Monday, January 16, 2017

So you want to live with your husband...

It's harder than you'd think.

This year we have the joys of both French and American mountains of paperwork. French paperwork for me to live in France this year, and American paperwork for David to live in the U.S. indefinitely. Just as much fun as it sounds!

I'll start with the French side of things. I was allowed to stay in France for 90 days with no visa. After 90 days, I had to come home to apply in person at the French consulate in Chicago for my long-stay visa. I came home on December 30th and have been here for about 2.5 weeks. It will probably be at least another week and a half before I have my visa and can go back to France.

Let me tell you, it doesn't feel that great to be married for 3 months and then have to be apart for that long. It's even harder with the time difference, because David is asleep by around 4p.m. my time, so we can't even text or talk for a good portion of the day.

We didn't read the fine print on the paperwork I had to have prepared, and that dumb mistake cost us a couple of weeks. Although it is a pretty stupid request, so I feel like the French government is at least partially to blame for our mistake.

A few months before we got married, we had to officially register our intention to marry to the French government (even though we got married in the U.S.). After they received that, they sent us some paperwork saying our marriage would be legal in France. Then after our wedding we had to mail in that certificate along with our American marriage license to the French embassy in D.C. 

Are you tired yet? Because I'm just getting started.

About 2 months after our wedding, we received our official French marriage certificate and our Livret de Famille (a booklet that will include all of our family records). Waiting for these items was why I couldn't just pop into the Chicago consulate while I was still in America. I get asked that a lot.

By the time we had all of the necessary paperwork for my visa, it was almost December and we were going to be too busy that month (my mom visiting, London trip, Christmas) for me to go home right away. We decided to wait until just before my 90 day mark was up. I could be home for New Year's and have a belated Christmas with my family.

Cue the stupid mistake. We thought we had everything ready to go, but it turns out that our French marriage certificate had to be LESS THAN 2 MONTHS OLD. Because that is so important, since obviously it has changed since it was issued. By the time I realized that, our certificate was 2 months and 2 days old. And I was flying home the next day.

We'd already run into this problem last summer when we had to submit birth certificates to the French government (for our original paperwork) that were less than 3 months old. I'm sorry to break it to you France, but the details of my birth have not changed at all since 1989. If any French person can explain to me the French fascination with newly issued documents, I would love to understand.

So anyways, we ordered a new copy to be sent to my house. I had to delay my appointment by 10 days and go after I got it in the mail.

The process of actually applying is pretty easy... once you read the requirements correctly and bring what you're supposed to. You just hand them your paperwork over the counter, they check to make sure you have everything, and off you go. No questions asked. (Very unlike the Israel visa experience, or David's American visa experience last year)

I had to bring:
-the brand new French marriage certificate, and a copy
-our Livret de Famille, and a copy
-David's French I.D. card, and a copy
-3 pages of filled-out application forms
-my passport, and a copy
-a pre-paid express mail envelope addressed to myself
-an ugly passport-sized picture where you're not smiling (I don't have one of those faces that doesn't look scary when you're not smiling)


My pile of stuff to bring.
When the visa is done (and approved! pretty please!), they will mail me back my passport with the visa glued inside. It's supposed to take between 1-3 weeks.

When I get back to France, I have to schedule a medical visit and go all the way to Nice. They will do a check-up and make sure I don't have exotic foreign diseases. Scheduling the appointment will probably take 1-2 months. When that is over, I will be allowed to stay in France for 1 year, have health insurance, and be allowed to work. 

If we were going to stay in France for longer, I would need to apply in France for a carte de séjour (residence permit). I've heard that is an extremely painful process, so thankfully we're only planning on staying for another 6-8 months.

Now it's David's turn! We decided to work with an immigration lawyer for him to get his American immigrant visa/green card. That way we're less likely to make a dumb mistake and have the process be delayed. It's also much less stressful, especially since we're not living in the country.

We submitted David's immigrant petition (lots of paperwork and biographical information) in November, along with 400 something dollars, proof of my citizenship, and our marriage certificate (they were okay with it being more than 2 months old, in case you were wondering).

We heard back that the petition was received, and now all we can do is wait. From what we've heard, we're expecting the wait to be between 6-8 months from the time we filed. Could be shorter, could be longer. Who knows.

When the petition is approved, David will need to schedule an interview at the American embassy in Paris. He'll have the interview and a medical visit and turn in more paperwork (of course). Sometime after that... the visa will hopefully be approved.

We were told the entire process will most likely take 10-12 months. Since we started the process in November... we might be moving back to the U.S. in September? October? November? Earlier? Later? We don't really know.

It makes it hard to plan for the future. For example, I don't think I can try to get a teaching job, because it would mean I'd have to move back in August. What if David can't come for 3 months? No thanks.

So I'm not sure how or when it will happen... but hopefully someday we can legally live in the same country with no worries. We're on our way.

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