08 December 2016

My French Visa

My French Visa

So! I had my French visa appointment yesterday! Spoiler alert - it went well, and I should hear back in 2 weeks!

To live in France (or to visit for more than 90 days) Americans have to get a visa. And it has to applied for, in person, from the consulate that covers the region in which you live. For New Mexico, that is the French consulate in Los Angeles. But for Northern California, that is the consulate in San Francisco. Since our lease in NM is up in December, we decided to move back to my parents' house in California, and do all our visa processing from there (so, San Francisco).

In mid-November, I got an appointment via the consulate website - the earliest one I could get was December 7, almost a month away! Well, the good news is that it gave me plenty of time to get my documents together; the bad news is that I had to wait a *month!* :-)  The related bad news is that it could be another month's delay if I needed another appointment for some reason. And the possible reasons aren't clear. What is clear is that there could be reasons. That makes for difficult planning.

Well, I did several things to mitigate that possibility. I pulled together all the documents they listed as requirements (http://www.consulfrance-sanfrancisco.org/spip.php?article2705):
- my passport
- a filled in application (with all sorts of difficult-to-know-the-best-way-to-answer questions)
- ID picture (like an American passport picture, but slightly different)
- proof of marriage (fortunately, we had gotten our livret de famille a few years ago)
- proof of spouse's French nationality (fortunately, Rick has had his ID card for quite some time)
- filled in residence form (with only a couple of tricky questions)
- flight confirmation (more confusion; did I have to have an actual paid-for ticket? Probably not, but I took the chance and bought it)
- (here is a specific note that says I don't have to have medical coverage)
- a prepaid envelope for them to use to return my passport with visa

Then I scoured their website for other visas, and their requirements. Then I looked at the requirements for other French consulates. Then I went to see my local honorary French consulate for advice...

So I had an alternate, possibly-needed document pile:
- proof of where I currently live (e.g. California), because I was going through the San Francisco location
- proof of enough money to live on, because I was "self-supporting" on my application
- my marriage certificate, because - eh, just in case
- a police report, saying that I had been a good girl
- the rental agreement for our first month in France
- travel insurance agreement for the first 3 months in France, along with a statement that it could be extended

On Visa Day, I left Yuba City with plenty of time, even accounting for Bay Area traffic and parking issues. I ended up eating my sandwich at 1:00, standing in an out-of-the-way corner of a parking garage* :-\ . A short walk later, the guy in building reception says the consulate won't be open till 2:00. Hmmm. My appointment is at 2:00, and no one else is waiting. What goes through my mind? Some guy sitting at a folding table, who only comes in if there is an appointment. Meanwhile, I had internet :-)  Well, other people started dribbling in; near 2:00, the reception guy said to go on up (6th floor), and each appointment would probably take only 15 minutes (it certainly was fast!) We trooped through the metal detector and past a guard, showed our appointment receipts, phones and food, and sat in line.

My turn, via a counter with a bank-teller window:
Consulate - what is the purpose of your visit?
Me - residence visa for a spouse of a French national
C - do you have your documents?
M - yes! [slides pile through slot]
C - [sorts through them, checks copies against originals, scribbles on application]
M - would you check one thing on my application (per advice from our honorary consulate, I had left a box unchecked)?
C - your husband is French, right? [checks "yes" box]
M - these documents are OK? You don't need anything more?
C - you have more?
M - yes, just in case
C - what do you have?
M - [oops! Me and my big mouth!] well, I have... [listed my possibly-needed documents (except I didn't mention the one-month rental agreement)]
C - no, no, (etc). Oh, you have medical insurance? Yes, let me have that. [I don't know, was he just making me feel like I hadn't wasted any effort?] :-D
M - c'est tout?
C - [smiles] yes, here is your application receipt; you should hear in 2 weeks
M - wow! Thanks!

So, by 2:20, I was back in my car, ready to leave San Francisco. BUT! so was everyone else! A dozen intersections and an hour later, I was on I-80, in slow-and-go traffic :-\

Home with the folks now, in wait-mode. Thinking about an early Christmas present :-)

* I parked at 222 Kearny St (http://www.priorityparking.com), just up the street from the consulate. Just under an hour and a half was $30.
Bridge tolls (2) ran $9
My visa application was free (other types cost quite a bit)

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