How I got my titre de séjour in France (story time)

Salut, tout le monde!

It has been a long time coming, but as of yesterday, I *finally* received my titre de séjour! Also known as a residency card, it permits me to work in France, as well as to legally be in the country overall. Through much back-and-forth with the Prefecture (and countless headaches), I’m just glad that I was able to obtain this small, but important document sooner than never.

The process of obtaining my titre de séjour took eight months. I’ve heard that it usual takes between six weeks and three months (on average) to receive it, which makes my situation a bit of an outlier. I know that, in my situation, it was due to a setback halfway through– an unforeseen circumstance, that is to say. If I hadn’t happen to have caught myself earlier on, I wouldn’t have been able to receive the card until much later. Which would’ve been worrisome, since I was on a récépissé (a “temporary receipt” that one keeps until the titre de séjour is ready) and it would expire in February…which would then be a problem of staying in France legally.

I would like to share the timeline of how I got my French residency card. Since I’m aware many non-EU citizens have to go through this process, this post is my two-cents on the matter. Perhaps a bit of commiserating wouldn’t be so bad, too… It has been my biggest hurdle since being here for four years, and I just hope that nothing more happens after it.

Any case, here’s the breakdown of what I did (and what happened):

— early June 2018: Filled out a questionnaire on my department’s Prefecture website. The questions were for basic information, such as if it’s my first time getting a titre de séjour, if I was a student or on a temporary work contract, etc. After I completed the questionnaire, the website automatically generated a PDF version of my answers, which was to be printed and mailed to the Prefecture.

The questionnaire took no more than five minutes to fill out, and no more than a minute to drop it off at the Prefecture’s mailbox (thankfully, the department’s Prefecture is in my city, and it’s a small-enough city to be able to walk over to drop off documents, let alone go in for appointments).

— mid-June 2018: Less than five *business* days later, I received a mail from the Prefecture that asked for specific documents (copies of passport, current visa, etc.) to be sent in order to process my titre de séjour. Likewise, it was simple: I just had to make copies of said documents, and I dropped them off in a manila envelope inside the Prefecture’s mailbox.

Here’s to note that, soon after I dropped off my second round of documents, I left France to go back to the US for the summer. From the date I saw in my convocation I received when I returned in late August, the processing of my documents had taken a little over a month (so late July).

— August 22, 2018: Returned to France: my then-VISA was expiring on August 23, so it was imperative that I came back to France before, or else I might run into trouble with the law… I received my convocation (aka “appointment”) in the mail, which said that my récépissé was ready to be picked up at the Prefecture. As I wrote, a récépissé is a “receipt” that authorizes you to stay/work in France, but it’s not the official residency card– rather, it’s a temporary slip of paper to be kept until the titre de séjour is made. After waiting over 2-1/2 hours at the Prefecture, I received my récépissé (seriously, all that waiting for a single piece of paper??). It was valid for seven months, which would expire in late February 2019.

While I could’ve gotten my récépissé earlier in the summer had I’d stayed in France, it wasn’t a problem– I’d notified the Prefecture that I would be out of the country that summer, and that I would just pick up my récépissé when I returned. Prefecture policy was chill, in that regard, as there’s no “expiration date” as to when you can or can’t pick it up (not to say you should get it months later, but of course, the sooner, the better…). I would then have to wait another month or two to receive ANOTHER convocation to go and get my fingerprints scanned, as well as submit more documents…again, patience is a real virtue.

— early October 2018: I moved apartments– long story, but my former flat (which I’d been living in since September 2017) was no longer a place I wanted to live in anymore. I moved out and moved into my new-and-improved place. However, under my former flat’s contract (with an agency), I technically didn’t “move out” until early November, and until then, I had the keys. I’d assumed that I would receive my convocation in my former flat’s mailbox to proceed with my next process with the titre de séjour before then, so I didn’t change my mailing address. That was a mistake, since the letter didn’t come before I “moved out,” and I had to relinquish the keys to the agency.

— late October 2018: Before leaving for les vacances de la Toussaint, I headed to the Prefecture to change my address, so that I could receive my convocation at my new flat. Again, another long wait just to get a ticket and talk to someone at the front desk. Like, really…I know the Prefecture is understaffed (three workers for over 200 people, which I don’t understand), but wouldn’t the French have thought of having different workers do different tasks, e.g. one hands out the récépissés/titres de séjour, one processes the paperwork for said documents, one answers questions, etc? Really aggravating to have to wait over two hours just for ONE. SIMPLE. QUESTION…to change my address!

*thankfully, I was smarter this time in that I took a ticket and, instead of waiting around in the Prefecture’s waiting room for two-plus hours, I was allow to go out and run errands in town before returning just in time for my ticket to get called. Productivity at its finest!*

…any case, address was changed, and I was told that I would receive the convocation sometime in two weeks.

— November 14, 2018: Three-and-a-half weeks rolled around, and still no convocation in the mail. Decided to head back to the Prefecture to inquire about it. Another two-plus hour wait (again, more errands to run), and when I *finally* got to the front desk to ask about my convocation, I was told that it had ended up been sent to my old flat’s address…even though I’d changed it prior! Guess I’d changed it too late for it to be sent to my new address… (what do you guys think? Was I at fault for changing the address too late, or should the Prefecture have been quick to change it and send the convocation to my new address?).

Any case, the front desk worker told me “c’est pas grave,” and she looked up when my appointment was for the second processing round…it was THE NEXT DAY (November 15)! It was such short notice, but even worse was that the appointment time (13h30) conflicted with one of my classes. It also happened to be Final Exams that day, and there was no way I could move it on such short notice. At the same time, I knew I couldn’t move the appointment time, unless I wanted to be set back for another month or two (hell no). 

I chose to keep my appointment in the end, and I scrambled to inform my colleague about this sudden news. We managed to work it out in that I postponed my class’s final exam by two hours that same day (i.e. instead of 13h30, my students took the final at 15h30). Thankfully, my class didn’t have another class later that afternoon, so it worked out. The students were given noticed ASAP, and at least I bought myself an extra two hours to get through my second convocation the following day. Whew!

— November 15, 2018: Went to the Prefecture about 10 minutes before 13h30. No two-hour wait this time, since my department’s Prefecture is only open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to the public (and only by appointments other days). There were probably no more than 15 other people that day, and I breezed in within 15 minutes. The lady at the counter asked for a myriad of papers, and I provided them to her. I admit, I was stressing like crazy, because I couldn’t find a few documents in my folder to give to her– luckily, she was kind enough to accept alternate documents (e.g. my new flat’s lease, instead of the recent electricity bill).

It was so nerve-wracking, but soon enough, I changed my mailing address and got my fingerprints scanned, and I was told that I’ll receive my third (and final!) convocation in the mail sometime in mid-December to come pick up my titre de séjour. Thing was, I would be flying back in early December to the US for the holidays, and I asked if it would be a problem. Thankfully, it wouldn’t be, as I could show up whenever I returned to pick it up. With that said, I left the Prefecture after no more than a 10-minute process (the most efficient I’ve dealt with throughout this entire ordeal), and had some time to get lunch before heading to work that afternoon.

— January 23rd, 2019: Came back to France after spending the holidays with my family in the US. As expected, I received my third convocation, this time at my new (and CORRECT) address. My titre de séjour was ready to be picked up! I was told to show up when the Prefecture was open to the public, again Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays (I returned late on Wednesday, so Friday it was…). Despite having to wait another two days to receive my residency card, I was feeling relieved that this ordeal was almost over.

— January 24th, 2019: Couldn’t go to the Prefecture yet, but I did brave the snow to head to the tabac (tobacco shop) to purchase a timbre fiscal (“tax stamp”). To receive the titre de séjour, you’ll need to pay for a tax stamp– and mind you, it does NOT come cheap. I paid a whopping 269 euros, which goes to show that it ain’t cheap to be a foreigner in France. But you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

— January 25th, 2019: It’s the big day! Woke up bright and early to head to the Prefecture and stand in the -2°C/28°F cold for half an hour before it opened at 9h00. I got a ticket at the entrance, and thankfully there weren’t too many people ahead of me. Within 15 minutes, I was called to the front desk where I presented my convocation, timbre fiscal, récépissé, and passport. After signing off on a piece of paper, I received my titre de séjour! 

Seriously, I was elated– it had been a long and painful process since June, but I finally (finally!) had my residency card to stay legal in France! Although it’s only valid until this November, it’s better than I thought since I assumed that it would only go until August, when my lectrice contract was up. A three-month extension isn’t too bad then– a gift perhaps!

 

…and that sums up my path to getting my titre de séjour in France! It was by no means a cakewalk, and there were close-calls (especially with that next-day appointment in November…). If there’s one thing I learned, it’s to follow-up as much as possible with the Prefecture, since they don’t inform you when they’ve processed your paperwork– that is, until they send you a convocation. Might not be the most pleasant, but waiting two-plus hours at the Prefecture multiple times to inquire about your status makes all the difference, and soon enough, you’ll have your titre de séjour in no time.

Have a crazy story about staying legal in France? Let me know!

 

— Rebecca

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