So I’m coming up on my three months in Europe! Woooo! But with that comes a caveat. Without a super special stamp in my passport I am no longer allowed to be in Europe.
This would be less than ideal for my job, obviously.
France is part of the Schengen Area which is basically all of Europe and the reason that Europeans enjoy being able to freely travel without having passport checks and all that border control nonsense. As an American I am only allowed to travel for 90 days through the Schengen Area without any special permission.
So now I have to go through a slew of French bureaucratic hurdles in order to get my stamp! Let the games begin!
Get a Visa from the French Consulate in Atlanta using all the paper in your possession. Check!
Within ten days of arriving in France mail all the papers along with your entry stamp (that I got at my port of entry in Iceland) to the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII). Include translated copies of your birth certificate that you have to procure when in France. Check and check!
Get the first of your medical exams! This one was pretty easy. First listen to a doctor take a personal phone call for about 20 minutes. Then pee in a cup and do an eye exam. Oh. Less easy because you forgot to learn the alphabet in French. Put learn alphabet in French on your to-do list otherwise you will probably be declared legally blind when in fact you’re just not very good at French. Check!
OK y’all this is where it’s getting serious. I was told by my work (thank goodness I have a job with administrative personnel who help me out with the timeline of these tasks) that I was hereby relieved of my duties for one Tuesday to go to Strasbourg- the capital of my region and the site of the OFII in my region.
That morning another Japanese dancer and I took the early morning train to Strasbourg. We are the only dancers who have to do this as the rest of them are European and thus exempt from all of this. First stop was an X-Ray. Not sure exactly why I needed to do this but I do what I am told when I am a visitor in a country.
I learned the word for pregnant today (enceinte) since I was having an X-Ray I had about 5 different people ask. At least I think that’s why they were asking….hopefully not from having had too many croissants.
Anyway, the X-ray tech told me in rapid French to take off my shoes and shirt. I began undressing and then…. had a horrific image of having misunderstood her instructions and waltzing into the exam topless and promptly being kicked out of the country.
So I timidly (and fully clothed) walked back into the room and mimed taking my shirt off. I had heard correctly. Shirt came off and the exam could proceed.
I was really impressed. Within 10 minutes of walking through the door I’d done my whole procedure and even got to keep my X-Ray!
After that I had a bit of time before my next medical exam. So I explored Strasbourg.
My next medical exam had another eye exam…they are really worried about my eyes here. I’m fine people! I just don’t know the letters in French! But anyway…I got to take a peak at the “Civic Education” class that I will be called in to do eventually and then learn how to be a good French civilian! I’m actually really excited for that class.
It was a long day. But I got my stamp then and there! Check! Sigh of relief! I can leave France now to travel and will be able to get back in!
My next step is to get my carte de séjour which is my official residency card! After that I only have to stay in France for five years to become a citizen if I want.
But first things first…..learn the alphabet.