Pacific Puddle Jump
From the Americas to French Polynesia

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Latitude 38


Getting a Long-Stay Visa

Getting a Long Stay Visa of six-months to one year is a considerable hassle, but we think it’s well worth the effort. Chuck Houlihan put together this detailed explanation of the entire application process: Click here.

The five archipelagos of French Polynesia comprise an area larger than Western Europe. It is also one of the world’s most spectacular cruising grounds, so it’s no wonder that many sailors apply in advance for Long Stay Visas. Policies do change, but at the moment, here’s the info on Long Stay Visas.

European Union citizens can stay in French Polynesia as long as they like, without being required to obtain a special visa in advance. (All visiting yachts may stay for three years without being officially imported.)

Americans and Canadians will get 90-day visas on arrival at their first landfall. These CANNOT be extended in the islands. Long Stay Visas for 6 to 12 months can be obtained IN ADVANCE of departure, but as most of you probably know, the procedure has changed dramatically this year.

Now outsourced to a non-governmental agency called VFS Global, the biggest change has been that you are now required to surrender your passport while your application is being processed, which can take between 3 and 8 weeks. (You need to begin the process online at

Implementation of the new procedures varies from one place to another. Embassies often handle such issues differently from Consulates. A few related notes:

• The French Embassy in Panama is probably the easiest place to apply for and obtain a LSV. They are very efficient and do not require you return to your home country to apply, as is the general rule elsewhere.

• Several crews have reported have reported that the French Embassy in Mexico City will accept LS Visa applications on site, rather then making you go through VFS. A related note is that several PPJers have reported that the US Embassy in Mexico City will issue second American passports in a day or two, in order to assist Americans in the French visa application process. (You can obtain one in the US also, but the process can take up to 8 weeks, unless you pay for expedited service.)

• The VFS website seems to have some glitches. (For example, to make an appointment you must begin by clicking on Washington DC, regardless of where you live.) If the site freezes on you, try switching to a different browser. The phone number on the site for help is: 1-347-252-3055, hours 9 to 4 Atlantic time. We talked with a very patient VFS employee who was helpful.

If all this seems like too big a headache, consider leaving your boat in French Polynesia for a few months while you return home. Again, boats can stay up to three years. So you could leave your boat: hauled out in Apataki, Tuamotus; in Raiatea; or in Hiva Oa, Marquesas; or on Tahiti in the Papeete Marina or Marina Taina. Although it is possible for cyclones to development in French Polynesia, major storms are very rare in these islands, so many boat owners simply ‘roll the dice’ and leave their boats during the November-to-April cyclone season.

Andy Turpin
Editor-at-Large, Latitude 38 magazine
Director, Pacific Puddle Jump



February 16 in Panama
March 11 in Puerto Vallarta

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