Paperwork and administrative hassle done before boarding the plane? Not really. Our columnist, Hanryano, shares his experience managing bureaucracy upon moving to France. And trust us, it’s the least fun part of moving abroad.
Anywhere in the world, bureaucratic system and paperwork will get on our nerves every so often. When we think about all the red tape faced in our own country, the thought of oh living abroad is so nice, we don’t need to deal with this redundant process almost always occur. However, guess what? It is same old same old problem wherever you are. Remember how difficult it is to obtain a driver’s license following step-by-step procedure and ended up taking consultants’ services to speed up and ease the process? You can kiss that goodbye when living in most European countries. Even just to visit doctors and as trivial as coming to a bank, one needs an appointment in several countries. We do not talk about calling an hour ahead to get a slot, it sometimes takes days until your appointment time.
European countries can get very rigid when it comes to bureaucracy. However, as oppose to redundancy, the process that I went through was carefully crafted which ensures efficiency and security for both sides. On this particular writing, I am going to lead aspiring Indonesian willing to work or study in continental Europe from a French perspective.
It all started even before I landed on l’Hexagone, the colloquial name for France. While my fellow friends boarded for The Netherlands and Germany all received their residence permit card prior to taking off to their respective countries, I was left with only a visa stamp. The next steps will need to be followed once I arrived in France. I needed to fill out the paperwork for the immigration office (OFII) and purchase the stamp for immigration purposes. The immigration office will then arrange a medical check-up before giving us our vignettes tamped on our passport. The usual medical check-up usually takes around 2-3 months after our arrival, but unfortunately in my case it was well over five months approaching six. Vignette is yet another stamp, not a card, confirming your legal stay in France. When you are living beyond a year, you are entitled to turn that stamp into the titre de sejour, or should I say the legit residence permit card. Between 1 month before going and a year after living in a different country for the (similar) residence card. What a difference, eh?
Don’t be sad, as things will get a bit difficult. I was not aware whether it’s just my bad luck or something people occasionally bumped into, but getting a normal simcard in France was not as easy as it is in Indonesia. I am currently unaware if things have changed now, but we used to order the simcard over the internet and had it delivered via post. As for mine, it never arrived until I asked them to resend it which was successfully delivered. Little had I known the number was already activated and they already charged me even before I used any data. Sometimes, you really need to get the advice of locals with similar luck in order to get in your shoes and handle the problem accordingly. It took me almost 2 weeks to sort things out which I did not deem worth the effort.
One particular benefit about living in France as a student is the possibility to get subsidyd rom French government called CAF (Caisse Allocations Familiales). It helped me tremendously by reducing more than half of my rent through cash transfer subsidy every month. You need to check regarding your eligibility first. Usually private apartment rentals are eligible, as oppose to student housing which are not entitled to such benefit. This is another paperwork to go through, but believe me it was worth the effort. You only need a bank account, a contract, and some details from your landlord/lady. Finish this paperwork as soon as possible, as they will be going to disburse the housing aid on monthly basis to your bank account. All the applications are made online and you can attach the necessary documents at the end of the process. It felt pretty much like your salary to ease some rental burden. My rental fee was reduced to almost the same as my fellow friends staying in a run-down student housing, while I had my own room in a private apartment despite still sharing the kitchen with fellow flat mates.
The verdict is to get your research ready as soon as you receive the acceptance letter. Find out all the loopholes, what can go wrong, all the bad experiences people share online and be prepared for it. In my case, La Poste disappointed me by failing to deliver my simcard and still sending letters intended for the previous occupants, while all my friends were having no trouble at all receiving mails. Just remember to be well-prepared and count your blessings in Indonesia before moving abroad, as things can get fairly tricky.