Jordan and I had our prefecture appointment last week. This appointment was the biggest step towards establishing residency in France. We had already gone through a long process to get our visas approved prior to moving to France. However, we also have to establish residency within the first three months of arriving (whoops, little late on doing that due to COVID-19). It will be a huge relief for us to have our residency squared away. Especially right now, since the borders are closed to Americans!
A prefecture in France is where all the administrative paperwork happens – think driver’s licenses, vehicle registration, residency cards, passports and work permits. There’s a prefecture for every department in France (our department is the Rhône). Luckily, our prefecture is located just a few tram stops away from us. Not everyone is so lucky to have a location so close. The locations were originally chosen so that all residents could arrive within a day by horseback from anywhere in the department!
Jordan’s company helped get our appointment time and also prepared our dossier for the appointment. All we had to do was print it out. Easy enough. We also had to have four photos of us for identification. The majority of metro stations and shopping areas have photo booths for just this reason. We were able to get photos of us at these booths for five euros each.
The dossier included almost 50 pages of printed documents for us both. In the dossier were copies of our birth certificate, marriage certificate, and French translations for the documents. We had to prove we were renting an apartment and show a bill with our address. We had to provide documentation of Jordan’s job contract, his diploma, and his resume. These documents also had to be translated into French. Needless to say, it’s a lot of documents! I don’t know how we would have done this move without Jordan’s company helping us each step of the way.
The full list of documents, in French, is below!
I had read horror stories about the prefecture from the local Expat group I am in on Facebook. Stories included long wait times, long lines, or plan to spend hours there. Thankfully, our actual appointment was very smooth. We arrived early, but there was already a long line of people waiting outside.
The guards at the front of the building told us we had arrived too early. They directed us to wait until 15 minutes before our appointment to get in line. We hung around outside the building and watched the clouds increasingly get darker. We we hoped we could go inside before it started to rain. When it was 15 minutes before our appointment, we went to get in line. The guards asked to see our appointment slip again. They checked the time on our slip and moved us to the front of the line. After a quick trip through security and applying hand sanitizer, we were in the building. Off to find station 37!
It was easy enough to find the right section of the building for our appointment. We saw many safety measures in place due to COVID-19. The seats were all blocked off strategically to force social distancing. There were signs about COVID-19 all along the walls and hand sanitizer stations throughout the area. The waiting area wasn’t very busy, and there was only a handful of others waiting around us. We think they were keeping people outside as long as possible to limit the amount of people waiting inside.
When station 37 was open, we went up to the desk and provided the agent with our names. We are certain she turned to her colleague and complained that she was already having to process residency for a talent visa before 10am! Maybe not everyone had to provide as much documentation as us. The process at the appointment was simple. The agent reviewed and validated all of our documents, asked us a few questions, and took our fingerprints. For some reason, my fingers weren’t cooperating with the machine. It took me three times as long to get my prints to register as it did for Jordan. I had to stand up and put all my weight on my hand, and then push my fingers down. It still wouldn’t register! I had put lotion on my hands a couple of hours prior, but didn’t think that would be an issue.
The agent took all of our documents and in turn provided us with temporary residency cards. The temporary residency card is just a half sheet of paper with our details and photos attached. We will keep these papers for around two months. She told us that we will receive a text in two months with instructions on what to do next. We may be able to receive our residency card by mail, or we may have to go back to the prefecture to pick them up. It seems very vague, but we will just have to wait and see what happens!
My temporary residency card has my name wrong with two middle names. This has been a recurring theme for me in France. The name on my bank account for three months was “Laure”. We asked the agent to change it so that my name would match my passport, not my birth certificate, just to avoid any confusion later on.
Now that we had our temporary residency card, I felt much better about leaving France for any travel that we do. And that’s the first thing we did! We packed our cars, and one flat tire change later, we were on our way to Italy! Jordan had never been to Italy, and we chose to go to the land of pasta, pizza, and gelato for our last three day weekend.
Turin, Italy is only about 3.5 hours away from Lyon, making it an easy drive. We’ve started playing a new car game, Spot the Castle on the Hill. We’ve completely made it up. There were countless castle or fortress ruins high up on the hills along our drive. Some aren’t as impressive as others to see. I’m still amazed at how many of them are still standing and in good condition after so much time has passed.
Check out our photos from Turin, Italy!
It was a good thing we had our residency cards, even temporary ones. Border control stopped us both ways. Not all cars were getting stopped; we were just lucky.
We had to show border control identification to get into Italy. Jordan showed them his South Carolina driver’s license, which I’m sure confused them. Next, we had to prove the car was ours and not a rental. Then, we had to tell them the reason we were going to Italy, where we were coming from, how long we were planning on staying, and also show them our hotel reservation. They seemed content with all of our answers and let us on our way.
Border control also stopped us on our way back into France. We provided them with our temporary residency cards instead of passports or driver’s licenses. They took our papers into their office with them for a few minutes, and then let us continue our drive home.
Life is starting to feel “normal” in France, or about as normal as it might be for a while. Jordan is back at work full-time this week. So unfortunately, our three and four day weekends have come to an end for now.
We are wearing masks whenever we are in stores, and the majority of others are as well. We’ve noticed a visible decrease in people wearing masks as the weeks have gone by since lockdown ended on May 11. We haven’t heard anything about an increase in cases due to it. We don’t wear masks when we are outside or at a restaurant, but we typically always sit at outdoor seating available at the restaurants. Other than adding “mask” to our list of things to remember when we leave the house (phone, keys, wallet, rings, MASK!), we are free to go to most places with little restrictions. Wearing a mask is now part of our routine. It’s easier for us to continue to wear one, even if others aren’t.
We plan on spending the Fourth of July tomorrow by driving to see the lavender fields! Hope everyone has a good holiday weekend!