At the start of September we moved back down to Languedoc in the south of France for some much needed sunshine and blue sky. We intend to stay here for at least 12 months. After that we will look at our options for staying longer in France.
Changing location meant that we had to notify the relevant authorities of our change of address. First up was to notify immigration of our new address. A quick check on their website said we had 8 days to do it (oops, we moved 20 days ago) and we needed to make an appointment (for each or us) online at the sous-prefecture in Beziers. Ok, get online, made the appointment, now to assemble the required documents.
- Copy of ID, passports – check
- Copy of visa – check
- 3 passport photos – check
- proof of new address – check
- 4 (why 4 I don’t know) stamped, self addressed envelopes – check
We roll up to our scheduled appointment. Paige goes in first, I go in shortly after with a different interviewer. Lots of very fast french spoken (to us). The gist of all of that was that we do not need to notify them of our change in address and to come back in November when we want to renew our visa. Seems they don’t really care that they don’t know where we are. We are probably the least of their worries as I’m sure there are millions of people in France that they do not even know are there in the first place. But it once again highlights the discrepancy between policy and practice in French officialdom.
Second change was to notify the authorities responsible for car registrations of our change of abode. We could do this online. Just create an account with the online register and change our address. ok, did the first part, changed the address, all seemed ok. Logged out and got an email that basically said “Fail – go to the sous-prefecture”. Ok, check online, we need to make an appointment like last time and collect a pile of documents.
- proof of new address – check
- complete a form – check
- 1 stamped, self addressed envelope – check
So almost running late for our appointment, we arrived just in time (more road works) to find that we had to take a ticket. Ok, but we have a booked appointment? We take our ticket (Number 56) and head off to the carte gris (registration) section to find a crowd of people waiting. Ticket number 20 was the current active job. Yes, at the bottom of our ticket it also said that (in tiny print) that there were 36 others ahead of us. Ninety minutes later, ticket number 55 is called, followed by ticket number 57! WTF! We quickly interjected and managed to get ticket number 56 a look in. Our man at the counter seemed pleasant enough, we had watched his style during the last 36 tickets and he seemed that he would be a reasonable frenchman to deal with.
He didn’t want to know about the appointment, but wanted a copy of our ID and registration. Hang on, they weren’t on the official list of required documents? Luckily we had copies of said documents (coming out of our ears). We are learning fast!
Our man quickly detected that we couldn’t understand a word he said and spoke very s-l-o-w-l-y, in French, which makes all the difference, not! Well a little bit, thankfully. He said we would receive a sticker in the mail with our new address to stick on our carte gris.
He didn’t need the envelope and gave us 3 pieces of paper to take to the cashier down the hall. He did say the change was free, but we needed to take our 3 pieces of paper to the cashier anyway. The cashier took our 3 pieces of paper and gave us a single sheet of paper and a receipt for 0,00 euros. She said we would receive a sticker in the mail with our new address to stick on our carte gris (yes, we know!). Don’t know why they couldn’t do that then.
So now the French know where to send the speeding fines to the immigrants of no known address.
Our next appointment with the French officials is in November when we attempt to renew our visa for another 12 months. The list of required documentation is huge. I’m sure we will make a copy of every document we have that can help our cause, just in case, but probably we will only need a few of the required documents. Based on our experience, we are sure practice will be very different to policy.
Having said all that, the French public service officials have been wonderful. Accommodating, friendly and patient. Certainly, so far, practice has been preferable to policy.