how to conquer your fears of french bureauocracy and the prefectureLast night as I was laying in bed at around 11:30, reading on my phone, an email came in. Urgent.

Then a second email. Then a text message.

I opened it to look at the attachment, and immediately thought, well, fuck.

It was a letter my client had received from the prefecture, asking her to provide additional documents related to the change of status application she had submitted (and that was approved!) back in June. They wanted everything. A more elaborate business plan. Financial projections. Letters from her potential clients. A market study.

Everything.

And they wanted it a month from the date on the letter – which is in 2 weeks.

My first instinct, as hers had been, was to panic.

No freaking way we were rewriting her business plan in 2 freaking weeks.

Did they lose her whole file? We GAVE them all of this stuff.

They already approved her application. We just have to bring back one paper. They can’t have changed their minds. Can they?

What do they think is wrong with her business plan? It was GREAT.

I texted back a simple WTF.

And, tense from anxiety, I tried to relax and STOP running through all of the unrealistic possibilities. Because, nearly midnight.

I listened to a few minutes of a meditation. I grabbed my black tourmaline crystal (great for absorbing negative energy!) and breathed in some essential oils (I’m obsessed).

And when I woke up this morning, I was calmer. And I reread the letter.

See, this particular client has been in France for several years on a visitor’s visa, and it’s more difficult to switch from a visitor status to a work status. When I helped her renew her visa last year, we asked for advice on making the switch, and an employee in a different office, where visitor visas are renewed, suggested we had to write a letter to one of the supervisors to request permission to apply for a change of status, before we could submit her application.

So we sent a letter in February. And then we made the appointment for the status change, and in that office, they told us that we didn’t have to wait for a response and we could just submit the application directly. So we did, and it was approved. In June.

Upon examining the letter more closely this morning, I realized that the wires had gotten crossed, as is typical in the prefecture. (One office giving irrelevant advice because they aren’t familiar with the procedures in a different section).

This letter was from this other office, finally responding to our letter from February. They were essentially telling us, sure, submit your application, and here’s what you need to provide.

No need to panic.

No need to frantically rewrite the business plan in less than 2 weeks or try to figure out what could possibly have been lacking.

They just responded to our letter as we had written it, without looking up her file number to see that her application was already being processed. 8 months later. Like they sometimes do.

Phew.

You see, after all of these years of renewing my own carte de séjour (I danced out of the prefecture when I finally got my 10 year card in 2015!), I still get anxious when I go to an appointment with a client.

I still hold my breath.

Even when we have everything together and the file is meticulously prepared. Even when I’m 1000% confident that the application will be approved.

Because I know how much my clients stress out, even when they have me to help and reassure them. I know how much it means to them to have the paperwork squared away without having to come back to the prefecture. (And I can’t always ensure that - despite my best efforts. Usually, as in this case, though, it’s just a matter of printing a different form or bringing a more recent attestation – a formality, really.)

Because even if they file is perfect, we can still have a bad day. We can come across someone who thinks this document isn’t the right thing, or that one is too old. We can meet with someone who’s having a bad day (or their boss is), or who just met with a super annoying person who had nothing they needed and acted belligerently. (Surprisingly, people can get belligerent in the prefecture when things don’t go their way! Don’t.)

But that’s what my clients are paying me for: worrying. And caring. And then, calming down and figuring out exactly what we have to do. They’re paying me to be on their team.

And I know that what really matters to them, and to you, is being able to focus on your life. Your work. Your studies. Whatever it is that brought you to France in the first place. Because nobody wants bureaucracy to be the center of your existence. I certainly don’t!

It shouldn’t be the mosquito buzzing around your room at night, keeping you from your dreams and biting you in your sleep. 

It shouldn’t be the thorn in your side – it should be the succulent plant on your desk. The one you sometimes remember (but usually forget) to water, and that still somehow turns out okay despite your black thumb.

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