A 5-Year Reprieve
It’s been a while since I last posted here. After getting quite into the swing of writing blog posts on this and that, putting a lot of drafts together, even getting to the stage of having a plan, and working behind the scenes on a redesign of the site. Then life got in the way, big time. The reason?
Some months ago I wrote a post about whether or not to apply for a carte de sejour, the residency card Brits in France were being advised to apply for. The rationale for this, even though there’s no requirement for EU citizens to have one, is that it would make it easier when the time came that Britain left the EU, when we would be required to have a residency permit of some form. I’d made us an appointment and, when the time came, given Brexit was supposed to be happening shortly after that date, we decided to stick with it and just get one, to be on the safe side. Little did we know how much that short, twenty-minute meeting would rock our foundation.
At these meetings, held at the Prefecture, which is the equivalent of a UK County Council but with power devolved from the Government, we were expecting an hour each to go over our dossiers and then to either have our application accepted or to be turned away. We’d gone en famille and it was late morning, so we were all a little fraught so it was a relief to have our meeting together and for it to last little more than 20 minutes. The birth certificates and passports were checked, we were asked about our financials. We then provided our fingerprints and handed over our photos (after a quick dash to the nearest photo booth and back) and left with our recipisse’s on the understanding that if there was a problem they would contact us via email; otherwise, we’d receive a text instructing us to come in and get the cards when they were ready. The expiry date on the recipisses was mid April. We weren’t worried, so away we went. If anything we were relieved. It had been so much easier than we’d been led to believe. Now we could get on with life: buying land, building our house, building our business(es), and learning the language. Maybe even relax a little?
It was going well. We’d found some land only a few months before our CdS appointment and had applied for planning permission. That was all approved only a few weeks after our appointment. We set a date with the notaire to get started on the paperwork, to sign the compromis de vente and eventually, soon after, we hoped, to buy the land and get on with it. All systems go – after a two-and-a half-year delay.
Imagine our shock then when, after signing for letters from le facture, we opened them to find – after hearing nothing at all from the Prefecture until that day, that our CdS’s had been refused. But not just that: we were also expected to leave within 30 days. We could appeal, yes, but if our appeal was refused we would effectively be illegal immigrants from that date. We showed the letter to our neighbours (now-retired ex-professionals), two teachers, one ex-prefecture employee who by an incredible co-incidence used to work in immigration, two mayors, two gendarme’s, and a notaire; all French. The were all shocked by what they read. This was not a drill, people!
Long story short, we had help from the British Embassy, a follow-up meeting at the Prefecture where we provided documents missing from our original dossier (if only they’d emailed to ask!), and today, about 9 weeks from the day we received the letter, we have our 5-year carte de sejours in our hand.
Are we pleased? Well, yes. Are we celebrating? Nope, not even close. This doesn’t feel like a victory. We haven’t accomplished anything, we’re exhausted. We’ve went to hell and back those first four weeks and have been waiting, in a holding pattern, for the past five. It has near on destroyed my sanity and our relationship has been put through the wringer. We’ve survived – just. We’re still in France, but even with five years it feels like borrowed time.
Good news though. The owner of the land we found knows we’re serious – we have planning permission! – and hasn’t wavered despite our request to delay the sale until we were on more certain ground. On Tuesday next week we will go the notaire to sign. We will be staying, building a house, a business, a home, a life. We just need to calm down a bit, recover from the stress of the past two months, get beyond it, move on.