The Fingerprinting Story

The Fingerprinting Story

Or rather how I went all over Paris to complete what I thought would be a rather simple requirement for my visa

 

If you’ve ever had to get a visa to live in another country, you might relate to this story. If it was for France, then most likely so.

 

It started out as an easy, “Obtain a criminal background check by the FBI or DPS Texas.” One line and a little warning from my immigration lawyer that I might want to allow 2-3 months to do this. Did I listen to my lawyer though? Nah. I looked up the background check process for DPS Texas and saw that it took a mere 14 days and thought- oh I’ve got time and put it out of mind.

 

About a month and a half before I needed the results of my éclair pinching background, I sought out the help of a friend. Why? Because I had read in some of the forums that you could take the fingerprints yourself and send them in- easy peasey. So that’s the route I was going to go. Easy, cheap, might work, might not. Essentially, I have time we’ll see! My friend notified me that she was armed with an ink pad and then asked an um pretty pertinent question, “Is there a certain type of paper we need to use?” uh hum. Well- I hadn’t really thought about that. And yes, turns out there is a special piece of paper that you needed to order through the FBI to go that route… and it would probably take a week or three to get to Paris… and… it was best if you had a professional do it like the ex-police officier people kept talking about in the outskirts of Paris.

 

Back to the forums and the US Embassy website I went and found my second potentially less easy but still cheap option: go to a police department in France and beg them to take my fingerprints (something I never thought I’d do). But only certain police stations do it and it was really up to their discretion.

 

So, I armed myself with a smile, I started out at the most likely spot that I would think would know what to do. The immigration office. I was there anyways for an appointment and I figured well if anyone knew, they should, because they were the ones asking for the background check. I got probably one of the best responses I’ve ever gotten when I asked at the welcome desk, “Ah Madame, we do not do that in France.” So, in all of France no one gets their fingerprints done. I didn’t press the issue.

At this point we were about a month out from when I needed the elusive chocolate snatching results of my childhood. So, on my way home from the immigration office I figured, what the heck, I’ll try at one of the local police stations that I pass every day. There I received an even better response, “Did you check at the immigration office? You know the one on Cité.” Um yes, I did. I just came from there. Thanks.

 

Then I was down to two options. Pay 60 euros and reach out to the lovely lady at “Fingerprints Paris” or find one of the elusive police stations that might take pity on a poor American and do the job. But why pay and have it easy? Suited up with the info from someone via the forums who had successfully had her fingerprints done and my Frenchman scouring the French forums – we came up with one address. Back where I had been last week on Ile de la Cite in the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette spent her last days. Fitting.

 

The first attempt left me empty handed. All I could find was entrances leading to the Department of Justice – again not really a place I want to go for a background check w – and normal entrances to the dungeon.

 

And so, I was left with time running very thin-just three weeks to go. For my second attempt, I left on a disgusting day during my lunch break to get mission fingerprints done. It was grey, ominous, and the sky couldn’t decide between itty bitty snow or even more annoying sprinkly mist.

I passed the door twice before I realized which one it was. I was greeted by four extremely confused cops who had to revert to their superior before passed my purse and jacket through a scanner and letting me inside a weird fortified courtyard with alphabet numbered doors branching off of it in the heart of the Conciergerie.

 

Following their instructions, I made my way to door “Y” which…. could not be entered without a special badge so I asked someone hanging outside where to go and was directed down the courtyard to an unmarked door to the right, then up three flights of stairs to a waiting room that had not seen a lick of paint in 20 years. The sole person in the room behind a barred window told me to go back down the stairs, out into the courtyard, cross it, and then take a set of stairs that was on the left, down… into the basement? I really don’t know. I thought I was doing pretty good with my French at this point.

 

I did find a locked gate to a set of stairs leading down off of the courtyard that didn’t look like it would be budging any time soon. Also remember that it’s rain-slushing outside. So, I did what any budding sugar thief would do and snuck into the building after someone and tried to follow the original instructions I’d been given. Up three floors, second door on the right, got thoroughly confused and found myself wandering the halls of Paris’ central police station walking down hallways past evidence rooms.

 

I finally asked a man in an empty photocopying room where to go and was met with a, “uh was there no one at the welcome desk?” To which I promptly answered no. Mostly because I really didn’t know how to get into my maze of a story in French. We went down back to the entrance of the building to a desk behind which was probably the largest Frenchman I’d ever seen who very obviously hadn’t moved in the past ten minutes.

 

After hearing my request, he asked if I was in the police. To which I uh snickered and said um no and imagined myself as an undercover pastry chef. Then he proceeded to call one person who then said another person would do it, and then that person said no, the first person he’d called did it. He then pulls out an old journal, flips through a couple of pages and tells the second lady, well no, according to so-and-so on such-and-such date, you are the person that does this. Then he gave me a great look- kind of a ya that’s right, I deal with this all the time kinda look.

 

We waited a good 5-10 minutes before two women come down, one of which was there to guard the other woman and supervise the operation. And finally, what I had been expecting to hear from the last five people, “well we don’t normally do this.” Big hesitant smile. “I know I know… thank you..” and we were inking fingers and thumbs, in a handy stand area by the door. Yup I was voluntarily getting my fingerprints done at a police station in France. And they were extremely nice, sending me away with a photocopy (one that they kept for their records, just in case) and the original. And this was after having to restart the form several times after misspelling my name, running out of forms, leaving for 5 minutes to get another one, and finally getting it done.

 

I’d conquered the system!!!! I felt so accomplished with my fingerprints zipped up securely under my jacket.

I snapped this photo triumphantly as soon as I got back to work.

I thought I’d won.

 

A call to the organization I was mailing the fingerprints to dashed my dreams. Turns out fingerprints done at an international site are a bit of a gray area – doesn’t matter that they were done at a police station and had an official stamp. Soo I tell the guy on the phone that there’s this lady here that does it on FBI paper. Would that be best? Yes, yes it would.

 

Enter fingerprints adventure number 25 the following rainy Sunday at ten in the morning. I made my way to a squash court in Montmartre. No really. Which I entered in surprise to see not a hidden den where fingerprints were done on the sly but several squash courts and a bar. Pointed out by the bartender, up a set of stairs to the left of the door, was a makeshift desk, inkpad, and baby wipes.

 

I mailed those puppies out the following morning, express, and received the answer just three days before I landed in Texas; and four days before I woke up at 6am to drive down to Houston to turn in my 60+ page dossier.

 

Luckily the other 59 pages weren’t as difficult to track down.

 

Moral of the story: Get your fingerprints done when you’re home for Christmas in the States, or just happen to have a set on you (pour quoi pas), or just go to the professional fingerprinting lady in the squash court first.

 

 



9 thoughts on “The Fingerprinting Story”

  • Bonjour Molly,

    What a story and it helped me somehow as I am going through the exact same trauma at the moment. I moved to France with my French fiancé and I am struggling with collecting documents (my mistake :/). I actually have an appointment tomorrow at the American Embassy in paris, and while in Paris I have to get my fingerprints. I heard it’s a weird thing to ask for in France and that’s when I started searching online for places and then stumbled upon your story. I am actually thinking of going to the same place you went to but how much did it coat you and could you tell me the exact address of this squash court you went to? I live in Aix-Les-Bains so i’m not very familiar with Paris.

    Peace & love

  • Hi Hind! It was certainly quite the adventure trying to get my fingerprints done in Paris. I believe it was 60€? For all the information and the address, I would email Fingerprints Paris to make an appointment or get more information. You can find their site here: http://www.fingerprintsparis.com/ She would only be at the squash court for appointments so it’s worth contacting her in advance. Best of luck!!

  • Oh my goodness. You just saved me LOADS of trouble and time….by the way, the lady now charges 80… aie aie aie I think we know why though ahaha

  • Unfortunately I don’t appreciate being forced to pay 60€ for something that costs $7 in the US or could even be done for free if the police commissariats were allowed to do them. I’ll keep trying to get it done another way because it doesn’t sit right with me being forced to pay exorbitant costs for something so seemingly simple. I asked fingerprints paris how she arrives at her cost and she wouldn’t reply and suggested that if I wanted to get them done at all, I’d better go to her. It’s really starting to feel like an organised attempt to make it extremely difficult and costly, and even borderline racketeering. I’ll try to get the prints when I go back to US soon, barring the unforeseen event that all police offices are closed to the public due to Covid !

  • Honestly I think it’s totally ridiculous too and you saw in this story that I tried my hardest to get around it. In the end, it was just so much easier to pay it (unfortunately 😐 ).

  • Hi Molly and everyone,

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    I am French and I have to do my fingerprints for the State bar of California. I called the woman from fingerprintsparis and she is in the UK due to the pandemic. Thus, she does not offer any services until she is back (who knows when all of this will end…). However, I urgently need those fingerprints done…

    Does anyone have any other contacts?

    @Molly, at the end of the day, French police stations did not help in anyway to get your fringerprints done as required?

    Thank you very much!

  • Hi Celine,

    As you read, it was a bit weird for them to do at the police station. They kept asking why I was doing it and why they couldn’t do it electronically. I was worried about my visa getting approved and wanted to make sure to do things ok. I wasn’t sure if they would have been accepted at the end of the day as there is a special form they are supposed to be done on for authentication. You could try doing it this way! I just don’t know if it would work :/ Hope that helps – Molly

  • Hello molly,

    I need to make fingerprints fro US backround and it is a nightmare
    Do you know who can help me please ? This si very urgent for me ……

  • Hi Seneor, I’m so sorry to hear that! I haven’t had to do fingerprints for the US since I have written this article, back in 2018, so this is the only information that I have. Please send us an update if you find out a way? I wish you all the best!!

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