This is a bit of a left-field post, I know. I am filing it under Travel, which I guess is appropriate enough. I am British, my wife is (born-in-the-ex-Yugoslavia) Canadian, and we live in France. With Brexit looming large and expat status in doubt all over Europe, my beautiful wife thought it would be a good idea for me to go along to the prefecture in Nice and try to get myself a carte de sejour. If we were to live in Italy, Germany or Spain I would have needed a resident card years ago. France is the only EU27 country that does not require EU citizens registering after 3 months at the local town hall or police station. Just doesn’t happen in France.
I never thought I would have to go through it, being European. From time to time, my wife likes to remind me of my first-class white privilege; according to her, she’s lower on the whiteness ladder what with being born in former Yugoslavia. Clearly, we are not politically correct with each other.
To repeat, us Brits are entitled to a carte de sejour but - AT THE MOMENT - we don’t need it. Come March - WE MIGHT NEED IT. My advice is, get it done early and the following are some tips based on my experience
TIP 1: Bring a friend
Being Canadian, my wife had to do this twice. To be honest, I did not really take much notice at the time. All I knew is that you need to get there really, really early, that there are several long queues, and that things can get all sorts of exciting. Turns out she was correct. It is a horrible long experience, and to have moral support would make it much, much better. Next time she goes, I’m coming with her.
TIP 2: Go on an information-finding mission first
Visit your local prefecture and ask about all the documents you need to provide. If you are in the Alpes-Maritimes area, you probably need to go to the prefecture in Nice. I arrived around 10am and the information desk which is manned by a few clerks. Waited about 40 minutes to reach the front of the reception / information desk. I said my piece. I would like a carte de sejour, I am British, can you help me? Je voudrais une carte de sejour, je suis Anglais, pouvez vous m’aider? Surprisingly the lady understood me. She gave me a list of the documents I will need and which accueil I will need to go to. In Nice, it’s Accueil 3.
There is no online application, you have to get this form from the reception. Sucks I know. I couldn’t find ANYTHING online.
I happily left knowing exactly what I needed and promised myself I would come back the following week and box this project off! I think they are closed Thursday, by the way.
TIP 3: Have your documents ready
I had with me, my contract of employment, translated into French, wage slips, 10 years worth of income tax payments in France, my EDF attestation and a few orange.fr invoices. I also had my health insurance papers and the health insurance papers for my wife and kids.
Watertight? Did everything they asked. Including 2 passport photos.
TIPS 4, 5 and 6: Arrive early, be patient and don’t be too polite
On the big day, I took the car and got to the prefecture at 6am. Queue of 20 people already. So, they open their doors at 9. Yes, you are outside waiting for 3 hours. The queue gets heavier and heavier, people jostling for position.
Doors open at 9am. I was polite, don’t be polite. Run to Accueil 3. I was too polite and lost about 20 places. I could have turned up at 7am.
TIPS 7 and 8: Be really patient and bring copies of all your documents, including your passport
After two more hours in the queue, I got to the end, where you receive a ticket for the actual interview. I showed the nice man all my documents, he said I was missing one thing. A photocopy of my passport. Imagine my horror, thinking I am going to be sent all way back to the end of the queue. Turns out not. He said to quickly run all the way to the entrance and pay 10 cents to get a photocopy of the passport. I could then walk all the way down the line, wait by the security guard and he would let me jump the queue. The security guards were very professional and didn’t let anyone in our queue get out of hand.
Walking away from the queue I went straight into room 3. You are also given a ticket with a number on. I seemed to be about 12 places back from being seen. I decided to go and get a coffee and have a walk around. I think there should be refreshment trolleys dotted around this prefecture. I didn’t have a coffee until bloody 11am!!
After the fun and games, I went back to the waiting room at room 3. Watched a bit of Netflix and was received by a trainee and another employee about 30 mins later. Passed them my pack and they went through their process. I was very nervous and had my prepared speech for them. They told me not to worry. 1000’s of UK expats have been coming through in the last couple of months to get their carte de sejour. I had all the information they needed. I am a home owner, I have been paying my taxes for years and my kids go to school in France. Job done. I was issued with a temporary and should receive my carte de sejour within a few months. Heck, what am I saying, this is France, I will receive it when I receive it. I reckon February.
I was out the door by 12.30. Not bad. It was a long morning, I nearly threw in the towel a few times.
LIST OF DOCUMENTS I NEEDED:
contract of employment, translated into French
10 years worth of income tax payments in France
EDF attestation and a few recent orange.fr bills as proofs of address
health insurance papers
2 passport photos and a copy of my passport