This week we introduce you to US resident Jack Brown, who has every reason to celebrate Thanksgiving this year after his tortuous journey to secure a French visa.
Jack and his French wife Chantal had bought a house in France with the intention of moving back to Chantal’s homeland after years of living in the US. Chantal, being French, didn’t need a visa of any sort, so she moved over in January of this year to settle in and oversee some renovations ahead of Jack’s arrival.
Meanwhile Jack stayed behind to sell their house in New Mexico and apply for a French visa.
That’s where it all started to go wrong.
As Jack recalls, “We had a problem with selling our house, so I came over to France under the 90/180 visitor scheme to help install us in our new home, then headed back to the States to sell our American house and apply for my visa. Following the rules, I applied for a visa from within the USA, but straight away I encountered a technical difficulty. When I tried to arrange the obligatory meeting online, it just simply said ‘Your mobile phone is not recognised’.
After several frustrating attempts, Jack contacted technical help at the visa centre. “Frankly, they were not very helpful at all! They said it was my problem, must be my browser, it’s this, it’s that, anything but the actual issue. I explained that it seemed to be the mobile that was causing the problem and could they please check from their end. They said no.”
Jack can laugh now but remembers how frustrating it was at the time. ” I told them, that’s what we call a Catch 22 in the USA. I can’t check it, you can’t check it, you won’t let me make an appointment for the visa, so what do I do?”
Their advice was for Jack to start his application again.
“I pointed out that if there was a problem with my mobile phone not being recognised, it still wasn’t going to work. They assured me it would be fine – and of course it wasn’t. Within minutes I had the exact same problem.”
Back in France, Chantal was so frustrated with the situation that she started looking for expert help and contacted the founder of French Connections HCB, Richard Hammond.
Jack remembers the relief he felt at being in expert hands.
“We had a chat with Richard who, on hearing that I am a British passport holder, suggested that I could make an application for a French visa through the United Kingdom.”
Around that time, Jack had a stroke of luck.
“The housing market was plummeting in many US cities with a few exceptions, one of them being the city where we lived which is dominated by a massive Intel manufacturing plant. They decided to put $3.5 billion into new manufacturing technology in their Rio Rancho plant, so we went from normal economics to a massive investment in the city just two miles down the road and not enough houses to accommodate the population. The realtor placed our home on the market for more than the average price and we actually got $14k more than we asked for. So all the things that went wrong technically eventually worked in our favour. We can laugh now but at the time it was quite stressful, obviously.”
With the house sold, Jack joined his adult children in the UK and made his application with the help of French Connections HCB’s visa expert, Juliette.
“Juliette at French Connections HCB was magnificent, ” says Jack. ” She helped me through all the documentation and put the application in. Lo and behold, I got an appointment date! My daughter offered to come with me to that appointment. I was nervous, but Juliette and Richard were very reassuring. On the appointment day, my daughter and I headed with some anxiety from Southampton to London and arrived about an hour early. We went straight into the visa center and were registered, pleasantly and quickly. We got passed through to the French visa desk and we could see my number on the monitor. Expecting a long wait, we watched it rise up the list but within 15 minutes or so it was our turn!
Things didn’t turn out quite as Jack expected.
“I was applying for a one year visa, so I arrived at the visa desk with a tonne of paperwork, bank statements, the works. The agent took one look and said, “Are you trying to join your wife?”. I said yes, I had been trying to do that for some considerable time! She simply handed the paperwork back to me and said, “Well, we don’t need all that.” She asked me for a copy of Chantal’s passport, which I had, and a certificate of marriage, then she said, “That’s it, Mr Brown”. I couldn’t believe my ears! I asked about the rest of the paperwork but she said that her advice was not to complicate my application and that she was absolutely sure the documents she had were all that she needed.”
From there, Jack headed to the biometrics desk to have his photo and fingerprints taken.
Jack laughs, “The first thing the biometrics guy said was, ‘I believe there’s paperwork missing’ and I thought, ‘Here we go again’! But he went back to the visa agent to double check.”
Next thing Jack knew, there was quite a crowd around him. The biometrics guy, the agent he had spoken to and one of her colleagues were all reassuring him that they had everything they needed and he could relax.
And for the first time in many months, Jack did just that.
“We got the biometrics done and left the building before our actual appointment time! 7 days later we got the message that everything was fine and I could pick up my passport. I took my daughter for a Champagne Kir lunch to celebrate!”
Jack is quick to thank French Connections HCB for the advice and support they gave him.
“When we met Richard, we felt fortunate that we found somebody who had serious experience in overcoming some of the difficulties we were facing, because it’s not an easy process. Juliette was an enormous help too. She is a very thorough and detailed person, I have a contract with French Connections HCB team to help us with French administration moving forward. I would certainly recommend them to other people.”
If you are thinking of moving to France from the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, or are already here and need help with visas, car registration, French health care or setting up a business, we invite you to book an initial 30 minute consultation with visa and business specialist Richard. The consultation costs 90 euros but that amount is deducted from the first service you book with us.
Meanwhile, as Jack and Chantal celebrate their first Thanksgiving today in their new home in France, we would like to extend our greetings to all of our American clients.
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!