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Within the first three months following arrival to France on a long-stay visa, you must register with the government in order to make your stay legal. There are a couple of steps to validating a long-stay visa, and the procedure you follow depends on the type of visa that you’ve been granted. For the type of visa that I got, a long-stay visitor visa, you need to pay a tax and go to a medical exam. Seems easy, right? Read on…

Online Payment

The validation process is now initiated online (as of August 1, 2019). This website is accessible in French, English, and Chinese. Personally, I tend to use the French version of government websites, because the English translations are not always very clear. Fill in your visa and contact information, pay the fee online (by selecting and buying the appropriate timbre fiscal électronique), and then get immediate confirmation via email. They send you a downloadable PDF stating that your visa has been validated. I am so impressed with France landing squarely in the 21st century on this one. Step one was surprisingly easy and painless, minus the money paying part, of course! I paid a tax of 250 euros ($278) for my long-stay visitor visa.

Obligatory Medical Exam

If you’re staying in the country for more than 3 months, you may be required to have a medical exam. Nothing to worry about, but you do have to wait for the Office of Immigration to notify you of your appointment. The sooner you complete step one of the validation process, the sooner you will be contacted. I suppose the amount of time you have to wait also depends on your location in France, the time of year (holiday/vacation season, etc), whether France is currently on strike, and how lucky you are. I pulled the short end of the stick on all of these points. Paris—probably one of the longest waits, I paid the tax in October and nothing gets done over the holidays (Toussaint and Christmas/New Year’s), the literally indefinite transportation strike, and do you see that dark cloud hovering over my head? Remember when I tried to open a bank account…? Yea, dealing with French administration is hard enough, but my luck doesn’t make it any easier.

Getting the Appointment

After about three months of waiting for notification of my medical exam, I decided to give them a call. Quand même. The website for L’Office de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII) is quite uninformative. I mean, it has information, for sure. But no information that you’re actually looking for. For example: How long is the expected wait to get a medical exam appointment? What should you do if you haven’t gotten an appointment yet? Which office will you be expected to report to? To whom should you address your questions? You know, the basics.

I ended up calling an office located in Paris that seemed the most logical based on where I’m living. For about twenty minutes, I waited on the phone, listening to “OFII Paris, Bonjour et bienvenue. Nous allons vous répondre dans quelques instants. Hello and welcome to OFII Paris. We will take your call in a moment.” This entire message played on a loop, with only a few seconds in between. So. Fun. I put them on speaker phone so that I could get on with my life while I waited.

When someone finally picked up, I explained that I had gotten my confirmation by email but hadn’t received a medical appointment date yet. The lady I spoke to was not very pleasant, helpful, or articulate. She started by asking me for my date of birth, which didn’t seem very logical given that she didn’t have any other information on me yet, not even my name, but I went along with it. Then she asked if I had a number… Ummm, phone number? Number on my visa? Passport number? Number from 1-10 of how frustrated I currently am that you just keep asking for my number!? I finally won the guessing game when I asked if she wanted the reference number on my visa validation confirmation PDF. Maybe that was obvious, but maybe if she said numéro de référence, I might have gotten there a little sooner and saved us both time and needless frustration.

Well, she plugged in that information and told me right away—Il faut juste attendre. (You just have to wait.) At first, given her quick response, I thought she meant that I needed to wait for her computer to tell her things. But when, after a lengthy pause, she asked—Vous comprenez? (Do you understand?)—I realized my mistake. Any idea how much longer I’ll need to wait? Il faut juste attendre. But, how long does it usually take to get an appointment? Il faut juste attendre. So, to confirm, you have all required documents, but you don’t know how long it will take? Il faut juste attendre. I might have been talking to a robot. Not sure.

My appointment convocation arrived by email 3.5 months after paying the tax. The appointment was about a month in the future. According to the convocation letter, you can reschedule the appointment if the date does not work for you, but honestly, I suggest clearing your schedule and making it work! For the record, I do not think that my phone call in any way shortened my wait time, but at least it confirmed that they had my name on file. Dealing with French administration is all about celebrating the little things.

Documents Needed

According to the convocation PDF, here’s what you need to bring to the appointment:

  • Convocation (appointment letter)
  • Passport
  • Vaccination records
  • Recent lung x-rays
  • Hospitalization records
  • Glasses, if needed
  • Maternity records

If some of the records don’t apply to you or you’ve never had a chest x-ray, don’t worry about it! I additionally brought my health insurance card, but was not asked about it.

OFII Montrouge

I believe everyone in Paris is sent to the OFII located in Montrouge, just outside of Paris. You can use a regular metro ticket to get there. My appointment was scheduled for 8:30 in the morning. I arrived 15 minutes early, but was not let in until 8:25. The doorman called out appointment times, which seem to be scheduled on the hour and on the half hour. I was among the first few people from my time slot to enter. In between letting people in, the door remained firmly closed with the doorman conveniently inside, out of earshot.

There was no line outside the building—just a small mob of people who rushed the door every time it opened a crack. If you do not have an appointment, you will not be let in. The doorman was very strict about this, and I really sympathized with the people who probably felt they had to show up at the office to get information after not getting answers online or by phone. He pointedly kept telling them that they needed to call or email for an appointment, which is such a joke. He also said (in English) that he spoke no English, and then kept repeating the same instructions in French, pointing at the sign on the door.

I’m sure his job is not easy, but he showed no compassion or civility whatsoever. If the system worked better, people wouldn’t just be showing up at the door trying to get answers to their questions. On a related note, it would be helpful for the people who work in the immigration office, especially the first person you make contact with, to be able to speak English. The system is complicated to navigate even for those with a good command of French.

Back to getting in the door… You’ll need to show your appointment time and passport in order to enter the building, so it’s best to print out your convocation form. After a quick security checkpoint, I handed my convocation letter to the woman at the reception desk. She stamped it and added it to a pile. One girl entered the building by showing her convocation on her phone, but I’m not sure how that worked out for her at the reception desk. Then, you are directed to have a seat in the salle d’attente (waiting room). Within the waiting room, there is a vending machine with coffee and a pumping room. There is a bathroom down the hall.

When I entered the waiting room, there was no one there from the 8:00 time slot, and I took this as a good sign. They must be running on time! Excellent. Minor detail—in my time waiting outside, I hadn’t seen anyone exit the building…

At 9:15, a woman came in with a small stack of papers—our convocation forms. The first people from my time slot were called, and it was all people who got there after me… What?! (bad luck acting up again) At 9:30, I was called up with a small group of people to go wait in the next area. It was kind of like a wide hallway. There were two rows of chairs placed down the middle, with their backs together. Kind of like a musical chairs setup, but much less fun, because there was no music. Hanging from the ceiling were numbered signs designating different stations. Each station was manned by a couple of doctors. This setup had the potential to be efficient, but I think there just weren’t enough doctors working.

The first station was a check-in with the woman who brought us in. She was kind and patient and spoke English. We were asked to have our passport and phone number ready. The woman asked me a few questions regarding insurance, marital status, and pregnancy. At the next station, a doctor checked my weight and height. Then I did an eye exam. One of my eyes is clearly showing its age, but the doctor said it wasn’t serious. Everything was going very well so far!

The third station was a chest x-ray. The doctor brought me over to a small closet sized room. There were several at the end of the hallway that then opened into a larger room where the x-ray machine was located. It kind of felt like the holding pen where a bull is kept before they are released into the arena. The male doctor who would be doing the x-ray asked, in French, if I spoke English or French, to which I responded (in French), “both” and the doctor who brought me over responded, “French.” Naturally, this doctor decided he would speak to me in English. Ok, fine. He retreated back to the bigger room, closing the door on the way. I was left in the closet to strip from the waist up, tie up my hair, remove jewelry, and cover myself while I waited. Finally, the door leading to the larger room was opened and I was summoned in.

While I appreciated that all the doctors seemed willing to speak English if needed, this guy’s English was not good. It made an awkward situation more uncomfortable, because he could not explain very well how I needed to position myself. He kept repeating directions that didn’t make sense in English and ended up having to physically push me into position. Apparently, your chest needs to be flat against (read: touching) the machine, with your hands behind your back, holding a little lead apron.

Please note, this is my second time going to an immigration medical exam in France, and this was not how it went down last time. On another note, I also question a male doctor overseeing this procedure. For me, it was mostly the fact that the procedure was unnecessarily drawn out due to poor communication that I was uncomfortable, but I wonder about women who, for religious reasons, cannot be undressed in front of a male outside of their family. This doesn’t seem like best practice on France’s part.

Afterwards, I was so excited to go back to my closet, put my clothes on, and leave behind my feelings of vulnerability! When I left that little space, it was 10am. I had only sat for a couple minutes before I was moved on to the next station. The final station! This doctor asked about vaccines. I highly recommend you bring your vaccination records with you. If you are missing any vaccinations according to French standards, you will receive a sheet informing you of which vaccinations you are missing and where you can go to get them for free. In Paris, you can schedule an appointment online. The doctor also asked about medications, took my blood pressure, listened to my lungs and heart, and told me the x-ray was fine. The last time I did a medical exam in France, I got to keep a full-size print out of my x-ray, and I’m absolutely gutted that I didn’t get one this time, because we’re really in need of decoration in the apartment… There must have been some budget cuts!

She returned my convocation to me along with two certificates stating I had completed the medical visit. You need to get them stamped at the reception desk on the way out. One is for your records and the other is to be brought to the préfecture when and if you renew your visa or apply for your first carte de séjour. In the meantime, the visa sticker in your passport functions as a titre de séjour (residence permit).

Final Remarks

Aside from the unhelpful doorman, whose demeanor made me nervous about what I might encounter during my appointment, and the radiologist, everyone was pleasant and professional. Despite the numerous negative reviews on Google about this establishment, the experience as a whole was not as bad as I was expecting. Walking out the door at 10:13, I was also satisfied with how early I was able to leave. Then again, I figured I would be spending literally all morning there, because that’s how little faith I have in the system. It helps when your expectations all around are very low!

Visa Validation & OFII Appointment
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18 thoughts on “Visa Validation & OFII Appointment

  • March 2, 2020 at 11:21 am
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    Interesting process – glad it all worked out- did you ever get bank account opened

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    • March 7, 2020 at 12:59 pm
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      I am also glad it all worked out, unlike my bank account, which continues to be a source of frustration. I’m meeting with a new bank this week.

      Reply
  • March 2, 2020 at 4:37 pm
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    I was intrigued by the suspense of your medical exam…..thank goodness it all worked out and fairly quickly! Good for you!

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    • March 7, 2020 at 1:16 pm
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      I like that you used the word “suspense” here. Maybe if I thought about my exorbitant wait times and paperwork pitfalls in terms of “building suspense,” my whole perspective would be more optimistic! Thank you for reading 🙂

      Reply
  • July 1, 2020 at 5:11 am
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    Did you not have a second appointment with OFII? I heard that the medical appointment is first and then you have a second one where you have to sign a form about taking a cultural integration course and possibly a language class if they don’t assess you at A1 level. Did you not have to do the second appointment because you had already done it in a previous time in France?

    I also have a weird question. You said they ask you about pregnancy at the medical appointment. Have you heard anything about what happens if you say that you are pregnant? I’m not pregnant, but there is a possibility I could become pregnant before we move there in September. And I’ve heard you can’t apply for the national health insurance until you’ve been living there for 3 months. But if you’re pregnant before then, do they expedite you getting on to health insurance? I know it’s a really weird question, but I can’t find any info anywhere about that scenario. We’ll be moving from Korea, and I’m on the national health insurance here, but I have to give it up once we move, and I have not had private insurance from the US in at least 6 years

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    • July 1, 2020 at 10:39 am
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      Hi Emilie,

      The language assessment and culture/civics classes are not a requirement of the visitor visa, which is what I currently have. I can look forward to that when I change my status! haha However, they are a requirement of the Visa VPF (Vie privée et familiale), which is likely what you’re applying for.

      If you’re pregnant at the time of your medical exam, I don’t think they will be able to do your x-ray. When you get your convocation, you should contact them and see how best to proceed.

      Yes, you have to have lived in France for at least 3 months before applying for health insurance through PUMA (Protection Maladie Universelle). If you have a job, your employer would start the ball rolling for health insurance right away (no 3-month wait). They usually issue a temporary number quickly, sometimes within a month. This also depends on where you are living. I can really only speak to Paris. If you feel it is necessary, you can call or go to your local CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie) and explain your situation. It’s definitely worth a try. Sometimes, it’s all about who you talk to.

      You might want to consider getting private insurance to tide you over in the meantime. When applying for my visa, I had to show that I had health insurance. Is that the case for you?

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      • July 1, 2020 at 5:47 pm
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        I totally forgot about being pregnant with an x-ray. We have to get it done here in this country every 2 years for the national health insurance exam. I wonder if I get it translated they’d accept my last results, which were from December. This might be TMI, but the whole time I’ve been here in this country I’ve had an IUD, mostly because this country is really strict with abortions and my work contract isn’t super flexible if we had a baby and we have no other family here, so I just didn’t want to risk it. But I’m getting it removed right before we leave, so my chances of being pregnant increase a lot after that.

        And luckily, because of confinement, probably one of the only good things about it, lol, my husband was able to land a job in France with just doing Skype interviews. And it’ll be a CDI contract. And Im pretty sure they offer a mutuelle with the contract that I can possibly use, I think, so hopefully we’ll be all good there. But I’ll try to check through the other options just in case.

        But also, you’re experience with the OFII in Paris makes me rather want to use my mother-in-law’s address to get my convocation, lol, so that I don’t need to go to the Paris facilities. We’ll be staying with her for our first 2 weeks anyways for our voluntary confinement after we get in from our flight. And we don’t have our own apartment yet so we kind of have to stay with her.

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        • July 2, 2020 at 7:21 am
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          Congratulations to your husband for landing a job! I’ve heard health insurance is processed a bit faster for those who are employed, but it might also be a myth 😂

          If you’re on Facebook, I recommend joining the group called “Strictly Santé France.” It’s a very active group, and there might be someone in a similar situation who could let you know how the process was for them 🙂

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          • July 31, 2020 at 6:49 am
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            I tried to get info from that FB group, but it was so confusing, even on there, lol, mostly British people right now trying to figure things out with Brexit. But I went down the rabbit hole of the advice section on the Ameli website, and supposedly the thing about my husband now having a job and my health insurance being processed faster is actually not a myth.

            https://forum-assures.ameli.fr/questions/1418197-rattache-compte-mari

            The original was from 3 years ago, but I found this one from a question that was asked only 3 months ago, so supposedly it still applies. I have to have my husband give me power of attorney over his bank account though for me to be able to sign up, I have no idea how that’s gonna work with me being a US citizen, but I guess it won’t technically be my bank account, it’s still my husband’s but the national health insurance will be able to refund to that account. Then I guess whenever I eventually get my own bank account (not looking forward to that as a US citizen, lol), I guess I can change the bank information for the refunds.

            You know my husband was gonna wait till we got to France to start applying for jobs, but I pushed him to start looking 6 months before we left because I was a little nervous about moving there without him having a job, it’s an immigrant mentality I guess. But I’m so glad I did, because there is so much more now we can do to set things up just because he got it, lol

          • August 3, 2020 at 6:44 am
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            Oh, yes. There’s a lot going on with Brexit. I am in Facebook groups for French health insurance and visa/residence cards, and I feel like the British have been taking over both groups! 😅

            Thanks so much for sharing this info that you found on Ameli. It can be difficult to sift through their forums!

            That makes sense about the bank account. They need to be able to reimburse you. I have a couple of blog posts about opening a bank account in France. I was able to open one very quickly with LCL (I walked out with my bank account number that day, and it was active a couple of days later.) and lately, I’ve heard that HSBC is good with Americans as well. I’m not sure what your timeframe is for getting to France, but maybe you could call them before leaving to set up an appointment for as soon as you arrive, just in case the power of attorney thing doesn’t work out.

            Good luck with everything!

      • September 5, 2020 at 5:36 pm
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        Hi, thank you so much for the information. I just have a question regarding the very first step. I was here in 2017 as an exchange student and when I arrived I was also asked to pay the tax and then go to their office on a certain date (an appointement they gave me) where they took my passport and gave me an official OFII stamp. This time, I was told to register online, pay… and that’s it! I just received a PDF with the confirmation on my payment but no further instructions on what I had to do three years ago. Did they change the system? I don’t know if you have a clue on this, but it seems like you didn’t have to get a second stamp on your passport, right? I’m just wondering because I don’t want to get in trouble and, like you said, there is not much information out there. Thank you!

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        • September 6, 2020 at 7:30 am
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          Hi Gabriela!
          Yes, the process has changed although I’m not sure what year it changed. I was in France for a school year (2012-2013), so I’m familiar with the old process of getting the OFII sticker in your passport. That is not done anymore. You’ll get the confirmation page after paying the tax online, which you should keep for your records. Paying the tax will trigger the system to schedule your OFII appointment(s). And then you’ll get confirmation sheets after your appointment(s) with OFII—just some papers to hold onto for your records. You’ll really only need to show them to someone if you renew your visa or apply for a carte de séjour. That’s it! Simple, although understandably unnerving not to have anything official placed in the passport.
          Wishing you all the best during your stay in France,
          Ellen

          Reply
  • September 10, 2020 at 5:56 pm
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    Hey Ellen,

    Thank you so much for all your informative posts. After 3 days of constantly looking for answers, I think this is the only space with well written instructions. I’m not sure if you will be able to help me here but let me try.

    I live in Dubai and have been to France only twice but my wife who is with me in Dubai is French so I got the VPF long stay visa stamped on my passport (was super easy to get it done in Dubai). We plan to go and settle in France and I have received a job offer for from Paris in one condition that I have all my paper work ready. I am wondering if I can go to France alone and start working with this visa as my wife still has to complete her contract in Dubai until end of the year.

    Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • September 11, 2020 at 7:38 am
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      Hi Sahle,

      I’m so glad that you’ve found my blog to be helpful 🙂

      Congratulations on the VPF visa and the job offer! You’re already way ahead of many people who have their sights set on France.

      The French government is only going to be concerned about YOUR arrival in France. As a French citizen, your wife can come and go as she pleases, barring other restrictions due to the pandemic. You are absolutely allowed to arrive in France on your own with a VPF visa, but I’ve heard that some people have been given a hard time lately at the airport when traveling without their French spouse (This is specifically Covid-related). I would recommend bringing your livret de famille and/or acte de mariage, as well as, any other documents that might prove helpful (job contract? rental agreement? copy of your spouse’s passport?). And, of course, make sure you check the news and government announcements to see if there is anything else that you need to be aware of before entering France.

      Upon arrival, you’ll validate your visa as described in this post, and you are ready to work! OFII will contact you later on for the medical appointment, and since you are arriving on a VPF visa, you will also be required to have an assessment of your French ability, complete a series of civics classes, and sign an integration contract. This will take place over the course of several months. Your wife does not need to be present for any of these meetings.

      At the end of your first year, if you are renewing your right to stay, you’ll apply for a carte de séjour “vie privée et familiale,” and she will need to be present for that appointment. At that time, you’ll need to present documentation that you have a “vie commune” (life together) in France. So while you’re establishing yourself in France, it would be a good idea to put both of your names on certain accounts (like the electricity bill, for example) from the beginning. It will potentially save you some headaches later on!

      Best of luck to you!
      Ellen

      Reply
  • September 11, 2020 at 8:24 am
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    Hey Ellen,

    Thank you very much for the detailed answer again. I wonder how you have answers to all the questions. 🙂

    Yes I do have the family book and all the documents you mentioned above. I also checked out the Advice for foreign nationals (https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/coronavirus-advice-for-foreign-nationals-in-france/) entering France during this time. One last question, will I need a separate work permit or some kind of work authorization? Did you have to take any of those before you started working?

    Thank you very much for reverting back 🙂

    Reply
    • September 12, 2020 at 7:44 am
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      Hi Sahle,

      I’m just a very detail-oriented person, and I’ve been going through a lot of this currently, so for now, at least, my info is up-to-date! My real secret though is that I’m in a few Facebook groups that are for expats in Paris/France. While it’s great to be able to read the official websites, what’s more interesting to me is knowing how those rules play out for real. Expat groups can be a wealth of information regarding real experiences.

      Thanks for sharing that website—very helpful!

      You will not need a separate work permit/authorization. You just need to validate your visa. If your workplace needs extra proof, you can show them the validation confirmation that you’ll receive in an email shortly after paying your tax online. I arrived on a visitor visa, which did not give me the right to work, but I recently switched to the carte de séjour “vie privée et familiale.” I don’t even have the card yet, but the fact that I’m on this status gives me the right to work automatically. And I know this to be true, because I just applied (and was granted!) free-lance status using my reference number from my visa validation.

      Safe travels and good luck with your move!
      Ellen

      Reply
  • September 13, 2020 at 7:57 am
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    Hey Ellen,

    Thanks again for the confirmation. Hope to start soon.

    I somehow ended up in one of the many government websites and all the process you have mentioned is clearly stated there. Check it out, it downloads as a .PDF and can be really helpful.

    https://www.gouvernement.fr/en/coming-to-france
    Scroll down to: Read more > Living in France – Preparing for your arrival in France

    Hope it helps someone.

    Thank you again,
    Sahle

    Reply
    • September 14, 2020 at 10:04 am
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      Hey Sahle,

      No doubt, there is some helpful information for getting settled in France on this website that you shared. However, when it comes to administrative procedures, I’m quite wary of PDFs, as they tend to not be updated very regularly. The one that you’ve directed me to dates to September 2016, and I can assure you that some things have changed since then. For one, they describe the old procedure for validating your visa!

      I also try to steer clear of websites in English, even if it’s a government website. Why? For the same reason I avoid PDFs. They’re not updated as regularly, and I’ve seen discrepancies between the English and the French versions. The English version can be a great starting part, but I would suggest verifying all information on the French websites, if you’re able to, or find a blog that’s done it for you. 😉

      These are a few of the websites that I use when looking into administrative tasks:
      https://www.service-public.fr/
      http://accueil-etrangers.gouv.fr/
      https://www.demarches.interieur.gouv.fr/
      https://www.prefecturedepolice.interieur.gouv.fr/ (This is the Paris Préfecture)

      Aside from the second one on the list, you can see when an article has been last updated. I usually cross-reference all of these websites when doing my research.

      It’s been nice messaging with you!
      Ellen

      Reply

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