Saturday, October 11, 2014

carte de sejour "Compétences et Talents" - stop #3 back at the préfecture in Marseille

The little line outside the préfecture when I arrived.
I'm back with an up-to-the-minute report for my most dedicated reader(s) and more specifically for anyone who stumbles over here desperate for information on how to apply for this crazy visa. The rest of you should glance at the photos and then pick out your favorite country from the archived posts. :-)

Two weeks after my previous attempt to submit a dossier for consideration for the Skills and Talents visa, I returned to the préfecture in Marseille again today. This time my dossier included a budget for my project, plus a couple other little added documents that will hopefully support my case.

Given my experience with wait times two weeks ago, I arrived later this time, at 8:45 am. I had passed through the first windows (see previous post), collected my numbered ticket, and proceeded to the waiting room upstairs by 8:54 am. (Nothing like being precise, non?)

Around 10 am my number flashed on the big screen. Funny story, though - in the intervening hour, I
busied myself by adding a couple last minute touches to my dossier and taking photos of it, in order to have a good record of what I'd submitted. I also worked at figuring out the order of the seemingly random numbers popping up on the screen. I thought I'd sorted out which numbers were being called to which windows (it seems that each window deals with a certain type of visa issue, and you're put in the queue for the appropriate window), so I wasn't being as vigilant in watching for my number because I thought my number was still a couple numbers away. Suddenly, a woman sitting a bit behind me says to me, "That's your number, isn't it?" At first I said
Waiting upstairs for my number to appear on
the big French flag-colored screen.
no, because I thought I had the system figured out. Then I realized she was right and thanked her for her helpfulness as I got up. And then I realized that the fact she knew it was my number, and she wasn't even sitting directly behind me, meant she'd been watching me! Still, nice of her to help me out. (Glad I didn't happen to be fumbling around with any top secret documents or anything! - which I normally do all the time, mind you ;-) )

From this point forward, everything went very smoothly. I was called to the window next to the one I'd been at two weeks earlier. And the man at this window remembered me, even though I'd been his colleague's client. (She'd asked him a couple questions about whether my proof of residence was sufficient, etc.) He asked what I'd been told I needed to add and then verified that the budget was there and looked good. He flipped through the dossier, but didn't look at it too closely, and proceeded to log it in their system. He told me it normally takes 5-6 months to get an answer and that I'll be notified by email or mail (in hindsight I'm not sure whether he said "courriel" or "courrier").

He then gave me a récépissée that extends my existing visa for three months from today's date but noted that I would probably need to have it extended again (at the sous-préfecture in Aix) as it's unlikely I'll have an answer on the new visa by January 9. However, I'm going home for the holidays, and I told him I won't be in France when the récépissée expires. He told me that this is no problem, that since I'm an American, I can just enter France as a normal tourist or whatever and then go to the sous-préfecture and explain that I was away and need a renewal now. This sounds good in theory, but I have trouble believing it would all be so easy, so I plan to check at the sous-préfecture to verify before I leave France. In hindsight, if I had known my dossier would definitely be accepted, I might have been better off to wait until closer to the October 31 expiration date of my original visa to submit my dossier. That way the extension would have been valid until later in January. But that would have been a gamble too.

Anyway, that's how things played out. This man, like his colleague two weeks earlier, was very nice and made a semi-intimidating situation (anything to do with visas is nerve-wracking!) much more comfortable. I was finished with everything by about 10:10 am, so it took less than 1.5 hours from arrival to departure.

A couple other notes:
* If my bid for the visa is successful, I'll try to post a list of what I included in my dossier. For now, I won't go to the trouble of doing that.
* The first time I went to the préfecture, the woman asked me about office space or whether I will be working from home. Office space seemed important, something that's been verified by others here as I've told them about my process. So in the most recent iteration of my dossier, I included information about a new office sharing endeavor that's opened here in Aix recently and that I plan to make use of. I also included receipts from the office space I rented a few days a month this summer to try out having occasional work space outside my home.
* I did not include bank statements or any record of my personal financial status; I simply included a description of how my project will be financed and a budget for it. They never asked for the personal records for this visa, though I had to provide them for my student visa. Since I'm not rich, I wasn't sure my personal records would bolster my case, so I didn't add them. Hopefully, this was not a faux pas!

And hopefully, there will be good news to post here in a few months!