Merde! My Trip to the French Embassy in Washington

WHAT HAPPENENED:

Well, today was a complete waste of time. The French Embassy refused to even look at my visa application because Stuart is in the EU.

I almost left completely defeated, but then I went back thinking “ask a different person and get a different answer”. It didn’t work. I left completely defeated anyway. I tried to explain that I wasn’t looking to establish residency in France. I just wanted to be with my husband for longer than the three months allowed on a Schengen while his US immigration went through. That didn’t make any difference, apparently.

I swear to GOD! Why TF does the embassy’s US website say…and I cut and paste here directly (bold for emphasis):

Visa for the spouse of a French national or European Union citizen

Visa for establishment in France

The foreign spouse of a French citizen (with exception to members of the European Union, of European Economic Space, of Switzerland, of Monaco, of St. Martin and of Algeria) [WELL I’M NONE OF THOSE; I’M A US CITIZEN!!! I REALIZE IN HINDSIGHT THIS MIGHT BE A CASE OF A POORLY CONSTRUCTED SENTENCE THAT THEY MEANT THE EXCEPTION TO APPLY TO THE FRENCH CITIZEN AND NOT THE SPOUSE] must obtain a long stay visa, valid as a resident card, in order to spend more than 90 days per semester in France. If granted, this visa is also a resident card at the same time, valid for as long as a year. You will only need to register at the local branch of the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) upon two first months of arrival in France.

If you stay more than a year in France, you will then need to apply for a Resident Card (“Carte de Séjour”)

This visa applies to all nationalities but Algerian or EU spouses of French nationals, for whom different agreements exists. [AGAIN, I’M NOT THE EU SPOUSE. I’M A US SPOUSE. CLEAR AS MUD! WHY THE HELL DOESN’T IT SAY “US SPOUSES OF EU CITIZENS”? THEN I WOULD HAVE KNOWN THEY WERE TALKING TO ME!]

[IT GOES ON TO SAY…]

If you would like to settle in France, the following documents must be presented:

You have to apply with all the required documents in original and one copy. The visa section does not make any copies.

PERSONNAL [NOT MY TYPO] APPEARANCE IS MANDATORY : you cannot apply by mail.

– passport valid for three months after the last day of stay in the Schengen States. Please make sure the passport holds at least two spare pages for the consulate to affix the visa. Your passport should also be in good condition to be accepted.

– copies of the 5 first pages of your passport.

– 2 long stay application forms (only ONE for US citizens) [SOUNDS TO ME LIKE THIS BEING A VISA TO FRANCE WHICH IS IN THE EU MEANS ONE CAN ASSUME THE FACT THAT THEY MENTION US CITIZENS WITHIN PARENTHESES MEANS US CITIZENS OF EU SPOUSES CAN APPLY. IS THERE NOT A PROBLEM HERE?] filled out and clearly readable. Please use black ink. Make sure your cell phone number and e-mail address are also added upon the forms,

– 2 photographs (more information about the photograph) (only ONE for US citizens) [AND AGAIN – I MEAN, IF US CITIZENS OF EU MEMBERS CAN’T EVEN TAKE THIS ROUTE, WHY THE HELL DO THEY EVEN MENTION US CITIZENS?]. All photos must be recent, identical, passport size – 1,4″ x 1,7″ (3,5cm x 4,5cm) and showing face front the forehead hairline and ears on a white background, the face must take up 70-80% of the photograph.

[AND THEN ON TO SAY…]

– for the spouse of a citizen of the European Union : – a copy of the French translation of your marriage certificate, – as well as a proof of European nationality. [WHY EVEN SAY THIS IF IT ISN’T EVEN POSSIBLE TO APPLY AS THE US SPOUSE OF A EUROPEAN CITIZEN??? IT’S NOT LIKE THE WEBSITE WAS RUSSIAN. IT’S THE US WEBSITE, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. WHY NOT JUST SAY IN PLAIN ENGLISH (or even plain French): IF YOU ARE AN AMERICAN MARRIED TO A EUROPEAN, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME FILLING IN THE APPLICATION, COMPILING DOCUMENTS, SPENDING $20 ON A RETURN ENVELOPE, AND DRIVING 30 MINUTES INTO THE CITY. DO NOT APPLY!]

So that’s what happened today. All those caps, hells, and other expletives might be a giveaway of how overjoyed I was to experience this today. Lesson: DO NOT GET HOPES UP!

MY OVERBLOWN REACTION BASED ON A YEAR’S WORTH OF CUMULATIVE CRAP:

“That’s it. It’s over. I want a divorce! I can’t do this anymore. I’m sick and tired of banging my  head against a wall. This is just too hard. It just isn’t worth it anymore. It’s killing me. I’m starting to associate my love for Stuart with nothing but suffering. I’m a wreck. I think I have PTSD. I’ve had dark circles under my eyes for a year. I can’t think. I can’t do that whole “request residency” at the prefecture again making a million copies of every document known to man. I’ve already been through that chapter.  We had tried to play by these rules during my 1st visit to France. We had called within one month of my arriving to make an appointment which we couldn’t get until two months later plus a week after my visa would have expired. Then I would have been waiting around for God knows how long for them to process it all, unable to leave the country without having to start all over again.”

Were they fucking yanking my chain? Pardon the French. I left the embassy in tears. My poor brother-in-law having driven me must have been quite uncomfortable.

MY FANTASY RESPONSE:

Okay, this isn’t the end of the world. It sucks. Yes. Okay. But you can do it. It’s just one more “giant but illusory” obstacle meant to make you stronger. Heck, you could probably make the appointment at the prefecture NOW and get a head start. You don’t even have to bring a complete application. Who cares if they say it is incomplete and send you away with a recipisse (a receipt proving that I applied)? At least you’ll be able to stay longer than three months. If that’s the game, play it. But don’t let this steal your heart and soul away. Don’t let this be the end of the world. Don’t give up NOW! And don’t bark at your family like it’s their fault. Let it all just roll off your back like marbles. Forgive even this.

I’m working on it.

Seriously, is this process for real? I mean, how many people have to go through this garbage? How many stories are out there besides mine? I’m sure there are much worse. This system is obviously designed to completely destroy what would otherwise have been perfectly delightful relationships. I tell you what. If I had my own country, I would completely annihilate this type of BS.

As it is, I just have to learn to accept it. I really am doing my best.

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The UK Visitor for Marriage Visa Decision & Process

When Stuart and I first decided to get m…owed, I mean married, we looked at all the options. At first, things looked very discouraging and overwhelming, but now that we’re on the other side of things, in hindsight, it wasn’t all that bad.

Of course, we thought about marriage in the US. From what I could tell, he would have needed a K1 Fiance Visa, a process that would have taken about 6 months. That amount of time did not appeal to either of us. Besides, I would have had to sponsor him financially, and that wasn’t happening. We looked into marriage by proxy, but that seemed to be available only to the military unless I wanted to fly to another state where it is legal. However, not every country recognizes marriages by proxy, so this wouldn’t have helped us anyway.

Next, we looked at France. In fact, for a few weeks, we thought this was our best option because I could just go on an application-free Schengen Visa. The problem with marrying in France came down to the paperwork. Everything, passports, birth certificates, divorce decrees, etc., would have to be translated in order to get married. Then everything French would have to be translated to English for use in the US and UK. The language barrier made this a poor choice.

Frustrated, we began to look at the UK. They offer something called a Visitor for Marriage Visa. It seemed like our best bet. With this Visa, I could enter the UK for the purpose of marriage for a period of up to 6 months, and the applications were only taking about 4-6 weeks. To top it off, Stuart’s cousin is the registrar of the town where we wanted to marry. She could marry us!

So, we started the application process. It was a bit of a nightmare as these things tend to be, taking over my office floor. The online application was easy enough. It was the supporting documentation that was more complicated. Continuing to just put one foot in front of the other, though, we obtained everything we needed:

  • passports (expired and current) and my passport photo
  • my biometrics document
  • our birth certificates
  • our divorce decrees
  • our bank statements
  • my proof of ties to home (in my case, work and mortgage)
  • my credit line proof
  • our tax returns and proof of business
  • letters of accommodation from each of the people we stayed with
  • marriage registration and license receipts
  • letter of support from Stuart
  • planned itinerary including intention to purchase health insurance
  • things to prove our relationship (Skype records and photos)
My visa application about halfway complete.
My visa application about halfway complete.

Some of these things were tricky. Our Skype transcripts were nearly 500 pages long, so I needed to abbreviate them down to something manageable. Many documents needed to be originals. There were also time constraints and many agencies and people with their own priorities and timelines involved. Since I had scheduled my biometrics appointment two weeks after my application online, I then had to have everything ready to be submitted by the deadline two weeks after that. There were some moments of hair-pulling as we waited for things or discovered new things we needed to include as the deadline drew closer. The whole time, I kept feeling very sorry for people who aren’t as logistically minded as myself, let alone non-English speakers, starting this process only to find they’ve missed a piece or a deadline.

Then I went about making copies (there had to be two of everything), indexed it all with a cover letter, and shipped, being sure to include the required return postage and packaging. I also scanned the whole thing, so I would have digital copies. I got a little nervous when UPS said they wouldn’t insure my passport, but what could I do? I had to trust and send it.

UK Immigration was great about communicating through emails throughout the whole nail-biting process. Within 6 weeks, we had approval! Just in time to buy a plane ticket in advance of our selected wedding date.

If it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the visa process certainly built up our muscles. Good thing, because as an international couple, there will be lots more paperwork ahead!