Yesterday we got good news. Our resident's cards are ready to be picked up. When we turned in our applications and documentation on September 3, the woman we met with told us we might well get the convocation or "summons" to come back to Blois and pick up the new cards early in October. She seemed very efficient, as well as friendly and helpful, and this early notification that our cards are ready just underscores all that.
The reason I was so stressed out by this whole process — especially when we couldn't even get an appointment before early September, even though we started the process a month earlier than the official instructions said we needed to start — is that I'm going to North Carolina in three weeks. This will be my first trip "home" since my mother passed away in February 2018. I was worried that my trip might be jeopardized by the resident's card renewal schedule. I had already bought non-refundable plane tickets and paid 50% of the price of a rental apartment in N.C. for my stay when everything threatened to go haywire.
But the most important factor was this one: I had also invited an old friend who lives in California to come and spend a week with me on the N.C. coast. Sue has been a friend for more than 40 years, and she has visited Walt and me here in Saint-Aignan three or four times over the past 15 years. For years, Sue had told me she would love to see the N.C. coast one day, after seeing my photos of the place and hearing stories about it over so many years. Finally we had a plan for a trip there together, and now a silly administrative snafu was putting the trip at risk.
Sue had already made her flight arrangements for the trip as well. As I may have said before, the last few times I've flown off to the U.S. from Paris, the immigration agents at the airport have asked me to produce not just my U.S. passport by also my French resident's card before they let me go board my plane. Everything is computerized nowadays, and I assume the agents can see on their computer screen information showing that I live in France. Fortunately, I've had the resident's card with me each time and was able to show it to them.
In addition, in two different airports in North Carolina over the past few years, when I was checking in and registering my bags for flights, airline agents have questioned me because I am flying to France without the normally required return ticket. U.S. citizens aren't allowed to travel one-way to France unless they have either a return ticket or a long-stay visa issued by a French consulate in the U.S. To stay in France for more than 90 days, you need to prove to French authorities that you have the financial resources to stay here without needing to look for work. Getting a work permit is a long, arduous process, and seeking employment without one is illegal. In my case, once I showed the airline staff my French carte de résident, they knew I was legitimate and let me continue my travels.
There you have it. I was really worried that the resident's card process might force me to change my travel plans and sacrifice the money I had paid out for airline tickets and an apartment rental. Sue's trip would be jeopardized too. Now I know that won't happen. Walt and I will go pick up our new cards at the préfecture in Blois early next week. I have now booked a rental car and paid the final rent installment for the two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on the beach at Morehead City where Sue and I will stay. Wish us luck with the weather — the last thing I want to happen is for another hurricane to strike the N.C. coast right before or during our trip.