I'm taking this week off from TBP so don't expect to see me around here at all. I'm taking a trip to Ireland today and will be back in the US Friday, and back somewhere on Monday.
I thought I'd take this chance to explain why I'm taking this vacation (other than that I hear Ireland's awesome). It all started about two years ago when I was really looking for something interesting to do and decided to apply to work in France again, like I did when I was fresh out of college. In October 2007 I packed my bags and off I went to St. Etienne to teach English to elementary school students out here.
The work was boring, the teachers I worked with didn't appreciate what I was doing or help me much (the same attitude I've heard happens to all sorts of educational para-professionals from teachers), and I don't know if I would have lasted my entire contract if it weren't for Alberto, who I met this past February.
Well, I spent quite a few weekends up in Paris at his apartment and in June, when my contract was up, I packed my bags again and moved right into his place. And for these three months I've been searching for some way to stay in this country, and I just couldn't find it.
Officially I have to be out of the country... today! So we decided to prologue our misery and spend a few days in Dublin before I head off to Indiana again.
These past three months haven't been pretty. We knew what was coming for some time and having that sort of pressure hang over a developing relationship doesn't help out too much.
When I arrived in France in October, I applied for a work permit (titre de sejour) and was given one marked "visiteur." For those people who, like me a year ago, aren't familiar with French immigration law, that basically means I can live in France but I can't work here, and I can't reapply directly for another titre de sejour.
It was a mistake, since I was obviously working there. And the last time I had the same job I got a titre de sejour marked "travailleur," so I could have reapplied at the end to have it extended. But, one year ago, I didn't know the difference and didn't think I'd want to stay here so long.
But the reality of the situation came down on me in bits and pieces between May and July, as I visited various French bureaucrats who only knew part of the system, who gave me misinformation, and eventually let me know the truth of the situation: I had to leave and apply again to come back into this country.
That left me with some time to try and find an employer, but considering that they have to pay an extra 800 to 1600 euro a year to hire a foreigner, I couldn't find any willing to take me on. Especially since knowing English isn't quite the skill it used to be - English and Irish people can work here without any special paperwork.
So, we're a binational gay couple who wants to stay together but can't find a means. Getting Alberto into the US would probably prove harder than getting me out here (he's an actor who doesn't speak much English), and getting me out here is almost near impossible. No one will hire me without any work papers, and I can't get any work papers unless I prove that I have a job.
Since my parents are also a binational couple (my mother's from Argentina, my father's American), I already knew that it wouldn't be a walk in the park. But I did assume, and the assumption probably came from the privilege of being a citizen of a rich country, that there would be some solution eventually.
My parents married and my mom was able to stay in America.
We looked into getting a PACS, a French civil union. If we're PACSed, and we can prove one year of living together, then I can apply for a long-term titre de sejour. But I can't stay here long enough to prove a year of living together.
And while a heterosexual couple could marry here and instantly be eligible for a titre de sejour, I don't think that same-sex marriage is the solution, as many gay activists try to pretend it is for bi-national couples.
First, getting married and getting a visa isn't as easy as it once was. My cousin married a Danish woman a few years ago, and she had to go back to Denmark after her tourist visa was up. My cousin had to prove that he was able to support two people financially, and he wasn't able to in time. Eventually, she was able to get back into the US.
While French law is easier on binational married couples, I absolutely don't think that I'm ready for marriage, nor do I think that I ever want to get married. We do love each other, and I can see myself spending my life with Alberto. We've built a home together over these past seven months, and it's hard to imagine myself going back to the US (I know I'll be a mess the first couple of weeks there). Shouldn't that be enough to stay? Should a marriage really be necessary?
To paraphrase Nancy Polikoff, I don't need a marriage, I need a titre de sejour!
I don't understand the larger issue of immigration enough to provide a solution, and I don't know enough here to provide a solution myself. I'm going back to America to look for another way to get back to France, an employer willing to hire and sponsor me.
The odds aren't really in my favor.
So, that's why I'm taking this week off. We decided to say good-bye in the Dublin airport this Friday instead of doing it tomorrow. And I'll try to be back next week.