Monday, September 22, 2014

Immigration & Integration

We had our visa appointment today at the Office Français d'Immigration et d'Intégration, or OFII (pronounced "oh-fee"). We applied for a long-stay visitor's visa, or visa de long sejour (VLS). The application process starts several months prior to arriving in France at your home country's French consulate and ends with your visit to the local OFII office.

La Cantine
It was a long bus ride to the outreaches of Nice, meaning we were gone for much of the day. The school-age kids ate lunch at the cantine for the first time, and our neighbor picked them up from school. All three of them loved the cantine and wanted to eat there again. It's a sit-down 4-course meal, and everyone is served the same thing. Dio and Inga, who both eat at the maternelle's cantine, were a bit hazy on what they ate...something involving fish, rice, cheese, and plums. Zari remembered eating melon, fish, spinach, yogurt, and a madeleine in roughly that order.

French bureaucracy isn't always that bad
Our visit to OFII was pleasant. The employees were professional, accommodating, and friendly. We spent much of the time waiting in line, of course, but that's the nature of immigration offices. Our visit consisted of several steps:
  • Nurse's exam/interview, including height, weight, and a vision check
  • Chest X-rays to rule out tuberculosis
  • Physician's exam (blood pressure, pulse, lymph nodes, listen to lungs w/ stethoscope) and interview (general state of health, medications, vaccinations, operations, number of children, etc)
  • Final interview with a visa officer to get our temporary visa upgraded to a permanent one

Eric was very conscious of our class & race privilege. As when he applied for a permanent resident card in the US, he noticed the French immigration officers immediately being very friendly and warm when they saw an educated, white, French-speaking couple (and an uber-cute baby!).

I'm not saying that I saw any of the employees being rude or unhelpful to the other people...but we definitely got a chummy, friendly vibe when they sat down with us--different from their usual brisk, businesslike demeanor.

When the nurse saw me nursing Ivy, she found us an office and brought in chairs so we'd have a quieter place for her to eat. The last visa officer even broke a little rule for us. We had one copy of our justificative de domicile, or proof of address, and apparently she needed one copy for each of us, not one for our household. She mumbled to herself for a few moments, than said, "eh, whatever, I'll just make another copy and call it good."

One of the physicians said something borderline racist to Eric...when she was discussing the X-ray results with him, she said, "Yours look great, but of course I would have expected that given where you're from. Not like some of the other people who come in here."

The snow is Canada

The visa officer expressed her great love for Canada: "It's such a beautiful country, and the people are so nice." She's never been there, but she's convinced it's so much better than France.

"Oh, but it's so beautiful here in Nice, with the ocean and the mountains and the warm climate," I said.

"Yes, sure, the weather is nice but there are just so many buildings everywhere! But in Canada it's so beautiful. The food is good here, though."

I agreed with her about the food and warned that Canadian winters can be horrible (affreux). I concluded, "We always want what we don't have." (On veut ce qu'on n'as pas.)

Idealizing another country is not just for us Americans and Canadians.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like Barb Herrera doesn't find Dr. Biter so wonderful any more:


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