Getting maried in France with a foreigner

End of december 2005, I did my official “proposal” to my girlfriend.
At this time, we were in Okinawa, in front of a light blue sea, on an increadibly beautifull beach…
I had no idea what I jumped into. (not talking about the marriage:-)

As every couple, we started to plan our wedding… The place, the guests, and then we started to think about paperwork.

I am French, she is Japanese, so we abviously had to do something to make our union possible, at least to make it legal for french administration.

First step, the VISA

At first, we planned to get married without VISA: it is possible for any Japanese people to stay in France for 3 months without any visa, so we planned to get married during this period, and then ask for a staying permission.

It would have been a huge mistake. The law changed recently (summer 2006), and now, it is impossible to request a staying permission without a long term visa.
So even if you are married with a french, you can get kicked out of France if you don’t have a staying permission. And you cannot ask for a long term visa once you are in France. In other words, you have to go back to your country and start this visa procedure in any case.

Since we were quite reluctant to pay for go-and-come-back trip, we requested a long term VISA while we were still separated.

Our first problem was the visa type: not student, not researcher, not worker… After phoning the french ambassy in Tokyo, it appears that our only choice was to take a tourism VISA with a special mention “in order to get married”.

The procedure

If you are not french, and have to contact a french administration, you HAVE to keep calm. French public officers are really lame. The administration usually opens only during a small time, and even during this period, you will feel the people you are talking to are either lazy or tired. In any case, Inaccurate.

From my point of view, it is particularly tough for Japanese people, used to a rapid and accurate service.
The first challenge was “no mail”. Nao is from Osaka, which means she had to go to Tokyo at least twice: once to give the papers, and once more to get back her VISA. I know, it’s written in french they can send you back your visa once it’s completed. But the actual way was different.
So Nao had to take 8h bus just to give some paper. This is a good start:-)

The papers to send

The French ambassy asked us a lot of paper, among which a proof we had 10 000 euros on a bank account.
They also asked me to get a “certificat de capacité à mariage”.
I asked my city hall, the french prefecture, the city hall of the place we planned to get married, and even sent a mail to the foreign affairs ministry.
All of them told me the same:
“this document doesn’t exist. You won’t get it in France”.

Of course, I phoned back the ambassy, but they kept telling me I was wrong, and they couldn’t do anything without this paper. An officer even told me I was just trying to fool them in order to make things easier for me.
I was about to go mad, when they suddenly changed their website, replacing my “impossible” document by a “certificat de non opposition aux bans”. Of course, they also forgot to tell me about this change.

I was angry, because I lost 2 months, but somehow I could get out of my dead-end.