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Michael Musica

Paris - visa renewal by mail - Consular Section fax or other number

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Filed: Timeline

I am an American manager of musicians from France who perform in the U.S. A group of four musicians is returning to the U.S. to perform in January 2015. I have obtained USCIS approval for an O-1 for the band leader, and for an O-2 for the members of the band. All of them have received these visa classifications in the past. Two musicians live in Paris, two in southern France.

We noticed on the Paris embassy website that we can apply for a visa by mail, instead of coming to the Consular Section of the embassy for an interview, provided that criteria are met. So that we don't have to pay to fly two people from southern France to Paris for a 3-minute "interview," this seemed like a great option. The page in English and then in French are here:

http://france.usembassy.gov/renewbymail.html

http://french.france.usembassy.gov/renouvelerparcourrier.html

Each musician used the Visa-Reissue Wizard to see if he was eligible for visa renewal by mail. For all of them, the answer was "yes." You will also notice that the embassy says that it "strongly encourages" the renewal of visas by mail for those who are eligible. The language is on these pages (English followed by French).

http://france.usembassy.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html

http://french.france.usembassy.gov/non-immigrant.html

The musicians followed the DS-160 process. At the end of the DS-160, they tried to pay the visa application fee via credit card, but the website would not accept credit card payment. Finally, each of them managed to pay via bank wire.

An email confirming payment of the visa application eventually was delivered to each musician with instructions to go to the website, ais.usvisa-info.com/en-FR/niv/users/sign_in, and to follow the instructions there.

They did so, but were only offered the option to schedule an interview appointment in Paris. There is nothing about visa renewal by mail.

Our immigration attorney in the U.S. says that applicants are usually presented with the mail-in option on the same web page as the interview appointment option; that choosing the mail-in option links to a mail-in criteria Wizard and, on successful completion of the Wizard, instructions for mail-in procedure are provided. We are not seeing this. Our attorney thinks that there is a technical problem with the website.

We telephoned the Paris interview appointment line -- the one you have to pay money to speak to someone and see what is going on -- but the person was obviously not in Paris and only told us to send an email to fae_contactus+fr+info+fr@visaops.net. We did so one week ago, and received nothing in reply.

I telephoned the switchboard at the U.S. embassy in Paris three times yesterday. The first time, I was routed to a recording that played over and over again the message to go to ais.usvisa-info.com. The second time, the operator said I should fax an emergency letter to the Consular Section at this number -- +33.1.42.86..82.91.

I wrote a detailed letter and tried to fax it. The Consular Section fax machine did not answer. I phoned the switchboard a third time, and a different operator told me that I was having a technical problem (I wasn't) or that the machine was busy (it wasn't), that the fax number was correct and that there was nothing more she could offer to me. The embassy closed a few minutes later. I have tried to send the fax a total of three times now, and the result is the same. There is a ringing tone, but no connection.

My questions, at this point, are:

1. Has anyone had recent experience with the mail-in procedure and, if so, could you describe how it worked for you?

2. Does anybody have a suggestion for how to cut through the nonsense of not being able to fax a letter to the Consular Section? Surely there is another fax machine that works in the U.S. embassy, and someone who could take my letter to the Consular Section.

I am a U.S. taxpayer who is paying money toward the salaries of these people at the embassy, and feel like I should be offered a way to communicate with the people in the Consular Section. I understand that there are reasons to increase the use of the internet, but I do not understand the absence of alternative communication options when the new internet stuff isn't working.

Thank for reading.

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