Pre-Prefecture Panic (PPP Syndrome)

pretty, plentiful paperwork!

A fine if lazy Sunday until a case of serious PPP struck: Pre-Prefecture Panic.

There’s no reason to worry, I try to reason. You’ve already gone through this before.

Right, as if past success guarantees anything with French Bureaucracy.

You might remember that we’re having some troubles with FB regarding our taxes (still unresolved). So you’ll excuse me if sudden swells of anxiety overtake me as I prepare all of my papers for Tuesday. That’s the day my husband and I will march down to the Ile de la Cite and pray that they’ll see fit to renew my carte de sejour.

They probably will (do not jinx it! my brain shouts as I write that), but I’m sure you understand the feeling.

It doesn’t help that I’ve just finished reading an article in Le Monde – first-hand testimonials – of French citizens having trouble renewing their national identity card. That’s right. French citizens. Renewing. Their national identity card.

So they are French, they’re already in possession of a national identity card, and they just want to renew it. Should that be a problem? Apparently, yes. One young woman was told that her French passport did not prove her nationality because it could be a fake passport. Excuse me? she asked. The passport that I’ve been using for the past 7 years that this office issued? Yes, that one.

I’ve always thought proving the “continuity of our life together” was always a funny way to put one of the requirements for my carte de sejour. If they really wanted to see the continuity of our life together, we could whip out some vacation photos or better yet, invite them over to see the pile of dirty socks in the corner, the mixed bag of toiletry items in the bathroom, the loving disarray of two creative people living together.*

But no, ok, they want papers.

I should not be stressed about proving that we’re still married and living together (um, because we’re still married and living together), but of course, there’s always room for worry.

Like my current melt-down: oh no! Our printer is running out of ink, so all of our print-outs don’t look perfect.

Does that matter?


Our banking, electricity bills, and rent stubs – any and everything we can do online is done online. That means all of our ‘original’ documents – cannot overstate the significance of the ORIGINAL – are just print-outs. Can the authorities-that-be hold that against us? They can do anything they please. Which is why I want these documents to look PERFECT. Which they do not. Thus, search for color printer stat.

Melt-down 2: Our joint tax statement. GREAT proof. Except, doh, the way they fixed the incorrect address (again, see my past post), was to put a sticky over the incorrect address and write in the new one. Are you kidding? No, our official tax return has a little sticky note with our correct address handwritten on it. Will the prefecture believe that the sticky note and handwriting were executed by the hands of an actual fonctionnaire (it was!) ? Sure hope so.

I’ll stop there with the details (there are more!) as I’m sure you get the idea. If I’m slightly exaggerating my anxiety for entertainment purposes, I would draw your attention to the word ‘slightly.’

I’m sure everything will be fine (good old American optimism), but this yearly ritual never fails to bring out a little unnecessary stress. Wish us luck!

(*P.S. and unprompted by my husband – see I take responsibility – I should set the record straight. I am actually the messier one. Not really messy. Just a person who tends to choose reading over dishes, a coffee out over laundry. You know, someone who wants stories more than a neat house.)

12 Responses to “Pre-Prefecture Panic (PPP Syndrome)”

  1. 1 Lydia February 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Hey, I don’t think you are exaggerating – I am British, a member of the European Union, a working member of society – in the French Health System no less, and it took us a YEAR just to persude them that we were entitled to child benefits. And that is a very small thing…
    The very best of luck, will keep everything crossed for you.
    P.S Messy? You have heard the saying:
    ‘Women with immaculate houses lead dull lives’ that is my excuse anyway!


  2. 3 wondercozza February 21, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    You can print your last “déclaration des impots” from the internet, maybe on that one the address is correct.
    Anyway, don’t panic, let your French husband talk and whatever they say, get snobbish and make show you are outraged to be sitting there losing time when it’s you doing them the favour to live in their country.
    (I also had trouble to get my identity card: had to prove that I was French, despite having already a French passeport…and my son, born in France, is not French, because his mother ‘proved’ she was French after his birth. Merci Monsieur Pasqua, instead of Voltaire’s country we live in Kafka’s world).

    last to say: they cannot refuse your permis de séjour if you have a CDI, which you still have (contrat de travail + 3 dernières fiches de paye). Do NOT mention the rest of the story!


    • 4 parisimperfect February 21, 2010 at 10:57 pm

      Hehe, thanks for the tips. You seem to understand FB very well. The identity card thing *is* kind of Kafka-esque, isn’t it? I can’t believe your son is not considered French when he was born here and you have a French passport. Is there anything you can do? Things are getting a bit creepy around here. At least with the upcoming elections these things are more in the media now. Just to sell papers and raise a polemic, of course, but still. Good luck to ALL of us 🙂


  3. 5 PigletinFrance February 22, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Wow, I didn’t know that you needed to continue to get a Carte de Sejour when you were married! What a nightmare. I can remember having to get one before they changed the law on Europeans not needing them anymore and I know what an awful experience it can be! Just another example of FB hein?
    Best of luck!


    • 6 parisimperfect February 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

      Oh yes! It’s an annual ritual. After the third year, however, I can apply for a 10-year card. Last year went pretty smoothly, so I’m going to try to be positive about it. I’ve just been burned by FB before, so I’m always a little wary. Thanks for the support!


  4. 7 jodie February 22, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    The bast way to prove you are really still a couple, is to have a lovers tiff right there in the office make a show for all to see, and I’m sure they will just stamp your papers the and there!


    • 8 parisimperfect February 22, 2010 at 1:29 pm

      Yeah, I’ve though that before. Some people try to make sure they’re on their best behavior – but it seems like a lover’s tiff or at least slight annoyance might come across as more authentic 🙂


  5. 9 pariskarin February 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    What great comments!

    I thought this part was hilarious, “If they really wanted to see the continuity of our life together, we could whip out some vacation photos or better yet, invite them over to see the pile of dirty socks in the corner, the mixed bag of toiletry items in the bathroom, the loving disarray of two creative people living together” and was thinking something along the lines of Jodie up there, except I was asking myself, “Whadda they wanna see? A “special” home-produced video proving the continuity of intimate life as a couple?” But then I kind of roll the dirty way most times, heheheheh. Sorry.

    I really hope that things go smoothly and that your renewal will happen without a hitch. There. I can say stuff like that and it’s not jinxed, just well-wishes!! 🙂


    • 10 parisimperfect February 23, 2010 at 5:21 pm

      Dirty thoughts, welcome! Though you’re right – not actually what the prefecture wants 🙂

      (I find their continuity of life requirements kind of silly. Like yes, we are married, but we are independent people earning our own independent wages. Yet we’re forced to keep a joint banking accounting because this is the best proof for them. Sigh, 21st century, anyone?)

      But I won’t complain, because the renewal DID go off without a hitch. Hooray! Thanks everyone!


  6. 11 Christina Smith December 20, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I’m getting my 10 years carte de sejour this year I’ll be picking it up in February. But since I moved here in 2007 France has literally beaten the “american optimism” out of me. Every time there is something wrong with anything having to do the the French government it seems like. There is no corporation in France that runs properly and will give you any kind of straight answer that will make up the next time you call to confirm what you’ve been told.


  1. 1 La Poste: Nemesis Numero Uno « paris (im)perfect Trackback on May 28, 2010 at 9:06 am

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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