Tracy and I have never been so excited to receive a bill in our lives; yet we were smiling like new parents when we checked the mail and found our first electricity bill from EDF (Électricité de France). Also like a new parent, we photographed it, scanned it, and placed it carefully back in its envelope for safe keeping.
To quote from “7 Things You Can’t Understand If You’re Not French,” an article by Kate Robinson.
“Your electrical bill is the most important document you own.”
Ah, the justificatif de domicile. Proof of residence is perhaps the most sought-after document in your personal arsenal of administrative papers. If you want to get your driver’s license, renew your passport, open a savings account (yes, at the same bank where you’ve had a checking account for the last two years) or do anything else involving a visit to a guichet (service counter like DMV), you’ll need to prove where you live. No, the address on the back of your state-issued ID card doesn’t cut it. You’ll need to print or dig out an electrical bill less than three months old.”
and from “You Know You’ve Gone Full-French When . . . ” by Rebeca Planter.
“You keep a relatively recent electric bill in your purse; never know when you’ll need to prove your address… again.”
Our previous rental contracts in France included the cost of utilities, so we never had to obtain an electricity, gas, or water account. That has frequently created a bureaucratic issue for us as to how to establish our physical address. Just like visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) back in the US, French government agencies have specific lists of approved documents they will accept as documentation.
Tracy and I have managed over the last few years in France without a utility bill to serve as our justificatif de domicile (proof of physical address) by using alternative methods to establish our physical address like: 1.) having the bank send a registered letter to our apartment and returning it to the bank also by registered mail, 2.) producing a rental contract with a stack of signed rent receipts (having our own Quittance de Loyer book [rental receipt book] has repeatedly been a lifesaver for us), 3.) obtaining an “attestation sur l’honneur” (an affidavit) of occupation from our landlord, and 4.) obtaining from the Mairie (town hall) a memorandum stating we were residents of that town and listing our physical address.
Now, just in time for our application process for our third annual renewal of our Carte de Séjour (our Residency Permits, what in the US would be our “Green Cards”), we now possess the “Holy Grail” of French identity documents, an electricity bill.