Our Life in Burgundy

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The Blog: Our life in Burgundy

May 8, 2018

Raise a glass we’re French at last!

Filed under: Events,People — Tags: — Mary @ 16:46

 

Marianne, a symbol of France

 

Through diligent perusal of the Government website Chris saw last week that we were on the list of new French citizens. Hopefully we will have confirmation by letter with an invitation to a ceremony in Mâcon. This will involve speeches, shaking hands with dignitaries and singing the Marseillaise. I must start tout de suite to master the first verse and the chorus.

I can’t deny that it was a long and often disheartening journey. We started three years ago by getting together a multitude of documents relating to our origins, tax history, police record or lack thereof, and proof of residency. We sent off for birth, divorce and marriage certificates for us and our parents. All documents in English had to be translated by a Court approved translator and were valid for only three months. I am yet to learn how your birth certificate can change in three months.

Tax documents had to be up to date so as the process went into two and then three years we had to send in fresh bordereaux de situation fiscal, making sure they were signed and stamped. Our completed dossiers de naturalisation were sent in by June 2015 but weren’t complete enough and they landed back in our letter box after the summer holiday. Chris, being at that time under 60, had to go and have a French language test. Zut alors! The other candidates were native French speakers from North Africa, and even they complained it was tough.

In early summer 2016 we came home after a day out and found the gendarmes had been round to talk to the neighbours. (Thank you Georges and Gérard). Next day we were summoned to the local gendarmerie to be interviewed by the commissaire who was quite genial and sympa, quite unlike the ladies of the Apparatchik in Dijon who interviewed us in August 2016.

We had to study for this final interview using a little booklet, Le Livret du Citoyen. Bits of it were easy, rivers and departments, history, origins of the EU,  la laïcité (the national ideal of secularism). But other parts were more difficult. I am still not au fait with the Les Droits de l’Homme and how they differ from Les Droits des Citoyens. Interspersed were minute examinations of last year’s tax forms and proofs of income. The British passport was deemed unacceptable because it wasn’t stamped. This validated my suspicion that the  interview was usually directed towards the North African candidate. My brain finally gave up when I was asked to name ten members of the French government and as for famous French people, I could only think of Johnny Hallyday which clearly wasn’t a good answer. But the trauma of it all has faded with time!

 

Celebrating with our mayor Pierre-Jean 

Today France has a public holiday to celebrate VE Day. After the service by the memorial we went into the Mairie for a glass of wine and pizza. Celebrations all round as Jean-Pierre the mayor announced to members of the commune that we had gained our French citizenship. As an added bonus we were feted by singing the Burgundy song, which then made us true Burgundians.

We must thank our friends and neighbours for all their help and support in negotiating French bureaucracy. And Pierre-Jean who wrote a lovely letter supporting our application.

I would recommend going for citizenship to any British person who wants to stay in France. Who knows what may happen after Brexit?  It’s good to have a secure future as a European citizen.

 

June 19, 2015

Becoming French

Filed under: People — Tags: , — Mary @ 22:37

We’ve done it! We’ve breached another French bureaucratic fortress and managed to apply for French citizenship. It has been occupying our minds for a while now. Like doing an exam, we have swotted and done our best and it is such a relief to have handed in the application.

Here are some tips for anyone else who is thinking about it.

1. Apply to the police records office for a certificate to say you are not a criminal.  Don’t worry, they don’t go as far back as far as your juvenile misdemeanours, before computers were invented. Do this first as if you have a record you might as well give up now.

2. Write to the UK Registry Office and ask for your parents’ birth certificates and their marriage certificate. You should have your own birth, marriage and divorce certificates. Take any original certificates to the Mairie to get certified copies. And get a copy of your passport.

3. Find an official translator and send all your certificates to get them translated into French. Send a big cheque.

4. You might as well get your passport photos taken now, before you look too haggard.

5. Fill in the application form twice. Or if you are clever photocopy the first. Go back down memory lane. Give full details of your parents, your brothers and sisters, your children and previous spouses. Give all the addresses of places you have lived since you were born. List all the employers who have been foolhardy enough to give you a job. At this stage you can say if you want to change your name to something more French.

6. Look out three years’ tax papers and go to the Trésor Publique to ask for confirmation that you have paid all your dues. While you are there you buy a fiscal stamp for 55€.

7. Get together all the proof that you own a house or two, and proof of some sort of income.

8. Telephone Manuel Valls, the prime minister, and ask if he has done away with the language and culture test as promised six months ago. Meanwhile look out any certificates you got from ‘O’ level French or nightschool and hope that they will do. Otherwise send 100€ and wait several weeks for the next test date.

9. A principal condition that you should satisfy is that you are assimilated into French society. So the jewel in the crown of our application is a lovely letter from the mayor describing our input into village life.  You have to show a reasonable knowledge of local culture as well as the rights and values of the French Republic. So long as they don’t expect us to sing La Marsaillaise….

 

 

10. Go to the post office and buy the strongest envelope they have to take the 350g of papers which you send off to the Préfecture.

11.Go home, get that steak out of the freezer you were saving for a big occasion and open the best bottle of wine you have.

No doubt one day we will be called in for interview, and eventually hear whether we have been awarded French citizenship. It will be an anti-climax compared with the triumph of just getting the application in. The process looks straight forward but it took a lot of working out. Yet Manuel Valls said he was making it easier (so he would get the immigrant vote, they say). If fairly intelligent people like us (well I used to be fairly intelligent!) struggle with it how do others cope? To be French you have to be determined.

 To be continued…..

April 4, 2015

The long road to becoming French

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Mary @ 17:42

You have started out on the road. Keep going and step by step you’ll get there” said our French teacher encouragingly many years ago when we started at Leeds Metropolitan University. I have just dug out my final year certificate, a pass with distinction, and realised how little French we actually knew when we first arrived in la France profonde.

The reason I am going down memory lane and delving into the memorabilia of previous lives is that our latest venture is to apply for French citizenship. That is if French bureaucracy doesn’t deter us.

 

This could be the best time to become French as the present government has made the process easier and is accepting a record number of people. Manuel Valls (himself of foreign extraction) has scrapped the culture quiz and the language test, at least for the over 60s. More offices have been opened up to process applications. If Sarkozy gets in next time he is bound to tighten the rules, and if Marine le Pen gets in God help us!

Also we are a little perturbed with Cameron’s notion to hold a referendum to decide whether the UK should leave the EU. In that case we would have to apply for a Carte de Séjour in order to stay in France. Moreover I think it is important to be able to vote in the country in which one lives and with luck we should be naturalised in time to register for the 2017 presidential elections.

So I’ve been busy unearthing as much proof of origins and past life as possible. I’ve had to send off to the UK Registry for our parents’ birth and wedding certificates and my marriage/divorce certificates. Each have to have an official stamp and be obtained within three months of submitting the dossier. Also information about previous occupations and proof of previous domicile. I haven’t yet worked out how you prove you don’t have a criminal record. Then you have to get all these documents translated into French by an official translator.

You are asked if you want to translate your name into something more French. Many people prefer to sound less foreign when applying for jobs. Not for us though as we are already Marie & Christophe to most people that know us.

To pay for the application we will buy a fiscal stamp for 55€ at the Préfecture. Then we’ll make an appointment for our first interview. French bureaucracy is full of surprises and we are likely to need more documents. Then we’ll wait.The dossier goes to the Ministry for the Interior and we won’t expect to hear anything for a year.

We’ve heard that there might be a home visit. The gendarmes come to see where you live, lurk around the neighbourhood and talk to the neighbours.

If a miracle happens and we get through all this we will get the “Congratulations, you’re French” letter and be invited to a ceremony to be sworn in and collect our new French birth certificates. These will enable us to apply for an ID card which is all you need when travelling in the EU. We will still have our UK passports but could apply for a French one if we wanted.

You’ll know if we become French. There will be a big party and lots of celebrating. Afterwards, what then? Will we have reached the end of the road? I don’t think so as we’ve still a long way to go before we can speak French well enough to consider ourselves bilingual!

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