Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's No Fun Being an (Almost) Illegal Alien

On my birthday, I had a job interview and it went well. The company showed interest to keep me on board to become a part of their crew. However, the one issue that had been dogging me was the fact that I needed one crucial document: a work contract. Without this golden ticket, I could not logically file all of my paperwork.

Still, the company requested that I go to la Préfecture the day after the interview to see what information I could muster. For one fleeting moment, I honestly had some hope instilled in me.

In my quest to prolong my visa's expiration date, I have decidedly come to one conclusion: France possesses, hands down, one of the most cryptic paperwork bureaucracies that I have EVER dealt with.

This should come as no surprise to me seeing as how I already had the fortunate encounters with requesting a Carte Vitale (for which I am still waiting), filing for the CAF , requesting another visa from the French consulate in Miami, and eventually getting a second yellow OFII sticker in my passport. Yet a carte de séjour resides in its own category of photocopy championships. In order to obtain the information to make my dreams come true of residing in France for a longer period of time, a trip to la Préfecture was an inevitable stop in my journey. La Préfecture is essentially the gathering point for anyone who wishes to have a driver's license, a renewed identification card and, in the case of foreigners, visas and political asylum. I, however, think that it's a waterhole for mothers clutching their hysterically screaming toddlers and for downtrodden, sullen-faced men. Once I walked through the door into a stuffy room filled with a crowd of people either slumped on plastic chairs or standing stoicly until they were called. I knew that I was going to have to wait my turn. I yanked off a ticket with a number. 538.

I automatically glanced at the front desk to see if an illuminated panel would display the current number. There was none. Even my effing deli counter at the supermarket has the counter and this place didn't. Instead, I saw only one frustrated lady sitting behind the glass partition. I felt quite sorry for her because she seemed to be handling everyone who was in the room.

I sat down on the uncomfortable chair. Only twice in my life have been affronted with a language situation in which I could not understand what was being spoken around me. The first time was during my week-long experience in Italy. Here, in la Préfecture, I heard African mothers hushing their babies to be silent, a henna-tattooed woman excitedly jabbering away in Arabic to her family and even a toddler excitedly jibbering to her veiled mother in what I assume was Urdu. Admist this group of foreigners, I felt quite lonely.

"Numéro 512," called the lady. She didn't even have a loudspeaker to amplify her voice!

I looked down at my own number again. 538. Yep. I had a wait of 26 people ahead of me...

Nearly two hours later, I heard the heavenly call of my turn. I quickly explained my situation and the lady robotically handed me a sheet of paper listing what I had to do, a.k.a., all the photocopies I needed to make.

The itemized shopping list documents requested are as follows:

-A valid passport (a photocopy and the real one)

-Photocopy of the current visa

-Photocopy of the OFII sticker

-Photocopy of my birth certificate (translated into French)

-3 passport-sized photos

-A self-addressed, stamped envelope

-A photocopy of my housing contract

-A photocopy of my landlord's utilities' bill

-A photocopy of my landlord's identification card

-Photocopies of my last three pay stubs

-A photocopy of my work contract or a "promesse de travail"

That last document was the only one pending. I rushed back to company to report the news and to see if they would finally sign a contract. They only dropped a bomb: "We hesitate to sign a contract because we want to have a guarantee that you will still remain in France for a longer period of time."

Uh, seriously? You expect me to try to stay longer in France when I don't have the paperwork to do so? Why do you think I just came from la Préfecture with this information? Couldn't you even sign a "promesse de travail" in which you will offer me a real contract once the Préfecture has granted me a titre de séjour?

They must have sense my discouragement and shock because they immediately made a photocopy of my paper (how typically French) and then asked me to check up with them the following Tuesday.

I looked down at my list again. It wasn't clear whether the 3 bulletins de salaire were for my current job or the one I was currently seeking. The following Monday, I returned to la Préfecture with my French friend Janine. We decided to meet up at 9 to avoid any large lines; that only proved futile because the waiting room was just as packed as the day I had gone. Luckily, the woman next to us couldn't wait any longer and she gave us her ticket. Janine handled the situation like a pro! She asked all the questions that I could only incorrectly conjugate in my head! She was even able to pry out the information that I couldn't get out! April 15th wasn't the "official" last day so I apparently still had more time to sort out the paperwork information.

Lesson learned: get a French friend to go with you for government purposes. Who better to deal with French paperwork than the natives themselves?

Once I got to my job, I sent an e-mail to the company saying how I would pass by Tuesday morning. They only told me to come in on Friday because they would be quite busy this week. I had a little moment of panic. Why were they prolonging this for me? Perhaps they just wanted to see if I would find another job in the meantime so I could leave them alone?

To make a long, boring story short: I didn't get the contract and I didn't get the job that I had interviewed for this Friday. I have been feeling so heartbroken these days due to how my brief moment of hope was taken from me.

And this rollercoaster story, my friends, is why I haven't blogged in almost two months with a proper set of brand-new cartoons. I have honestly been far too occupied and worried about what will happen next in my life. I don't want to leave France.

-Barb the French Bean



    You've probably already been to all the sites like this, but just in case. ^^

    Think of it more like a vacation in Miami to see your family and friends. I'll help you search for jobs you can apply for from here, and hopefully we'll have you back on your home planet within a few months. <3

  2. Barb... very sorry to hear that the job didn't work out.

    I know you love France, and you are a positive person and I so want this to work for you!

    Perhaps there is a better job out there that you will find, and soon.

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you. (As soon as I am done typing, though, because typing with crossed fingers is hard).

    Hang in there.


  3. That sucks. I hope everything works out.


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