Monday, August 05, 2019

Being illegal alien for 8 days

My resident card was expired and I only got the new one 8 days after. I was not sure if I was legally staying in France, since the Prefecture didn't give me a temporarily one. I only had a letter with me stating that I could pick up my new card on which day. Luckily I didn't plan to leave the country so life just went on as usual. I only got a notice from my HR asking me to send them the new card as soon as I have it.

The whole renewal process has changed since last time. We had to take an appointment online, directly with the Prefecture (not my local Town Hall anymore). I couldn't find information regarding how many month in advance I need to start the renewal process, so I played it safe. Went to the website in December 2018, 7 months before my card expired, and got myself an appointment in March 2019. It was a smart move, as in May I went to the website to check again, the earliest appointment I could get was in October. It would be a big problem if I got an appointment after the card expired.

I was choosing which category I could apply, and I tumbled into an EU permanent resident status, where you no longer need to renew your card. It was permanent, forever. I photocopied all the documents : income taxes, payslips, proved of residency, a statement saying that I would follow the values practice in France...All these were useless. The officer only took the prove of my address (an electricity bill) and my photos. She told me I came in too early, since my card was still valid she didn't need to give me a temporarily one. And, she told me I can only apply the one category : marrying a French. I have to renew it every 10 years. She said she would send me a letter in April telling me when I can come to pick up my card.

I left the Prefecture with a very sad feeling. The whole atmosphere made me felt like a second class citizen, like I was begging them to let me stay. In fact they didn't do anything to me, but an officer was yelling to people in waiting room. There were lots of foreigners, begging to get an appointment because they didn't know how to do it on internet, some didn't come with the right documents, or the original documents... they were anxious, they were hopeless...

April came, I didn't get any letter from the Prefecture. I started to get worry, because how if they didn't take into account my renewal application. I have no proof that I was there. I sent the Prefecture an email, but no reply. Luckily, in early May, the letter finally arrived. I was to collect my new card 8 days after my current expired, even though I started the renewal process 4 months in advance.

Came the day to collect my card, I arrived in the Prefecture, and saw a line queuing from the building outside. Since I have an appointment, an officer let me in directly. But people in line, they mainly came to ask questions. Like, their cards expired in two months, and the earlist appointment online they could get were in 5 months. And they needed to leave the country. A very messed up situation if you asked me. I so didn't want to be in their shoes. I was observing people around me when waiting for my name to be called. This time the atmosphere was a lot better. The officer who was yelling last time stayed calm this time. She was very polite and  helpful. Someone didn't pay the duty fee, she said ok and allowed him to come next time. Ok, I paid 269€ for this renewal, I wonder if that person was waiting for his salary to arrive before he could afford to pay the fees. 

It was a no hassle process for me. Book an appointment online, pay the fees online, come one time for the renewal process, another time to pick up the card. The appointment times were pretty much respected. However, for people who are not family with computer and internet, who have complicated situations and need to ask questions, it could be a very stressful situations. Long queues every time at the information counter, and they are not always courteous.

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