When one is granted a long-stay visa for France [see an earlier post for initial steps & requirements], the process is not fully completed until one actually reaches the country. There is an additional procedure where the visa holder needs to send off additional paperwork with details about one’s residence in France to the Office for Immigration & Integration (or OFII for short). OFII is the organization that processes the applications of long-stay visitors to France like myself, as well as those immigrating to France.
Once OFII has received your local paperwork you have to wait for an appointment, where you will be interviewed & a stamp/sticker will be placed in your passport – next to your visa. The additional stamp/sticker will cost you another 250 Euros – which was a surprise to me because I thought I had taken care of all the processing fees…
You need to provide evidence of your place of residence. This was tricky for me – since I do not have bank accounts in France and do not directly pay utilities bills [my landladies deal with that aspect of things, so that works beautifully]. This means that I have no receipts/bills linking my name to my current domicile in Paris. What to do? I had to get a stamped & signed letter from the apartment rental company confirming that I am currently living in my Paris apartment [a copy of the rental contract is not enough apparently]. So early this week I took myself off to the apartment rental folks to pick up said letter, so that I would have all the necessary paperwork. That said, I cannot thank the good people in the foreign scholars office at my research institute enough – they have shepherded me through the process & told me what paperwork is, and is not, acceptable.
Why is this paperwork so important? Without the stamp/sticker in your passport etc. you cannot actually leave the country during the duration of your visa. If you try to do so, you risk invalidating your visa… I had to travel back to the USA for work [as 2 of my PhD students were defending] before I had finished this process. In order to do so, I had to get a special letter from OFII stating that all my paperwork is in good standing & that due administrative issues they had a delay in processing my application. Thank goodness we were able to do that.
So this week I had my appointment with the OFII folks, so of course I was checking my paperwork over & over again to make sure I had everything I needed (& more!). OFII is located in central Paris – on the northeastern side of the Place de la Bastille. Very lively area – full of ethnic restaurants & lots of bars/cafes. Fortunately for me, not yet full with tourists – I think they are going to come soon though…
The Place de la Bastille is in of itself interesting for a number of reasons. First, the location of today’s square is where the originally prison of La Bastille stood. Second, the square is at the intersection between three Paris arrondisements – the 4th, 11th & 12th. Third, in the center of the square is a magnificent column (Colonne de Juillet; The July Column) that commemorates the commemorates the events of the July Revolution (1830).
With respect to completing the processing of my French long-stay visa things did end happily – I now have a beautiful new sticker with stamp in addition to my French visa in my passport & I am good to go! [OHBM 2018 in Singapore here I come!!!] They also tried to convince me to stay for longer & were going to give me the paperwork for that, but I demurred – tempting as it was… …otherwise I may not have a job to go back to!
What a crazy week it was overall for me though. I woke up Monday morning covered in mysterious red spots – almost like a case of Measles [which I had as a kid many, many years ago. I still remember the discomfort & itchiness because I also had Chicken Pox at the same time & it was summer. I caught Chicken Pox when my Mother took me to see the doctor for my Measles. There was a kid there with the Pox & I caught it from him. Hmm, Boys! Some of you might be wondering why my parents did not vaccinate me? We did not have the vaccines back then, so all parents hoped their kids got all the childhood diseases earlier rather than later. Going thru these kiddie diseases – Mumps included – was really not fun & there were always risks related to complications. Why do parents today not vaccinate their kids? – I would not wish the agony of catching these diseases on anyone. Actually, I think I know why: the parents have never known how bad it was, because their own parents vaccinated them! For me not vaccinating your kid in this day & age is tantamount to child abuse. There, now it is said, out in the open.]
Sorry that I digressed for that little rant. What was the cause of the red spots for me this week, I hear you all cry? It was cough medicine. The active ingredient is a miracle substance named Carbocisteine [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbocisteine].
It is used widely in Europe, but not in the USA or Australia from what I can gather. It works beautifully, but there are side effects & one of those is an allergic reaction in the form of a rash. I used it for 3 days with no issues & it worked a treat on budging a nagging cough. I ended up going back to the pharmacist who gave me an antihistamine [with it’s own risk of a rash as a side effect!] & this really minimized the discomfort. I was very grateful for that, because sleeping was really difficult for a night or two. Times like this really do test your language skills though – all my very helpful local merchants do not speak English, so the onus is on me to make myself understood. So when there is a medical problem like this, a lot of information needs to be provided – mainly from my side. I realized that my French skills have really improved – something that I do not think about that often.
The ironic thing about all of this is that of all weeks that something like this had to happen was this week when I was going to OFII. I kept wondering whether they would drag me off to La Bastille & quarantine me, because I think I would have forgiven people for thinking I was infectious…
After my OFII appointment, I emerged into the gorgeous sunshine of a sunny, warm afternoon. I found a great bookshop nearby that had not only great books but lots of amusing cards as well. I bought this one, which made me laugh long & hard.
So this last week is not one I would like to repeat any time soon. But you have weeks like that don’t you? And if you did not, how would you appreciate the really good ones???