Well, at least I had the sense to put a question mark when I titled this post “The End?” of my battle with the préfecture.
Because of course it wasn’t the end. That would have been too simple.
In case you missed it, I went to the prefecture not once, not twice, but three times in order to finally get my récépissé, the piece of paper that gives me the right to stay in France until I get my carte de séjour, the official legal card. And they said something along the lines of, “Congratulations, you have shown great patience and determination in this quest and will now be awarded the golden récépissé. Come back in October for your carte de séjour (and in a year you can do it all over again! Bienvenue en France.)”
And silly me, I thought I could just come back in October and get my carte de séjour. Oh, so naive.
Anyway, I came back to Lyon after a month of frolicking in Paris, and I was in for a rude awakening in the form of a scary letter from la DIRECCTE. Um, who? DIRECCTE, I found out, gets to decide whether or not I have the right to work in France, and they had sent me a letter at the beginning of August, requesting that I provide them with lots of documents that were “missing” from my dossier, most of which I didn’t even possess, and I was supposed to do it within 10 days. A month had already passed.
I suppose in hindsight that the letter was less threatening than I took it to be, but I immediately freaked out. Had they canceled my carte de séjour request? Would I have to make another 5 am visit to the préfecture to restart the whole process? What if I lost my job over paperwork and got sent back to the U.S.? I nearly gave myself an ulcer.
The following day, Mr. DIRECCTE was not available to take my call before 2 p.m. so I spent the morning contacting people who might be able to help me obtain the so-called missing documents. The problem was that my former employer was not technically the school I worked at but the rectorat, the office that manages public schools for the area, and the rectorat wasn’t accepting calls for another two weeks.
When I finally got Mr. DIRECCTE on the phone, he determined that I had been sent the wrong letter and that I needed to provide a completely different set of documents. (That was good news, but seriously?! They sent me the wrong threatening letter?!) He was difficult to understand, but he kept insisting “Vous avez un poste, mais vous n’avez pas le droit de travailler.” (“You have a job, but you do not have the right to work.”) Cue nervous breakdown.
Here’s the thing: I later found out that it is totally normal for DIRECCTE to ask for these additional documents after the préfecture visit, but since no one had ever mentioned that to me, I thought it was an indication of a problem with my dossier, and that if they didn’t like the justification I provided, I could be denied the right to work, and thereby lose my right to continue living in France. In reality, it was just routine paperwork. In fact, I couldn’t have done it earlier even if I had wanted to, because they required paperwork from my employer, and since my employer is a university, everyone was on vacation until September anyway.
So after two trips to DIRECCTE and a fourth trip to the préfecture, I was told that my dossier was finally complete and I could come back in a few weeks to pick up my carte de séjour!
Of course, that’s what they told me last time.