Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We are legal!

Today Bobby and I completed the final step towards obtaining our long-stay French visas. At 8:30 am, we went to the Ministère de l'Immigration, de l'Intérgration, de l'Indentité Nationale et du Développement Solidaire office (a mouth-full, I know). After we checked in, we were directed to two different locations. Bobby had to take his medical exam, which involves an x-ray of the lungs to make sure he don't have tuberculosis, an analysis of the x-ray, questions on his medical history and current health, blood pressure test, plus an eye exam, height check, and weight check. After he finished all of this, he handed in his medical report, plus 300 euros (holy moley!), to the préfecture conveniently located in the same building, and picked up his visa. He was done by 9:45.

I, however, was in for a treat! After I checked in, I was instructed to sit in a room with 26 other people, where we watched a 30 minute film about life in France. The film was in French, so I had a little device that translated the talking into English. It looked like one of those audio guides you get at a museum. Oddly enough, most of the film was dedicated to describing the rights women have in France. "A woman does not need the permission of her father, brother, uncle, or other male figure to get a job in France." "Women can vote and are treated as equals under the law." "Women and men have equal rights in all areas of French life." The reason so much focus was put on this issue is because many immigrants in France come from predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa. After the video ended, I met with a worker who went over the Ministère Contrat d'accueil et d'intégration, an 'integration and welcome contact' you are obliged to sign stating that you understand France in a democratic, secular nation. I was also given a diploma stating I had attended the film.

Next I went for the language assessment test. Oddly enough, I was pretty excited about this because I was told that if my French was bad, i would be given free (free!) language lessons, provided by the state. I went into the office of the assessor and he asked me some basic questions (all in French, or course):

Language Man (LM): Vous-êtes travaillez? (Do you work?)
Me: Non, je ne travaille pas. Mais, mon marié, il travaille at Paris 6. (No, I don't work, but my husband works at Paris 6).
LM: Qui fait-il? (What does he do?)
Me: Umm... il... il est rechercher pour la... la... ah, la ordinateur! (Umm... he... he is a researher for... umm... ah, for computers!)

After this exchange, which lasted longer and included questions about when/where/for how long had I studied French, did I attend university, what did I study, what kind of music do I play, he had me say my phone number in French, read a little passage in French and answer questions about it, and write out some information to see if I could write French. After all of this, the guy switched to English and said, "Ok, your French is very good, you have passed, congratulations, you don't need classes." I looked at him for a moment then said, "Are you sure?" "Yep," he responded. Darn. I was really looking forward to those classes.

After getting my language proficiency diploma, I took my medical exam, which was a repeat of the process Bobby went though. I, however, discovered I've lost over 10 pounds since moving to Paris! Yipee!

The best was yet to come, though (better than knowing you've lost 10 pounds even though you've been eating a ton of bread, desserts, butter, and salt? Yep, even better than that): after I paid 300 euros (holy moley!), I picked up my titre de sejour (long-stay visa) and noticed it said 'Autorise son titulaire a travailler' (authorizes the holder to work). I realized I have been granted a working visa! I can legally work in all of France. I am not sure why I have been given such a visa, but I'm not going to complain about it. McDonald's, here I come!

In other news, Bobby now has a 'license to eat watermelon.' His words, not mine.

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