Saturday, July 17, 2010

Chapter 7: The Dossier

I continue to soldier on through each working day.  I am being paid for 13 hours per week and am actually working about 16 since, as a new teacher, I have to spend a lot of time doing prep work for new lessons.  Of course that doesn’t count the hours I have spent doing paperwork, etc… because of this mess at the prefecture.  The management at is being very supportive and plans to write a letter to the prefecture about why they have hired me.  They have also decided that, if nothing changes, I will stop being scheduled to teach on April 16th.  I think it is the only choice they can make, since they can’t pay me, but it still makes me so sad.   I feel awful for agreeing to work for them and then having this happen.  Of course, I didn’t know I was being lied to, but I still feel guilty. By then, I will have been employed for 5 weeks, have taught about  40 classes to over 100 different individuals.  I will have spent about 70 hours working and should have earned (after you take out taxes and the 200 Euros or so it cost me to just do all this crazy paperwork) maybe 350 Euros. OK, it’s not much – but it would have paid for one long weekend away…. sigh…..

I haven’t completely lost hope, I am still working on my last ditch effort to be considered for a change in status to private family life.  I have spent hours compiling a ridiculously huge amount of paper to prove to the prefecture that they should let me work in France.  I have also carefully crafted a letter that pleads for a positive resolution. 

Papers include the copies of the following….

General information about me:

  • Passport
    Carte de Sejour
  • Carte Vital (Health Insurance Card)

To show I am serious about staying:

  • My work contract
    My temporary license
    André’s paystub
  • André’s work contract
  • Our lease

On the kids:

  • Lunch program bill
  • Report Cards for all 3 kids
To show I am spending lots of money here:
  • Phone Bill
    Rent Bill
    Electric Bill

To show how French I am:

  • Copy of the recent newspaper article featuring me and my blog
  • Copy of part of the weekly blog report that shows I have about 100 French readers weekly.

To show I am giving back to French society:

  • Tithing receipts totaling over 7000 Euros we have given to French charities since arrival in Besancon.

All this is supposed to show how I have become a vital and integral part of French society.  There will also be a cover letter making my case. I find it amusing how hard it was to craft this.

Here was my first attempt (deemed too chatty by WSE management):

To whom it may concern:
I am writing this letter to request a change in status for my carte de sejour.
Currently, I have visitor status and I would like to request a change to salary or private family life.
My family and I chose to come to France voluntarily.  As a highly specialized and skilled professional with an
international reputation, my husband can find a job in almost any location.  We wanted to experience life
in a foreign culture and France seemed like the natural choice.
Although he received interest from all over France, we focused on the jobs offered outside of Paris.  They paid
less but we were eager not to just be tourists here, but rather to become an integrated part of our new community.  We have been thrilled to become a part of life in Besancon.
Although neither I nor my children spoke French before we came, we relished the chance to become bilingual. 
We chose to send all 3 children to our local public school.  After a natural period of adjustment, they have now
integrated into their new life.  They are fluent in French, take part in extracurricular activities such as rhythmic
gymnastics and theatre, and often have their new friends over to play.  Their favorite cheese is Comte (but only if
is is aged 18 months) and their favorite dinner is raclette.  As soon as my youngest child was in school full time
starting this fall I began taking French classes 3 days a week.  I also volunteer at my local community center to
help adults who would like to improve their English.  I chaperone field trips for my children on a regular basis
and enjoy helping the teenagers in our neighborhood chat in English.
Another way we have embraced French life is by experiencing as much of it as we can. 
We have made quite a few major trips ranging over Europe, but, for the most part, we stick closer to home.
Every weekend we try to find something interesting to do.  Just since September we have had adventures to
Mount Bart, Baume les Dames,  Le Saut de Doubs, Grottes St. Leonard, Chailluz, Grapille, Chateau Vaire-le-Grand and the Museum de Maison Comtoises - all in the Franche Comte!  Of course we have also participated in the life around Besancon by doing things like joining the rubber ducky race down the Doubs,  attending carnival and going regularly to traditional French folk dances held in a nearby Maison de Quartier or the spectacles shown in our own.   We recently attended a talk at the Chalezeule library featuring an Auschwitz Holocaust survivor.  I pore the BVV and Vue du Doubs each month to see if there is a fromagerie we can visit, a talk or walk that my family might enjoy. I try a new French recipe every week and love to spend time at my local bakery. We are living the French lifestyle to the fullest extent possible.
My wish, now that my children are in school and I am better able to communicate, is to integrate even further into
French society and life by working in a French company.   Working in a French office and meeting French clients is another window into my new world and I feel I can really help people improve their skills, if only given the chance.
I actually have qualified for work and am currently volunteering for them in hopes of a status change.  I love my new occupation, but, of course, I would like to receive reimbursement.
Currently, with my status of visitor, receiving a salary is forbidden, but I hope that you will consider changing the
status of my card.
Living in France has given me so much, and I want to give back as much as I can.  All I am asking is for the opportunity to do so.
Thank you for your help,
Rebecca Dhondt
sistersrule60@hotmail.com
06 72 08 84 11

Then I moved on to this (approved by WSE management):

To whom it may concern:

My name is Rebecca Dhondt and I have lived in France with my husband and children for the past 18 months.

My husband works, full time, at SmartTesting located in the Temis center.

I am writing to request a change in status on my carte. I would like either a change to salarie or private family
life in order to be employed.  I was recently informed by Dominique Jon, the chef de bureau, that carte de sejour
salarie can only be granted if the person were to work full time. As the mother of three small children, full time
work is not an option at this time. I have currently found part-time employment at a local school that teaches English.

Working part-time will allow me to further integrate into French society and leave me the time to continue
my local volunteer efforts and to care for my children. I therefore believe that I need a change in status to vie
de privee.

The following documents are attached to help assist in the decision:

The first folder contains general information about me and my family. I have included copies of my passport,
my current carte de sejour, my husband's work contract, my work contract (currently on hold) and my cv. I have
also included a copy of my carte vital, certificate de controle medical, proof of insurance and my French drivers
license.

The second folder proves our financial life is in France. There is a copy of our lease and my husband's bulletin
de salarie.  I have also included copies of our phone, rent, electric and school lunch bills.

The third folder includes our charity reciepts.  We donate 10% our our pretax income to charity each month.  To date
the amount of money we have donated to French charity totals over 7000 Euros.  If allowed to work, I will be
donating 10% of my pre-tax income as well.

The fourth folder contains a few items to demonstrate how I have integrated into French society. There is a letter,
written by my potential employer, explaining why they would like to hire me. It also includes copies of the public
school report cards for my children, a newspaper article and some information concerning my blog. We have been on
television twice and in the newspapers three times since our arrival in Besancon. I have included a copy of the
most recent newspaper article discussing me and my blog as well as a page from my analytics report. This report
shows, on a weekly basis, who visits my website to read about my life here in Besancon. On a typical week, I get
over a hundred French readers who each spend 5 to 10 minutes on the site. I have also included copies of the
most recent pages published in the blog so you can get an idea of the subject matter.

As the above records show, my family and I are living the French lifestyle to the fullest extent possible.
My wish, now that my children are in school and I am better able to communicate, is to integrate even further
into French society and life by working in a French company. I am currently volunteering for my, in hopes of a status change.

I love my new vocation, but, of course, I would like to receive
reimbursement. I hope you can facilitate the change in status as rapidly as possible so I can begin to do so.
I can be reached by email or phone at the information above.

Thank you for your help,

Rebecca Dhondt

Now I only needed to have it translated into French, right? André, as always my hero, and one of his co-workers Christophe(thank you!) worked together to transform the note into something the French would accept.  Here it is in French (and then English):

Préfecture du Doubs

Sujet: demande de modification de carte de séjour

Monsieur le Préfet,

Suite à notre arrivée en France, il y a 18 mois, je suis détentrice d'une carte de séjour française de type "visiteur". Mon époux, M. D. André Dhondt, travaille à temps plein au sein de la société bisontine Smartesting. Nos trois enfants sont également scolarisés à Besançon.

J'ai prochainement l'intention d'occuper un emploi à temps partiel. Pour cela, je vous sollicite afin de bien vouloir reconsidérer le statut de ma carte de séjour en "vie privée et familiale".

En effet, j'ai récemment contacté Madame Dominique Jon qui m'a indiqué que le statut "salarié" était uniquement valable pour les salariés à temps plein.

Dans ce sens, je souhaite également vous informer que j'ai signé un contrat de travail, à durée déterminé, à temps partiel, avec la société,  à Besançon (cf. copie du contrat de travail et attestation de l'employeur ci-joint).

Vous trouverez également ci-joint un ensemble de documents démontrant la volonté de ma famille de s'intégrer quotidiennement au sein de la société française.

Le premier dossier concerne ma situation familiale. Vous y trouverez une copie de mon passeport, de ma carte de séjour, de mon C.V. ainsi que du contrat de travail de mon époux. Je vous adresse également une copie de ma carte vitale et de mon permis de conduire français.

Dans le deuxième dossier, vous trouverez un ensemble de factures et de dons (E.D.F, téléphone, bail locatif, etc.) attestant de notre vie quotidienne en France.

Vous trouverez enfin dans le troisième dossier un ensemble de documents montrant notre implication personnelle dans la vie socio-culturelle française (articles de journaux, bulletins scolaires de mes enfants, etc.) depuis notre arrivée à Besançon. Je me suis également permise d'ajouter un rapport d'activité de mon blog personnel, qui relate la vie quotidienne de ma famille à Besançon.

J'espère que ces informations vous permettront d'évaluer ma requête et je reste à votre disposition pour tous renseignements supplémentaires me concernant ou concernant ma famille.

Dans l'attente, je vous prie d'agréer, Monsieur, mes respectueuses salutations.

Rebecca Dhondt

Ha ha… and that means…

Doubs Prefecture
Subject: Request for change of residence permit
Mr. Prefect
Following our arrival in France, 18 months ago, I received a French residence permit type "visitor". My husband, Mr. D. Andre Dhondt, works full time in the company Smartesting Besancon. Our three children are also enrolled in Besancon schools.
I soon intend to be employed part time. For this, I solicit you to kindly reconsider the status of my residence permit to read "private and family life”.
In fact, I recently contacted Mrs. Dominique Jon who told me that the status of "employee" was only valid for full-time employees.
Furthermore, I wish to inform you that I signed a contract of employment, fixed term, part-time, (see copy of employment contract and employer's certificate attached).
You will also find attached a set of documents demonstrating the desire of my family to integrate into French society.
The first folder concerns my family situation. You'll find a copy of my passport, my residence card, my CV and the contract of my husband. I also include a copy of my health insurance card and my French driving license.
In the second folder, you will find a set of bills and donations (electricity, phone, rental agreement, etc..) confirming our daily life in France.
You finally will find a folder with a third set of documents showing our personal involvement in socio-cultural French (newspaper articles, report cards from my children, etc..) Since our arrival in Besançon, I have kept a progress report on my personal blog, which chronicles the daily lives of my family in Besançon.
I hope this information will enable you to evaluate my request and I remain at your disposal for any further information about me or about my family.
In the meantime, please accept, Sir, my respectful greetings.

Rebecca Dhondt

Not much like the original, right?  (maybe I should have used your excellency?)  We were told mentioning money would sound like a bribe… and lots of other things needed to be cut out (duplication especially)!  Oh well, no matter… I’ll just bring it on in to the prefecture.  Perhaps fodder for Chapter 8.

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