Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Visa - it's not just for shopping

My biggest job to tackle while home was acquiring a Visa so I can enjoy Paris longer than the 3 month time period where you can legally stay without additional paperwork.  I went with the long stay visitor's Visa, which requires tracking down a variety of paperwork from random places where people work who don't like paperwork, including a police clearance from my local sheriff's house, which isn't so local.  While trying to find the office, it seemed like there was never an absence of people asking where I was going and why I needed the sheriff.  People look at you a little suspiciously when you talk about getting your police record, and the more you say, the more guilty you sound, but luckily after a few hours spent in a strip mall, I got what looked like was the right sheet of paper.

The Visa office was right next door to my old french school


I took this sheet, along with bank statements, applications, bad looking mug shots, insurance information that I was pretty sure wasn't what they wanted, but after 3 calls and attempts to acquire the correct paperwork, my time was up and my appointment was here, so off I went to the French Embassy.  There were several people standing around the door outside when someone told me to ring the bell and don't be afraid of the mean man who comes out to collect some of my fat folder of paperwork.  I feared not and waited about 45 minutes before making it in the door past the not so mean man, into a tiny, stifling hot narrow room that had 2 bank teller like windows with French woman sitting on the opposite side of 2 others pleading their case.  One guy looked like he had been there all week begging, and he was speaking fluent French which was a bit disconcerting.

After 30 minutes of literally sweating it out, I took my turn at the window, papers at the ready.  The French woman started firing out forms for me to give her one after another.  I forgot a signature in one place, pure stupidity, which I was sure meant they wouldn't let me in their country.  She went through them, checking things with a red pen, and then she got to the insurance paperwork and she hesitated as I feebly tried to explain how this could possibly be the right paperwork, which garnered a shrug and a check mark.  C'est bon!  Next thing I know she's taken my passport, papers, more ugly mug shots, finger prints and tells me they'll have "an answer" for me in the next week or two.

I walk out feeling like I just ran a marathon, uphill, barefoot with a ski parka on, except now I no longer have a passport, and that worries me just a bit, as I do have a return ticket to Paris, not to mention a love for traveling.  'Twas the night before New Year's Eve when I returned home to see a FedEx envelope on my doorstep with my writing on it.  Thick or thin?  I see my passport, which is a good sign, but no note.  There's one of my applications with a new stamp on it in the middle of the passport where my new Visa is inserted.

While I wish I could say that I'm now home free, alas, there is a bit more legwork involved.  I need to "register" in my arrondissement, which I hear can take the better part of the day as the lines wrap around the building and can be a bit confusing.  Then there's a medical test I need to take, which I've been told some interesting and embarrassing stories about, so stay tuned for the next chapter, but at least my country doesn't mind me leaving.  We'll see what the Parisians think!

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