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February 28, 2011 2:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to start a 5 month internship in France, I'm leaving next week, and my visa hasn't been processed yet. What should I tell customs?

My plane ticket is for a departure date of March 7th and a return date of August 25th so it'll be about 6 months (I want to travel around before and after). This internship is through a college near Paris and the visa is still being processed (they're sending me papers to sign through the mail). Even if I recieve the papers and sign them before I leave I don't think the visa will be processed until after I arrive in Paris.

How should I go about talking to customs when I land? Should I tell them that I'm on a 6 month vacation? Is that length of stay even allowed? Is there a way to show that my visa is being processed or that I have permission from my professor to work there?
posted by Groovytimes to Travel & Transportation around France (8 answers total)
 
This isn't legal advice in any way, shape, or form.

In my experience, I was never asked how long I was planning on staying upon entering France. I know of, anecdotally, people who just entered on standard tourist entry terms, then arranged the extension after arriving (doing academic archaeological work), and it seems to have worked out for them, but they also weren't the most dotted-i-and-crossed-t bunch.
posted by The Michael The at 2:14 PM on February 28, 2011


You shouldn't leave until you have the visa in hand. You should change your flight date and make sure your paperwork is in order before you leave.

When arriving in France, if you have an American passport, they rarely ask you any questions when you enter. They stamp your passport and then you can stay for 3 months. If you try to leave the Schengen area after 3 months, then you're likely going to be caught, and have to pay huge penalties and/or be banned from the Schengen zone. Most (not all) of the time, they'll check your passport right before you leave to verify the most recent stamp is less than 90 days in the past.

To avoid those penalties, you could technically leave the Schengen area at 90 days and then re-enter a few days later, giving you a new stamp. But given that you are working and not a tourist, it would still be illegal and you'd be subject to the same penalties if you get caught.

Furthermore, it's probably unlikely that the university is going to be able to let you start working without having proper documentation, especially your visa. Bureaucracy is pretty severe in France.
posted by helios at 2:15 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


IANAL and this is not legal advice, but I'd second helios: make sure your paperwork is in order before you enter France. If you are a stagiaire, and the paperwork you need is a "convention de stage," then you must get the visa in your country of residence before you enter France (according to the French consulate in Washington, DC). This is generally true of all visas to remain in France for more than 90 days.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:46 PM on February 28, 2011


I was in a similar situation recently when I applied for a student visa to the Czech Republic. My visa wasn't processed before I was scheduled to leave the country (due to extreme delay on the consulate's end.) You should get in touch with the French consulate nearest you and get their advice. The Czech consulate sent my passport back to me and told me to enter the country without a visa. I was to then send my passport back to them with my parents acting as a middleman, because this process is not technically legal. If you can avoid that hassle, do; take whatever advice the consulate gives you. For what it's worth, several other students on my program are doing the same thing as I am and nobody asked any questions at the airport.

Good luck!
posted by rabbitbookworm at 3:16 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


You cannot leave for a few days as helios implies - the rule is a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period for the Schengen visa waiver program. I mention this only for other people who may find this thread, as it does not really apply to your case anyway.

Generally, you must always enter a country with the visa you will be staying under (or else get a visa at the point of entry, which amounts to the same thing). I would suggest contacting the organization you are going to be interning with, as they will have likely dealt with this before.

You may decide to enter as a tourist and then fly back, and return with the actual visa. But be aware that this would be illegal.
posted by Nothing at 4:11 PM on February 28, 2011


If you are a US citizen (and sad to say this, but it's true - white), it's not very likely you'll be caught at immigration, since that requires the immigration official to go through your passport to find the entry stamp, which I have never seen happen. BUT, if this is a paid internship, your lack of visa will prevent you from receiving any compensation. Also, most French employers will ask to make copies of your passport and visa to keep on file. Even if the paperwork for the visa is mailed, the actual visa cannot be mailed, so if this isn't sorted before you leave, you might end up having to come back to the States before the internship is over. All of that being said, I would delay going until the visa is securely situated in your passport.
posted by msk1985 at 9:15 PM on February 28, 2011


If you are a US citizen (and sad to say this, but it's true - white), it's not very likely you'll be caught at immigration, since that requires the immigration official to go through your passport to find the entry stamp, which I have never seen happen.

I've seen it several times, with myself, friends, exchange students and stagiaires. I'm a white American female, others were Americans too, FWIW. Please do not follow any advice that revolves around taking chances. Immigration has gotten stricter in France under Sarkozy.

helios and brianogilvie give good input. I'd also recommend what rabbitbookworm does, which is to say, contact the nearest French consulate (the one processing your visa) and also your program. They've probably been through this before — I've seen it as well, having worked with similar programs.

Don't panic, visas like this are very often last-minute affairs. If you miss anything, it probably won't be much, and waiting to be sure you're legal will only make you look more mature.
posted by fraula at 12:24 AM on March 1, 2011


I've seen it several times, with myself, friends, exchange students and stagiaires..

Same here; it's happened to me in the airport and on the train. I was even temporarily detained by the police once because I forgot my residence card, and had to wait for an hour while they verified with the prefecture that I was indeed a legal resident.

Also, as Nothing pointed out, I made a mistake in my previous post; you can't leave the Schengen area and return a few days later.
posted by helios at 7:07 AM on March 1, 2011


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