Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's Visa Time Again

Wow, so we've been really bad keeping up with life around here with you all. A lot has happened in these past three weeks including a trip to Bristol for Thanksgiving, but we'll get back to that in the next post. For now, let's relive the 'fun' of renewing my visa which happened only yesterday....

Remember back when when I actually made the appointment to get this? Yeah, it was last July upon returning to France for the summer and the earliest date they had available was December 4th. My visa was to expire the end of September, and I'm thinking, how in the world could their system be this backed-up? Oh wait, because it's France, and remember, Adam STILL does not have his official visa yet EITHER. So anyways, I don't know how many hours I spent going over and over and over the required documents I had to bring to make sure everything was accounted for. (oh yeah, and they want all your documents translated into French as well, fun).

And here I am only a visitor (probably the easiest visa to get) and yet I'm still panicking. I had all my ducks in a row, but I did not have my original birth certificate (really? who carries that with them?), and I didn't have it officially translated (again, seriously?). Visa offices are notorious for simply sending you away to come back at some other inconvenient time because you were missing one thing, or they decided to ask for a totally random item. Uh, it makes me nervous just thinking about all this again.

This is a bit of a stretch, but not too far from the truth. And yes, 
I even brought my mini stapler JUST in case.

Luckily, Adam took the afternoon off to come with me to the Prefecture, and I was glad to have the moral support. Entering though an unassuming door from a quiet hallway, we were blasted with the heat of too many people in one waiting room. Yep, we were going to be here awhile.

As we waited in line to check in, we watched those before us to pick up on clues as of what to do. One guy stood at the desk asking god knows what, and all we could hear the receptionist say was (in french) "where do you live? what arrondissement do you live in? what - arrondissement - do - you - live - in???!!! " The man looked so confused, and said he only knew spanish (doh!). The lady replied simply, "and I don't speak spanish!." The man left the desk looking frustrated, and I felt so bad for him. But really? You can't even pick up on the word arrondissement (meaning neighborhood...the thing that defines your address in Paris)? The next guy stepped up and apparently didn't have any photocopies of his documents. Again, seriously? Besides showing up in person, that's one of the main requirements. God you've got to have some patience to work in an environment like this. I'm still trying to decide if the heat in the room was from all the tension of those waiting or from the boiling annoyance from the staff.

Ok these people were making me feel better about myself, but somehow, I was still shaking as I approached the desk to check in. Things actually went pretty smoothly, because, yeah, I guess I actually had my shit together and I knew a little french. bonus. I was given a number and had to go wait with the rest of the sheep just hoping the actual meeting would go smoothly.

And hour later, I was finally called, and Adam and I went to the desk of the lady reviewing my paperwork. And that's when the birth certificate issue arose. "What? you don't have this translated? You know this needs to be translated" I felt like saying, I can translate every bit of this for you right now. It's not that difficult to see that there's my name, there's the hospital, and there's the date. Look, the date even matches my passport. Magic! No instead I had to play dumb and simply say I forgot this time. At least I knew how to say that in french. She left her desk with my copy and my heart began to sink. We had asked a friend who in the world translates birth certificates, and she told us of a guy through the embassy, but when she tried, it took over a month. Again, really?! The woman returned and said she'd let it slide this time, but for next time (haha, there won't BE a next time) I had to have ALL things translated. She went to pull up my file on the computer and then said, "Oh, I can't find your file, go back and wait in the reception, and I'll call you up later" Again, I was thinking, what?! How do you not have me on file. I couldn't even have made an appointment if I wasn't on file. Again, expecting the worst, I went back to the waiting room, hoping to dear god I didn't have to reapply (wait, that's what I was there for THIS TIME) or god knows what.

Luckily, she called me back shortly after and had a recépicé (the paper that says they're working on your papers) that counts as a temporary resident's permit along with another rendezvous scheduled for the beginning of February, a whole 4 months before I move back. Wow, isn't this all so efficient? All things considered, things went fairly smoothly minus a few misunderstandings in which Adam stepped in and helped out. I thought I'd be walking out with and updated visa, but who am I kidding? None of this crap happens in only one step. At least now Adam and I are both 'legal' again with some scary mug shot docs to prove it.

Yes, having official foreign appointments like this makes me more nervous than anything in the world. Why? Who knows. I guess I just get worked up on that possibility of not understanding in a moment that's so critical to understanding. And in getting worked up, I tend to blank out. Yes, ALL of this is in French, and I'm no genius at it yet. And we're not talking about knowing how to say stupid things like "I would like a coffee please" or "where is the nearest metro". No, this is a real deal interviewing situation that determines if you remain legal or not. I'm and American and only a visitor, so thank god I have it easy. I can only imagine what foreigners have to go through in the US to do the same.

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