lundi 3 juillet 2006

The Prefecture is the place where foreigners go to be tortured.
Well, okay, not officially. Officially it is to get the papers for visas, green cards, asylum, etc.
There is one in Marseille. Alain and I have been there four times, spending a grand total of 12 hours either waiting in line to get into the building, or waiting inside the building.

Joyful Experience 1) The first time we went it was the middle of September and we went to get the Carte Etudiante. Even though it was blazing hot and we waited an hour in the waiting room (no air conditioning, not many benches, no bathrooms, and no water) it turned out to be our most successful visit so far. So they gave us the paperwork, and we came home and filled it out. It required a medical exam and a photocopy of I think every official piece of paperwork I own. A few weeks later we got a letter in the mail, saying that my carte was ready, that we had to go back down and pick it up.

Joyful Experience 2) The second time we went, we went early in the morning and were there before the doors opened at 8:15. We ran up and got a ticket then proceeded to wait four hours. I think people get about ten tickets at a time to give to their friends and family who come after them. Our ticket was finally called and we presented our letter and I received my Carte Etudiante, good for one year, placed in my passport.

Joyful Experience 3) Last week we went back to the Prefecture, proof of marriage in hand, to get my Resident card. We got there around 7:45 again. The line was quite long, but not something to cause concern. We were prepared for another 4 hour wait if necessary. However, these lines are not normal lines. They are filled with pushy desperate people who don't really care that you were there before them. The only thing to do is push back in order to maintain your spot in line. Then of course there are the line jumpers. Oh so annoying! When we finally got in the building, we raced upstairs only to find out that they were out of tickets. We assumed that a new roll would be placed in the machine, so we waited. And waited. Alain finally went to go ask what was going on, and it turns out that they only give out 200 a day, which will keep them busy all day, so if you get there after that, too darn bad for you, go home and try again some other day.
Determined not to make the day a complete waste we went over to the driver's license section to get information about my getting a French driving license. Not surprisingly, we waited in line (though we did get a ticket, yay!) and found out we need to get my driver's license translated and have my residency card. Just to be clear before I go back again to the translator at 50$ per hour, do I need my grade school diploma translated as well? It isn't hard people! Name! Birthdate! Height! Weight!!!!!!!! This isn't Arabic!

Joyful Experience 4) Determined to make it this time, we get up at 4, get down there a little after 5:15. Probably would have gone earlier but that is the earliest the subway starts working. I was expecting to be the only ones there, or at least up near the front. Wrong again. The line was almost as long as that of Joyful Experience #3's at 7:45. I guess other people had the same idea.
So we got in line and prepared for a four hour wait. I think about 4 fights broke out. The people at the very front of the line had gotten there at midnight. So we spent another four fun hours crammed into a cattle shoot with sweaty smoky people (though to be fair, we were doing our fair share of sweating, considering the heat and closeness) and being much more vigilant about not letting people cut in line.
The Prefecture finally opened around 8:45 and first all the people who had letters telling them that their Carte was ready to be picked up passed first. And lo and behold!!! there were no more tickets for everyone else who needed to PICK UP the paperwork to fill out, turn in, to get their LETTER!!!!
We tried to go get help at the city hall, nothing doing. Only the Prefecture can do it, and since we live in Marseille, only the Marseille Prefecture can handle our case. Only there are about a million foreigners in this million and a half city. Because heaven knows they wouldn't want people to go to Aix-en-Provence 30 minutes away to pick up the precious forms. Which can't be sent by mail. And Alain has to go with me, not only for safety reasons, but because they can't give me the form by myself.
It strikes me as funny that I needed to fill out every form ever invented to get a one year Student card but to get a permanent card I just have to give a photocopy of my marriage license, my passport, and the electricity bill (to show where we live.) I guess they figured if you are married, you have gone through the Death by Paperwork trial.

It makes a girl want to claim Asylum, because that line is shorter. I suggested a hunger strike to Alain. I think it would be quite effective- get a large sign that says "Greve de la faim" and stand out in front of the Prefecture in broad daylight telling anyone who asks what the problem is. I think after about a day the Prefecture would be so embarrassed they would just say "Here is your damn form. Go away." He thinks I am joking. Just wait until I have to refuse a job offer because I don't have this card.

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