We have, at long last, received our "cartes de séjour," our residency cards. Actually, they're dazzling, multicolored, hologramed decals stuck into our passports (which is going to complicate making the front-and-back copies we're supposed to file back at the lab; how do you copy the back of a decal?). We can now be reasonably sure that, if we leave France (as we plan to do on Sunday, to go to Poland) they will let us back in again. Too bad we have no time left for a trip to Italy, only about 20 km away.
When those notices from the immigration office showed up so late in our mailbox here at the Résidence, I got to thinking. Maybe they were late because they'd been sitting in the "B" mailbox (under Burnham) for a couple of weeks before somebody noticed the "Thistle" part and moved them to the "T" mailbox. So Monday, for grins, I rifled the heap of mail filed under "B" and sure enough, there was an envelope from the immigration people (the OMI), mailed 15 March, addressed just to "Mrs. Anne Burnham," without the "wife Thistle" part. It was a letter explaining that I owed 220 euros in residency tax. At the bottom were four rectangles for "tax stamps," special ones just for the OMI. To pay for things like that around here, you go to the local "public treasury" (tax office) and purchase the appropriate stamps—just like postage stamps, only more expensive—then use the stamps to prove you've paid (just as you use a postage stamp to prove you've paid the postage on a letter). When I showed up to collect my residency card, I must present the letter, with four 55-euro stamps stuck in the four rectangles. So yesterday morning, I presented myself at the Villefranche "Trésor Publique," conveniently located next door to the police station where I filed the theft report when the car was broken into, and showed the clerk my letter. He rummaged briefly in a drawer full of different sorts of stamps—taxes, parking fines, traffic violations, trash pickup, etc.—and came up with 55-euro OMI's. I purchased four and pasted them onto the letter—just like S&H green stamps, only pink!—to redeem my residency card.
Then at noon David and I set out on the adventure of finding our way to the Prefecture—located in the Administrative Center of the Alpes Maritimes, a group of buildings the size of a small college located in a tangle of freeways on the far side of Nice—where we had a 2 p.m. appointment. As usual, we allowed plenty of time, and as usual our carefully planned route fell to pieces in a maze of small access roads, parking lots, and one-way ramps most of which were not on the map. But we followed the chain of little signs pointing toward the Administrative Center and duly found ourselves there, with an hour to spare. So we sat in the car and ate our lunch.
When 2 p.m. finally rolled around, we presented ourselves at the appropriate office, turned in my pink green stamps, were given our residency cards and asked to sign for them, and that was that—five minutes. And to my surprise, my card came with an actual French work permit! I hadn't even realized I'd applied for one. David didn't owe the tax, because his "protocol d'acceuil" made him exempt, but neither is he eligible to work for pay in France. I guess I'm glad there are people who undertand all the details of the French bureaucracy, but I'm sure glad I don't have to!
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