So much for our whirlwind vacation in the Piedmont Plain this summer.
Steph and I have been planning on going for a visit back in the states this July. The only thing holding up our plans was for Steph to get a new passport. The thing is, his old passport hasn't expired, but it's not one of the new "scannable" passports, with a barcode at the bottom. His is actually handwritten. We figured he would renew his passport and we'd be on our way.
What we didn't know was that the American government has changed their requirements for foreign visitors entering the States. Here's what we learned when we went to the Mairie, or Town Hall, this week, to update Steph's passport.
Over the last couple of years, France has been upgrading their passports to the "scannable" variety, and as of October 2005, anyone who does not have a scannable passport must apply for a tourist visa to enter the States.
But then the American goverment said, "Oh, did we say scannable? We meant biometric."
France will not be able to start production on biometric passports until October 2006, so the U.S. is allowing French scannable passports made before October 2005 entry without a visa. Everyone else is required to have a tourist visa along with their passport for entry into the U.S. Obviously, there's no point in getting a scannable passport because he'd still have to get a visa, and then down the road he'd have to get a biometric passport anyway.
In order to acquire a visa (at the low, low price of 90 euros!), we have to make an appointment for an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Paris (a 14.50 euro phone call, by the way). The first available appointment is the first of June. Steph can't take off work for this so we'd have to find a date after the first that we could go. Then we have at least a six week wait for the actual visa. That doesn't leave much wiggle room.
So we're supposed to go ahead and book flight tickets and just hope for the best? I don't think so.
Steph and I have decided that it's just not worth the stress and bother of trying to jump through all these hoops just for a three-week vacation (not to mention the cost of the visa and traveling to Paris and back just for a piece of paper), especially since it's not going to be like this forever. I, on the other hand, still want to make a quick trip home to visit with friends and bring back the rest of my stuff that has been sitting in storage (read: my friend Dana's attic) for almost two years. Since we hope to start a family soonish, I feel this is my last opportunity to go back for the next couple of years or so.
Of course, we never know what the next year will bring, and we may end up going back for a visit together next year after all.
My original suggestion was to visit the States this year at Easter, since my family does often gather then. Steph would prefer to sit next a river and fish for three weeks than be a social butterfly like me, so since it looks like I'm going alone, I may just up and head back to the Carolinas for Easter. Of course this means we'll have to make a decision pretty quick, since Easter is less than two months away now. It does seem that things are leaning in that direction, however.
That means someone better call up Corona's and make sure the grown-up slushie machine is up and running!