Long Stay Visa - Part II - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

February 5, 2022

Long Stay Visa - Part II

Planes, Trains, and a Mall Walk

My previous post summarized the application process for obtaining a long-stay visa in France - here I will give a more detail on my experiences. The first section diving into the weeds of my  visa application may have limited interest, but if you scroll down just a bit you might enjoy yet another tale of Susan's travel misadventures.

I had several questions in the early stages of working my way through the online application. The website has a pretty good FAQ page, but many of my questions were not addressed – especially those related to housing, insurance, proof of funds. One thing I happily noted is that you do not need a sponsor for a long-stay visa, just the supporting documents demonstrating, in effect, that you will not become a financial burden on the State. I did email the consulate with questions on a couple of occasions and even called once – they replied quickly and were somewhat helpful, but my questions were not fully addressed. So, I filled out the application and assembled supporting documents that I believed addressed all of the requirements.

 Accommodation: The accommodation requirement seems the most fungible – you can have a lease, a hotel/Airbnb booking, or stay with a local host. And there is no specified time limit for the accommodation – that is, you do not have to have your whole stay booked in advanced. For a number of reasons, I chose to have a home base in Paris. I toyed with the idea of having my friend Carla “host” me, knowing I would be renting my own apartment/Airbnb. In the end, I decided not to burden her with the mounds of necessary paperwork. Instead, I decided to rent the Paris apartment where I’ve stayed the last five years. I’ve become good friends with Christiane, who owns the apartment, and we worked out a mutually beneficial arrangement for the entire time I am in Europe. She provided the tax records that verified her ownership and also wrote up a lease agreement that she filed with the local town hall. There were a few items on the agreement that we ignored, but I made copies of everything and hoped they would satisfy the French authorities.

 Insurance: In the US, I have both Medicare and a supplemental policy, but neither meets the insurance requirements for the long-stay visa. Specifically, Medicare does not cover international claims and although my supplement will cover some claims, they will not cover the requirements for repatriation of remains or emergency evacuation (hopefully I need neither). My initial searches led me to GeoBlue – they were very helpful but their policy options were expensive and didn’t exactly fit what I needed. The website insuremytrip provides quotes from a number of companies and has an “Embassy visa” filter that finds policy options specifically designed for visa applications. An example of one of my search results is here.

 As I mentioned in the previous post, several insurance policy options popped up as I was completing the online application. I ended up purchasing the cheapest of the three, a Patriot International policy from International Medical Group (IMG). It includes the required coverage from Mar 8-Dec 1 and cost $1,980 total, with the option to extend or shorten (with pro-rated refund). They also provided a letter that I included in my supporting documents.

 Funds: I was not entirely clear on what was required to demonstrate I had sufficient funds to cover all my expenses during my stay. Based on their max figure of 190€/day, the total would be about $65,000 for a ten-month stay. I ended up providing a copy of my Social Security income statement and some bank/money market statements that showed the required balance.

 The last step in the application process is an in-person appointment at a visa application center - the one in Washington, DC is the closest to me. This is where you submit paper copies of the application and all the supporting documentation. We get so used to our paperless world that it was surprising to me that the supporting documents are not uploaded and screened to make sure they meet the required standards for granting a visa. Therefore, I was anxious to make my appointment as soon as possible in case additional documentation was needed.

Appointment in Washington, DC

 I made an appointment for one of the earliest dates available, 10 am on Monday, Dec 22. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been to Washington DC, probably sometime in the late-1990s. Since my appointment was on a Monday morning, I decided to make a weekend of my visit - taking time to explore the National Mall and the DC food scene.  I booked a round-trip train to DC, made Sunday lunch reservations at a trendy restaurant, and arranged to meet up with a friend for a play and dinner Sunday night.

 On Saturday morning, I walked up to the Cary Amtrak Station and boarded the Silver Comet for the six hour trip to Union Station in DC. As we neared the half-way point near Richmond, I put away my computer and closed my eyes for a little rest. My brain wound down from active-thinking mode, and an alarming realization found its way to my consciousness - I’d forgotten my passport!!!  Seriously. And don’t even begin to ask for a rational explanation – there is none.

I immediately called my sister Jeanie, who lives in Cary, and instructed her to retrieve my passport and FedEx it to me at my DC hotel. She had no trouble finding my passport, but was told at the FedEx drop center that they do not deliver on weekends - the soonest it was “not guaranteed” to arrive was 9:30 Monday morning, just 15 minutes before I was due to check in for my interview. Clearly I needed more options.

Jeanie and I spent the next hour calling and texting, exploring various transportation options that would allow me to arrive at my scheduled appointment, passport in hand. I considered re-scheduling the appointment, but in the end I stayed on the train until DC, took the Metro from Union Station to Reagan Airport, and hopped on a one-hour nonstop flight back to Raleigh Saturday evening. Jeanie met me, passport in hand, and drove me home.

I’d had planned to take the Silver Comet back to DC on Sunday morning, but a flight was not that much more than a train ticket and was considerably faster. Or so I thought. I sat through countless mechanical delays until I finally rebooked a later flight, arriving in DC in the late afternoon. I was too tired to make the play and dinner with friends, but was able to rebook my lunch reservation for a very nice, but not memorable, dinner at the trendy seafood restaurant.

On Monday morning I headed over to my appointment, just around the block from my hotel. I was surprised that the appointment was not with the French consulate, but rather at a visa application center that handles visa applications for a number of countries, including France. They had a checklist to make sure I had everything required, but were unable to answer questions as to whether the information in my supporting documents was acceptable. However, all was in order and after paying for the return FedEx mailer and my application fee, they took my picture and finger prints and gave me receipt with my case number and the website where I could track the progress of my application. I was on my way before 11 am.

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I've eaten off a folded napkin, but never a folded plate - until now!
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A walk along the National Mall

 After leaving the visa application center, I grabbed a bite to eat and headed for the White House and the National Mall. I must say that our nation’s capital was eerily quiet on this Monday before Christmas. There was little traffic and I could easily cross streets against the light. The sidewalks were empty of the large school groups in matching T-shirts that I’ve always associated with DC, and the street vendors were scarce, lonely and shivering on this brisk and clear December morning.

I was a bit unsettled as I approached the Mall - the site of so many symbols of American democracy and momentous events in our ongoing struggles to advance the causes of freedom and justice. I wandered through Lafayette Square, recalling the images of hope, confrontation and theater that took place during the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. At the fence encircling the White House, I offered to take a photo of a family here on holiday from their home in Colombia, South America. They were delighted, telling me it was the first such offer they’d had during their four days in the US. We exchanged stories of Covid, politics, and Patagonia and I departed with a lightness in my heart that such chance encounters often bring.

I wound my way to the Ellipse, an open expanse on the south side of the White House. From this vantage point, the White House seemed small and distant, separated from the pedestrian path by a barricaded street and armed guards. I was closer on my last visit, pressed against the iron fence with scores of other tourists. But that was in the late 90s - before 9/11, before Jan 6, before international and domestic terrorists. The lightness in my heart faded.

 As it was Monday, most museums were closed and so I contented myself with a walking tour of the National Mall. I continued south from the White House to the World War II memorial then east past the Washington Monument towards the Capitol Building. It was a bit surreal approaching the Capitol – it was almost the one-year anniversary of the Jan 6 riots to overthrown the 2020 election. Images of that day kept racing through my mind and stopped for a while on a park bench, pondering the political chasms in my country and the once unfathomable fragility of American democracy.

Lafayette Square
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The White House - view from Lafayette Park
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The National Christmas Tree, ringed by smaller trees representing each of the 50 US states
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Looking over the WWII memorial plaza and fountain toward the Washington Monument. The dome of the US Capitol Building can be seen in the distant center
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The Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool
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Washington Monument
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National Museum of African American History and Culture -someplace I'd hoped to visit
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The US Capitol Building and Reflecting Pool
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The United States Capitol Building
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I arrived at Union Station in plenty of time for my train to North Carolina – on the round-trip ticket I had originally booked. I gave in to my sudden craving for a hamburger at Shake Shack and after an uneventful but long train ride I arrived home around 9:30. I was spent – the anxiety of the visa process, the craziness of my passport debacle, and the emotions of the day had drained me.

I tracked the progress of my visa application at least once each day. There was no notice of approval, but after two weeks I learned that my passport was on the way. On arrival, it included a stamped visa valid until Jan 1, 2023. I’m packing my bags!

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Comment on this entry Comment 6
Scott AndersonThat’s an amazing tale about your passport, Susan. I know that there was nothing funny at all about it for you, so I hope that you’ll excuse me for laughing out loud as I read about it. Glad it worked out, and congratulations!
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6 months ago
Rachael AndersonWow! Glad you were able to get your Visa. Sounds like the time Scotts wallet got dropped out of the car in the parking in Salem and we didn’t realize it until we got to the airport. We had to call someone to retrieve it but we had to go without it. We had a few travelers checks but had to have Scott’s parents wire us money.
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6 months ago
Suzanne GibsonWhat a story! As I read your post, I was in great admiration of your clear and well structured presentation of the topic and overall organization and attention to detail and how you how managed to pull everything together. And then the passport that got left behind! Oh, no! But I already knew that you have the long stay visa, phew! And of course you found a solution, also amazing in such short time. Well done, Susan!
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6 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Scott AndersonScott - I’d laugh too if I wasn’t shaking my head at how absent-minded I can be. It’s a wonder I’m able to find my way bicycling around Europe - I must have a guardian angel for forgetful souls.
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6 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonThanks Rachael. It’s nice to know that there are others out there with similar experiences
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6 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Suzanne GibsonThank you Suzanne for your very kind comments. It was quite the misadventure, but everything worked out well. I’m so excited about the trip and I thank you for your encouraging words last fall - they helped keep me going when the visa process looked too daunting. Looking forward to our next visit!
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6 months ago