Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Visa Adventure

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

Well, I'm not going to try to build up any suspense. We traveled to Chicago this week and applied for our Visa.
Chicago is about five hours away from us, but it is where we needed to travel for our in-person interview to request a long-stay visa. In general, Americans don't need visas to visit France for three months or less, so we've never had to do this before.
We spent the night with some old friends who live about 20 minutes outside of the city. We took the train in early Thursday morning. Our appointments were not until 11 and 11:10 (we both had to have appointments), but we just commuted when our friend went to work at 8 a.m.

That gave us time to find a place for breakfast.
We were lured into a place that had a chalkboard sign that read "Homemade pastries" but when we got inside, I asked where the pastries were and they had none. What they had instead, was a breakfast buffet that you paid for by weight. Weird, huh?
Once we'd finished, we pulled out our red folder with our documents. I had put mine in order according to the list:
*an application
*a passport-sized photo (no smiling, no glasses)
*a questionaire
*my passport and a photo copy of the identity page
*a letter explaining what I intend to do in France (eat pastries, drink wine, write books)
*a notarized letter promising I won't work in France (at least not a French job)
*a letter explaining my work and showing my paystubs
*proof of means of income -- Earl's retirement savings and the income from the sale of our house
*our marriage license
*proof of accommodation (we included the hotel in Paris where we'll stay along with the two housesits in France and our friend's address in Aix en Provence where we'll go to file our paperwork)
*a processing fee ($115 cash)
*a residence form (since we plan to stay in France for more than 12 months)
*a self-addressed, pre-paid Express envelope from the post office only -- not UPS or FED EX

I also  had a birth certificate, just in case.
After breakfast, we decided to walk to the consulate, which is on Michigan Avenue, down toward the Magnificent Mile. Even though we arrived at the building nearly an hour early, I wanted to go ahead and check in. I felt nervous, jittery.
Earl suggested we get something to drink at the Starbucks on the second floor, but I wanted to head to the 37th floor to the French consulate. So he acquiesced.
The information desk gave us a pass to get through the gates to the elevators. We were supposed to scan the pass and glass doors slid open to let us through. But I scanned my pass and the doors turned red, but I pushed on them anyway. Suddenly, a loud blaring noise rang out and a man with a walkie talkie came rushing toward us calling, "Step back."
They'll never let me into France now, I thought as the man took my pass and scanned it before allowing me through the gates.
A few seconds in the elevator, which made my ears pop as it zipped up to the 37th floor, and we stepped off into France.
Proof that we were in the right place.
Here's me in those same chairs.
A young man, who was returning to the office, told us we should put our passes in a deposit window, like a bank. The two women behind the windows lined up the passes, probably in order of people's appointments.
The office was very small with a television mounted in the corner. It played French food shows the whole time we were there.
A man and two children were there when we arrived, and another man, French, jumped ahead of the line to get his passport, but almost everyone else there was a student getting a visa to study abroad. And the majority of those students were Asian. Perhaps they were studying in the U.S. and wanted to do a study abroad, or maybe they came from countries that needed a visa to visit France.
At a little after 11, the younger woman motioned me up. She didn't try to pronounce my name, but her microphone wasn't working so we hadn't been able to hear her all morning anyway.
I pulled out the packet of papers and asked whether she wanted all of them.
Yes, she nodded. So I slide the inch-thick stack through the window and she slowly went through each one.
She handed me back the extra passport photo and my birth certificate, and the envelope that my $115 cash was in.
Earl took a picture of me standing at the window as I supplied my papers. 
Then she asked to get my fingerprints. They had a machine that didn't require ink or black-tipped fingers, but it was quite contrary. It took several times and kept beeping at me as I tried to get the machine to light up for all four fingers, and then the other hand and then both thumbs.
While we were there, no one else had to do the fingerprint machine. It must only be for people planning to move to France.
The woman then nodded and said I could send my husband up. So Earl replaced me and supplied all of his papers. After his wrangling with the fingerprint machine, we were free to go.
Some of the students applying didn't have what they needed, so the workers had sent them out to get things like cash for the fee or envelopes for mailing the visa. We had all our documentation, so that's a plus.
Earl picked up my coat and held it for me. As I slipped my arms in, I saw the French woman behind the window smile at us.
She thinks we're cute, I thought. Then I wondered if she thought there was no way we were getting a visa to move to France.  
Just because we had all the right forms does not mean that they'll let us move to France. I think our odds would have been much better if we had closed on our house and could show them a bank statement with $150,000 in it. But the closing is not until December and the visa can take a month to arrive. We couldn't risk waiting.
So now we'll check the mailbox starting next week, hoping our visas arrive.
I didn't think about it until recently, but we left our passports there, along with our marriage licenses. I hope we get them both back.

We left the building after pausing for pictures in front of the French flag and their new president 

Earl and Emmanuel
before we walked to the Nutella cafe across the street. I'm sure it was strategically placed close to the French consulate.
Nutella oveerload
Earl had a Nutella and banana crepe while I had a berry pastry that I didn't realize would be drizzled in Nutella. I think I'd have preferred it without Nutella, but we celebrated because we were a step closer to making our dream come true, where we can eat really pastries without Nutella on them.
Vive la France!
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.


Esme said...

This is exciting. I cannot wait to here more.

Anonymous said...

This is a very familiar scene. There must be a "best practices" for consular design, because they all look alike. I have no doubt you will get your visas.
A lot of countries now have biometric passports, with chips that include fingerprints. That might be why some people didn't have to use the fingerprint machine--the consulate might have gotten them off the passports.

Jennie said...

Good luck on getting your Visa. And just maybe those Asians were US citizens applying to study abroad. I am not being snarky, just saying.

Sim Carter said...

I'm crying, so touched by your earnestness and that twinge of self-doubt. You will get your visa, and France will be lucky to have you!

Philippe said...

Bonsoir Paulita.Aucun doute, vous aurez vos visas très bientôt.Les citoyens américains sont toujours bienvenus en France ( l' Histoire nous unis comme des frères ! ). Vous pouvez commencer à préparer votre recherche de la maison de vos rêves. Pensez à vous faire aider par une agence immobilière pour expatriés ( Leggett ou Renestance par exemple ).Je suis certain que vous serez heureux car vous êtes deux amoureux de ce pays et vous ne partez pas dans l' inconnue avec vos amis en France ! // Good evening Paulita.No doubt you'll get your visas very soon.American citizens are always welcome in France ( History made us brothers ).You can start to settle your dream house hunting. Think about getting some help by a real estate agency for expat ( Leggett or Renestance for example ). I am confident that you will be happy as you are both true lovers of France and you won't be in the unknown with all your friends here. A last word to say that " Emmanuelle " is a girl's name ( like Emmanuelle Béart a french woman actor). Emmanuel Macron is the name of our Président de la République.Bisous Paulita.

:Vivement la suite de vos aventures !

Paulita said...

Thanks everyone for your support.
Esme, Yes, I hope I can blog about our adventures as we try to establish a home in France. I hope you'll join us.
Francetaste, I'm sure the offices are all very similar. Maybe the fingerprints were included in the passport. I just got mine this summer and it didn't include fingerprinting.
Jennie, It could be. Most of them had burgundy colored passports and spoke other languages, so I assumed they were visiting the U.S. from a different country.
Sim, I'm so close to making my dream come true. Thanks for pushing me onward.
Philippe, Merci. Your kind words always reaffirm my goal to move to France.

Esme said...


Oh I will be joining you. Count me in as a regular house guest. I like the colour pink and tea and croissants for breakfast. xoxoxo

Esme said...

PS what is wrong with my spelling should be hear not here.

Paulita said...

No judgment!

Ankit Sethi said...

NIce article thanks for sharing the article. could visit Best adventure travel blog.

Daniel Roberts said...

Indeed a useful post. I was looking for a guide to apply for Online France Visa. Your post is going to be of a great help to me in applying for Visa to France. Great Job!

@AmericanAirlines - You Broke a Mother's Heart Last Night

 I can't tell you how excited I have been for the past few weeks as I anticipated Spencer's visit to us in France. Spencer visited u...