As of the 23rd of January, I had been in France for four months. However, my visa had not yet been completely validated until yesterday, February 1st.
About a week or so ago I wrote a post about the struggle that I have been having and continue to have with the way that the French communicate and operate, especially when it comes to legal/educational things. It absolutely astounds me how slow and unorganized French bureaucracy can be at times. I’ve heard about many assistants struggling with having their documents lost in the mail, sent to the wrong address, not received, etc. I’ve heard of many assistants not receiving their medical appointments until at least four to five months after turning in their documents. I’ve heard of assistants having issues when it came to the medical appointment itself. These were the stories (and the fact that I personally hadn’t received anything for four months) that I was allowing to affect my expectation of my legal status in France. I allowed them to stress me out and to cause me some anxiety.
I was very stressed because I had yet to receive a date for my required medical appointment with OFII (l’office française de l’immigration et de l’intégration = French office of Immigration and Integration). I needed this appointment in order to legally stay in France, and I needed this appointment to keep receiving the housing subsidies that keep my rent low enough to allow me to manage a decent living on my low salary. Without this appointment, not only would I risk getting deported, but I also risked having to pay back at least 1,000€ to the French government that I would’ve had to pay if I wasn’t receiving those housing subsidies. So, needless to say, I was freaking out a bit.
But alas, I finally had my required medical appointment yesterday, and thankfully, everything went smoothly and as planned. That also means that I am now completely legally allow to stay in France until my visa expires, AND I don’t have to pay back all of that money to the French government. So, cheers to that! For this I am extremely thankful.
Now, let me break this thing down for you a bit. All immigrants, unless they are European Union citizens, and despite how long they will be in the country (exception: student visas and tourist visas) are required to go to a medical appointment to validate their visa. Pretty much, it’s the equivalent of a regular doctor check-up in the States, but it is absolutely required in order to legally stay in France.
I had heard stories about assistants having many issues with their medical appointments, and I had also heard the other extreme, that it was not a big deal at all. So, honestly, I didn’t know what to think, and I prepared myself for the worst.
My appointment was in a suburb of Nantes. Thankfully all of the assistants in my area that were required to go had their appointments all on the same day. So, we all met up and went to our appointments together. Pretty much, sometimes, people are dramatic, very dramatic, especially when they are in a foreign country where they have no idea what is going on. The appointment was a piece of cake. Assistants need not fear. Just don’t forget your paperwork, and you’ll be golden.
Step 1: Show up, give reception your name and your paperwork.
Step 2: Go sit in the waiting room until you get called up by the doctor and have a simple chest x-ray .
Step 3: Go sit in the waiting room again until you get called up again by another doctor, get your weight and height taken, have a super simple and quick eye exam, and get asked some questions about your vaccinations, general health, etc. etc.
Step 4: Go sit in the waiting room again until you get called up again by another doctor, have your blood pressure taken, get asked questions about any serious health issues you may have had, get asked if you smoke etc. etc.
Step 5: Go back to reception, get the stamp in your passport that says that you have completed the medical exam and that you are legally allowed to stay in France.
Step 6: Leave and take a deep breath. You’re all finished!
Stress level out of 10: I would give it a 2. Maybe that’s because I had high expectations of it being one of the most stressful moments of my life, and also, going to the doctor is the least new thing to me ever. There were some moments when I didn’t understand the medical terminology of some things, but the doctors understand that I’m not French. So, they would say it again or say it in English. No big deal.
So, basically, the moral of the story: when living in another country, try not to stress too much about the process. If you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do, then there is nothing else you can do about it. Also, take into account cultural difference, and try your best to be as patient as possible. Don’t expect things to go the way they would in your home country. You will almost always be extremely frustrated and disappointed. These are things of which I have to remind myself every day. The struggle continues, and I think life as an expat means that it will always be there, in some way or another.
So, needless to say, I’m very relieved, and about time too. I only have three months here. Super hard to believe.
Looking forward to those three months though…
A plus mes amis….