Enfin! The day has arrived- Antoine and I are officially PACSed!! Most of you understand what a long and grueling process this has been, but for those of you who are like “PACsing?! What the eff?” I’ll elaborate…
First let me start with- I’m trying to stay in France for another year. It’s a dream of mine to become fluent in the language, I’m enjoying my time here too much, oh and then there’s the whole French boyfriend thing…. all are among the many reasons why come April I will not be ready to leave. And hopefully I won’t have to. Which leads me to PACsing…
The PACS began as a way for same sex couples to have similar benefits to married couples, but soon became appealing for heterosexual couples as a way to be legally recognized by the government as a couple, without all of the legal seriousness and complication that comes with marriage. Or in my case, PACS = Better chance of getting a Visa.
However, this is not an easy route. France makes it very difficult for Americans to obtain a long stay visa. In their eyes, they have enough EU immigrants to worry about and don’t want Americans added to their list of concerns. Student visas are probably the easiest to obtain, but unfortunately my French wasn’t quite up to par/I’m not quite ready to be a student again. Which led me to PACSing. Fortunately I have a French boyfriend who helped me immensely through this process. He read the french paperwork, talked to people in the field, researched and downloaded necessary documents and took time out of work to talk one on one at the Grenoble tribunal about exactly what was needed. I cannot stress this enough- whenever possible, go directly to the source. Talking to people is so much easier (and better for your sanity) than sorting through the insane amount of information on the internet. Unfortunately, French bureaucracy is inconsistent and really depends on who you talk to and how they’re feeling that day (something particularly infuriating to an efficiency obsessed American).
What we ultimately needed:
–PACS Contract– easiest part, download from the site, fill in your information, and print
–Attestation Conjointe- download and print from the site, one that swears that we are not related (why they need to know that??), and one that establishes a common residence
–Copies of ID (Passports for Americans)
–Copies of Birth Certificates- I needed a birth certificate less than 6 months old (some tribunals will tell you 3), a translation, and I threw in the apostille for good measure
And then there’s the stuff you need as a foreigner:
–Certificat de non-PACS/non-engagement- This had to be sent to Paris to prove that I am not PACSed already. (note: only valid for one month)
-And finally the Certificate de coutume and certificate de célibat – to prove that I am of age and not married in the States.
Oh obtaining these documents was fun.
First I had to call the American consulate in Lyon to schedule an appointment. Then I had to take 2 trams, a train (from Grenoble), and 2 metros to arrive at an ambiguous building. Of course the consulate was not well marked and I had to follow a man into the building and guess a floor at random to start with. (Note: French administrative buildings are often not clearly marked. Always have address in hand. If in doubt, check address and ring bell. Don’t be afraid to ask for help). After asking the wrong office where to find the consulate, I traveled up a flight of stairs to find the tiniest sign in the corner of the big wooden door. You have to really want to find the consulate. I buzzed in, waited for roughly 8 locks to be opened, and gave my name through the crack in the door. I gave my name, my passport, and my name again before being allowed in the first chamber. There, I had to empty my purse of my phone, camera, usb, key chain, and umbrella. I had to prove that my water was not poison by sipping it, and then after each bag was individually x-rayed and checked, I was x-rayed and checked… Finally I was allowed entrance through the next set of doors, where I was greeted by a life size cut out of Obama that nearly scared me half to death. The actual paperwork process was easy- filling out forms in French and painfully forking over $100 for two documents with official American consulate stamps. Et voila! The paperwork process is fini!
Antoine and I gathered our folder together last night, woke up early this morning (and amazingly enough avoided the long line), and got PACSed. We had every intention of making an appointment, but the woman informed us that she could do it at that moment, so we happily handed over the folder. The actual PACSing process was quite painless (and more low key than expected). No judge, no separate room, no bizarre declarations, witnesses, or proof of French abilities- just a friendly and quite smiley older French woman who was more than happy to legally unite us.
Step 1 of a very longgg process- Complete! Now onto the ultimate task- obtaining the visa.
But for now, I have one more week of vacation, some celebrating and some snowboarding to take care of!