(another catchup session)
This is an ongoing theme here! Paperasse, or paperwork, is really stress-inducing in France and every time there is reason to change or update papers, just the thought is enough to create a knot in my stomach. SO! Second move in a year? No problem. I told myself I could do this.
The carte grise is the car ownership paper that needs to be kept up-to-date in terms of current address. If you don’t do it after a month of moving and are caught, you can get fined and lose points off your licence (but for some reason, the licence doesn’t need to be updated!). Changing your address on your carte grise means a trip to the préfecture or sous-préfectures and proving your new address with a utility bill.
So we drove 15km into Avallon with our rental agreement in hand and went to the sous-préfecture to change our carte grise. Of course once we got there, we learned that a rental agreement is not proof enough of an address (ANYBODY could make up any old rental agreement) and since I had taken time off work to do this transaction, I drove back home to get the paperwork needed. They wanted an electricity bill (and those couldn’t be made up in photoshop?) but I was hesitant to use our electricity bill because we have three (yes, that’s 3) street names on our bill. Why? Good question! It has to do with the street changing names over the years and nobody being willing to accept the correct address. So I brought the bill, along with a stack of other papers showing the correct street name, back to the sous-préfecture and they were able to process the address change for both of us, although we did have to prove we were married – because the bill was in Jean-Marc’s name – and I needed to insist on keeping my own name for the new sticker. Sixty kilometres later, we were both done.
Back in Canada we don’t have anything like a carte grise, but it seems to me that when I moved I was able to change my driver’s licence online in a matter of minutes and that was that.
Changing your address with a bank also requires sending by mail (not fax, not email) proof of address, along with an accompanying letter requesting the change. I sent off the request along with the rental agreement, but – you guessed it! – that was not the right thing to send off. The letter was returned and I was asked to send the valid proof and so I sent off the electricity bill with the three street names, explained the situation, and I threw in a few other bills, just for good measure.
The change was made, but just for one of the two accounts I had requested, so I had to call the bank and request the change for the second account. They gave me the song and dance about sending proof and I said that it had already been sent in. The decidedly unhelpful and unfriendly person at the other end of the line finally understood the situation and begrudgingly agreed to change the second account’s address. Just today I received the bank statement from this account through redirected mail, so the change didn’t actually get done. Somehow I'm not surprised. I’ve written yet another letter requesting the change again, and I’m sending it with a stack of justificatifs de domicile. Third time lucky?
I also needed to change my address with my Canadian banks. I called and spoke to cheery, helpful people who were willing to change my address and take my word for it (after I correctly answered the security questions, of course!). I did both Canadian banks in under 5 minutes.
carte de séjour
After being the proud owner of my carte de séjour for six months, it was time to put in a request for a new card. I went to the town hall and made my request and the secretary thought that the card should come sooner than last year’s, which took almost seven months to arrive. To my surprise, after only two months, I was summoned with Jean-Marc to the préfecture in the big city of Auxerre, which is 50 km away. I thought maybe we would have an interview to make sure that we are really married and together, but we just needed to sign a declaration together, stating that we are living together. We drove 100 km to do that? Couldn't we have done that in front of the mayor at the town hall? They said that the card should arrive in a month. Imagine my surprise when I found out that my card had arrived at the town hall just before Christmas! I was told to buy fiscal stamps to the tune of 104€ (their way of collecting the payment) in Avallon and present them at the mairie to get my card.
We went to the place where you buy fiscal stamps and when I told them the amounts (one for 85€ and one for 19€) they were confused. There are various sorts of stamps for various sorts of transactions (passport, citizenship cards, driving fines etc.) and they are all at specific prices. They didn’t want to sell me the wrong kind of stamps because getting a refund is a chore (oh really?) and the stamps were changing at the end of the year. I thought that it was a prudent suggestion and I decided to check in with the village secretary first thing Monday morning.
First thing Monday morning I called only to find that the town hall was closed between the 19th and the 29th! So this little new card had to wait until 2012 to be paid for and picked up. I went in yesterday with my stamps, but the person at the desk wasn't the regular secretary and she had no idea where my card might be. Call me crazy, but I think that a filing cabinet would be a handy thing to have in an office, as opposed to binders and files stacked in boxes! That way the cards could be found under 'C' for cartes. Filing cabinets are so not French.
Why do taxes, fees and fines need to be paid for with fiscal stamps in this day and age? Why couldn’t I just write a cheque, pay in cash or – and I know I’m going out on a limb here – pay by debit card?
Sometimes I really miss simplicity.