Last year, when the three-year visa I had hoped for turned into a one-year visa, I wrote an open letter to France, promising an artful seduction that, by the end of the year, would have her begging me to stay.
I spent my year getting to know Paris, not just the pretty face she shows the world, but the Paris behind the veil. The hidden Paris and her curious denizens…
In turn, I showed Paris all of me: my hopes, my dreams, my secret fears. I fell hopelessly in love with her and gave her my heart. And then I waited.
My visa expired towards the end of November. For months, I’d been dreaming up schemes that would help me to stay. The option that held the most appeal, but would be by far the hardest to get, was to try again for the Compétences et Talents visa. There are a few different ways to get this visa. I decided to try as an artist.
In order to prove I am a talented and competent artist, I have to come up with a project, prove that I have the skills, ability, resources and reputation to get the project done, and prove that it has significant appeal for bothFranceand my home country.
As you may remember me saying, I barely slept for weeks, trying to get everything ready for my visit with the Prefecture in November. My final dossier was 61 pages in French. This does not include the numerous personal documents I needed to bring with me, as well.
A French friend of mine came with me to my Prefecture visit, just in case I needed help translating. We got there early and headed inside. For reference, we were at the Prefecture on Ile de la Cite in the center of Paris.
There are two sections for visa applications, as far as I could see. On the left, Europeans, Americans and some Asian countries. On the right, everybody else. I headed to the left.
We sat for a while. I was incredibly nervous, excited, expectant, and ready to be horribly disappointed.
After about two hours, I was called up. When we sat down, I told the woman that I would like to apply for the Compétences et Talents visa.
Her: You have to apply for this visa two months before your visa expires and yours expires in two weeks.
Me: Yes, I know, but I made this appointment over four months ago and this was the earliest available appointment.
Her: *French shrug.*
Me: So, what was I supposed to do?
Her: Bah….You’ll have to speak with the person in charge. I’ll get her. You can wait back in the waiting room.
We waited for another two hours.
When she finally called me back, she handed me a three-month récépissé (extension) and told me I could come back in two months, any time from January 16th on, to get the carte de séjour that went with the récépissé. Then, if I still wanted to, I could try to apply for the Compétences et Talents visa. I never spoke with the person in charge.
No one looked at my beautiful dossier.
I was crushed. I thought about throwing in the proverbial towel and heading back to the States. I had worked so hard and for so long, and coerced other people into working long and hard for me, and no one had even looked at what I had done. On top of this, my lease would expire in two weeks. With nowhere to live and no guarantee I could stay, was it worth all this strife?
And then I noticed something. My récépissé (extension) expires on February 14th. That’s right. Valentine’s Day. This sent me a pretty clear message. I would find out on Valentine’s Day whether France had fallen in love with me as I had with her.
I regrouped, and I continued my courtship.
This past Monday, I headed back to the Prefecture. I waited for only about an hour and a half this time. When I was called in, I was handed a titre de séjour: a laminated identification card.
But wait! What’s this?! The expiration date was November 26, 2012. I was expecting one more month and she gave me eleven.
That’s it! She fell.France has given me another year. I think it’s safe to say that we are now going steady.
But I’m greedy. Insatiable, really. So I applied for the three-year visa. You know what they say: ‘Give them a year and they’ll take three.’ Or something like that.
So, now I wait two or three months to see if I get the visa I truly want and the ability not to have to reapply for three more years. Keep your fingers tightly crossed for me.
* * * * *
This post is already running long, but many people have asked about the Compétences et Talents visa and, though I can’t speak (yet) to what works, I’ll give you some idea of what I did. I won’t give the details of my project just yet, except to say that I proposed making a film. This is what I gave them:
1 – Passport
2 – Current visa
3 – Social security card
4 – Federal background check (That’s right. I had to get fingerprinted by the FBI.)
5 – State background check
6 – Proof of domicile (this can either be a lease in your name, or you can get someone vouch for you. If you go this route, they need to write a letter saying you are welcome to stay with them, give a copy of their lease, their passport or ID, and a copy of a recent utility bill.)
7 – Bank statements
8 – Taxes
9 – Proof of medical insurance
10 – Application forms
My project (totaling 65 pages):
1 – Detailed letter describing my project and its potential benefit to Franceand the US.
2 – Details of the film, including synopsis, treatment, note d’intention, budgeting and production schedule
3 – My biography
4 – My curriculum vitae
5 – Proof of investment funds
6 – Crew member biographies and contracts
7 – Cast list, including biographies and contracts
8 – Transcriptions of some already-shot footage
Wish me luck !