My final day at Esprit du Vin was the first day I began to live my dream. On March 28th, 2014 I spoke with the French Consulate about my desire to live and work in France. I had read on their website about a visa called Competences et Talents, for people with special skills and talents who want to make a contribution to Franco-American relations. Thirty years in the wine importing business has given me a lot of wonderful experience in which I have developed some special skills, and I thought I should qualify.
After two months of preparing and collecting the documents necessary for my visa application, I registered for my interview at the French Consulate. I put the documents together in fine professional binder presentations (3 copies required!), from the Application Form, to Project Proposal, Resume/CV, FBI Report, Personal Finances, proof of Medical Insurance including emergency evacuation, and over 60 References from French suppliers, American importers, distributors, and friends. Security was extremely tight, and it was a warm day with no evidence of air conditioning. I was dripping with sweat.
I am sure that a wonderful tribute can be made to the fonctionnaires who run France’s civil service. Suffice it to say that the particular person handling my case more than exceeded the reputation of a classic French bureaucrat. I was told that the Competences et Talents visa was probably not for me, that it would take six to nine months for approval, that I needed a budget, a list of potential business contacts, and another appointment. After a panic attack of major proportions and approaching despondency, I abandoned all hope of my special Competences et Talents application being appreciated by the NY French Consulate.
Maybe it was my visible enthusiasm for France that turned the tide in my favor with this particular consular official. Maybe my rudimentary but fearless French speaking talents. Or maybe it was my crestfallen disappointment that touched a nerve of kindness and Franco-American diplomacy. With the help and direction of this particular fonctionnaire, I was allowed to apply for a long stay tourist visa instead. All I had to do was prove that someone in France would invite me to stay for an entire year! And oh yes, proof of medical insurance for the period as well.
Luckily, I think I have lived a decent life, and a friend volunteered my invitation. Travel medical insurance is actually quite inexpensive, and I returned to the consulate two days later with all the documents required. Five business days later, I have my new visa in hand. My dream will happen, and I depart June 18 for la belle France.