And so it begins…
After it took me roughly two months of resending the same email again and again, over and over just to get an appointment, I had mentally prepared myself for a really difficult time at the prefecture. They weren’t going to make life easy for me, I thought to myself , as I set off from home with my enormous dossier in hand.
My file was literally as big as a large Fedex package and full of what I hoped would be all the documents needed to get me a one-way ticket to French nationality. On my way to the prefecture, I found myself clinging onto it, as if my life depended on this file reaching its final destination. And let’s be honest, it could, depending on how bad the post-Brexit fall out is. Anyway, let’s not open that can of worms today.
The Prefecture of French Dreams
So, I arrived at the prefecture early and had about thirty minutes to spare before my appointment began. I had arrived early on purpose as I knew, from my fellow expats, that it could take a while to find out where you were supposed to actually go. On top of my fears of getting lost, I was still very nervous and unsure of what to expect. The expat horror stories about the prefecture that I’d read online kept popping into my head and I was almost sure they’d send me away empty-handed for simply not being chic enough.
The guards outside the prefecture told me to go straight. This was the first hurdle I had to jump. Imagine the scene; the guards tell you to go straight but when you look in front of you there is a large circular green lawn meaning that you only have two choices – to go left, or to go right. And of course, it’s France, so they tell you “go straight.” After shuffling around a bit on the spot I decided to go right, I was facing in that direction when the guard said go straight so logically, that’s where I needed to go…I hoped so anyway. After walking towards a big grey building towering ominously over me I spotted a sign I recognised, it read:
Foreigners. I knew I was in the right place. Accueil 3 and 4 were specifically for foreign people visiting the prefecture. After entering the building I wasn’t sure where to go, I waited for a short while in the general reception queue but was quickly directed to the Bureau des naturalisations at the end of the hallway, up the stairs and on the left. Things were looking good, I still had about twenty minutes before my appointment was set to start. All I needed to do now was find Accueil 54 which was listed on the confirmation email I received. Of course, when I got upstairs, number 54 was nowhere to be see and I later found out that it no longer existed. Ah ha, hurdle number 2, told you they wouldn’t make it easy.
After quickly assessing my surroundings, I soon realised that there clearly wasn’t a queue. I decided just to stand behind one of the people who were already queuing for the multiple counters where people seemed to be giving in their files. To my surprise, a lady very quickly left her counter and came out to ask me if I had an appointment. When I said yes she ushered me forward, shooed away some people who didn’t have a rendez-vous and started mine 15 minutes early. I couldn’t believe it!
The lady who took care of my file was honestly the nicest woman. She very calmly asked for my documents one by one, gave them a quick once over and started stapling them together and making a pile. When I was ultimately missing some documents she simply said to bring them to my interview and when she saw me taking notes she explained that she would give me a list at the end. Wow, could this be any more straightforward?
A few things that surprised me were:
- They didn’t need my parents birth certificates (nor the translations). If you have your parents marriage certificate and its translation, then they don’t need the birth certificates. Good to know as it could save you lots of money!
- I didn’t need the timbre fiscal at the drop off, you only need to bring them to the interview.
- My translations, although over 6 months old, were accepted
- On the application form page 5 and 6 say that you only need to fill in one exemplaire, however my prefecture asked me for two.
- If you live with your boyfriend/girlfriend but you aren’t married you have to tick vie maritale as your relationship status. You also need to bring your partners last tax declaration and a photocopy of their ID.
- It is really not a big deal if you are missing anything. They just tell you to bring it to the interview.
So after we figured out what I had and what I still needed to get, the lady gave me a date for my interview which will be in May. I was a little disappointed that it would be another 5 months away after waiting 6 for the first appointment but I was also really happy to be taking another step towards my dream of becoming French!
And last but not least…
The lady then handed me back all my documents in a sealed envelope and stapled the list of missing documents to it. She then gave me a yellow piece of paper with my interview date which you have to bring with you on the day. I found myself asking “Is that it? Can I go now?” As I just couldn’t believe how simple and straightforward the process had been. Maybe I just got lucky but whatever the reason, I am so relieved to have successfully jumped this hurdle. And now, with just one last hurdle to go in the race to becoming a French citizen, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.