We're now legal aliens.
Last week I got news from the attorneys that our residence cards were ready. This morning I had some time, so we made our way to the main city police station (!) where, after paying many euros, we received our shiny new cartes de sejour. This allows me to do what I've been doing already, but makes it possible to now leave the country and come back easily. That will actually come in handy since I have a whole bunch of travel coming up this spring (starting with Germany next week).
The residence cards come in many flavors and durations. Mine is being a salaried worker here for a few years in a scientific position. I'm being paid by an American company, I'm not taking a French person's job, I'm not a drain on the French social security system, and I may actually bring something of benefit to France, so it was a pretty sure bet on their end.
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