I’m living in Paris, France. I’ve been here since the end of July last year. I’m studying Computational Linguistics at Paris VII (Denis Diderot) University. I started at the License 3 level. That’s the last year of a degree half-way between an associates and a bachelor’s degree that functions as the bachelor’s degree in France. I just finished my first year, which means that I have a French degree. I’m under the impression that this program is fairly demanding by standards. I’m sure that being responsible filled up my agenda all year long. I still have a long way to go on my French, but I’ve reached the level that I can usually expect everyone to understand me without having to repeat myself and that when I don’t understand someone it’s because I couldn’t hear them.
So, I admit that that was a fairly short summary for the last 2 years, but unless you’re interested in French grammar, machine learning, or semantics, I probably covered all of the interesting bits. Let’s get on to the new adventures.
I’m out to continue my French adventure. French education visas are good for one year. My year is nearly up, so I need to renew. The rules say that I need to start the renewal process during the last two months of my visa’s validity. Beyond that, there are a lot of things that I’m not too clear on, so I’ll document what I did, what I thought about doing, and what worked and didn’t.
This page and this page were my first guides in the process. I admit that I’m still not 100% what they call what I need to do. I think that I “have” a carte de sejour, even if I haven’t ever seen it and don’t know what number it is. If that’s the case, I’m renewing my carte de sejour. I’m fairly sure that one of the prizes from finishing this process is that they will give me a real carte (card) that I can hold in my hands. The first of those pages has an attachment that lists everything that I need to prepare for the process. The second page has a link that allows me to setup an appointment.
I had found the pages some time back, and started in on assembling the papers. The two biggest challenges were the birth certificate (would you really have thought that I would have needed it as I was packing my bags to come to France) and the proof of enrollment. The challenge with the proof of enrollment is that my school hadn’t finished yet. We are supposed to finish this week (even though the last exam was over a month ago). The French system holds juries on the final grades once everything has been turned in and corrected. That is supposed to happen in a couple more weeks I think. After that, I should be able to enroll for the next year. My visa expires in 3 weeks. This timeline didn’t seem good to me. My school helped me out by writing a nice note saying that I would be accepted to the program next year.
Papers assembled, time to begin. Step one, set up a meeting using the website. This requires my name, my birthday, the end date of my visa, and my carte de sejour number (see section where I mention that I don’t have a carte de sejour number). I’m not very good at getting information out of French call centers, I rarely figure out what I need to do to talk to a person and if the information I needed was standard, I would have just picked it up from the web. So, I headed to the address on the website to ask what I needed to put into the carte de sejour number field. I explained my story to the folks there and they seemed genuinely pleased that I had succeeded and was trying to continue and genuinely disappointed that I hadn’t come to the right location to do it. They sent me to the prefecture of the police. The folks at the prefecture seemed more accustomed to people who were renewing. I went through security and then waited in line for a while. The gentleman seemed annoyed with me, but I think the reason was that he felt bad that I had come all that way and that he couldn’t do anything to help me. However, he told me that the “Number Etr” on the OFII sticker in my passport was my carte de sejour number. All told, it took about 4 hours, but it meant that I had everything that I needed to begin for real. I was satisfied.
After tramping home I connected to the website to setup the appointment. I got a message telling me that they couldn’t set up my appointment and they gave me a number to call. It’s never good to be the exception, so I was a little disappointed, but diligently called the number the next day during business hours. Confirming my experience that I have no talent for getting information out of French call centers, I spent an hour on the phone and never managed to reach a person or to hear what the problem was. However, they did give me a slightly different URL to use to setup the appointment which worked. While going through the meeting setup, they gave me a different list of papers to assemble. It was fairly similar to the first, but not identical; one key difference being that the tax that I had already paid to allow me to renew wasn’t the correct amount.
They gave me the choice of when I wanted my appointment, but the earliest choice that they offered me was more than a week after the end of my visa. Again, not comforting. I started asking around; apparently that’s fairly normal and the meeting can be several months after the end of the visa. I remember foreigners in the US telling me that they weren’t able to leave the US and I never really understood why. I’m guessing this was the reason, and I finally get it. I always figured that the government would up at my doorstep the day after my visa expired. I guess that won’t happen for another generation.