We have a gift of time.
My husband and I are both jobless for the first time since the 1980's (you can do the math). The obvious and logical choice for most people would be to hit the pavement and search for new gainful employment. We are in the fortunate position that we do not need to worry about young dependents, read "children." We are also lucky to have very healthy parents.
So why not? What are we waiting for? Why are we working? What better way to celebrate by taking some well deserved time off than to travel? These were all used in my heavy negotiating phase. I am lucky enough to have a husband who is willing to try new things and frankly "go along for the ride." So the planning began back in June and the list was very long. The most important thing was the visa application to allow for an extended stay in the country (anything over 90 days requires a visa).
Several years ago, I worked in France and nothing has changed, if there is one thing the French love it is paperwork. There is no better way to emphasize the national love for bureaucracy than a lengthy visa application. The process for an extended stay (visa de long séjour) is 15 steps long, and is clearly not for the faint of heart. You need to commit to gathering all of the following (and more) in original and photocopy versions; police clearance, finger printing, photos, insurance, copies of your bank balance, promises not to work, seek unemployment insurance or get sick. Unless you are incredibly organized, it is no small feat to gather the documentation. Once you have all the documentation together, you need to physically go to Vancouver (or your closest consulate location) for a face-to-face interview, and to hand over the documents in person.
The documents for the long stay visa application requires all of the following (NOTE: verify exact requirements as the process is constantly flux):
- Passport valid at least three months after the expiry date of the visa + 1 set of photocopies of the main pages (photo, validity date, visas …)
- Long Stay visa application form duly filled out and signed + 2 recent and identical photos
- Per child: 1 Long Stay visa application form duly filled out and signed + 2 recent and identical photos
- Office Francaise de L'immigration et L'integration form completed
- Any document supporting your status in Canada and allowing your re-entry: Canadian Long Form birth certificate, Canadian citizenship card, permanent resident card (to be photocopied both sides), valid Canadian visa … + 1 photocopy
- Proof of means of income for the entire length of your stay in France: last 3 months bank statement showing your name and balance, last Notice of Assessment (NOA) … + 1 photocopy
- Letter under oath stating not to engage in any work + 1 photocopy
- Documents supporting your socio-professional status in Canada: recent letter of the employer (with position, record of employment, salary, vacation), last 3 pay stubs, Business Registration if you are self employed … + 1 photocopy
- RCMP Police clearance + 1 photocopy
- Questionnaire (visa long sejour visiteur) completed in French + 1 photocopy
- Proof of residency in France such as a lease, a title of property, etc + 1 photocopy.
- Proof of enrolment at a French school for children aged 6 to 16.
If the visa is granted:
The travel medical insurance is valid for the entire length of your stay in all the Schengen zone and covers all medical expenses such as medicine, hospitalization, repatriation with a minimum coverage of 50,000 CAD + 1 photocopy
We had to travel to Vancouver to complete our visa process. That included two return flights and a hotel room, to make sure we did not miss the appointed time. We arrived in advance of our scheduled appointment. The entry door is imposing and does cause a moment of reflection before you hit the buzzer and stumble through your greeting in French. After entry you are requested to hand over your precious stack of documents to a security guard. In our case, he rifled through our documents in a very officious manner. He removed paperclips, staples and rearranged the order. Frankly, after months of painstakingly gathering the documents it felt like a violation.
Then we were asked to wait. The next few minutes were painful as you are clearly on CCTV they have all of your most precious documents and at this stage you are not in control. We amused ourselves and passed the time by reading a French / English dictionary. We were called up to the next window and asked for proof related to our documents, this included:
- More photos
- More fingerprints
- The application fee
With that, we had 30 minutes to get to the bank (for updated statements) and the post office (prepaid envelope) before the office 12:30 pm closing time. We made it!
I had decided long ago, it took my hubby a bit of time to catch on, that Jade our black lab would also benefit from some French food, and she may be able to pick up the odd word too. So this is proof of the fact that the French love their pets more than people, and certainly more than tourists. Jade's application process had two steps and does not require a visit to the consular office.
Despite a bit of an onerous process a long stay in France is worth every ounce of effort. We are enjoying the food, the wine, new friends and lots of new adventures. We are making the best of our "gift of time."