Paperwork à la française

In this digital age it still surprises me at how much paper and paperwork the French like to dole out.  Ask any expat, regardless of country of origin, how much paperwork they’ve had to collect and/or provide and with their response will come some eye-rolling or head-shaking look of exasperation.

It’s a little known fact and you don’t learn this piece of information unless you plan on living here: the French are pros at the art of paperwork.  You didn’t know it was an art, did you?  And I’m not talking about origami either.  I’m talking about the copious amount of paperwork, on type A4 as opposed to legal or letterhead, that you have to fill out, copy in triplicate, and treat with the utmost respect.  Yes, paperwork here is a serious business.

Now, I’ve received stuff in the mail here in France.  I think I receive more mail now than I did in Toronto.  I get the usual stuff like my bank statements, my Nespresso “we love you Tanya” mail, and other stuff that I either file away or throw out/recycle.

Then there’s the official paperwork.  This is paperwork for which you’d buy a new filing cabinet.  You may invest in colour-coordinated hanging folders and protective sleeves.  I’m just getting to know this brand of paperwork.

After getting my visa this summer, upon return to France in September, I had to send copies of this, that, and the next thing to my local OFII (Office Française de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) office.  In return for the mini packet I sent them I received a letter in the mail.  It was a thin envelope and something I would expect from a government agency.  This, however, was only their way of letting me know that they had received my lovely mini packet.  I think they were thrilled as they told me to be on the look-out for something more from them.  Goody!

If they thought that I would be distracted by their stamp they were wrong.  I’d read so many blogs about the paperwork madness joy here in France that I was prepared for what followed.  Several days later I received a thick envelope from OFII.  Inside the envelope were 5 separate sheets of paper.  You may wonder if they all contained the same information.  My reply would be yes.  And no.

The first page, which I like to call the summary page, regurgitated my personal information and told me what I’d already mailed to them.  It also let me know that I have to provide the required forms and documents; to undergo a medical exam; to have the level of my French language skills tested; and to pay for the entire process.  It also let me know the date and time of my appointment.  That was page one.

Page two re-regurgitated my personal information, told me which forms and documents were required, and the date and time of my appointment.

Page three re-re-regurgitated my personal information, told me that I had to undergo a medical exam, and the date and time of my appointment.

Page four re-re-re-regurgitated my personal…

I showed the entire packet to D who just looked at me and shrugged.  Yes, he shrugged.  The quintessential Gallic move.  C’est normal chérie.  And yes, I suppose it is.

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Categories: French, French bureaucracy

Author:Tanya in Transition

I am a woman in transition. I left my job of 13 years to find happiness and self-fulfillment...in France!

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10 Comments on “Paperwork à la française”

  1. October 5, 2011 at 9:53 AM #

    Let me know before you go for your appointment. There was some … confusion … when I went for my appointment and I wouldn’t want you to run into the same problem!

    • October 5, 2011 at 3:06 PM #

      My appointment is on the 13th. You’ll have to email me what you know as I won’t be back in Nice until the 11th (or 12th, I can’t remember which). D will be going with me but I’ll take all the info I can get.

      How are YOU doing? Your photo (on the beach) is gorgeous. Pregnancy looks good on you. I hope you’re feeling well.

  2. October 5, 2011 at 9:56 AM #

    Nightmare – I don’t envy you. We got alot of paperwork when we registered the baby at the mairie. I’m not sure what to do with it but am too scared to throw any of it away! Good luck with it all!

    • October 5, 2011 at 3:08 PM #

      Thanks Kirsty!
      It’s a bit daunting but we’ll see how it all goes. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to this process but I think I’m prepared…I think.

  3. October 7, 2011 at 2:22 AM #

    I feel your pain, Tanya. I just got my renewal notice for my Assurance Maladie. The letter came on September 26th because the la Poste delivered all my buildings mail to the wrong address. It was dated September 20th at the top. In the body of the letter it said I need to gather my papers and have them in no later than September 15th. The response from my French friends? A grand headshake and “c’est comme ça”. And it is.

    • October 9, 2011 at 6:17 PM #

      Lol. D showed me something similar. The letter was dated almost 1 week after the deadline stated in the body of the letter. And yes, that’s just how it is.

  4. October 8, 2011 at 2:49 AM #

    Ugh. Love France. Hate the paperwork. Courage!

  5. November 2, 2011 at 10:25 AM #

    Oh my goodness – the horrors of French paperwork! I still remember getting the list of things I needed for my visa – my boyfriend and I were so freaked out about making sure we had the 8 billions copies of everything that we forgot to bring the cash to pay for it! Had to make an emergency run to the atm while the French Immigration office fumed. haha – good times!

    • November 14, 2011 at 4:50 PM #

      LOL, that’s it exactly. Now, I have a folder where I keep my originals and my copies. That way, I can just grab it and go when I need to.

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