

So this year, as I may have already mentioned, I’m asking for a “vie privée” carte de séjour. In English, that means a family residence permit. Since J and I are PACSed and not married, that means proving a year of living together, which we can do, because my residence card expires August 31st and we moved in together August 25th last year (I know, we cut it close, but there were just no good houses to be had before then).

All year long I knew I’d be applying to change status so I kept every bill we ever got. I had our renters’ insurance contract, our water and electric bills, our rent receipts, and since the prefecture asked for them, I got our separate (but same address) health insurance/social security attestations.

Back in May, J and I declared our taxes. The first year of the PACS you can still do it separately so we ran the application twice to see how much it would cost. Individually, it cost us 80 euros less. So we declared individually. At the time, I wondered if I would regret such a decision for a measly 80 euros.

Yes, yes I would. At my prefecture appointment a couple of weeks ago, I turned in everything and the agent said that I needed to bring in our “avis d’imposition” (tax notifications). I mentioned that we had declared separately and she said it didn’t matter, we could just get an attestation from the Tax Service saying we’d declared at the same address.

Turns out, after a couple of phone calls to the Tax Service and rummaging through J’s papers (he hadn’t kept a receipt of his internet declaration OR kept his original mail-in declaration), that J forgot to change his address when he declared. According to the tax service, he still lived at our old flatshare*. JOY. We wrote to them to change it, because he needs to pay his housing tax here and not there, but they can’t give us any sort of attestation since he sort of (precisely) declared, on his honor, that he lived somewhere else. JOY. The only thing we can have from the tax people with both our names on it at the same address will arrive in October or November, and that’s the housing tax.

I wrote a letter to the prefecture this morning saying all of those things, sending in MY receipt for my internet declaration (because I am organized like that), and hoping that they’ll let it pass this year, since the tax calendar doesn’t really lend itself to a residence card application in June (official tax bills won’t arrive till August).

What have I learned from this? I’ll be on J’s back from now on about any paperwork that might help me stay in the country.

I’m counting on this working out, as it always has, with more or less angst on my part. But honestly, I hate asking for a carte de séjour. It always reminds me that the French could kick me out of the country if they wanted to (though the ties to J through the PACS are a bit stronger than what I had before), and that normal people who live in their native countries don’t deal with this mess. It’s not even on their radar. They can feel free to screw up their taxes and without it messing up things for their copine.

*Oddly enough, our taxe d’habitation from two years ago, when we were just flatmates, has only our two names on it, without the other two flatmates.

Another New Year

Happy New Year everyone! Vacation ends tonight. I did everything ahead of time (well, I finished on Friday…) so that I would have the weekend of the réveillon stress-free. Ju got back from Spain in the wee hours of the morning Saturday, and we took off with some friends of ours before noon that day for Fontainebleau, southeast of Paris. J and his friends go there typically to rock-climb (boulder climbing) but this time was to celebrate the New Year and the housewarming party of two friends. I was a little disappointed to have a cold but I made the most of it. I’ve already started the voice-saving homeopathy pills in order to prevent what happened last time. The cartable is packed, my new USB drive included (thanks Mom), my lunch is made and ready in the fridge, and I have a new skirt to wear tomorrow.

Someone asked yesterday in the car ride home if 2011 had been a good year for each of us. In spite of the difficult job I’ve dived into head-first, I had to say yes, 2011 was a good year:

  1. I passed the CAPES (it already feels like ancient history).
  2. I moved in with J.
  3. I PACSed with J.

This post is a demonstration of two new words I’ve learned from being a professeur-stagiaire:

relativiser: Faire perdre à quelque chose son caractère absolu en le replaçant dans un ensemble, un contexte (larousse.fr).For me, to have perspective about something.

and

positiver: Présenter, envisager quelque chose sous un angle positif, constructif ; faire preuve d’optimisme. (larousse.fr). Or, to think positive.

PACSed!

Well, Juju and I got pacsed this morning. He got back late last night, or rather, early this morning from his week in Picardie + weekend at a rock-climbing competition halfway across the country. Then we got up at 8 this morning to get to the tribunal ten minutes late and wander around looking for the right room for another ten minutes. It was a lot of fun. The woman didn’t even ask for my special foreigner papers, so I had to mention them at the end to make sure she took them.

To celebrate, tonight we went to the Cafe Populaire in Poitiers.

In other news, I played a few songs with this band Saturday night at the Pilori in Poitiers, and plan to get caught up on the rest of their songs so I can play more!

Vacation!

It’s Christmas vacation! I had an awful week, in terms of morale at work, and am hoping the vacation will bring me back up. Since Poitiers’ Place D’Armes/Place Leclerc was finished last summer, the town is back to normal in terms of Christmas decorations:

Christmas season 2011 in Poitiers

Here is an explanation of all the Christmas activities in Poitiers. There’s no ice rink this year but the chalets de Noël are back on the Place D’Armes along with a beautiful, huge carousel and a big Christmas tree. The crèche vivante on the Place Notre Dame has a camel (a dromedaire in French where they make the distinction between an animal with one hump and an animal with two) and a baudet de Poitou, an endangered species. We stopped by to see the hairy baudet and he was in the process of eating one of the Christmas trees that had been placed not very thoughtfully right next to his stable.

It is a mess getting into and out of Poitiers in a car right now. I think I’m actually going to start parking my car at the parcobus and taking the bus in. Tomorrow I hope to do some exceptional Sunday grocery shopping and then head into town to grade papers at What’s Up Coffee which has very yummy bagel sandwiches. I discovered the yumminess of the bagel sandwiches yesterday when I went into town to pick up my new carte de séjour. The Vienne prefecture has been renovated as have the cartes de séjour, which are now credit-card-sized and biometric! I found this excessively exciting. As every year, I paid a completely different amount in stamp taxes from every other year I’ve had a carte de séjour.

Otherwise, J gets back from his week in Picardie tomorrow late because of a rock-climbing competition in Arnas this weekend, and we PACS first thing Monday morning. Then I have two whole weeks of nothing, except for grading/lesson planning and spending Christmas with J’s family, because I’m not going home this year! This will be my first French Christmas! Even my assistant year I managed to escape to England.

My new titre de séjour is ready!

The Poitiers prefecture. This is not the building for cartes de séjour OR carte grises (car registration). That building is way less pretty.

The prefecture in Poitiers has been a little ridiculous this year. Last year, everything was smooth:

  1. Appointment made for mid-August. I called a little late to get the appointment because I had wanted to wait for my contract to be ready, which was mid-July, by which time their earliest appointments were in October (my cds expired end of August). But in the same telephone conversation the woman found me an open appointment in August. Score.
  2. Actual appointment in mid-August. Besides some freaking out about justificatifs de domicile that I had forgotten to get till the last minute, this went smoothly. First and only récépissé delivered. I had to send in a few documents later (pay stubs, when the university re-opened).
  3. Convocation received in October to come pick up my new carte de séjour. Tax stamps bought to pay for the carte. Under three months time. Like I said, smooth.

This year, it was an entirely different story.

  1. Appointment made (in June this time) for early August. Papers filled out with the rectorat two weeks before.
  2. Actual appointment went smoothly (still a justificatif de domicile to send in afterward because I was about to move). Woman warns me to make a new appointment right away since it will possibly be more than three months this time. Appointment made right away for late October, the week before the récépissé expires.
  3. Actual appointment in October. Woman tells me that the carte should be ready “soon”, but says that I should make a new appointment just in case. I don’t have time to call immediately and leave for Tours for my training.
  4. I call four days later. There are no appointments available within three months. Woman on phone seems utterly unprepared for this possibility (surely am not the only one calling about this??? wtf Poitiers pref!). I make an appointment anyway for the 8th of February (after the new récépissé expires) and woman says to call again to see if there are any cancelations. I warn all my friends to make their new appointments in advance.
  5. I call this morning to see if there are any cancelations available. My appointment has already been canceled because my carte is ready! Woman informs me that the letter went out yesterday and my appointment to pick it up is, unfortunately, twenty-five minutes after my last class ends on a Thursday. Am going to try to trade that hour with someone because it seems there are no other possibilities for an appointment.

I have three primary reactions to this:

  1. WTF Poitiers pref?? Seriously?! No appointments available within three months and they just decide to not do anything about it.
  2. Things must sort of suck over there right now though. Numerous reports are circulating about the immigrants sent home because of new policies from Claude Guéant, the minister of the interior: (articles in English): The New York Times, Global Voices Online, Foreign Policy Blog. I wonder if this process might be screwing things up for the people working at the Poitiers pref.
  3. Relief. This was the first time I was asking for a carte de séjour not in the framework of a position expressly for a native speaker (assistant, lecteur, maître de langue), and I was slightly worried with the new immigration policies that I might get refused, even though this carte de séjour is still a temporary one, and so not really the target of these new policies. Every once in a while I’d worry that I might be refused, and have to stop working, and fight for my rights, or something, like this woman did (article in French, here in English).

I also got the last piece of paper for our PACS in December (certificat de non-PACS), so looks like everything paperwork-wise is pretty much set! (Till I ask for a vie privée cds next year!)