After all the confusion that took place in Part 1 of our Long Stay Visa process, we didn’t have high hopes for what was to come. We weren’t even sure that they would accept our visa applications since the time to submit them in French Polynesia was drawing near.
Our original plan was the same as many cruisers, to make landfall in the windward islands of the Marquesas and work our way northwest to the leeward islands. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the visas needed to be submitted ASAP in Nuku Hiva, one of the leeward islands, we had to change the plan. First stop…. Taiohae to check into French Polynesia and submit our documentation. Remember that even though the consulate approved our applications they still needed to be submitted in the country within a certain timeframe and processed. If all went well those visa applications would become Carte de Sejour (CDS) or temporary resident cards.
Since we don’t speak French and had just spent 26 days at sea we decided to hire Kevin from Nuku Hiva Yacht Services to help us with the process. For a total of $130, he put up a bond for us, checked us into the country, and submitted our Long Stay Visa application. Totally worth it!
BTW…anyone arriving in French Polynesia has to have an airplane ticket departing the country, have equivalent money for a ticket held as a bond, or hire someone to place a bond for them.
We were told that copies of all our documents would be sent from Nuku Hiva to the main customs/immigration offices in Tahiti and that we would be contacted via email when they were received and again when they were processed and ready for pick-up. We were told that this process could take up to 180 days!
For the next few months, we let it slip out of our minds, mostly. Occasionally, we’d have a conversation with someone else going through the process. Everyone had a different story. Some received emails stating receipt in Tahiti and some had heard nothing.
By the time we arrived in Tahiti we were already passed 90 days in French Polynesia. Therefore, if something went wrong in the process we were guilty of overstaying the standard visa. We hadn’t received an email either. Before heading into the city I thought I would call the Haut Commissariat to see if they had any info. It took several calls just to get transferred to the department I needed to speak with because, of course, I don’t speak French. Eventually, I was transferred to the right desk and to an English speaker, but she didn’t have any record of our application. I slowly explained the situation again, she put down the phone, I heard some shuffling and scrabbling, and then she returned out of breath and said, “OK, you come in tomorrow”. I went from panic to relief instantly!
It seemed too good to be true, too easy. So we proceeded with some hesitancy.
One last step in the process was to obtain a ‘fiscal stamp” from the post office in the amount of $90. Turns out a fiscal stamp looks just like a stamp but essentially acts as a money order for government business.
We arrived at the Haute Commissariat and waited in line at the front desk for about 5 minutes before a sweet woman directed us to another desk. Within a few minutes, a gentleman arrived with 2 yellow cards, our Carte de Sejour!!! He timidly looked at us and said, “You have the stamp?” As I pulled it out of my wallet he had a big grin. Apparently, it’s pretty disappointing for everyone if you failed to get it.
So that was it. It was finally over and we were legally able to stay in French Polynesia for 1 year, though sadly we couldn’t.