French Long Stay Visa Application Process

Preparing your visa de long séjour application

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Lawless, Laura K. "French Long Stay Visa Application Process." ThoughtCo, Feb. 18, 2016, thoughtco.com/french-long-stay-visa-application-process-1369705. Lawless, Laura K. (2016, February 18). French Long Stay Visa Application Process. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-long-stay-visa-application-process-1369705 Lawless, Laura K. "French Long Stay Visa Application Process." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-long-stay-visa-application-process-1369705 (accessed October 19, 2017).

If you're American and want to live in France for an extended period of time, you need a visa de long séjour before you go and a carte de séjour once you get there. Having gone through the entire process, I put together this article explaining everything I know about it. Please note that this information applied to an American couple with no children who wanted to spend one year in France without working, and was accurate as of June 2006.

I cannot answer questions about your situation. Please confirm everything with your French embassy or consulate.

Here are the requirements for the long stay visa application as listed on the French Embassy website if you apply in Washington D.C. (see Notes):

  1. Passport + 3 photocopies
    Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond last day of stay, with a blank page for the visa
  2. 4 long stay visa application forms
    Filled out in black ink and signed
  3. 5 photographs
    1 glued to each application form + one extra (see Notes)
  4. Financial guarantee + 3 copies
    There is no official amount given, but the general consensus on the internet seems to be that you should have 2,000 euros per person per month. The financial guarantee may be any of the following:
       * Formal letter of reference from the bank showing account numbers and balances
       * Recent bank/brokerage/retirement account statements
       * Proof of income from employer
  1. Medical insurance with coverage valid in France + 3 copies
    The only acceptable proof is a letter from insurance company stating that you will be covered in France for at least $37,000. Your insurance card is *not* sufficient; you have to request an actual letter from the insurance company. This should be no problem if you have international or travel insurance; your insurance company in the US will probably not be able to do this for you (and may not even cover you), but give them a call to be sure.
  1. Police clearance + 3 copies
    Document obtained from your local police station stating that you have no criminal record
  2. Letter certifying that you will not have any paid activity in France
    Handwritten, signed, and dated
  3. Visa fee - 99 euros
    Cash or credit card
The first thing to do when you decide you want to spend an extended period of time in France is figure out when to go. Give yourself at least two weeks (I needed a month) to gather all of the documents. The application process can take up to two months, so you will therefore need to allow yourself at least 2½ months to apply for and obtain the visa. But there's no rush - you have up to a year to actually leave for France once you have the visa in hand.

Go to your local police station and ask about the police clearance, as that can take a couple of weeks. Then apply for your insurance and deal with the financial guarantee documents. You also need to figure out where you'll be staying in France - if it's a hotel, even just at first, make a reservation and ask them to fax you confirmation. If it's with a friend, you'll need a letter and a copy of his/her carte de résident - see Additional notes, below.

Once you have all of your documents in order, make a final photocopy of everything to keep for yourself. This is essential, as you will need it when you arrive in France and have to apply for your carte de séjour.

The Consulate at which you will apply for your visa depends on which state you live in, not necessarily which one is closest to you. Click here to find your Consulate.


Living in France Legally
    Preparing your visa de long séjour application
   Applying for a visa de long séjour
   Applying for a carte de séjour
   Renewing a carte de séjour
   Additional notes and tips

In April 2006, as residents of Pennsylvania, my husband and I went to the French Consulate in Washington, D.C., which at that time took walk-in visa applications. (This has since changed - now you need an appointment.) We arrived Thursday at about 9:30am, waited in line for 15 minutes, gave our paperwork to the clerk, and paid the visa fees. Then we waited for about 45 minutes before the interview with the Vice Consul.

He asked a few questions (why we wanted to live in France, some clarification on our bank statements) and requested two additional documents: a copy of our marriage certificate and a fax or email from the friend who we will be staying with during our first days in France while looking for an apartment, along with a copy of his carte de résident. The other option would have been to give him a confirmed hotel reservation.

Once he had those documents, he said he would start the application process, which takes 6-8 weeks. If approved, we would need to return to the Consulate to pick up the visas. We would also need to have certified translations of our marriage certificate and birth certificates. These can be certified by a professional translator or, since I speak fluent French, I could translate them myself and have them certified by someone at the Consulate (which means I would need to take the originals).



The Vice Consul also explained the importance, upon arriving in France, of immediately apply for the carte de séjour at our local préfecture. The visa de long séjour does not in fact give you permission to live in France - it just gives you permission to apply for the carte de séjour. According to the VC, many Americans are not aware that if you stay in France for more than 3 months, you are required to have a carte de séjour, not just the visa.



In June 2006, our visas were turned down, with no reason given. Per the Vice Consul's suggestion, we appealed to the CRV (Commission contre les Refus de Visa) in Nantes. We received a letter confirming receipt of our appeal documents a couple of weeks later, and then didn't hear anything for months. I couldn't find much information about this appeal process online, but I did read somewhere that if you don't receive a response within two months, you can assume it was denied. We decided to wait a year and then reapply.

Nearly a year to the day after we appealed our visa denial - and long after we'd given up hope - we received an email from the head of the visa section in Washington, DC, followed by a snail mail letter from the CRV in Nantes, letting us know that we'd won our appeal and could pick up the visas at any time, with no additional fees. (It was in this letter that I learned the word saisine.) We needed to fill out the forms again and submit them along with two more photos and our passports. In theory, we could have even done this by mail, but since we were living in Costa Rica at the time, it wouldn't have been prudent to be without our passports for two weeks.

After a few email exchanges, we made an appointment to pick up our visas in October.

The head of the visa section said we were on that day's VIP list and just needed to bring the application forms, photos, passports, and a print-out of his email message (to show at the gate), and the visas would be provided sur-le-champ. The only minor hiccup was that we'd been hoping to stay in Costa Rica until May and move to France in June, and he said that was a bit éloigné, so we had to advance both moves to March.

In October 2007, we went to DC and picked up our visas without a hitch - we were there for no more than half an hour. Next came moving to France and applying for the cartes de séjour.


Living in France Legally
   Preparing your visa de long séjour application
   Applying for a visa de long séjour
   Applying for a carte de séjour
   Renewing a carte de séjour
   Additional notes and tips

April 2008: We made an appointment to submit our application at our local préfecture de police (police station). This was very simple: we just handed our dossiers over (birth and marriage certificates with certified translations, bank statements, passports, and proof of medical insurance, with copies of all of these, plus 5 passport photos [uncut]). Everything was checked over, stamped, and dated.

Then we were told to wait.

Almost exactly 2 months after submitting our dossiers, we received letters from the Délégation de Marseille with our medical exam appointment times, as well as information about the taxe of 275 euros we each had to pay to complete our carte de séjour applications.

We went to Marseilles for our medical exam, which was pretty simple: chest x-ray and brief consultation with the doctor. After that, we picked up our official récépissés (receipts) at the préfecture and paid our taxe at the centre des impôts (which consisted of purchasing five 55-euro stamps each).

Our official receipts were to expire on 27 August, and a week before we still hadn't received our convocation (summons) letting us know they were ready. So we headed to the préfecture, which was closed for the entire week. When we returned the following Monday, just two days before the expiration, the service des étrangers was open and our cartes were there.

We turned in our medical exam results and our stamped tax forms, signed the book, and received our cartes, officially making us legal visitors in France for one year!


Living in France Legally
   Preparing your visa de long séjour application
   Applying for a visa de long séjour
   Applying for a carte de séjour
   Renewing a carte de séjour
   Additional notes and tips

In January 2009, we went to the police station to turn in our residence permit renewal applications. Even though we still had three months before the expiration of our cards, it's necessary to start the procedure well in advance. In fact, when we received them, the clerk said to come back in December to start the process again, but when we did she claimed it was too early.

Among the paperwork we had to resubmit this time was our marriage certificate.

I find that a little weird - we'd already turned that in with the original request, and it's not something, like a passport for example, that expires or changes. Even if we were divorced, we'd still have the marriage certificate.

In any case, everything went well and they said we'd have the new cards within three months.

2½ months after submitting our residence permit renewal requests, we received letters telling each of us to purchase a 70-euro stamp at the Hôtel des impôts and then return to the préfecture to pick up our new cartes de séjour. Piece of cake, and now we're legal for another year.


Living in France Legally
   Preparing your visa de long séjour application
   Applying for a visa de long séjour
   Applying for a carte de séjour
   Renewing a carte de séjour
   Additional notes and tips

The visa and residence permit application process can vary not only due to different family and work situations, but also based on where you apply. Here are some things that I was told about that did not apply to us.

1. The requirements listed in the first section can be different in other French embassies - for example, apparently some don't require the police clearance. Be sure to find out what the embassy you're applying at requires.



2. Where to apply for the cartes once you get to France is not necessarily obvious - some said the local mairie (city hall), others said the nearest city. In our case, we applied at the local préfecture. My advice is to start at the mairie and ask where to go.

3. I've been told that there is a French language component, that applicants are required to pass a proficiency test or else take French classes offerred by the city. This was never even mentioned during our many visits regarding the carte de séjour, possibly because my husband and I both speak French and would obviously have passed the test, or maybe it's just not a requirement in Hyères.

4. Our medical exam in Marseilles included only an x-ray and a short chat with the doctor. Apparently some centers perform blood tests.

5. We were told we would receive une convocation letting us know that our cartes were ready to be picked up. We never did receive it, but when we went to the préfecture our cards were waiting.



6. Several people told me that the application process in France would take several months, which was true, and that our cartes would expire one year from the end of that process, which wasn't true. Ours expired one year from the beginning of our application process, in April.

Tip: Once you get a high-quality picture of yourself in the correct format, consider scanning it and printing out a sheet of photos.

You'll need them for the visa and residence permit applications as well as any organizations you might join or schools you attend. All those photos can be expensive, but again, make sure that they're the right size and format, and that they are high quality. We got professional photos the first time, and then took several photos of ourselves with a digital camera at different distances until we got the size just right. The hardest part was making sure that there was absolutely no shadow. But now we have the pics on our computer and can print them out as needed.


Et voilà - this is everything I know about the process. If this doesn't answer your questions, the France for Visitors site has an excellent series of articles about moving to France, and of course the French Embassy can answer all of your questions.


Living in France Legally
   Preparing your visa de long séjour application
   Applying for a visa de long séjour
   Applying for a carte de séjour
   Renewing a carte de séjour
   Additional notes and tips

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lawless, Laura K. "French Long Stay Visa Application Process." ThoughtCo, Feb. 18, 2016, thoughtco.com/french-long-stay-visa-application-process-1369705. Lawless, Laura K. (2016, February 18). French Long Stay Visa Application Process. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-long-stay-visa-application-process-1369705 Lawless, Laura K. "French Long Stay Visa Application Process." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-long-stay-visa-application-process-1369705 (accessed October 19, 2017).