Social Security Saga: Getting l’assurance maladie in France (part 2)

So where did we leave off? (Pretend I’m the grandfather in The Princess Bride about to launch into something epic. Because French bureaucracy is like an R.O.U.S. that jumps out of the fire swamp and attacks when you least expect it.)

In case you missed it, I told you about the hoops the French assurance maladie made me jump through like a circus animal, and how they lost my dossier and made me start over. I finally resubmitted everything in December and was told my dossier would be processed in a few weeks.

And it was… kind of.

I returned from the US to France in early January, and a fat envelope from l’Assurance maladie  was waiting in my mailbox. At first I was happy – finally, a response! No more waiting! But as I mounted the five flights of stairs to my apartment, that fat envelope started to feel heavier in my hand – maybe it wasn’t good news after all. Sure enough, they had returned my entire dossier, saying I was missing necessary documents.

The “missing documents” were in the envelope with the rest of my dossier. Literally, in the same envelope with the paper that said they were missing. How is this possible?? Did they even look at my dossier? Was this some kind of psychological torture for foreigners? WTF, France?

French bureaucracy is always a gamble
French bureaucracy is always a gamble

So back to the office of l’Assurance maladie I went. I put on my nicest face, and sweetly explained that there seemed to have been some mistake, as there was nothing missing from the goddam dossier. The lady, visibly underwhelmed by my presence, did her best to find something wrong with my file. She sniffed through all the papers, called in her supervisor, and made a few phone calls. Finally, she triumphantly announced that she had found the problem. It was my birth certificate, she said. The state of California had not placed the official apostille stamp to their liking, and so they could not accept it.

I was dumbfounded. First of all, if that was actually the problem, wouldn’t they have said THAT in their obnoxious letter instead of inventing an excuse about missing documents? Second of all, what did she expect me to do? Call up the California Secretary of State and ask her to please FedEx me a new stamp customized to the liking of Madame Sécu ?

No, actually, she expected me to go to the American consulate and ask for something mysterious that she scribbled down on a scrap of paper. Dubious. When I wanted to know what it was and why, she brushed me off with annoyance.

“That’s not my problem, entre guillemets,” she shrugged. Seriously?

To top it off, when I called the American consulate, they had no idea what the woman was talking about, and they confirmed the stamp on my birth certificate was completely standard.

“Yup, she’s pretty much crazy and incompetent,” they said. Welcome to France.

I was ready to bash my head into a wall, so I did what I do every time I’m mad at France and it’s too early to go to the bar. I went to the boulangerie.

Pain aux raisins
It’s hard to be mad at the country that makes pain aux raisins

Luckily, the next time I went back to l’assurance maladie (sixth time’s the charm?) they took the 100% complete and satisfactory dossier off my hands to be processed. I didn’t even have to wait in line.

Within a couple weeks, I had my temporary French social security number. Win!

It only took five months.

And the actual carte vitale? The clock is still ticking on that one – eight months and counting. Keep your fingers crossed!

 

Update: I finally received my carte vitale in late August 2014. 

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4 thoughts on “Social Security Saga: Getting l’assurance maladie in France (part 2)

  1. All bureaucrats must use the same training manual. I once had the Internal Revenue Service reject a tax return because I mailed it with a (required) attachment. They told me I needed to mail the tax return and the attachment in separate envelopes … TO THE SAME ADDRESS !!!

    1. Totally ridiculous! Once I took my paperwork in person to the immigration office (which is preferable in some regions) and they told me that I had to mail it. To the office I was physically standing in. They wouldn’t accept my file otherwise!

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