Forays into French bureaucracy: The CAF, revisited

Way back in November I got word that my dossier for the CAF was approved, granting me the droit to roughly 200 euros a month as housing aid.

Normally, payments are delayed by a month: I received the money for November at the beginning of December and the money for December at the beginning of January.

And then I didn’t get any more money. Until last week.

In early January, I got a letter informing me that I needed to provide the CAF with an attestation of my 2011 income. This made sense as when I initially submitted my dossier, I was requesting funds for 2012 and had to provide a statement of my 2010 income. New year for housing aid, new year of income reports.

Being well versed in French bureaucracy—a.k.a. slow paperwork processing time—I immediately filled out the form and hand-delivered it to the Gers’ local CAF branch, which happens to be a roughly seven-minute walk from my house.

When I didn’t get January money in February, I checked my online account. Besides letting me know that I’ve been single since the date of my birth, the site told me that the CAF was still waiting on my 2011 income statement and that I also needed to provide my bulletin salaire de novembre.

But when I first submitted my dossier, I gave them a copy of my “attestation de salaire,” I said to myself, confused.

After a bit of digging in my “important bureaucratic French documents” folder I discovered that, alas, a “bulletin de salaire” is not the same thing as an “attestation de salaire” (future TAPIFers/CAF-seekers, beware).

The attestation de salaire was emailed to me as a PDF in October, officially explaining the TAPIF pay breakdown for the entire contract (including the weird advance that happens with your October earnings). A bulletin de salaire is an official monthly pay-stub. (It should be noted that I only received my November bulletin in mid-January and at this point have only received bulletins through February.)

Around the same time, I got yet another letter from the CAF. This one asking for a copy of my birth certificate.

As per usual, I immediately brought everything to the office—birth certificate and translation and the bulletins for both November and December. (The November one is wonky due to the aforementioned October advance; the December one is typical.) I also checked to make sure that they had indeed received my 2011 income statement. They had.

In the end, I had given them everything by the first week of February.

Ashley, Lyanne and I have become CAF regulars. You’d think they’d put a poster of us up in their staff room at this point—those three crazy foreign girls who keep coming in to ask after the status of their dossiers. And who keep getting the same evasive answer.

“Oui. Tout est au courant. Nous sommes en train de traiter vos dossiers. Ca va prendre du temps, quand même.”

Ashely, Lyanne and I all submitted identical dossiers the second week of November. And they’ve stayed identical: Whenever one of us would receive a request for something, we figured the other two would be asked soon enough, so we all supplied whatever was requested.

I’ve received regular payments for November and December 2012, a combined payment for January and February 2013 last Wednesday, and, as of Tuesday, a letter claiming that I’m now back on track to receive my regular payments.

Ashely received a delayed lump sum for November and December 2012 in February, but no word about 2013.

Lyanne has gotten nothing.

The moral of the story: Even when you try your darndest to be one step ahead of French bureaucracy, you end up falling three steps back.

For all you future TAPIFers out there: Bon courage.


One comment

  1. Jamie · · Reply

    Another amazing story about inept bureaucracy and inconsistent results. I can’t believe they asked for your birth certificate AGAIN! I wonder if the people in these offices have little regular ritual bonfires or something where they randomly select some paperwork from some files and just destroy it (and dance around the fire naked, of course).

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