Becoming French: Fingerprints, Tears and Reflections

Image credit: Jacinta Bayard

It has been close to a year since my fingerprints were taken.

When I received notification to attend the Nice Prefecture in May 2023, I thought this would be one of the last steps before my Titre de Sejour (“residence permit”) was approved. This is a good sign I thought to myself, but having nothing to compare it to, I could only hope. Hope was all I could do as even though I am the wife of a Frenchman I am not automatically given a resident permit by virtue of being married. I had already made two applications and still no Titre de Sejour.

Over two years ago we made my first application via a Demande admission exceptonnelle au séjoura (“request for exceptional admission to stay”) based on bringing our skills and setting up a new French company.

  • Diligently, I filled out all the forms together with the attachments.
  • Off they went via registered post to the Nice Prefecture.
  • Then we wait. It is not like in Australia where you are given an estimation as to how long it will take to process.
  • Around the same time, the war in the Ukraine erupted. No one could have predicted this and France generously processed visas for thousands of homeless Ukrainians and continues to do so.
  • I didn’t even consider for a minute that my visa would not be processed until after these urgent applications.

The prefecture

The Prefecture processing office was at capacity and completely overwhelmed.

March this year, 2024, I received another notice for a rendez-vous (“meeting”) for administration to take a look at my file. This time I went by myself. I arrived early, looked over my file, and took my place in the queue. As I waited, I observed the people. Many different nationalities, some getting their visas, some making asylum applications. No distinction, everyone lines up together. It made me reflect on these people’s journeys.

Some people have had to endure the harshest conditions anyone could bear: collapsed societies where gun crimes are common day in, and day out. Many of them leave their countries to work as migrants in oil-rich Libya. But as Libya has steadily unravelled into anarchy and violence, many fearing for their lives have no choice but to leave. They come by boat often risking their lives to seek the right to live in France. Countries decimated by war. People displaced from their lives, families, and the only homes they know destroyed, now seeking a new life, in a new country in a foreign language. It makes my applications, the paperwork, and the waiting seem trivial.

The Prefecture Nice

Image credit: Jacinta Bayard

Resident permit

But I need a resident permit to stay in France and I am trying my hardest to follow the rules. After a one and a half hour wait, it was my turn. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. In frustration at the end of 2023, we sought advice from an immigration lawyer in Paris. I provided her with our full history. Even she couldn’t explain to me what needed to be done. So today I was here to take stock of my file and hopefully, someone could explain to me what I needed to do.

Tears started to flow when I handed over my appointment form and was told the e-mail confirming my “rendez vous” had the incorrect day. It had written “Lundi, le 25 Avril” when it should have been “Jeudi, le 25 Avril”.

  • Clearly it was a mistake.
  • I had written to them, and my immigration lawyer had sent several e-mails but we didn’t receive a response.
  • The immigration lawyer told me to attend on Jeudi, le 25 Avril.
  • Now I was being told that I was not on the list and a new appointment would need to be arranged. That is when I could feel the tears swelling. Courage, I thought to myself. People in France often say this to you when things are not going to plan. Through tears, I asked the lovely administration staff for help. I had already waited two hours and the thought of going home with the visa application still “in limbo” filled me with panic. Luckily a very kind man helped me.


After explaining my situation in full, I was told to wait another thirty minutes as the system was down.

By then it was lunchtime.

So, I had some lunch outside, waited, and observed the comings and goings of this busy office.

At 1.30 p.m. I was back in the queue. This time a lovely young girl helped me. We finally managed to get into the system but the system wouldn’t allow me to make an application as the spouse of a French citizen. A few phone calls later to her supervisor we were told we could complete the form by hand which she helped me to complete. Once this was completed, it was taken to her supervisor.

  • By this stage, it was approaching 3.00 p.m. and closing time for appointments at the Nice Prefecture.
  • I waited some more.
  • Then her superior came down and approached me in the waiting area. She could see that I had patiently waited all day.
  • She asked me a few questions and explained to me what needed to be done. I would need to have my marriage certificate and the birth certificates for our girls re-issued by the French Consulate in Sydney.
  • She provided me with the correct form and wrote me an e-mail setting out a road map. I can’t explain how relieved I was.

By the end of the day, I was completely drained but content knowing that progress had been made.

The challenge continues…

Trying to follow everything in French, complete forms, and ensure I had all the correct documents and now I needed to get them from Australia. No problems for us and this is what we should have done before leaving Australia.

Once these documents are received, I can return to the Nice Prefecture, and hopefully, they will issue my Titre de Sejour.


To be continued…

About the Contributor

Jacinta Bayard

I grew up with a deep curiosity about my surname, its French origins and history. I've always loved France and dreamed of living there one day. In 2022 a business opportunity allowed my family to move to the South of France. Recently I started writing about this experience.

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  1. Suzanne Vidal Jul 4, 2024 at 1:12 PM - Reply

    I feel your pain! I don’t think anyone can understand unless they’ve gone through it. I just wrote about my experience, too. Hang in there. It does come together in the end 🥹

  2. Jacinta Louise Bayard Jul 4, 2024 at 4:37 PM - Reply

    Thank you and to you too. I really hope so. xx

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