Sunday, January 22, 2023

Don't rush your dream - Get a Long Stay Visa for French Polynesia

Hello Friends.  As preparations for our March departure continue, we did take time out to tackle a very important piece of the puzzle - Long Stay Visa.  What is this you ask?  It is a process the French government has to allow visitors (tourist) to apply to stay longer than the obligatory 90-day visa.  We've heard all the nightmares, and we had one continue reading, complexity and the cost.  But in the end, it is critical to our journey to we apply and are granted this privilege.

The first reason why is our dogs.  One may not realize that here in North America, Central America and South America we are infested with rabies.  These little islands are not, so they have strict rules for importing your animals.  Some places require quarantines and the longer we stay in the French Polynesia, away from rabies countries, these requirements start to change.  More on that in a different BLOG.  Second, we are not in a hurry.  We can import the boat for 2 years, why not stay as long as we can to experience the rich Polynesian culture?  So how does it work.  A little like this.

We are US passport holders, however currently our boat is in Mexico.  So, we decided to tackle this process locally, well in Mexico City.  I don't know if it would have been easier in US, but I do know it would be much more expensive.  So this is our experience applying in Mexico City, in December of 2022.  These processes and requirements change often.  As it relates to French Consulate in Mexico City processing application for none Mexican passport holders or persons without Mexico residency (FM1 or FM2), it is an exception!  My goal is to document, in detail, how to navigate this process.

First I think it is important to have a general idea of what you are about to do, it is not a trivial task.  You will have surrender your passport to the French Consulate.  You will need Medical insurance that is "accepted" by the French Polynesia government.  Just because you deem your insurance global, or the words are in the policy, doesn't make it so.  You will need financial supporting documents.  You will need to write several letters, in French, to support your application.  Then of course the online application.  Finally, and sometimes this is the hardest part, obtain an appointment at the French consulate.  Yes you have to apply in person.  Let's get started...

The first thing you should do is create an account on the website for the French Consulate in Mexico.  Then you start your online application.  The way in which you answer the questions on this form is important.  So I have given you access to my application, as a template to follow.  Everything is important, so pay attention to detail.  The first thing you have to know is the date you put in box 26, can be no longer than 90 days from the date of your appointment.  Not even one day, it will get your application rejected.  Box 25 is your vessel information.  We included, as part of the package, a copy of our boat registration and description of our boat.  Box 27 you should select "more than one year."  People selecting 6 months - 1 year have been getting 6 month visas, that a lot of work and money for 3 extra months.  Once you have gone through all the fields, DO NOT SUBMIT THE FORM.  Once you submit you cannot make changes.  REMBER BOX 26 ABOVE.  Now you need an appointment.

Making an appointment can be very frustrating.  They release, per the consulate, the appointments 30 days in advance.  So, on December 15 you should be able to see thru January 15.  This is where things got crazy as we never saw any appointments past December 30, 2022.  This forced us to take an appointment we could get, for us it was December 23rd.  Remember BOX 26 has to be no more than 90 days MAX - so March 23rd.  If you are committed to going to Mexico City for your Long Stay, I would not spend a bunch of time on the all the required supporting docs until you actually have an appointment.  By the way, you need an appointment for each person.  The security guard will not let you in unless your name is on the list.  Although once inside they may process you as a family or couple, the guard has strict rules.  Get the appointment, ADJUST BOX 26 FOR 90 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF YOUR APPOINTMENT then submit your application.  Next start gathering documents.

If you scroll to end the end of my application, link above, you will see a list of required docs.  
  1. Print your application and sign it.  When you submit the form, you will get an opportunity to print and save the document.
  2. Make sure your passport meets the requirements described.  They will check.  Don't forget you will be surrendering your passport for up to 8 weeks!
  3. You must submit visa photos.  The French are very particular about this.  I went to this place and told the man I needed visa photos for France.  He knew exactly what to do.
  4. You may have residency cards for Mexico, FM1 or FM2, if not you need to have a letter from the marina your boat is at stating you are living on your boat in their marina.  This is where the exception I mentioned above is taking place.  You must have this letter, or they will ask you to leave.  I also recommend providing a copy of your valid tourist permit or FMM or the like.
  5. You have to provide a letter that you will not work.
  6. Proof of funds.  We provided only the summary page, one page for each month, as proof of funds.  Pay close attention to instruction regarding investment accounts.  They want proof you can get to the money quickly.  We transferred some money to our regular checking and provided print outs of this transaction so they could see it happened in less than 24 hours.
  7. Your accommodation, I assume, will be your boat.  We provide a copy of the boat registration and description of our vessel.
  8. Health insurance.  This is a real interesting one because for some reason different locations require different insurance terms.  In Mexico they DO NOT require a zero deductible policy.  The policy must cover 50,000 USD in medical and FULL repatriation.  IMG provides a handy letter that full fills all the requirements.  We went to Rodger Anthony for our IMG policy,  Our policy had a 2500 USD deductible, and we can cancel for 50 USD.  Some people go with DAN travel insurance, we choose not to.  The start date of our policy is the same date as BOX 26.
  9. We provided a motivation letter.

Now it is time to travel to Mexico City!  Leave yourself some time to be a tourist, it is

an amazing place.  You will need to do a couple things in advance of your appointment, while in CDMX.  The first is the photos I mentioned above.  Teh second is to go to PAKMAIL and buy a pre-paid Fedex envelope for the Consulate to send your passport back to you, or you will have to come back to CDMX and get it.  They know exactly what you need.

The appointments are really fast.  Once at the counter you will hand over everything and do fingerprints.  They will check to see if you have everything, you will pay your fee, get a receipt and off you go.  Take cash, they do not accept cards and have a close to the exact amount as possible.  They do have some small change.  Now the wait begins....

I wish I had a magic wand to help you with your appointment.  My advice would be to take what you can get and make schedule adjustments.  Since our appointment, I have only seen one other appointment available online - 1!  So check often.  There are other websites that will be helpful.  Please keep in mind that things change and these BLOGS and posts are hard to keep current.  For example, you no longer need to provide a police report to the French Consulate in Mexico City.  There are lots of people that will try to help.  I would always default to someone who just went through the process in the location you are targeting.  

Remember, very important, there is a window of time that we as sailors will go to the consulate - probably December - March.  That means a vast majority of the year they are not being asked to process this "exception."  We arrived in December with appointments on the Friday before Christmas.  Turned out all the employees were new and were not aware of this process, so they turned us away.  Me being the never quit military guy, quickly found a path to escalate our problem, within the embassy, as we knew they would do it.  In the end they agreed they had made a mistake but we had to stay over Christmas.  This change cost us more than 1500 USD.  If you are going in December, and think you might be the first of the year, I would recommend emailing the visa support desk in advance of your appointment.  Explain to them what you are doing and make sure they are in agreement they will process your application.  

Good Luck...

PS - After thinking through surrendering your passport several question will arise.  The airports will allow any government issue ID for the purposes of boarding. If you have to travel back to the US you will need to obtain an emergency passport.  To do this make an appointment at the US Embassy in CDMX.  Keep in mind that when you surrender your travel document you are technically not in Mexico legally.  You are required to have your passport with you at all times.  I am not fear mongering, those are the rules.  Not sure what would happen, as we got our emergency passports.  Just keep this in mind.