Home > Everyday Life > I Have Arrived In France!

I Have Arrived In France!

No, you aren’t having déjà vu.  No, I am not being an air head. I have arrived in France officially.  This week was an important one, I had my entry interview with the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII).  This interview could not have come soon enough.  Part of the visa process here in France is to pick up your permit de travail (work permit) at the French Embassy in your native country (i.e. Washington D.C. for me) and then to go through a series of interviews with the local OFII office in the area of France you are choosing to reside.  The result of passing this interview is that you receive your carte de séjour, the official declaration from the French government that you are registered resident of the country.  For now, my carte de séjour will reside as a page in my passport but if I stay longer than 3 years, they will issue me a formal ID card with my picture.

I'm Cleared!!

I'm Cleared!!

My interview lasted the entire afternoon on Monday.  Of course I wasn’t alone, there was a classroom full of non-French citizens waiting desperately to be sanctioned into the land of 530 cheeses.  There was a general briefing at the beginning to review key forms.  Luckily I already had a job so my paperwork was less than some of the other individuals who were still in the process of looking for work in France.  Then they would call us each one by one into the grand hallway.  Each of us took our turn in the separate offices that outlined the hallway.  One office was an opportunity to have a one-on-one session with one of the agents for general questions.  Another office they took an X-ray of your chest for TB clearance.  Another office was a doctor to do a basic eye exam.  Another office was a general medical interview for medications and past hospitalizations.  Finally I had my linguistic meeting to see if I knew enough French to survive in the country.  If I failed this one, the government would require me to take so many weeks of French class (government sponsored) on my Saturday mornings.  Clearly I passed in spite of the fact I was a little overwhelmed by the process and my French phrasing was short and broken.  I did get complemented by the woman stating vous parlez sans accent (you don’t have an accent).

Office français de l'immigration et de l'intégration

Office français de l'immigration et de l'intégration

In any case, after almost 4 hours of bouncing around the OFII like a ping-pong ball I walked out in hand my linguistic certificate, medical certificate and the seal of approval, carte de séjour.  Yet my love affair with the OFII is not over yet.  There are two all day training courses that are required of everyone.  One session is on civic law going over the rights you have in France.  I am actually looking forward to this session as I believe there will be a lot of helpful information.  The other session is more about the life and culture of the French people.  They better serve wine and cheese at that session are else it wouldn’t be considered French at all. 😉  My two sessions are scheduled for later in November.

Another critical point about this appointment is that now Amadeus can officially sponsor me for my social security number. Since they were the ones offering me the work contract, they have to be the one to apply to the social security department on my behalf.  Part of the application requires a copy of the carte de séjour.  Receiving my official social security number will truly be the last step in my integration process.  Until I have that magical number, I have to pay for all medical bills 100%.  It will be a major relief to have that number in case something were to go wrong medically and allowing me to easily go into any hospital in France (or Europe for that matter) and not have to worry about a single bill.  🙂  I will have another post on that subject alone later on.

I have to say in conclusion that this integration process has been a little odd.  For one, I sat in the OFII classroom looking at the big picture of Sarkozy on the wall smiling big to all the soon-to-be French residents.  Outside of that classroom is a political state actually deporting groups of individuals (the gypsies) to their native land.  Outside of that classroom is a political state seriously considering a second class citizenship for anyone not born in France.  It is fascinating to witness France’s own xenophobia that is becoming very contagious these days.  France, like the States, does advertise that it has open arms to welcome individuals to become a resident or citizen . . . but to a limit.  Other countries like Germany and Italy are also grappling with similar immigration issues.  Who qualifies to be let in?  Who does not? I have been in total shock that the state of France has waited 4 months before proceeding with this immigration interview.  Really?  You are just letting a total stranger wander into your country for this long without documenting him? Of course  I am not a threat and I am sure the state knows that fact.  I have a job and contributing to French society.  I am already paying taxes.  I am an American.  I am sure there are other immigrants that they need to spend more time to figure out the answer to their integration.  (Plus you can’t overlook the sluggish pace of governmental bureaucracy in general)  Despite one’s political persuasion, the western world needs an immigration flow for continued economic prosperity.  The challenge faced by everyone is how to control it.

So as I file away my certificates and lock away my passport / carte de séjour, I have another gift from the French state to deal with – my x-ray.  A clear view of my chest; a proud emblem of my integration.

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Categories: Everyday Life
  1. Russell
    26 September 2010 at 12:23 am

    I hope you’ll frame the x-ray and hang it in your séjour or pièce à vivre (choose one). Breathe deeply.

  2. Andrew Keenan
    28 September 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Hay Old buddy

    Sure do miss you around here. I went to the Memorial for Tom Peadan last Sunday. It was very nice tribute. I saw your friend Anna. She and Emmanuail are engaged. Renata wants to hear form you so when you get a chance drop her a note. Not much new with me just taking class and working. I do enjoy reading your blog.

    Take care

    Andrew

  3. London
    30 September 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Thanks Andrew for the update! I will have to follow up with Renata with a personal note and not about the AF website!

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