How to live and work in France

Note: I recently blogged about the visas and jobs that have allowed me to live in France over the last 3+ years. This post is about all the different long-stay working visas for France that I know of, because I’ve received quite a few inquiries on this topic. My previous post doesn’t discuss most of these options, since they don’t apply to me personally. There are other ways to legally live and work in France that are not listed here. This list is based on my personal experience and research. Some of you may know more than I do about some of these visas, so please feel free to jump in with additional information in the comments.

People contact me often with questions about teaching English in France. Some find me through my blog, some find me through the International TEFL Academy alumni group. I am totally happy for people to reach out to me with questions. I had so many questions before I came here, and I’m still grateful for the supportive expat community.

But when I looked back on the questions I received last year, I realized that almost no one had taken the time to say thank you for the long and detailed messages I wrote. That was a little discouraging. So I’m writing this to make everything I know accessible in one place. If you’ve read this and done your research and you still have questions, I would love to hear from you and I’m happy to take the time to answer your questions, share resources, and tell you about my experience teaching in France.

If you have questions about teaching English in France, I’ve written lots of stuff about it here including how I got my jobs and my visas. Right now I’m going to focus specifically on ways to get a long-stay visa that allows you to work in France.

(And I’ve included a ton of additional resources, because I am not the first person to write about French bureaucracy.)

I am an American citizen, so most of my knowledge comes from an American perspective. If you are from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and some other countries, you may be able to obtain a working holiday visa. (Sorry, Americans! No working holiday visa in France for us.) Check with your local French consulate.

Actually, that’s just a good idea in general. Go to your local French consulate’s website and read about visas. They have a lot of information. (I’ve gotten visas in Chicago and San Francisco.)

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. This is simply the information I have to give anyone who contacts me about legally living in France. Please consult your consulate, a lawyer, or at least a wider expat forum for more information.

Have an EU passport

If you have an EU passport, get out of here! You already have the right to work legally in France. Even if you are not European, sometimes European heritage can get you dual nationality. So if your parents or grandparents immigrated in the last century, check out the rules of the country they came from. (Start at the country’s consulate website.) You’ll probably need a lot of birth, death, and marriage certificates.

Marry a French citizen

Boom, a French spouse gets you a vie privée et familliale visa, which gives you the right to live and work in France. You have to renew it every year for three years and then you can get a ten-year visa. During that time, you can apply for French nationality, if you wish.

PACS with a French citizen

PACSing often gives you a vie privée et familiale visa if you have proof of cohabitation and already live in France, although there’s no guarantee of a visa with PACS. (PACS is a civil union.) You usually need to have proof of at least year of cohabitation in France in order to get a resident’s permit as a pacsé(e). Emily wrote a great post on this here.

Student Visa

A student visa gives you the right to work about 20 hours/week. You must be enrolled as a full-time student. (If you want to live in Paris, Studying at the Sorbonne by Where Is Bryan? is great.)

If you want to live in France long-term, getting a degree from a French university opens a lot of doors in terms of legal status and employment (plus, it’s cheap!)

If you complete a two-year master’s program in France, you are normally eligible for a work visa for the year after you complete the program. This may lead to other options after the year is up.

TAPIF language assistant program

This program will place you in a school (or two or three), hopefully in one of the regions you requested. It gives you the right to a travailleur temporaire visa. I’ve written about the program here.

Lecteur/Lectrice visa

This is a university teaching position for foreigners that allows you to have a one-year visa (renewable one time at the school’s discretion. You cannot be a lecteur/lectrice at another university – two years total as a lecteur/lectrice is the legal limit.) Your status may be travailleur temporaire or salarié, depending on how the préfecture/your consulate is feeling. I’ve blogged about being a lectrice here.

Franco-American Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Trainee Visa

This visa is for Americans who have a four-year degree and are under 35. You must first obtain a work contract that meets the requirements, and then they will provide you with a visa for up to 18 months. More information here. (P.S. I’ve never actually met anyone on this visa, so if you’ve done it, do tell.)

Au Pair Visa

If you get a job as an au pair, you will be allowed to live in France. The visa requires you to take French language classes part-time. The pay is usually low, but your living expenses will be taken care of. (Read How To Become An Au Pair from Ashley, who was an au pair in France.)

Research Scientist

I am not terribly familiar with this visa, but I have met people who were in France as chercheurs. Expatica says, “If you have a master’s degree or above, and you are going to be carrying out research or teaching at university level, then you are eligible for temporary ‘scientific activity’ residence permit (carte de séjour temporaire ‘mention scientifique’). This is valid for one year but can be renewed yearly for up to four years.”

Compétances et Talents Visa Passeport Talent

The Compétences et Talents visa has been replaced by the “Passeport Talent,” which breaks the talent visa down into categories. The idea is to simplify the whole process, although that doesn’t always work out in every situation. Read more in French here and in English here.

Work visa sponsored by employer

This is very rare for English teachers, but never say never. Your employer can sponsor your visa but most will not because it is expensive and complicated for them, and they have to justify why they chose not to hire a French person. The request can be denied if the government feels they should not hire a foreigner. There are many ways for companies to hire native English speakers without this hassle – there are many E.U. nationals and anglophones with long-stay working visas. Most English teaching jobs specify that you must have working papers to apply. If you are an in-demand specialist (think more software engineer, less English teacher), this one may work for you!

Note that when I say “English teacher,” I am mainly referring to people with a TEFL certificate or a year or two of experience as a language assistant, since the majority of anglophones who come to France to teach English for a short period of time fall into this category. If you are a certified teacher with classroom experience, you may be able to get a job teaching at a private or international school. Dana has written a great post about how she got her job at an international school here.

Alternatively, your existing employer in your home country could send you overseas to work temporarily or long-term. (If you’re married, your spouse will probably not be able to work in France, depending on the type of visa they’re eligible for, but they can come and hang out with you.)

———-

Please note that I am not a lawyer or immigration specialist, and you should not consider any of this legal advice. I have simply been in France for several years and have read a lot about visas. I have personal experience with a few of the visas I mentioned. You can read more about my experiences with French bureaucracy here.

Expatica has an excellent post on this topic that includes several types of visas that I don’t mention here (including the EU Blue Card, interns, and seasonal workers).

I also recommend Dana’s post on how to live in France, her interview about teaching in France without an EU Passport, and her post on how to stay in France after TAPIF, where she covers a lot of the topics I mention here.

Additional Resources

San Francisco French Consulate: Long-Stay Visas

Getting A Visa: France Diplomatie

Transient Local: Working Abroad in France

As Told By Dana: Teaching English in France

Almost Bilingue on French Administration

Prêt à Voyager: French Bureaucracy, Explained (Also try {Un}glamourous Paris: Bureaucracy)

Chez Loulou on Moving to France, French Citizenship, and the Cost of Living in France

Where Is Bryan? The Cost of French Nationality

Lil & Destinations on getting PACSed in France (and the cost of living in Paris).

The Paris Blog: Snagging an Artist’s Visa to Stay In France

Je Parle Américain: The Anatomy of a Visa Renewal

Oh Happy Day on getting Long-Stay Tourist Visas as Freelancers

Franco-American grants and exchanges

Anything I missed? Please share a link or a story about your experience. 

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Winning an epic battle with French lab billing

A great pastime, particularly among foreigners in France, is complaining about the bizarre inefficiency of the French system and all the frustrations that come with it. I’ve ranted about French bureaucracy a considerable amount, but all of these experiences that make you want to clunk heads together are the rule, not the exception. Everyone has lived them, even French people.

So I’m happy to present to you a France success story! I like to tell it because I get to rant for most of the story (ranting is only fun after it’s all over) and it still has a happy ending. Are you ready?

In January, I went to the doctor. She said she was going to do a test that would cost 7 euros once it was reimbursed in part by social security. Fine, I said. In France, the doctor actually gives you your lab sample packaged in an envelope and you have to take it to the post office to mail it to the lab yourself. Weird, but okay.

A few weeks later, I got a bill for 23.10€. I sent a check, because that was the only way to pay. And that was that.

Except that a couple months later, a scary collection agency note showed up at my door, threatening to fine me over 100 euros for not paying the bill, which I had paid. So I called them up.

“Um, actually I did pay this bill a few months ago,” I explained.

They insisted that there was no record of my payment.

“Fine, then I would like to pay it now. Can I use an American credit card? I’m having some problems with my French bank.”

“Yes, clearly you are,” the woman smirked condescendingly.

(My French bank problems are an entirely different saga, and do not involve a lack of funds to pay a 23 euro bill.)

I argued with her until she conceded to let me pay the original amount owed, minus additional charges.

And that was that.

Except that it wasn’t, because in May (remember, this all started in January) the laboratory cashed my check. They cashed the check that they had said they had never received, after sending a collection agency after me, months after I had paid the collection agency!

I only had the number for the collection agency, and naturally, this debacle was not their problem.

“You’ll have to take this up with the lab because they are the ones who cashed your check.”

“Okay, could you please give me their phone number?”

“I can’t share that information with you, but here is there address. You can write them a letter.”

I can write them a letter?! (Side note: Sometimes, in France, you will be told that the only way to accomplish something is to write a letter. It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t.)

Thankfully, Google seemed to think it was okay to give me the lab’s phone number. You’re the best, Google.

So, in my best polite French, I explained that there seemed to have been an error.

“You’ll have to take that up with the collection agency, that’s not my problem,” the receptionist brushed me off.

“Oh no no no no nononononono.” My polite French got less polite. “I have paid almost fifty euros for something that was supposed to cost seven. Do you find that normal and correct? I did send the payment on time, and when I was told you had lost the check, I paid immediately a second time to resolve the issue.”

“We didn’t lose your check!” She was indignant.

I was confused. “Then… why… but… the collection agency?”

“I don’t know what my colleague did, but we didn’t lose your check. We sent you the reimbursement form, didn’t you get it?”

“Madame, the issue is not the assurance maladie reimbursement. The issue is that you have charged me twice and you need to reimburse me.”

Here, there was some hemming and hawing, and she put me on hold. Apparently, she didn’t share my view that reimbursement was obligatory in this scenario.

Finally: “My supervisor says we can send you a check.”

“Wonderful! When might I expect to receive it?”

“Bah, je sais pas madame! We have other clients, not just you. It won’t be tomorrow.”

“I understand, but could you give me an idea? A week? Two? I’ll be moving in a month.”

“You had better give me your new address. Ca ne va pas être demain!” she repeated.

“I don’t have it yet, and I really think that three weeks is sufficient time to send a check.”

“You’re moving in a month and you don’t have a new address? You’re really pushing it, madame.”

It sounds polite because we were calling each other madame, but the whole thing had turned into quite a spat.

“Look,” I said. “I am sure that you will be able to successfully mail this check in two weeks. In the event that I don’t have it before I move, I will contact you again. Will that work for you?”

“Yes. Au revoir.”

“Thanks so much for all your help and bonne journée!” I spit out sarcastically, sure that I was going to have to call and harrass her for the money in a few weeks.

But. BUT! Here’s the happy ending. Are you ready?

The check came in a few weeks time, and I cashed it. HOORAY!

The end.

Have you ever battled the French system? Tell me your story, or leave a link to your own rantings!

The préfecture: it’s not over yet!

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.

Continue reading “The préfecture: it’s not over yet!”

When life gets in the way

Oh my poor sad abandoned blog! I’m sorry I left you. Did you miss me?

I knew this would happen at la rentrée (back to school time). But I can explain.

The last time we saw each other, I was writing about drinking wine in Vouvray, but I was in Paris, having a wonderful (albeit grey) month of August. I took a million pictures, I went somewhere new every day, and I totally fell back in love with the city of lights. (Sometimes, people also call Lyon the city of lights, which is confusing. No actually, just people from Lyon do that.)

Continue reading “When life gets in the way”

The préfecture: the end?

You’ve been holding your breath waiting for me to finish my story about the préfecture, haven’t you? If you missed it, I’ve already been once in Vienne and once in Lyon trying to renew my visa. (FYI, I have a job contract specifically for a foreigner like me which gives me the right to live in France for the duration of the contract, so it’s not a legal problem – it’s a bureaucracy problem.)

To cut a long story short, I flew back from Barcelona a few days early specifically to do this whole thing over, because who doesn’t love waiting on the sidewalk for hours while the sun comes up? I brought snacks this time.

Continue reading “The préfecture: the end?”

The Préfecture: Hell in France?

The préfecture is not a popular destination in France. It’s the place where foreigners go to take care of bureaucratic nonsense like visa renewals, and it usually involves waiting in line for hours and dealing with cranky civil servants who hold your fate in their temperamental hands. Or so I hear – I’ve actually never been to the préfecture after two years in France. Well, not until Tuesday. On Tuesday I went to the préfecture.

It did not go well.

Continue reading “The Préfecture: Hell in France?”

Preparing for the TAPIF language assistant program in France: What to do, and what not to do

Hello future language assistant. If you’re getting ready to come to France for the next school year, I’ve got some tips for you. I was an assistant in a lycée in Lyon in 2013-2014, and although I initially had my doubts about the program, I ended up having a great experience. Even though I had already been living and teaching in France for a year before I went, I reached out to past assistants to get tips from them and they were delightfully helpful. I hope you’ll find some useful ideas or resources in this post!

Do practice your French

In my opinion, the better your French is before you move, the easier it is to improve while you’re there. Before moving to France, I used Conversation Exchange to do a French/English language exchange. I also used Meetup to find a French language group in my area.

When you watch French movies, challenge yourself to take the subtitles off if you can, and watch French videos on YouTube. Try Golden Moustache Videos – they are hilarious and you can put on subtitles. (I know I just said to take the subtitles off, but you may want to have the option with Golden Moustache – their jokes go by fast, and subtitles can help you learn some of the slang they’re using.) The best one is the longest one, Le Fantôme de Merde. There’s also Norman fait des videos and Cyprien. You can also watch Quotidien in French, and for something a little more serious, C dans l’air.

The number one thing I wish I had known about sooner? Comme une Française TV. Géraldine makes great videos demonstrating expressions and cultural quirks that you just don’t learn in the classroom. I’m fluent in French and I still learn new things from her videos all time. Even if you’re a dude, it doesn’t matter – most of the topics are gender neutral.

French words
Note: do not call your waiter “garçon” in French.

Don’t overpack

You probably don’t need as much stuff as you think you do, and you are going to have to carry it all. You know you’re going to be going home with more stuff than you came with anyway!

(As I wrote in another post on teaching English in France, the dress code tends to be on the casual side, so don’t worry too much about bringing dressy clothes for work.)

Do connect with other assistants in your region

There should be a Facebook group for your city or region – find it and join it. Even if you really want to spend your year making French friends, not other anglophone friends, it is nice to have that online network when you have a question about lesson planning or opening your bank account. You don’t necessarily have to hang out with other assistants, but it’s a good idea to stay connected in the anglophone community. Sometimes being a foreigner is rough, and we have each other’s backs.

Do get in touch with your school

There’s some information you’re going to want sooner rather than later – will your school provide lodging? What will your schedule be? Will you be teaching your own classes, or having small conversation groups? You have no control over when someone gives you this information, and chances are no one will be in touch until the end of August or September because of les vacances, but at least if you send them an email (in French!) you’re opening the door for that communication to begin.

Do bring some props from home

You’re going to be talking about where you come from and your culture as much as you will be teaching English (more, in some cases). It’s great to have visual aids to present. Depending on your responsibilities and teaching style, you might want to have real English-language materials, like magazines, etc. to bring to class. Tip: think about presenting your city or region rather than (or in addition to) your country as a whole, especially if you’re American.

Don’t be too nice

If you’re responsible for a class, even if there are only eight students, be prepared to lay down the law from the start. Decide what is and is not acceptable in your class, and what the consequences will be if a student is uncooperative, and be consistent. If you don’t follow through, they will never take you seriously. Ask a teacher what the school rules are and what your options are to discipline, since you probably won’t be grading them.

Don’t mess up your consulate appointment

Going to the French consulate should be a million times easier than any French bureaucratic process in France. If you schedule your appointment ASAP, get all your paperwork lined up (there should be a list of requirements on your consulate’s website), and show up on time, there’s no reason it should go wrong.

Do feel free to tell the consulate if you have a reason to stay in France after the end of your contract

Your visa status is “travailleur temporaire.” You can have a visa with this status for up to a year. An assistant contract is usually seven months, and the visa is often valid 8-10 months – it depends on your consulate.

When I was getting my visa at the San Francisco consulate, the woman asked me if I would be staying in France after the end of my contract. Since I live in France and am annually plagued with visa obstacles, I wanted my visa to be valid as long as possible. That didn’t seem like the right thing to say at the consulate, though. I explained that my friend was getting married in September (true), so I needed to be able to stay in France until then. This kind sweet lady sent my passport back with a visa valid for 12 months. Woohoo!

Note: the 12 months start the day you arrive in France, not when your contract begins. That’s why you have to have purchased your plane ticket before your consulate appointment.

Of course, this all depends on which consulate you are at and who you speak with, but it can’t hurt to ask as long as you present a good reason!

Do get a new copy of your birth certificate with an apostille and don’t wait until the last minute!

You’ll need this to get a social security number and healthcare. They should accept a copy (color is better) at your appointment, but better to have the original on hand in case you need it. When I went to the Assurance Maladie, they didn’t require a translation for a birth certificate in English, but many people recommend that you have one done by a translator certified by the French consulate. (Note: L’assurance maladie is sometimes finicky with American birth certificates since they vary by state. Be persistent. You can read about my ordeal here.)

Do start looking for housing before you arrive

Finding somewhere to live can be a challenge. If your school offers lodging, I recommend that you take it. It will most likely be the cheapest option, and you can always move out if you find somewhere you’d prefer to live. Otherwise, network with other assistants and expats and search on leboncoin.fr (like French craigslist – it’s your best bet for finding a place.) It’s not necessarily likely that you’ll actually have somewhere to live when you arrive, but at least you’ll know the lay of the land. However…

Don’t get scammed on Leboncoin

Just like Craigslist, use caution on Leboncoin! There are tons of legit offers on the site, but if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Of course, never send money or personal information ahead of time. You might be tempted to wire a deposit if you’re in a panic about ending up homeless, but don’t do it! You will not end up living on the street. Okay?

Do have a credit card with no international fees, and do find out where you can withdraw cash with no fees

You’ve got to set up a bank account in France to get paid (but you need an address first!) but in the meantime, you still need money. Having a credit card with no international fees is a no-brainer, and you also want to check with your bank to find out where you can withdraw cash without getting charged (you gotta have cash!)

For example, in the States, I have an account at Bank of America. I can withdraw cash at BNP Paribas ATMs without getting charged per transaction (but I do pay a small percentage fee). I also have their Travel Rewards credit card, which I love a) because there are no international fees and b) because it has the little European chip in it, which makes it easier to use over here. (You literally have to show people how to swipe a credit card in their machine here, unless you’re somewhere with a large influx of non-European visitors. It is a completely foreign concept.)

Note: Even if you have a credit card with the chip, there are still some places it won’t work because it’s a foreign card, like the SNCF train station automated machines.

Don’t forget to tell your bank and credit cards where you’ll be so that your account doesn’t get blocked!

Because that is no fun for anyone.

Do have enough funds to last you a month or two when you arrive

You’re not going to get paid until the end of November. You might get an advance of a couple hundred euros at the end of October. You will still have to pay for stuff.

Euros

Don’t expect everyone to speak English

The English teachers at your school will speak English (right?) but the administration and the other teachers probably won’t. Some people will want to practice their English with you, so if your goal is to speak French, figure out a polite way to communicate that (just continuing to respond in French often does the trick.)

If you struggle with speaking French at first, that’s okay! Look up a list of necessary vocabulary before going into new situations. For example, if I go to the doctor, I make sure I have all the words I need to explain what my symptoms are, and if I go to the préfecture, I make sure I have a long list of profanities handy. (…Kidding.)

Good luck!

I’ve written more about teaching English in France (including lesson plans, types of visas, and getting a TEFL certificate) here.

Have you been a language assistant in France? What advice would you give?

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. 

Social Security Saga: getting l’assurance maladie in France (part 1)

When you work in France, you are entitled to social security and healthcare. That’s because they take away about 24% of your paycheck every month. Legally, you’re obligated to go through the process of getting a social security number, and hopefully a carte vitale, a green card that allows you to be automatically reimbursed for healthcare costs. Until you have it, you have to fill out beige forms to get reimbursed. (I have received approximately zero reimbursement so far, but everyone assures me that it will be processed sooner or later.)

Last year, I didn’t know how to get a social security number and my sketchy employer certainly didn’t offer any assistance, but this year, I was employed by the French government, so in October I got right to work submitting paperwork for my numéro provisoire.

“It’s very easy,” said the sécretaire at the lycée where I worked, “you just go to the office in the 4th arrondissement with your passport and your certification of employment, and they’ll give you a form to fill out with your temporary number. Once you have the temporary number, we’ll be able to process your paychecks”

I ran home to Vieux Lyon to get my passport, and zipped back up to Croix Rousse to get to the office before it closed.

Well, it was closed. Like, really closed. Like, they had closed the office in the fourth arrondissement permanently.

So I set off for Part Dieu, where the Assurance Maladie office was awake and functioning. They gave me a receipt with a number and a ridiculously underestimated wait time.

3 minutes? Mon oeil.
3 minute wait? Mon oeil.

When my number was called, the lady kindly explained that I had it all wrong.

“No no, the sécretaire was mistaken. We haven’t had those carbon forms with the temporary social security numbers for ages. You’ll have to come back with copies of your entire passport and a bunch of other papers you didn’t know you needed, plus fill out this form and then you should receive your temporary number in about three weeks.”

Assurance maladie form
The form looked like this. I took a picture because you always want proof when it comes to French bureaucracy.

After running all over town, the news that I would have to come back another day just to start the application process was not exactly welcome. But what could I do? I brought back all the necessary paperwork and was assured it would be processed quickly.

And then I waited. And waited. Three weeks, a month, came and went. Finally, two months later, I went back.

“What’s up, Sécu? Where are we on that whole getting me a social security number thing?”

They checked their system. And they checked it again. “Hm. We don’t appear to have your file. You’ll have to just start over. “

Are you kidding me?! Not even an insincere, “Sorry about losing all your paperwork and personal documents!” Just, “You’ll have to start over.”

Fine. Forty minutes home to get all my paperwork, plus a run to the school to print and copy what I didn’t have on hand (no! bad! Always keep a copy of EVERYTHING on hand on France!) and forty minutes back to l’Assurance Maladie at Part Dieu, and my dossier was resubmitted. Exactly how I wanted to spend my free Wednesday morning.

And I thought that would be it. They would process my dossier, I would receive my temporary number in the mail, and then after that, my carte vitale.

Spoiler: It’s almost July and I’m still waiting for my carte vitale.

To be continued… read Part 2 here