Those of you who know me personally are aware of the carte de séjour woes I went through when I was hired by the international school in 2016.
For those of you who don’t know, when you are renewing a visa from France (which you normally can do after your first initial year as long as your contract is renewed), you do the renewal at a building called the Prefecture or the Sous-Prefecture, depending on the size of your town or city. The closest translation I’ve been able to find is the DMV, because this building also deals with driver’s licenses in addition to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers (along with numerous other administrative tasks).
Long story short, when I finished my lectrice contract and applied for a visa renewal via my new job, I turned everything in and was given a récépissée (basically, a temporary piece of paper with three months validity while your new residency card is being processed) in August 2016. Normally, it only takes a few months to process a new card– I think it took me around five months to get a new card when I applied for my first renewal in November 2015.
However, things got a bit weird. Fast forward to September 2017– one year and four récépissés later (you have to go back to get a new one every three months), and I still didn’t have a new card, despite that I was now beginning year two of my ‘new’ job, and would have normally had to have started the renewal process yet again (even though this time had not yet been completed). In the meantime, my colleague, a fellow American in the same situation as me, had been awarded a new four-year card, called a carte pluriannuelle (and he did his renewal after me– there really is no rhyme or reason).
A recent reform in 2016 basically allows people who have been living in France for at least two years with a CDI (permanent) contract to be awarded a longer-lasting four-year card instead of a one-year card. The awesome thing about this is that the four-year card costs the same as the one-year card (269€), but you do not have to renew (and pay for) it every year.
I had assumed I would be awarded a four-year card just like my colleague, as we had both previously been lecteurs and had then switched to this job. However, a year later, I still hadn’t received my new card, or any news about it. Eventually, in late September, my French colleague was able to get in touch with an old friend who used to work at the Préfecture to inquire about my papers and my card. I honestly think that was the push my file needed to be given attention again, because approximately three months and a total of five récépissés later, as well as messages back and forth from my colleague and his friend, I received an automated text message stating that my card was ready.
I went in fully expecting a four-year card, only to my dismay; I had waited more than a full calendar year to receive yet again a one-year card. I scoffed in confusion, but ended up just paying my taxes and begrudgingly taking the card, knowing full well that the Prefecture had screwed up and that they would not hear or do anything about it. (The only silver lining was that I didn’t have to start the renewal process for another year, and had essentially saved myself 269€).
Fast forward to summer 2018, it was time to renew my carte de séjour yet again. Long story short, I mailed everything in late June 2018 (a bit early, but I had wanted to get all of that done before heading off to Malaysia and the school closing for the summer) and to my surprise was promptly awarded a récépissé upon my return to France in early July, which was valid until January 4, 2019 (three months after the expiration of my carte de séjour in October 2018, but the 4th coinciding with the fact that I had gone to the Préfecture on July 4th.) Although a bit peeved that the expiration date would cut into my Christmas holidays, which essentially meant that I would have to come home early to renew the récépisseé because the civil servants here show no mercy, I put my negative thoughts on the back burner, until receiving a message saying my new card was ready a few days ago.
I can’t explain exactly why but I felt good about this visit to the Préfecture. I forked over yet another 269€ in timbre fiscaux (taxes) and low and behold, was (finally!) awarded a carte pluriannuelle! This is a game changer because if / when I turn in my application for nationality next year, I don’t have to worry about a dossier with an almost-expired card. I could also now switch jobs if I wanted to, and move to a new city, such as Paris, without asking for sponsorship again because I now have the right to work for four years- until August 2022. Best of all, no more renewal files and taxes and visits to the Préfecture, unless I finally get my act into gear and pursue my driver’s license.
This is a real win for me and I suddenly feel a lot more settled here, despite the fact that I have no idea what will become of me in 2022 (apart from the fact that I’ll be in my 30’s!)