Wednesday 27 June - Prefecture Visit, World Cup Swiss

We drove across to Montauban around 8.30am to get in an early visit to the Prefecture as advised yesterday. When we got there, there were only 8-10 people already there, so we got a ticket from the Receptionist and waited our turn. Once our number was called, we went to the only window that was operating, and Rita explained our situation about the Sydney Consultate, the Long-Stay Visa and their advice to come to the Prefecture with the list of documents on the national Government website and apply for a Carte de Séjour. The woman behind the counter looked at our paperwork including the copy of the regulations from the National Government website, and then said “you can’t apply for this here; you should have done this before you left your country”. Since this was in total contraction to what I had been advised by the French Consulate in Sydney, and what was on the national website, we explained again that this was a new regulation implemented in December 2016, for the family of Swiss citizens. She still looked unconvinced (since she obviously had never heard of this regulation), but took our copy of the paperwork back to discuss it with a colleague. She then came back with a couple of sheets of paper about the Titre de Séjour, and asked for my passport. She wrote this on a cover page and then started going through a long list of required documents, which she said we would need for an application. This included many things which were not on the national website for a Carte de Séjour for Swiss spouses. We pointed this out, but she was undeterred and just kept reading from her list.

In the end, there were three main things extra that were needed:

1. Originals of birth certificates for both of us

2. Medical Insurance for both of us

3. Proof of financial resources for our stay for both of us

I’m not sure why anything was required for Rita, since under the Schengen Treaty she could just come and live in France for as long as she wants without any visas or permits. The birth certificate issue was relatively minor, but still a pain in the butt, espcially since we had been told we wouldn’t need them (and hence left original copies securely at home). Now we have to get duplicate originals from Australia and Switzerland, at a cost of a few hundred dollars, and hope that they arrive in time before our next interview on July 18.

The medical insurance is more costly. We have never used medical services in France on our previous trips, and have simply self-insured i.e pay for ourselves if need be. Now we had to obtain Medical Travel Insurance, and most companies won't issue policies once you have left Australia. So you are left having to pay premium amounts for ordinary policies - over $1000 in our case.

The proof of financial resources should not be too hard, providing they are willing to accept a letter from our Australian accountant stating that we have adequate financial resources to meet our living expenses while in France. So, we’ll get all this paperwork and go back on July 18 to see what they say. But I have a feeling of dread in my stomach that they may invent some new rules during that meeting, which will delay the process once more.

After we left the Prefecture building, I was totally depressed and sick to death of French bureaucracy. After my dealings this year with the rail strikes, the phone company and now the prefecture, I’d had enough. I was ready to change my flight and go back to Australia as soon as the Fêtes is finished in August, then sell the barge and the house to cut all ties with France. I was grumpy for most of the day, and Rita stayed clear (even though she was cranky as well). Then later in the day, I realised that I couldn’t go home early, since we had already invited friends to stay with us in September, and they had already booked all their travel plans.

So I grudgingly sat down at the computer to order a new birth certificate, paid for a medical insurance plan and wrote to my accountant. I then downed a few beers to numb the pain, and wondered what surprises we have in store for us on the 18th.

Later that night, we went up town to have dinner and drinks to cheer ourselves up at Le Paris (formerly Le Bureau) and to watch the World Cup game between Switzerland and Costa Rica. However, despite having several TV screens in the pub, and having no Brazilians or Serbians in the pub, the waitress said that none of the screens could be switched to the Swiss game. She didn’t know that this was not a day to piss me off further, so I stormed out, with Rita following. However, Rita then said she was hungry and wanted to eat there. So I very reluctantly went back and sat down. When the same waitress came to take our orders, she asked if i was disappointed. I just grunted and did my best imitation of a Gallic Shrug. The food was not great, but it filled a hole. We then came home and followed the scores on the internet, which ended in a 2-2 draw. Rita was worried for a while that this might spell trouble, until she heard that Brazil had beaten Serbia 2-0 and hence ended their hopes. So Brazil and Switzerland progress to the Group of 16, and Switzerland can claim bragging rights over Australia!