Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Date with OFII

Today, ladies and gentleman, I finally took the first step towards getting my social security. Yes, I have been here for more than four months, and yes, I'm done in less than six. But probably during that time I will be hit by a bicycle or get drunk and fall down. So, it's a good idea to get this healthcare (which was one of the things that made this whole au pair sitch so dang appealing).

Well, I sent in my paper on November 7th, the required paper that I almost lost in a giant heap of recycling on Dalton hill before I left. Ironically enough, that paper got lost again once it got to France! Yes, my OFII legalese disappeared into the French postal system, and no one assigned me an appointment to get my carte de long séjour. This paperwork is rather vital, because it says that once I've been here a certain amount of months, if I leave without this carte in my passport, I cannot reenter the country legally until my visa runs out in September '12.

So anyway, two weeks ago I went in to the OFII office to kick some general ass, and instead, I walked out 20 minutes later practically giddy with the efficiency, and clutching my attestation to get that carte on February 9th, aka TODAY!

Now, obviously today wasn't going to go as smoothly as that day, because I had obviously used up all my karma. And it didn't start well either--I was 7 minutes late, and though no one said anything, you were taken in the order you arrived.

So I'm there. And I wait for about 45 minutes, just watching people. And then I realize I'm missing paperwork--you have to bring a justification de domicile, which in my case is a letter from my host parents saying I live with them. I had that. But I didn't have a copy of my host dad's ID, to prove he exists. Merde! And of course, he was in a meeting, so he couldn't be reached to fax it over quickly. When they called my name, I was totally scared, no lies. We all know the French stereotype of rudeness, and, although I debunked that rumor in my last post, we also know that government employees tend to be overworked, and this lady was definitely one of those.

I used the tactic, I know best--apologize profusely, ask what I can do, offer some alternatives, smile sadly, maybe call yourself stupid or something. I had brought along a letter from my bank that was addressed to me c/o my host family. And I offered to get the fax, somehow. And what did she say??...

"C'est pas grave."


Which means, no big deal, loosely.


So then I go into another room and wait, and they call my name, and it's do you wear contacts, are you preggers, height, weight, eyesight. And back out in the waiting room for a bit. And they call my name again for the 2nd (of 3) parts of the exam.

And this is where it gets a little interesting. I'd been warned about this part beforehand. Basically, they do a chest x-ray to make sure you aren't hiding and crazy maladies from the French government in order to exploit their healthcare system. So you go into a tiny room, and take off everything from the waist up, and you have to tie back your hair. And then the other door opens and a woman pushes your chest up against a giant machine to take the x-ray. By pushes, I mean, literally pushes and holds you there.

So that was fun. And then I got dressed and waited some more, and then I got to answer questions about myself in French--are you really sick? how about your vaccination history? how long have you been here? smoker? etc. Good thing it wasn't my first week, because she spoke quickly and didn't look in my eyes.

But finally--finished! Oh wait, just kidding, take your x-ray (that I got to keep, it's so weird and cool) and go back out to the first room. And wait some more.

Finally, around noon, after three hours, they pasted a sticker in my passport (I now have zero fully empty pages) and I can legally leave and re-enter the country again! Although, I went to Belgium and no one even checked my passport, so it's probably not as dire as I would like to believe.

Anyway, satisfying day of OFII stuff. So glad that's finished. And now I get to start the fight to get my social security. My host mom said it took the last au pair four visits to the agency, and finally the host dad had to go too, and she got her card 3 days before she left. Worth it.

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