Jackie Parry – author


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Fined for staying more than 3 months in France

In short, Noel has been fined for staying longer than three months in France – during the application process. If you want to know how or why, read on…

Background
I have a European passport, Noel (husband) has an Australian passport and UK Residency. Near the end of our first three months, Noel applied to stay longer, as per our instructions from the Prefecture.

For five months we’ve been playing ‘ping-pong’ with the Dijon Prefecture. More recently they’ve started asking for stuff NOT on the application form (instead of the same stuff we’ve already sent them six times already – no exaggeration there).

We’ve now moved to the SW of France and took advice to see the local Prefecture here, to get some help. Here’s what happened:

Mistake No. 1
We had to catch the train, to Agen (nearest Prefecture). We cycled eight kilometres to the station.
Missed the train by eight minutes, next train was in three hours.
We decided to have another go on Monday, but then we saw a rather large taxi.

Mistake No. 2:
‘How much to Agen, please.’
‘Fifzeen or sizxeen’
‘Great!’ For a ten minute ride, that sounded about right
One hour to dismantle bikes and seats – but a good idea…..
… until we had to pay.
‘How much?’
‘$58. 20 please!’

A better Prefecture
The Prefecture in Agen is fantastic compared to Dijon. Dijon is like a cattle-market on steroids, where strange woman hand over their baby to complete strangers, so they can join the scrum. This is the place that, on our first visit, they searched through my passport (European) and demanded to know why I didn’t have a visa – so you get the idea.

In Agen you take a number and after just a few minutes you are sitting down talking to a person, a real person. We explained our situation with my poor French and her poor English, but we did rather well (aided by dictionary).

Mistake No. 3 – Assuming Agen Prefecture would call Dijon, clarify and sort the mess out.

Cut a long story short  (yes, this is the shortened version)
– We have to start again.
– Include our Australian bank statement translated French (erm, aren’t  2, 3, 4, written he same?)
– Translate health insurance documents to French
– Print out French bank account statement (showing more than $1,000).
– ‘Basically, in Agen, all we need to see is that you have money!’
– We have another appointment next Friday

Whooooo hoooooo…. until…..

‘Oh and because you are here longer than three months, we have to fine you.’
“WHAT?”
And there’s Mistake No. 4 – doing the right thing!
So, a $50(Euro’s) fine

On the way home
As we sat on our train, waiting to leave the station to return home, we had a little chuckle about the mad-cap day; and we were just relieved to be going home.

Mistake No.5, thinking we could relax
‘Everyone off!’ And all of a sudden, we had to change trains, a fault had been found.
We all shuffled off
We all went to platform five
On arrival to platform five, we were told to go back to platform four
All rather boring with large bikes; up and down thirty or so narrow steps with 10,000 other people.
‘Platform four-and-a-half now please folks. Actually just run head-first at that brick wall as fast as you can and I promise that you’ll be home in a jiffy.’

Okay, they didn’t actually say that last bit, but at this point, nothing would have surprised me.

Arriving to our stop, we passed a hardware shop which had some building materials we wanted. So loaded up with heavy gear, we cycled the eight kilometres home just before dark and decided to open a bottle of wine.

On a positive note & in summary
– It was a ‘successful voyage.’
– Whether you are on a boat, horse, bike or train, getting back ‘into port’ safely is a successful voyage.
– We’ll complete the four page (new) form (previous one was one page!)
– We’ll pay the fine if we have to (but will argue the point first).
– We’ll be grateful, the fine could have been $2000!
– We’ll deal with Agen as we can actually talk to a human
– If we continue dealing with Dijon, it costs around $15  each time we mail the application – that’ll add up pretty quickly (already has)
– We figure, that if we walk away, or continue to deal with Dijon, at some point, someone, somewhere will check and we’ll be in even bigger doo doo.
– We may, possibly, finally, get this sorted…

…. Why is it, then, that I can sense Mistake No. 6……?