A couple of weeks ago, Julie and I hopped on a train for the 45 minute ride to Montpellier. While we planned to stay over night and explore the charming old town, our main purpose was to visit L’Office Francais de l’Immigration et de L’Integration (OFII). A successful visit would mean that we were officially legal in the eyes of the French government, and were permitted to spend the year here.
The OFII represented the final step in a process that began in the fall of 2011, when we began assembling documents to apply for a long-term stay visa. As you’d expect, the application requirements were vigorous. We easily each had a stack of documents an inch high–everything from our verified banking records to proof of medical insurance. If you’d murdered us on the way to the French consulate in Vancouver and hidden our bodies, you could have assumed our identities with ease.
A multicultural clump of humanity was ushered into the OFII office the following afternoon. What followed was–and I write this without sarcasm–French bureaucratic efficiency at its finest. In the space of an hour and 45 minutes, we each had four appointments. We met with:
- A nurse who weighed and measured us, and completed a short interview regarding our medical history.
- A nurse who x-rayed our chest cavity.
- A doctor who reviewed the x-ray (pronouncing my chest “claire et normale”), took our blood pressure and listened to our breathing.
- A functionary who completed the paperwork and attached the precious ‘vignette’–an official sticker–in our passport.
Just like that, we were official. We celebrated with Thai food, an ethnic food beyond the prowess of our village’s restaurants.
On a related topic, I was very impressed with Montpellier. It has a gorgeous, mostly-pedestrian centre that’s lively and full of bars and restaurants. The city’s spirit is no doubt buoyed by a reported student population of 60,000. And, though it was early in the season, there was a minimum of tourist tatt and related nonsense. I wonder if nearby Carcasonne draws most of the visitors, and so permits Montpellier to just go about its business?