Friday, December 6, 2013

Expat Experiences - Carte de Sejour & US passports in France

Off to downtown Bordeaux.
 Off to do some paperwork...

This isn't going to be a long post...I just wanted to share a little observation about some differences that I find here in France around government/Carte de Sejour (long-term VISA) paperwork - how it's done here in France and how the US completes passports. Recently, we have had the luxury(?) of completing (or in process of) both!

At some point, when I'm really feeling motivated - I will share my experience of getting my first long-term visa before we moved here and then the continual paperwork that I still provide to have this thing renewed (now Carte de Sejour)- at this point yearly, but then will be 10 years.  (Please also note, my process is considered easier as I am married to a French citizen) But I won't go too far down that path right now.  That is another whole blog post in itself!!  I will just say for the sake of comparison that a few weeks ago, I spent a good part of several days - first trying to figure out exactly what documentation I needed for renewing my carte de sejour & then -  pulling together and copying all kinds of documents to renew it and finally figuring out exactly where I needed to hand this dossier in. (About 2" thick)  Last year I was able to do all of this at our local town police station - but of course we live in France - and these type of things constantly change.  Finally figured out that this year it had to be at the regional Prefecture in downtown Bordeaux.  I swear they want everything  - including the kitchen sick!! At this point, it's been handed in and now I wait (& wait - last year it was almost 2 months) to hear back from them for an appointment to continue this process! (Last year it was 3 appointments - one to get the initial temporary carte de sejour, a 2nd to renew it again as I waited for a medical appt. and a required 'Welcome to France" orientation to be scheduled and a final time to go back and pick up the official carte de sejour - once my medical and welcome orientation had been completed)

Let's shift now to the US process of doing passports.  This is the first time we have experienced this as expats.  Really the process is the same as it is in the States.  If you are an adult, you can mail in your passport, and appropriate documentation for renewal.  If you are getting a child passport, it has to be done in person - in the States we went to the post office.  Here in France, one has to go to the nearest US Consulate to do this.  We are lucky at this point - we have a US Consulate right here in Bordeaux.  (Although, as of January 2014 - the passport renewal process is streamlining, so it can only be done in Paris & Marseilles) - hence my push to get it done here in Bordeaux this month.

So given that last little bit of news & the fact that all of my girl's needed their passports renewed this Spring - we scurried to get them done here.  This is how it went...Email the US Consulate asking for an appointment -.  Getting an answer back in 48 hours with an appointment date & time (2 weeks from when I emailed) and links to documentation that we needed to bring.  Step one - follow link to fill out Passport renewal form on-line - easy enough and then print.  I did all three of these forms in about 20 minutes.  Step 2 - read list of required documentation (listed on same form) and copy those.  Copy passports for both my husband & myself. Step 3 - Have ID photos taken of each child - with clear instructions for photographer as to proper sizing for US passport. Found our local photo shop had no trouble with these instructions. Step 4 - Purchase overnight delivery envelope at post office - type of envelope clearly stated and pictured on website.
Chartron - near the US Consulate Office
This whole paperwork process was straightforward and clear.  It came time for the day of our appointment, so my husband and I took the girls off to the US Consulate office for our 1:30 appointment.  We arrived in plenty of time, even took the girls to lunch first.  We headed into the Office and waited for our turn.  A secretary came out about 1:35 pm and reviewed the paperwork with us - to make sure we were all set.  She then took the sheets/copies back into the office and told us to wait.  About 5 minutes later, we were called in and met directly with the US Consul of Bordeaux.  My husband and I pledged our oath that all the information on the forms was correct.  He reviewed the documentation, we all signed and he stamped.  We all chatted a little as we were doing each child and then we were done.  Passport applications will be mailed to processing agency and then returned to us in about a month. The whole appointment was less than 30 minutes in length.
The US Consul -Bordeaux and my youngest daughter
In summary - US system - clear, concise, straightforward and efficient.  French system of applying for my carte de sejour - convoluted, confusing and at this point - I know they have my dossier at the Prefecture as I have hand delivered it - but I have heard nothing else from them and it's been almost a month.  I think I will accept bets here that the US passports will arrive before I have my carte de sejour finalized!

Just making a comparison here and sometimes it's just a bit hard for my American brain to wrap my head around the French system....(let alone - find some clear instructions of the exact process!)

My oldest at lunch

Just a candid having lunch - middle daughter

Finally - my youngest enjoying her shrimp and avocado sandwich!


  1. Just went through this process for sabbatical with my family to go to Bordeaux. We have 2 daughters.

    1. Hope your experience was fairly smooth....Feel free to email me through my "about me" page if you need any advice or have any questions. French seems to never end!


  2. Well, our application for Victoria's CDS was done at the very friendly and helpful local Mairie and we just got that letter as well, stating next time we'd have to trek to the local Prefecture. Victoria's is good for 5 years though and we shall see what's happening until then.
    As a citizen of the EU I don't need one, but yes, I think it took 4 month to get it, which given by the thin file of papers we submitted begs the question what takes them so long? There is no correspondence with any related Canadian authorities or background checks that would warrant that time line.

    Getting an Austrian Passport for my daughter? A breeze!

  3. Looks like everything went well! Your daughters are so beautiful and becomin so sophisticated. Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank you Kelleyn - Merry Christmas to you and your family. My fingers are crossed for you to hear good news soon!! The US passports arrived a few days ago...basically 2 weeks after our appt. (Nice to know at least one country is efficient!!).

  4. I'm glad that you have posted such a comparison about passport processing on these two countries. I'm hoping to get a smooth sailing to when I get my UK US Passport Renewal.


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