OFII (French Office for Immigration and Integration) Timeline
So, we got to France, and I had three months to "get legal" - here's my timeline (apologies, as it's a bit dry - just like the champagne getting cool in the fridge)
29 Jan: arrived in France
28 Feb: moved to long-term apartment (address)
8 Mar: got phone numbers
9 Mar: mailed OFII paperwork
10 Mar: confirmed it reached Montpellier office
Mid-March: electric bill and rent receipt in my name
28 Mar: received OFII paperwork, and appointment
27 April: OFII appointment - morning medical (very quick x-ray of my lungs), afternoon welcome. Take:
- passport (with visa page and Europe entry stamp)
- face photo (1 - I had a copy from when I applied for my visa, so used it)
- rent receipt and electric bill + copies (only needed one, no copy needed)
- timbre for 250€ (paid online and printed the proof)
- medical records and notes (not needed, but helped to prepare for questions)
- prescription bottles (useful)
- livret de famille (not needed)
We left by 8:50 to catch the bus to the train station, then took the train into Montpellier - it was initially 10 minutes (!!!!) late, but ended at 5 minutes late (honestly, I had been most worried about the bus to get to the train station, but that was basically on time). We had already walked past the medical center (link), so that lessened the anxiety, as we knew where it was. When we got there, there was a line to check in (and I saw quite a few OFII papers in hand). We waited, then I spent *maybe* 5 minutes getting an x-ray, then we waited a bit more for the results (I added that to the OFII packet). I was done with my 10:30 appointment by 10:45 - because it was cold, we headed back to the train station.
We had a couple of machine coffees, ate our packed lunches, and killed time until 1:00. We headed to the OFII office (very close by), but some nice ladies told us it wouldn't open until 1:30 (my appointment time, and apparently the appointment time of everyone else ;-) ). Well, when we showed up a bit before time, there was quite a line. But when the fellow came to open the floodgates, everyone surged forward - yep, I pushed too (I'd already seen the bus-line culture here, so frankly expected the rush).
Well, we were all checked in, and we had the welcome meeting - it was all in French, which I fortunately understood (although I feel for the girl in front of me who stated that she had zero French). Rick and the many other supporting family members were able to stay for that. Then the support group had to leave, and we poor visa-seeking souls had to take a 20 minute written test.
After the test, our support group could come back ;-) . We waited for my name to be called, the I went to the medical check. They make sure you know that the medical appointment is completely confidential.
It seemed to me that (1) the medical check was very geared towards making sure I had all my vaccines (they only asked; no proof, such as vaccine card or blood test, was required) and (2) that my lungs were clear (probably because of the on-going threat of TB). Other than that, they asked my weight and height, and what prescriptions I took. They didn't want to see my medical notes; no questions about surgeries or chronic problems. I asked about how to find a doctor, and they said pharmacists were a good resource (LOL - I should have thought of that!)
I went back into wait-mode, then on to my individual "what do you need, and how's your French" meeting. I was tested to confirm that my level of French was at least A1 (short discussion in French about my life so far in France, combined with the written test), and got a personalized welcome, which included an evaluation of my needs, got assigned 2 training courses (French civics and history, to fulfill my CIR - contract of integration to the republic), and got an orientation of services available to me. I frankly was so anxious about the entire process that I screwed up mightily on what in retrospect were basic questions meant to help them evaluate my French. Well, she still said my French was good enough for now, but offered "if I wanted to take them" French language classes... I don't think I'm insulted. I found out that near the end of October, I should make an appointment for the next residency period - I can qualify for the 10 year card, as long as I "pass" A2 level in French. The agent said I could, if I wanted, take up to 100 hours of French lessons - these are in Montpellier, so not extremely convenient, but I will look into whether an "attestation" to level A2 is part of it - probably worth it for a 10 year card! Part way through this meeting, she invited Rick to join us, and found a possible way for him to come to the French training courses too! These are really only for new people like me, but perhaps he could come as my personal translator (my courses are in French, and the English courses are full). She will look into it and let us know :-)
At the end, she put my "vignette" sticker in my passport, and gave me a packet of documents to keep, including appointment information for my classes - in a couple of weeks, I'll know all there is to know about French civics...
She confirmed a few things for us:
- I can exchange my driver's license now that I have my "vignette"
- we can sign up at CPAM for health coverage, since we have been here 3 months, and I have my long-stay visa finalized
- we won't need a numéro d'identification fiscale (tax ID number) until next year, when we will pay income taxes for this year (we weren't here on the first of January, so we have until next year to deal with that!).
- for normal daily life, I should make a copy of my passport information, visa, and vignette pages to carry around (and leave my passport locked up unless I travel outside the country)
We hopped the next train home (used the ticket machine this time), tried out a new bus route, and were home by 6:15 - definitely a longer and more eventful day than usual for us!