Following the Prefect Office’s instructions that we received after we submitted our applications to renew our Titres de Séjour (residency permits) [First Renewal of Our Residency Permit (Titre de Séjour)], we e-mailed the prefecture after 30 days to inquire whether our application has been approved and Cartes de Séjour (residency cards) issued.
So after an anxious 30 days (we expected the approval to be pro forma with the initial request in the US for a long-term visa being the most challenging, but it’s never good to make such a broad assumption of an automatic approval when immigration law and bureaucracy are involved) I translated an inquiry into French and e-mailed the Préfecture de l’Aude here in Carcassonne. I immediately received an auto-response advising me that the message was received by the Prefecture and to expect an answer within 5 working days. I put my “Type A” personality back in retirement mode and told myself, five more days to wait was not unreasonable.
However, I received back within two hours an e-mail response from an actual person telling me our request was in the hands of a real person and requested our 10 digit identification number from our Récépissés de Demande de Carte de Séjour (receipts of application for residency permit.) I referred to our Récépissés, located the ID numbers in the upper right corners where the e-mail said the numbers would be found, and e-mailed the information back to the Prefecture.
The following morning before 9:30 a.m. there was an e-mail from the Prefecture telling me that our application is approved, our new Cartes de Séjour are at the Prefecture, and to come and pick the cards up April 1. We were asked to bring with us our Récépissés de Demande de Carte de Séjour and current Titres de Séjour (residency permits) which are “sticker” documents affixed inside our US passports.
So April 1, Tracy and I were up early to be at the Prefecture at 9 a.m. when the doors open to the residency permit office. After a little bit confusion and language difficulties at the reception area we received a yellow “Post-It” note with the number “4” written on it and sent to the waiting area outside the residency permit office. This was unusual because on previous visits at the prefecture, like at the DMV back in the States, we received a printed number tab to match the electronic number display next to the office door. After waiting a couple of minutes the electronic display turned on and showed “500.” That didn’t look right. Having a number “4” in our hands we decided we misunderstood something in the French. After checking back at the reception desk, the receptionist took us into the Estranger Passeport (foreign passport) office and created an informal line with us and other visitors also holding “Post-It” note numbers. We quickly moved up in the line short line and met with the friendly Prefect representative who accepted our Récépissés de Demande de Carte de Séjour and passports. The representative very efficiently had us sign a form accepting our new Cartes de Séjour and handed us our cards and a receipt for our records. We were in and out of the Prefecture in 20 minutes.
The Carte de Séjour is rather “High-Tech” with security features like a microchip with biometric information, a “watermark photo” that matches the subject’s photo, hologram, shifting colors, micro-printing, République Française watermarks on the laminate, the subject’s signature, and check digits. It’s a very professional looking document, although a rather unattractive pastel pink and blue in color. The card lists our French ID number, expiration date, nationality, place and date of birth, gender, and current address in France.
So we are starting our second year in France feeling fairly accomplished with successfully navigating French bureaucracy and obtaining our Cartes de Séjour without any snags. For our renewal next year we are planning the same strategy of starting early and being well prepared with all the documents required.