I have been trying to get a carte de séjour, the official permission for foreigners to stay in France for more than three months. Most semipermanent residents of Paris, like me, circumvent this by visiting a non-European Union country every 90 days so they get a new entrance stamp in their passports when they return, entitling them to 90 more days in France. But I wanted to find out what was entailed in obtaining a carte de séjour.
Before you even leave home, you have to get a long-term-stay visa, which I did from the French consul in L.A. That required, among many other things, proof of adequate funds and health insurance, and a statement from the California Department of Justice that I wasn't a convicted felon. Once I got the visa, I thought my troubles were over. But then I found I needed to apply for a carte de séjour when I got to France.
This I did in March at a Reception Center for Foreigners, where I had to present a recent gas or electric bill showing I lived in the apartment I'd rented. I got a temporary carte de séjour and an appointment for a permanent one at the Prefecture of Police in the 4th arrondissement, on Île de la Cite, for Aug. 25, which seemed like an eternity away.
I looked at the carte de séjour application form a week before the appointment and found I needed to have my birth certificate translated by an official French court translator. That done, for about $45, I duly appeared at the Prefecture of Police, with a folder full of documents supporting my application.
They were nicer there than I had expected, willing to listen and speak French slowly. But I needed more documents -- current proof of health insurance and another gas or electric bill, plus a medical certificate from a heath center in the 11th arrondissement, near the Place de la Bastille. I have just come back from the exam with a big envelope containing a chest X-ray and the medical certificate, signed by a doctor. Now I am on the edge of my seat, wondering if, finally, I have what it takes to get a carte de séjour. Which, by the way, will cost me about $250. Let it never be said I didn't go the whole nine yards to live in Paris.