September 12, 2008

Life as a Stranger

We need to move.

We love this village and we couldn't be happier with our sweet neighbors, the friendly owner of the épicerie, the great young guy who owns the bar, the patient and kind secretary at the Mairie and the helpful, supportive Mayor. But we need to get out of here!
More specifically we need to get the hell out of this corner of the Hérault département that is tied to Béziers and their hideously xenophobic Bureau des Étrangers.

Whenever I write about my difficulties with the folks at the Béziers sous-préfecture, afterward I'm sent notes of encouragement from other foreigners living in France. They too run into problems and have moments of frustration, and I find it encouraging to hear that others do finally manage to prevail.
Their experiences vary from préfecture to préfecture, but what is glaringly obvious is that Béziers in undoubtedly the absolute worst, most difficult, most evil of them all.

After my entire French Citizenship dossier was unceremoniously sent back to me in June, I haven't properly brought you up to date on what happened.
As I said before, all the birth certificates and marriage certificates have to be returned to the various states where they originated to get apostilles. Then those apostilles need to be translated into French. At €45 a page.
Ok, fine. Expensive, but doable.

But why do I have to wait until the randomly chosen date (in my eyes) of October 22 to turn in the dossier, you might ask? Our Mayor was also confused and sent them a fax asking them why.
Their answer:
you're going to love this...

Because that is when the Bureau des Étrangers sent out our first cartes de séjours. Not issued. Sent out.
Thus, they won't consider us as being residents for a full 5 years in France until that date.
Even though we arrived in March - 7 months earlier.
Even though my carte de séjour was issued in August.

So I have to ask...who lives in a region or city where the people working in the sous-préfecture/préfecture are decent human beings? Does such a place exist?
If so, we're moving there! Pin It


Kirstin said...

My heart is out to you. Sounds as expensive and trying as the U.S. citizenship ride. Hope you have time to sneak away and have another cheese & bread picnic soon.

Ksam said...

MAN!!!!! i can't believe it. at my préf, the two ladies who deal with the cds's are biyotches, but the one who deals with citizenship is an absolutely sweetheart.

Anonymous said...

I haven't tried the citizenship department yet, but the CDS people here in Aube are nice, if not a little slow. Come on up to Champagne! :D

wcs said...

Same here in the Loir-et-Cher, nice and efficient.

But I, too, have not attempted citizenship.

Jennifer said...

I've heard horror stories about becoming a US citizen too.
The cheese and bread (and wine) is always plentiful and keeps us from wallowing in it too much. :)
We're very lucky to be able to live here.

I think the ladies at the sous-préfecture here all work together on everything, and they aren't very nice!

it isn't just the citizenship. every year there are problems with the carte de séjour.
Thanks for letting me know about the Aube!

Good, another nice place to add to the list. Merci!

Ken Broadhurst said...

We just got our 6th one-year cartes de séjour. That means we have been here since 2003, more than five years. So now we are going to apply for the 10-year resident's cards. Then citizenship.

I think you have to learn patience over and over in France. I have a thousand examples of situations where I would have thought things should have happened sooner than they did. They finally happened.

Anonymous said...

Hi Loulou

So sorry to hear about your hassles. Petty bureaucrats really can make life a misery at times. At least your mairie is on your side, which must be a great help -- I've heard horror-stories of uncooperative mairies too.

Step over the border to the Aude, they might be slow (6 years for our citizenship application to be approved!) ... but they are polite :-) Ken is so right about the patience, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and let them do their thing the way they want to.

Jennifer said...

Sage advice! :)
I feel like I have the patience, just believe that our sous-préfecture is horribly inefficient. They are even mean to the secretary at our Mairie - they hang up on her when she calls, they won't send her papers that she needs to do her job, etc.
We just applied for our 6th also but they say we haven't been here 5 years so cannot apply for the 10th until next year.

yes, thank heavens the mayor is on our side! We've heard horror stories too.
The Aude is so close, we might move there if we ever sell our house....but I cannot wait 6 years for citizenship. I need to be able to work sooner than that.

Katie Zeller said...

Our carte de sejour were TYPED, 2 days after they expired and delivered to us a week later...
Madame Secretaire was properly outraged on our behalf and the renewal was done in record time - 6 weeks.

Jennifer said...

Was this recently or when you first arrived? Because I remember reading your carte de séjour story from years ago and it stands out in my mind as one of the absolute worst I've ever heard!
Happy to hear that Madame Secretaire stepped in on your behalf.

Katie Zeller said...

It was when we first arrived... so to speak. We were here over two years before we had the first one in hand... And we applied right away. Now we get to start over in a new commune. I hope the secretaire is half as nice!

Jennifer said...

I hope your new département treats you kindly! Or that you find someone like Madame Secretaire to help when things get tricky.
Good luck!