Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Famous French Paperwork

Well, seeing as how I was accepted to teach in France again this fall, I guess that I will not become a mail-order bride after all! ^.^

On Tuesday, I received an e-mail which I paraphrase as follows:

Mlle French Bean,

We are pleased to inform you that your contract has been renewed for next year. Please go online and print 4 copies of the "Demande d'autorisation de travail pour un salarié étranger-contrat de travail simplifié." Fill out the salarié section. Attach a passport-size photo to each page and sign at the bottom. Send these docs out ASAP. Failure to do so may cause the DDTE (scary French organization) to change their minds. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! This e-mail will self-destruct in five seconds and cause your laptop to explode. We suggest that you duck.


French Secretary for the Académie de Dijon

At first, I was like:

I should have known. Only the French would be gracious enough to immortalize my post-adolescent shame in their official documents. Couldn't they have asked me to send the four passport pictures last week when my forehead hadn't been kamikazied by zits?

(No, of course not.)

The funny thing about French documents is that the majority of them are filled out by hand, and sometimes, in the case of my renewal, several copies must be provided. I thought that it would be no big deal.

It wasn't until after I was filling out the fourth document when I noticed a mistake.

I've been living in Florida for so long that I automatically forget that I was born in a different state. I could have crossed out my error or put white-out on it, but I'm much too much of an anal perfectionist to send an official document with streaks.

The ironic thing about this occurring to me is that I once had a job in a real estate title company. For three years, I had the responsibility of verifying legal documents for discrepancies with dates, locations and names. It was my JOB to notice mistakes and be detail-oriented. And I was good at it, too.

Shows how well I can apply this skill to my own life...

Once I had done a second set of documents, I tucked my mini-stapler into my purse, gathered the four sheets and went to CVS to have my passport pictures taken. When I got there, I thought it would be wise to place the docs in the trunk for safe keeping so nothing would happen to them...

Walking through the parking lot, I was nearly run over by a lady backing out of her car.

Months of living in Dijon have lulled me into believing that the world, including road-rage Miami, is a safe, pedestrian-friendly place.

What the French don't seem to realize is that buying passport sized photos can be more expensive in other countries. The French use photomatons, photo booths that can be easily found in public places (hypermarché stores, malls, the Métro). We Americans also have photo booths, but we use them merely for entertainment purposes. I had to go to CVS pharmacy to print out multiple copies of my photo. What would have easily cost me simply 5 euros in France came out to

My passport photo turned out like this:
(Make-up can only do so much.)
I shelled out the money, got out of the store and walked back to my car.

Remember how I had placed the forms in the trunk for safekeeping? Remember how I thought that nothing could possibly happen to them in there?

Early that morning, it rained. When it rains, water collects by the gap between the trunk door. Whenever I open this door, the water slides down and into the trunk area, thus wetting the objects inside. I had forgotten about that.

ALL four sheets had been stained by a single drop that had seeped inside. If I am not willing to turn in documents with white out on them, then I sure as hell would not even think about contemplating of presenting them with a watermark. This means that I needed to waste four more sheets of paper.

I decided to sagely go home and have lunch before I officially blew a gasket. Stopping for lunch is, after all, the French way of dealing with life.
Once again, I had to fill out a new set of four forms. The positive aspect of handwriting my name, my maiden name, my date of birth, my city of birth, my nationality, my passport number, my home address, my telephone number, my e-mail address AND my signature 12 times is that I have proof that I know what they are. I stapled a small portrait on each sheet and drove to the post office.

Upon arrival, I snatched a large blank envelope that costs $1.49. I wrote the recipient's address and my own. I stood in line until it was my turn. The clerk asked me where my envelope was going and at which speed I wanted to send it out. I thought about the DDTE ("muahahahahaha"). I needed "ASAP" delivery. To have my application guaranteed delivery by next Tuesday I paid

That's $30.44. My receipt, however, says $31.93 (which is what I paid). With the passport photos, the grand total of my expenditures came out to $60.79.

Yaaaaaaaaaaaay... I'm poor again!
Keep in mind that me sending out the "Demande d'autorisation de travail pour un salarié étranger- contrat de travail simplifié" is only the first step.

The next step in the French paperwork process is to wait for my contract to come in the mail from France so I can make an appointment at the French consulate in Miami to apply for a work visa. That means more paperwork and passport photos are to come.
As I have learned in the past, patience is the key virtue when it comes to dealing with French government agencies. Paperwork processing, on average, takes a minimum of six weeks. When asked about the leisurely approach the agencies take, the French shrug their shoulders and say "Meh. C'est la vie. What can one do about it?" Though they vocally criticize the delay, I think that, deep down inside, they wouldn't have it any other way. Taking their time for activities is inherent in their culture and mentality. They stop for lunch and eat with a knife and fork. They linger over their cups of coffee while they chat with their friends at cafés.

While I admire this outlook on living, I am still a pressed red, white and blue American. I need to wait six weeks for my contract and then maybe wait another month for my visa approval at the consulate.
Once I'm in France, then I will sip my coffee in peace.

Barb the French Bean


  1. Now that is one heck of a day...

    luckily you did not get run over, your posts would be missed :).

    -Coffee Bean

  2. Some advice: don't pay thirty dollars for photos. Buy the right paper, take a photo of yourself with a plain white background and sufficient lighting, and make sure to print it high quality in the proper size. That's what I did for Japan, and no one noticed. Another upside to this is you can keep photographing until you actually have one you *like*. :)

    And remember, it's worth it in the end!

  3. I'll have to keep that in mind for next time, Zora. (I currently don't have this fancy photograph paper, and my printer is running out of ink.) I like having my picture taken in the photomatons, though. I still have the one I took in Paris in 2008. I dated it and mailed it to Mom as a Mother's Day gift. ^.^

    And yeah, Coffee Bean, it would have stunk if I had gotten run over. :-P

    -French Bean

  4. Félicitations! J’espère que tu continuera de blogger la bas.

    C'est dommage pour les prétendants du Québec, mais si jamais ça ne fonctionne pas avec la bureaucratie française ...

  5. From one Jersey City girl to another, Bravo!


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb