The pandemic changed our sail plan. Not a hard ship or terrible thing, but a change none the less. We had planned on going west toward New Zealand via Cook Islands, Tonga, and Fiji. However, all of these countries are closed so we will stay in French Polynesia for another year. Yeah. With that decision made, we had to get to work on renewing our long-stay visas (Carte de Sejure) and updating Matt’s passport.
Our current long-stay visas do not expire until 11 April 2021. So, why are we preparing documentation in October of 2020? Well, let me tell you. The Haute Commissionaire will not allow us to submit our renewal application prior to 2 months before our expiry date ( which would be 11 February 2021). However, we will be in Gambiers at that time. Which leaves us in a pickle as there are no facilities to submit our application in the Gambiers. Not a big deal, we just hired Tahiti Crew to be our agent and assist us with the submission process.
Visa Prep Work
Several documents have to be original including two applications per person, the attestation, and confirmation of documents. We are trying to avoid having to fly paperwork to Tahiti so we are opting to turn some of it in early. This included:
- (1) 9000xpf ($90) stamp
- Signed Assistance in Obtaining the Carte de Sejur
- (2) Completed original applications for both of us
- Completed attestation: one each Christine and Matt
- Photo copy of each passport (signature/photo page, and visa) Christine and Matt
- (2) copies each of current residence permit (Carte du Sejure) Christine and Matt
- Copy of Current Boat Registration (expires 30 April 2024)
- Copy of tax returns (proving marriage)
- Copy of Customs Declaration (green form)
In early February, we will have to email the rest of the paperwork which includes proof of health coverage and 3 months of financials for both Matt and I.
During this application process I realized that Matt’s passport expires June 2021. Oh crapola! The Haute Commissionaire will not accept our long-stay visa application if either one of the passports expire during the requested period. Stop everything and move on to the next fire.
Passport Renewal Outside of the U.S.
Wouldn’t you know it, Matt’s passport expires soon. After some research, we figure out which form we need to complete. Lucky for us, Matt qualifies for mail in renewal. His passport was issued within the last 15 years, is still “active” and is in good condition. But, how do we do this from French Polynesia? A quick call to the U.S. Consulate puts me at ease. We schedule a meeting and head to the office.
Christopher Kozely is the U.S. Consulate in French Polynesia. We had met him when we arrived last year (he notarized our power of attorney to sell our house). We showed up with the completed application, passport photo, and money. It was so easy. We benefited greatly going through the U.S. Consulate. Right now, it takes the states 6 months to renew passports with limited staff due to covid. However, Christopher said Matt’s passport will be returned within 2 months.
In addition, we did not have to give up his current passport. We were a little freaked out of possibility of not having Matt’s passport while being in a foreign country during a pandemic. But, lucky for us, we get to keep it. And the icing on the cake – there were no additional fees to go through the U.S. Consulate! The only thing we paid was the $110 fee that is standard for passport renewals.
Processing a Passport Renewal from FP
So, how does it work to renew a United States passport from French Polynesia (FP)? First you must qualify, like we did, for passport renewal by mail. Then we took the standard passport photo (always so beautiful), along with the completed DS-82 form to the U.S. Consulate.
The Consulate verifies the information, scans the current passport, attaches the photo, watches you sign the application, takes the passport fee money, and stamps it. He then sends it to Fiji via mail pouch. Fiji, what, why? The office in French Poly is small and uses the Fiji office as the main U.S. Consulate hub. The Fijian official scans all of the information and sends it securely via web server directly to Washington. This process takes about 3 weeks. Washington produces the passports and sends them back to Fiji. Once Fiji has a certain number of passports (we could not find out what that number was), they send them to French Poly via mail pouch. The entire process takes approximately 6-8 weeks.
Sounds easy peasy. But one small problem. When our passport returns back to Tahiti, we will be in Gambiers (over 800nm away). Crap. We can’t get the new passport without canceling the old one (which will be with us in Gambiers). So, what do we do? Once Christopher receives the new passport, he will email us. We will then send the old passport via Air Tahiti along with 700xpf for return fees. He will receive Matt’s passport, cancel it, scan the cancelled passport to Washington, and send the old and new passport back to us via Air Tahiti (at our expense of course). Hopefully we will have it in our hot little hand before the end of the year!
We also checked the status of Matt’s Global Entry as we assumed it was tied to his passport. Good news, it was not. He renewed it in 2016 and it does not expire until May 2022!
Once we have Matt’s new passport, we will have to scan the appropriate pages and provide the new passport number, issue date, and expiry date to Tahiti Crew to update his long-stay visa application. Should be easy, but I really dislike relying on other people to update the application when so much is at risk.
On or about 11 February 2021, Tahiti Crew will gather the original documents we submitted in October 2020, the emailed documents sent in January 2021, and Matt’s updated passport information. They will then submit all of our paperwork to the Haute Commissionaire’s office.
It takes about 2 months for the Haute Commissionaire to process our long-stay visa renewal – during normal circumstances. Since they are operating on a reduced staff, we are not sure how long it will take. But we will follow protocol and get everything in as required and hope for the best.
Events from this blog occurred over the last week of October 2020. Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.