I’m not sure what you guys did on this lovely Friday the 13th, but moi – I got my lungs checked for TB.
The OFII Experience
The French visa process concludes after you are in the country. You are required to get a medical exam and pay some additional $$ to get a sticker in your passport that validates your visa.
As soon as you arrive in France, you are expected to send a letter to the OFII office (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) telling them that you are in the country. In response, OFII will send you a time for an appointment for a medical exam – eventually. We received our letters via email about 10 weeks after we got here. This is much later than we were expecting based on what we’ve read.
Appointment day is kind of a nerve-wracking experience. You don’t exactly know what to expect, much of the process is conducted in another language, and you never know if you have all the correct paperwork or if you’ll get asked for something you don’t have. And for us, since we plan to leave Paris in a few weeks – we really needed this to go off without issue.
So today was our appointment day. This morning, we headed to the OFII office in the 11th arrondissement with all the necessary items:
- Evidence that we have housing here, which was a letter from our landlord
- A “stamp” which can be purchased online and serves as payment to OFII
- Patience – not really, but probably should have brought this
- Post-appointment lunch plans
All in all, this process was very smooth, but it took 3 hours – and probably 2.5 of those hours were just sitting and waiting. Here is how our process went:
Phase 1 – Height, Weight, Eye Exam
1) At the door to the OFII office, we presented our email with appointment time and passport. Our documents were checked and then we were directed to the first floor.
2) At the first floor, we showed the same documents again at the reception desk and then sat in a waiting area until we were called.
3) A man called us in groups to move us to a second waiting area.
4) After about an hour in this second waiting area, we were called in one by one to be weighed, measured, and given an eye exam. The eye exam is the usual cover an eye and read letters off a chart, but I also had to read a paragraph in French (S didn’t).
5) The nurses jotted some notes on our forms and then sent us back outside in the waiting area to wait.
Phase 2 – X-ray
6) Then comes the interesting part. After another 30m, we’re called back in groups of three and four to wait in a small hall in front of 3 closed doors with a light at the top of each door indicating if the room is occupied. (At this point, the Monty Hall riddle is running through my head). One of the nurses, the particularly terse one – in a mix of French and English and pantomimes (which made me giggle) – instructs the group as follows: “when someone leaves a room, go inside, lock the door, take off your clothes and jewelry from the waist up, and wait”.
7) After a few minutes, when it was my turn, a door opened. A lady, probably in her mid-60s exits and gives me a thumbs up before leaving. I don’t know why, but I thought that was so funny and weird. So once you’re up, you just go into the room, get undressed, and hang out for anywhere between 10 and 25m partially clothed until the door swings open on the other side by the x-ray technician. There is no paper gown or anything like that, so you just leave your stuff in the room along with any modesty (if you have that) and follow the tech to the x-ray machine. She’ll give you instructions, but the language you get is a crapshoot – I got French, S got English.
8) Then you go back to the dressing room, get dressed, and then go back outside in the waiting room to…wait.
Phase 3 – Medical Exam
9) After another 20 or so minutes, we’re called in to another room to meet with a doctor for a short medical exam. This included disrobing again for blood pressure and a lung exam, an x-ray review, and some super quick questions about medical history and vaccinations – mostly yes or no questions. Here, I got English and S got French.
10) And then back out to the waiting room for more waiting. I’m sooo hungry at this point. I’m wondering why I can’t be one of those people that eat breakfast.
Phase 4 – The Sticker
11) Groups were then escorted back to the original waiting area to finally get stickers. So we waited again, and were called one by one to deliver our paperwork and payment at the original reception desk.
12) It’s a short exchange, but all in French. I nervously watched the lady go through my documents – not wanting her to look closely in case she comes up with a question. And she didn’t. She finally peeled off a sticker and affixed it to my passport. S went shortly after me and had a similarly simple experience.
We were out of there by noon. Like I mentioned, it was actually a fairly smooth process, but it’s a lot of waiting. And we did research (and by we, I mean S) so we knew roughly what to expect, but so many others seemed so confused. They seemed like they never knew if they were done or what the next step was – and if they asked, they were just told to “sit and wait.” To be fair, that was usually what they should be doing.
But alas, we both got our stickers and are now officially official! Or should I say “OFIIcial.” Just a little expat, visa humor for you.
And to celebrate our new visa stickers (and continue birthday celebrations), we headed to the amazing Holybelly. Honestly, it was the thought of their coffee that got me through the wait. While some of us read in the waiting rooms, others reviewed the Holybelly menu in detail in anticipation of lunch. This place is wonderful for so many reasons…
- The coffee. Delicious drip coffee for 3 euros served in a normal-sized heavy mug, so it actually stays warm. What else do you need in life?
- The personality. They’re clever and fun. For example, the menu lists a Flat “Walter” White, which is described as “One shot. Thin Milk. No Meth.”
- The bread and butter. The Eggs + Sides dish is served with Pain des Amis (bread from the best bakery in Paris – how many times have we said that?) and really good butter. I don’t know why, but the butter is just better.
- Pretty much everything else. The food is awesome. The service is great.
It was a delicious ending.
Happy Friday the 13th.