What I didn’t know was that the catalyst to residency occurred long before two days ago, and not as one might think with my first visit to Paris or with the start of OBGAdventures.com, but in 1992, right here in the United States. Who knew?
FRENCH FRILEY, THE FRANCOPHILE
Like millions of others, I love Paris and have loved Paris since the first time I went to the City of Light in my early 20s with a group of models and a photographer looking for work. Believe it or not, I actually left Milan to go to Paris for my birthday, after having signed with an Italian modeling agency and getting hired for my first international modeling assignment as a hostess on a local Italian tv show. I just bailed. Clearly, modeling wasn’t a priority. I just wanted to go to Paris for my birthday, so I left. I often wonder what my life would have been like had I stayed in Italy and not caught the train to Paris that day. But here we are.
Anywho. I met my husband – called Chou Chou by his close friends and French family – much later in late 1992, both through his French maman, Marie Louise, and his maman’s neighbor, a woman I met in Los Angeles at a taping of an old show called Love Connection and who moved to the San Francisco Bay Area after – ironically – she found love (and not from the tv show). While we aren’t in touch anymore, I used to go back and forth from Los Angeles to the Bay Area to visit her and her family from time to time. That’s how I met Marie Louise and her son Chou Chou. In fact, after many years of family friendship, one day I found myself holding hands with Chou Chou on a crowded trolley car in San Francisco. I remember he bought me a pair of shoes that day too. Less than a year later, I moved to the Bay Area. A year or so after that, we got married. It will be 14 years this year. I married my friend. #awesome
CARTE DE SÉJOUR
While I loved Paris before I loved my husband, I admit that his French citizenship has its benefits for a Francophile like me, including having a large and loving French family. =) And while Chou Chou and I have merely talked about the rest of the benefits of citizenship for the last 14 years, we have merely talked and not moved one little pinkie toe to start the process. But now my toes are moving. In fact, my whole body is doing a Paris shimmy à la Josephine Baker, because guess what? It’s time. I’m on the road to permanent residency. It’s time that I got on the road to my carte de séjour!
A carte de séjour (CDS) or titre de séjour is an official permanent residency card in France. According to the nice man at the Consulat Général de France who I met with a few days ago in San Francisco (“Would you prefer I speak French or English?”, he asked in French once we were seated), I only need to apply for a long stay visa that will be valid for one year. (“En anglais, s’il vous plaît,” I requested excitedly. “I’m too excited to think in French.”) Mr. Consulat says I can go in and out of France as much as I want during that time, stay as long as I want, and even work if I want. After that one year is up, I can apply for the carte de séjour at the local préfecture of my home address in France. #easypeasy
The first step in my journey is a simple one. Kinda, sorta. After I finish this post, I’m going to send off for a newer version of my birth certificate. My husband has gone online to send for a newer version of his and has already heard back from the small village of Rochefort-Sur-Mer. #fun
We need to send in original copies of our birth certificates along with the original copy of our marriage certificate to the French Embassy so that our marriage can be recorded in our official French family register, known as le livret de famille, a French tradition and law that dates back to 1877. (And yes, we were supposed to do this right after we got married. Oopsie.) We need our livret de famille before I can get my long stay visa.
Oh wait. Did I mention that we got married in Barbados? Did I also mention that the French Embassy that serves Barbados is in Trinidad? That means, we can mail in our original documents with the appropriate fee and wait for their return, or we can take them there ourselves.
“Do you want to go to Trinidad on our way back from Barbados in May to take care of this?” my husband asked me during our visit at the French Consulate. (Muttering: Like I need an excuse to go back to Trinidad for a do-over.) “Let’s talk about it,” I responded with a big smile on my face, excited as all get out that I was at the French Consulate in the first place, and even more excited that this is all much more straightforward than I thought it would be, in the second place. (Remind me to tell you about the run around we got in France a few years ago trying to take care of this whole thing. #itwasawful)
And so this is where we are at the moment. A Francophile called French Friley married a French-American guy called Chou Chou, and she is now on a journey to permanent residency status in France. If you’d like to follow my journey to the coveted carte de séjour, stay tuned. I’m sure it’ll be quite the ride. #betcha
Until next time…