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Passport and Visa Mess

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!

Global Entry

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!

Long-Stay Visa

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.

The Land of Plenty: Tahiti

Being in Tahiti can be a challenge.  It means boat projects, lots of errands, tons of walking, and hordes of people and shops.  It is a culture shock to be here after being in uninhabited islands with just the locals and a few other cruisers.  But it is a necessary “evil.”  I say “evil” only because we end up spending a lot of money, as we are surrounded by cruiser ships, tall buildings, loud noises, and dirty water.  I’m not ungrateful, this is a beautiful island and offers hundreds of thousands of people a reprise from everyday life. But for us, as cruisers, it is only a place to stock up on provisions, get boat parts, handle paperwork, and do boat work.

We anchored off of Marina Taina for the first two days which is directly across from the Intercontinental Hotel.  This was the same place we anchored last year several times and it was familiar.  Within the first 4 hours of our arrival we had 3 visitors from other cruisers.  A wonderful welcoming committee!

First Day Frenzy

On our first full day, we hit the ground running.  We stopped in to see our agents at Tahiti Crew.  Technically, we had not engaged them as our agents this year, but we had worked with them last year and they continue to be helpful.  We had hoped they could help us with our long-stay visa renewals.  Unfortunately, all they could do we offer us was advice and that advice was to wait until we received an approval email. 

Our friends Josh and Rachel on Agape came into the office as we were chatting with Tahiti Crew.  They too were looking for advice on their visa renewals.  So, we decided to go to the source, the Haute Commissionaire’s office.  We hopped on the bus and took the short 30-minute ride into town.  It was a total déjà vu as we had submitted our visa applications together back in September 2019 and here we are going together to see if they are approved in July 2020.

We patiently waited our turn as Josh and Rachel went first.  Laurie took their CDs back to her supervisor and asked them to wait.  I walked up to the window to “present” myself and Matt to her which is required once a year.  I tried my best to chat and be friendly and cheerful behind my mask and glass partition.  She took our CDs and was gone for about 20 minutes.  She came out with all 4 of our CDs stamped, approved and good until April 11, 2020!  What a huge relief!  We celebrated with a huge lunch and cold beer.

Official CDs with stamps

Official CDs with stamps

The renewal consists of a stamp on our CD’s.  The first stamp was for our first year and the and the second stamp is for our 2nd year.

One Down, More to Go

We swung by Marina Papeete (downtown) to see if we could find someone to help us secure a slip.  This marina does not take any reservations and it is first come first serve. So, we had to find someone who knew someone who was leaving so we could take their spot.  We talked to 4 different boats who promised to let us know when someone left.

Next, we walked 1.5 miles to the main harbor to find the Douanes (immigration).  They issue, among other things, a duty-free fuel certificate.  This little piece of paper saves us over 40% on diesel.  It has added up to several thousand dollars for us.  Ours had expired while we were in Gambier and we could only renew it in Tahiti.  So, off we went.  It is a really simple process and we walked out with our certificate 10-minutes later.

On our way back into town we stopped by Ace Hardware in search of a pressure washer.  The K’Archer we have sort of blew up and is no longer working.  We did not find any brands we recognized so we continued on back to the bus stop and home to Sugar Shack.

Duck, Duck, Goose

Early the next morning we heard a boat had let so we pulled up anchor, readied the boat for marina life (put out lines and fenders) and headed in.  Our friends on September AM helped us with our lines from shore and we snugly fit into a perfect spot in the marina.  Lucky us as another boat came in minutes after us looking for a spot.

We walked to the marina office to alert them of our arrival.  They were super nice.  The prices were “low season” rates the marina is technically under construction.  Which means there are no facilities like bathrooms, showers, or laundry.  No big deal, we have all that on the boat.  We ended up paying about $28 a night which is ridiculously cheap!  Most excellent for us! It’s good to be in Tahiti (I say that now).

Marina Papeete

Marina Papeete

No More Corner Anchoring

During an unfortunate anchoring event we had bent our stainless-steel anchor shaft.  It had happened when we anchored too close to a coral head in very deep water.  We could not see the bottom and raised the anchor.  Not an uncommon experience, but this time we had hooked a huge coral which literally bent the shaft.  We had been dealing with it for about a year and it was frustrating to get the anchor into the bow roller slot.  So, it was time to fix it.

You can’t really fix your anchor while at anchor.  So, lucky for us, we are at the marina.  Matt was able to remove the anchor shaft which was no easy feat.  We headed to the industrial area where we knew there was a machinist. 

After a 2.2 mile walk, carrying a 20+lb stainless-steel anchor shaft, we arrived at the shop.  The two workers were certainly surprised and perplexed.  It was fun to see Matt try to communicate with them, telling them what it is, how it is made, and how he wanted it fixed.  Once all the details were worked out we went to work.

In the 2nd and 3rd photo you can see how bent it is.

It is amazing what you can do when you have the right tools!  The three men set up the manual press and started cranking.  I would not have thought it would be so “easy” to bend steel – they did not look like superman to me 🙂  After about 15 minutes, we had a much straighter shaft.  They were so incredibly nice, they did not even charge us!  They did walk away with a giggle

House Batteries

We have been seeing some weird numbers come out of our battery bank.  These are relatively new house batteries (about 2-2.5 years young) and should be in excellent condition.  However, we have been seeing a drain each morning that was have never seen before.  Meaning they are lower than they expected based on our energy consumption. 

We have 1200 wats of solar panels that work great when we have sun.  On days when we don’t, we run the engines or our portable generator to charge the batteries.  We have not been able to diagnose the problem because we could not get them to a full charge.

Being at the marina allowed us to connect to shore power and get to that full charge mode.  Matt spent several hours testing and resetting the boat.  He found one coupler that was not tight as it should be, but nothing that should be causing problems.  Maybe it just needed to be at 100%?  Who knows.


Of course there was lots of internetting to be done.  I needed to catch up with post for the blog, place orders to be brought to us by the amazing Konis clan and catch up on business.  Not always fun to be stuck in an internet cafe, but at least we have access and work can get done.

Refrigerator and Freon

Our fridge was not staying as cold as we liked.  Matt thought it needed a shot of freon, which we have, but we don’t have the tools to add the freon.  We called another cruiser, Mike Campbell  who works on refrigeration and ac. He was convinced we had a leak.  So, they spent an hour looking and guess what – no leak.  I guess that is good.  He shot us up with some freon and just like that we are back in business.

Provisions: Boat and People

Sugar Shack was getting empty and we needed to fill her up again with basic provisions.  In Tahiti, there are several big box stores (places where you can buy in bulk), regular grocery stores, marine stores, hardware stores, and more.  Tahiti is the land of plenty after all.  We purchased 3 cases of bottled beer for about $41/case and bought juice, soda, milk, tea from the box stores which are not shown in the photo below.

From the regular market we purchased the items below.  The photo does not include fresh produce, or any item purchased at the bulk stores.

We saw our friend Popo (the English teacher from Gambier) at the market.  She is on holiday in Tahiti.  She was so excited to me that she picked me up and twirled me around!

Medical and Dental Visits

The covid pandemic has prevented me from returning to the states to visit my doctors and dentist.  I decided to visit the doctors here in Tahiti and was pleasantly surprised.  I visited with Dr. Prevost who did a basic physical and labs for me.  I needed to run several tests (CBC and CMP) for my oncologist.  His visit was $68 and the labs were about $100.  

Then I went to see a gynecologist who did a full breast exam, pelvic exam, sonogram and pap smear for $77 with labs at $30.  Pretty reasonably priced and got the results emailed to me 😉 

A few cool Items

Our friend Mike on “Easy” carved a few coconuts for us and we made decorations of them

Sugar Shack in the crowd of boats at Marina Papeete

This post was written in July 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 6 to 7 weeks behind are true adventures.  

Tourist or Alien?

Is a tourist an alien or vice versa?  Like, the United States, all other countries require a visa to stay for an extended period of time.  We had a fun journey obtaining our long stay visas for French Polynesia.  We applied in Chile for the short stay visa (3-months) which is required before you arrive.  Well, actually you can apply for the short stay visa in Panama, Mexico, Canada, U.S.A, and a few other countries.  But this step must happen before you enter French Polynesia (FP).

In Chile, we completed a rather large application, submitted copies of our entire passport, provided a list of all the countries we have visited in the last 2 years (with dates of entry and exit), boat registration, boat insurance, proof of financial independence (last 3 months of finances), marriage certificate, and a letter explaining why we wanted to stay in the country for an extended period of time.  Not difficult, but time consuming.

Once we arrived in FP, we had to apply for our carte dejur (CD) which would allow us to stay for up to one year.  We used Tahiti Crew Agency as our agent to help facilitate the process and they were wonderful.  It took two months, but we received our CDs and were good to go for a year (12 April 2019 – 11 April 2020).  Tourist with a year visa!  Fast forward, to our renewals.


The long-stay visa renewal process is very specific.  As an American tourist, we can only renew our CD’s (carte de juer’s) in Nuku Hiva, Marquesas or Papeete, Tahiti.  You can use an agent or do it yourself, but you have to show up in person once (either to drop off the paperwork or to pick it up).  Typically, you have to wait until 2 months prior to the expiry date to renew your CD.  That would mean we would have to wait until February, 2020.  But the problem was that we were planning on being in the Gambiers in February which is well over 1000nm from Nuku Hiva and Tahiti. 

Several of our cruiser friends renewed their CDs early (while in Tahiti).  Hmmmm, can you do that? I thought you had to wait until 2 months prior to the renewal date?  We waited to see what would happen and wouldn’t you know it, they received their renewals 3 weeks later.  Awesome!  So, while we were in Papeete in September we decided to give it a try (keep in mind this is 7 months before our expiry date).  We went to the Haute Commissionaire’s office in downtown Papeete with Agape, another boat, and all of our CD renewal paperwork.


When we met with the only English-speaking official, Teava, he stated that we could indeed turn in our paperwork early, no problem.  As a tourist, I am extra anxious to follow the rules, so I double checked again before handing him the documents and he ensured me that it would be no problem.  It is September and we were not supposed to turn the application in until February.  But he said really this is a good thing, we will send this to you in Nuku Hiva by mid-November.  Excellent!  We were supposed to receive an email telling us when they were ready.  After 8 weeks and no response, I sent a few emails.  No response.  Oh no!

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

Matt and I arrived in Nuku Hiva (NH) right after Turkey day and I went straight to the Haute Commissionaire’s office to inquire about our CD renewals.  The official was extremely nice, but stated they were not there.  He offered to email his comrade in Papeete to inquire.

The Papeete official responded and it was not good.  He stated that the CDs were not ready and we should not of submitted our paperwork until February.  He did not tell me what to do.  Do I wait, do I submit another application packet, do I need an agent, or will they be approved as is?  Yikes.  I went back to the official in NH and asked what to do and he said wait, they should be ready by the end of the year.

Delays, delays, delays

At the beginning of January, I went to see the local NH official again.  He told me he was scheduled to go on holiday until the end of the month but would send another email.  The official was very nice, but not very optimistic.  He stated that I should NOT resubmit another application or use an agent to assist me.  I should just “wait.”  However, he was concerned about completion of the application because FP was holding their huge election in March and the ENTIRE government would be working on the election.  What, are you kidding me?  He said it would not be surprising for our tourist application to be unfulfilled by the expiry date of April.  OMG!

1-Month Later

Our friends (on Agape) who dropped off their CD renewal application on the same day as we did received their approval email.  Super excited for them, but we got nothing.  The local official said he could get us a letter that would give us an extra 6-months, but it would not allow me to leave the country.  was made to just ride it out, be patient and wait to hear from the main office.  I will email the Papeete office if I have not heard from them by the end of February (decision made early February).

Letter: A Recepisse de Demande de Renouvellement de Carte de Sejour:  Good or Worthless?

This header translates to “Reception of Renewal of Carte de Sejure” (our long-stay visa).  Does that sound like an authorization to stay in the country longer?  It reads to me as “hey Christine we received your application and we are working on it.”  In fact, several French people translated the letter for me and confirmed that it indeed states what I thought “we received your application and it is in process.”

So, what’s the story of this letter?  After we left the Marquesas, the Nuku Hiva official, Raimano Lucas sent an email to us with this provisional letter called “Recepisse de Demande.” He said it will allow us to stay in FP for an additional 6-months.  It will NOT however allow us to re-enter the country if I leave after our original expiry date of 11 April.  However, I sent the letter to Kevin at Nuku Hiva Yacht Services (an agent) to ask him what he thinks and he said that the letter should allow me to leave and re-enter, even if I do not have my Carte Dejour (CD) renewal stamp.  Hmmmm.  Communication issue maybe? 

I asked another agent, Tahiti Crew to translate my letter and basically it states that our CDs are in process and we can legally stay in FP until 11 Oct. However, it will not allow us to re-enter the country if we leave after our original expiry date of 11 April.  Great fun being a tourist in need of a long-stay visa.

Tracking Down the Original Letter

Considering I still have not heard back from the Tahiti official, I asked Kevin to pick up the original letters and air freight them to Tahiti Crew in Papeete, Tahiti.  I can at least pick them up before I leave and have them on my person while I travel.  It’s unfortunate, that it took Raimano 3 months to get this letter and he receives it 2 days after we leave.  So, now I have to pay two agents and shipping to get the original in my hands.

For whatever reason, after six weeks from my original request, Kevin was unable to collect our original letters.  He informed me that Raimano, the Nuku Hiva official, sent them to his colleague in Tahiti.  Great, now I need to track a stranger down.  This is just a $hit $how!  At least I don’t have to pay for the two agents or the shipping fees.

I realize that the letters will not allow me to travel and they are not an answer to our visa issue, but it is all I have right now.  And if it is all I have; I at least want the originals.  Ugh.

Tahiti Crew to the Rescue

We used Tahiti Crew as our agent when we applied for our original tourist visas (long-stay CDs).  I reached out to Tahiti Crew in early March to ask them if they could help me with our CD renewal.  She asked that I reach out to her 2 weeks prior to my trip if I had not heard from the officials.

Fast forward a month and we are waist deep in the corona virus chaos.  Tahiti Crew instructed us to use the “letter” that we received as proof that we can legally be in FP.  However, she confirmed that I cannot return to FP if I leave.  So, she visited the Haut Commissionaire’s office in Papeete to inquire about our CD renewals.

What she learned is troublesome.  Because of the corona virus, the French Poly Govt. has stopped issuing tourist visas (new and renewals).  No more, nothing.

I’ve stopped worrying about it as we cannot leave FP right now.  In fact, even if we could leave, we cannot go anywhere as the countries we want to visit are closed (Palmerston, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand).  So, we will sit and wait to see what happens with the Covid-19.

No News is Good News

Here we are a month after our original expiry date and I feel like an illegal alien.  I guess technically, we are not illegal as we have a letter allowing us to stay until 11 October 2020.  The sense of urgency has dwindled since my April trip to the States and Italy was cancelled.

Tahiti crew followed up stating that I could return if I need to leave during the interim 6-month period.  However, we are not comfortable traveling after hearing “no” from multiple sources.  

As of May, a month past our expiry date with a letter allowing us to stay until 11 October.  The French Government is starting to go back to work so maybe we will receive our official CD renewal in the next few months.  Become a legal tourist??

Of course, in a perfect world, the quarantine will be lifted.  The islands between French Polynesia and New Zealand will open up and accept pleasure vessels.  If this happens, we would leave FP in July. With a stop in the Cook Islands, Tonga, and Minerva Reef before arriving in New Zealand by early December.

Yeah!  Score!

We arrived back in Tahiti July 2020 and stopped by the Haute Commissionaire’s office.  It took some sweet talking, lots of smiles and a little patience, but we finally got our renewal paperwork.  We are official until 11 April 2021

Official CDs with stamps

Official CDs with stamps