Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My best friend - the Justificatif de Domicile

What is there to say really? The justificatif de domicile is quite possibly the highlight of the ridiculous, paperwork-crazy French bureaucratic system. So what is the justificatif de domicile exactly? Well, it is a list of papers, which all combined, prove that you actually live at the address you provided. Yes, in America we write down our address and this is not questioned. At most you show your ID to prove your address. Simple and convenient. But in France, nothing is simple and convenient, especially when it comes to bureaucracy. The French love their paperwork. They have a sick, fetishistic obsession with paperwork. The more pieces of paper they are provided, the better they feel. The bigger the pile, the brighter the smile.
So, what specific papers must one provide in order to prove their address? In general you need to provide copies (or originals) of gas, electricity or phone bills (within the last 3 months) with your name and address. Sometimes a copy of your lease is acceptable. And you also generally need a copy of your ID card to prove that you are at least in possession of the ID card bearing the name that matches the name on your bills. However, should your name not be on the lease or the bills because you live in an apartment under someone else's name (my case since I live in the apartment Lionel rented and we may NEVER be able to move into our own apartment), the process becomes more complicated. You not only need bills or the lease with their name and address on them, but also a declaration written and signed by said person stating that you live at their apartment and a copy of the front and back of their ID card as well as your own ID card. Still, none of this sounds too horrible...some extra papers, extra copies to make, extra trees unnecessarily killed and that's all.
Unfortunately it is never that simple with the French, and just 1 justificatif de domicile would never suffice. That would just not be enough papers to satisfy the French fetish. The justificatif de domicile must be provided for EVERYTHING. We had to provide a justificatif de domicile to receive and even more official justificatif from our town hall (which consequently cost around 50 euros) stating that the town hall officials had reviewed our documents and proclaimed our justificatif de domicile to be valid. A colorful, stamped and expensive document that was necessary in order for us to marry. This was needed for my visa to come and get married. Fine. But then we needed to turn in another justificatif de domicile to our town hall in order for our town hall to marry us...and the original document they provided us wouldn't work, we needed more copies and originals of the same documents for them to keep in order to be married once I arrived in France. The fancy, expensive document the provided for the visa could not be used again for this. Ok...more dead trees, more wasted paper and ink. Done. But oh no. We are married, our addresses has been checked, rechecked and validated. Time to apply for my residency card. We need yet another justificatif de domicile as if the fact that the town hall had already reviewed, validated and accepted all these documents wasn't enough. Ok, done again, more trees in agony. We must be finished now. But no, of course not. You need a justificatif de domicile for absolutely EVERYTHING in France. They want their paperwork and the justificatif de domicile is by far their favorite. I will never be able to escape this pile of documents. You must have a justificatif de domicile to open a bank account in France, to move your bank account from one branch of your bank to another, to register with social security, to change your address with social security, for a drivers license, for work, for any sort of membership, for school, in order to be a witness at someone's wedding, to look for a new apartment, to change your ID card address once you have moved, to renew your residency card, etc etc etc. You truly need it for everything.
However, I thought I was going to at least have a short break from the justificatif de domicile until we moved and I had to change my address on my residency card. And then I decided to order a cell phone and plan online. I was very excited to finally be able to afford to sign up for a plan (complete with 2-year contract) and to get a new phone and to be able to afford phone calls. I ordered online because it was faster than going to a store and they had an online deal for one month free. Sounds great. I place my order last night and thought all was well. They even promised that my phone would be delivered on Sept. 17. Excellent. I'll have my new toy soon. And then today I opened my email account and immediately got a sinking feeling in my stomach upon seeing an email from Bouygues Telecom asking for my pieces justificatives. Oh great. And of course, included in the ridiculous list was the justificatif de domicile. Because even to order something online I have to prove my address and either mail for fax my documents.
My question is, why? Other than the fact that they are in love with the pretty pieces of paper that make them feel important and powerful..why? Why do I need to prove my address in order to receive my cell phone? Why would I go online, order and pay for a phone and service and then give you a fake address so that I would never actually receive the phone I just bought? No, I just felt like spending the money for the hell of it and sending some unknown stranger a nice little gift of a shiny new phone. This goes for the bank as well...why would I lie about my address? So you can send my debit card, debit card codes and info as well as all my bank statements and online access codes to an address where I don't even life? So that strangers can easily access my account and steal my money? And not to mention that I don't even understand why they care or how it is their problem. As long as they are getting money for their services, then I don't see how it matters what address I give. Why do they need to verify that I live there, and with whom, and since when, and how much we pay on electricity/gas/phone, etc in order for me to buy a phone online or open my bank account? As if it wasn't enough that I gave my name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, place of birth, debit card info, bank account info, residency card number and god only knows what else. Now you need hard copies as well...for an ONLINE order. What is the point of ordering something online if you still have to send in copies???
But the even more annoying aspect of this is that they all require copies of my residency card as well. My residency card which has my name, address, and all other important information already on it. And my address has already been checked and verified through a long and torturous process of numerous other justificatifs de domicile. Those weren't enough? You can't just verify the address by seeing it on my ID and knowing that hundreds of little bureaucratic French drones had already checked it? But then they wouldn't have that pile of papers...
And the most annoying part is that now my phone will never arrive on Sept. 17 because they have to receive my papers before they can finish processing my order....and I have to send those papers by mail. Damn the justificatif de domicile!
Wow, sorry, that was extremely long. I just had so much to say about my best friend, the justificatif de domicile!

1 comment:

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