In late August, my application for a long-stay work visa was approved by the French consulate in Los Angeles. Though they FedExed me back my passport, the shiny new visa within was far from fully functioning.
Along with my passport, the consulate sent back my immigration form (now bearing an official-looking stamp), a.k.a. my ticket to a date with snooty French government doctors and a chest X-ray machine.
Since I had a long-stay student visa to study abroad in Nantes, having to submit to the visite médicale obligatoire this time around didn’t come as much of a surprise.
As is standard protocol, I sent my form along with a photocopy of my passport, visa and entry stamp to the Toulouse branch of the Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration (OFII) and settled in to wait for my convocation telling me the date, time and location of my appointment.
Three weeks later, it came. I was supposed to report to the OFII in Toulouse on the afternoon of Nov. 7. But on Nov. 7 I was also supposed to be in Berlin, as I had just booked my flights for Toussaint.
Naturally I freaked out. The visite médicale is not something you can just skip (it’s also not something you’re supposed to be able to easily reschedule). It’s a mandatory part of the visa process and without it, your long-stay visa becomes completely invalid after your first three months in the country.
On the other hand, I’d booked all my flights through easyJet.com and of course got a great deal, easyJet being a discount airline and all. But being a discount airline, easyJet makes you pay more than your original ticket price in order to make any changes.
So, after consulting with my guardian angel Stéphane, I spent an hour or so switching back and forth between WordReference.com and french.about.com penning the ultimate groveling, please-take-pity-on-me-and-reschedule-my-appointment email to the Toulouse OFII.
They responded the next day saying they’d send me a new convocation!
Fast forward to a month later: I’d returned from my travel extravaganza and still had no news of a new appointment.
So I sent another email along the lines of “Hey, remember me…I still need a new appointment over here…”
A day later (and after a confused and groggy phone call in French—I’d just woken up from a nap) I had an email in my inbox with a PDF attachment of my convocation for the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 28.
The day in question dawned cold and gray, threatening rain. I climbed aboard the 9:07 train to Toulouse, planning to do some minor sight-seeing and shopping before the hour of truth.
Naturally, I hit up the cathedral. (I have a thing for old churches, cathedrals especially.)
Then I headed to Monoprix in search of Listerine (extremely difficult to find and also extremely expensive in France) and to H&M for a new skirt.
After a quick lunch in a patisserie, I hopped on the metro and headed to the OFII.
I presented myself to the receptionist who directed me to a door labeled “visite médicale.” I sat down, pulled out Dire presque la même chose and in no time a nurse was calling “mademoiselle Lourhie.“
She asked me some typical medical questions: “Are you pregnant?”, “Do you wear glasses?”, “When was the last time you were tested for TB?”
And some personal questions: “Is this your first time in France?”, “What were you studying in Nantes?”, “What do you plan to do once you’re back in the United States?”
Then I was weighed and measured and ushered into a little holding cell where I was told to remove my soutien-gorge in preparation for my chest X-ray.
After my X-ray was developed, I got to see another nurse who asked me more of the same and crossed some other things off on my chart before handing me over to the doctor who looked at my innards and pronounced me TB-free. (I really don’t understand the French government’s fixation with Tuberculosis.)
Then I got to see another woman who demanded my passport, a passport-style photo and my quittance d’hébergement, which I had interpreted as housing contract (a.k.a. my lease). I handed over the goods and she examined them.
Then she looked shiftily up at me from the lease and said “What’s this? Where’s the quittance?” And I said, “Sorry, that’s really all that I have.”
For a tense second I thought she was going to deny me my new passport vignette. Instead she glared snootily at me, said she would keep a copy of my lease and stuck another official sticker on one of my passport’s few remaining free pages.
Now I’m a legal immigrant and have a second chest X-ray to add to my collection. I’ve decided I need to get at least one more done someday so that I can have a whole series to mount on a wall of my future home.
In other news, I got word today that my application for the CAF was approved. I’ll be getting nearly 200 euros back each month as housing aid! Cha-ching!