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. Our original plan was the same as many cruisers, to make landfall in the windward islands of the Marquesas and then work our way northwest to the leeward islands. Unfortunately, because 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, we were still obligated to present them in the Marqueses within a specified timeframe. If all went well, those visa applications would become Carte de Sejour (CDS) or temporary resident cards.
Since we didn't speak French and had a bit of culture shock after 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 either a plane ticket departing the country, the money for a ticket held as a government bond, or needs 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 customs/immigration office 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 same process. Everyone had a different story. Some received emails stating receipt in Tahiti, and some had heard nothing. We were in the latter category.
By the time we arrived in Tahiti, we had already been in French Polynesia for 90 days, the maximum limit for those without an approved Long Stay Visa. Therefore, if something had gone wrong in the processing, we were guilty of overstaying. So before heading into the city, I called the Haut Commissariat to see if they had any info on our status. It took several calls, but eventually, I was transferred to the right office and to an English speaker. Unfortunately, she didn't have any record of our application. I took a deep breath and 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!
It still seemed too good to be true, too easy. So, we proceeded into town the following day with some hesitancy. But first, we needed a $90 fiscal stamp from the post office. Turns out a fiscal stamp looks just like a stamp but acts as a money order for government business. This is how we made the final payment from our Long Stay Visa. Are you following? It's really confusing, right?
We arrived at the Haute Commissariat and waited in line at the front desk for about 5 minutes before a sweet woman greeted us. 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, a big smile came across his face.
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.