How to Apply for a Long-Stay French Visa (& not screw it up!)

Just over six months ago, I fell in love with Nice, France and decided to make it my new home. Many people warned that getting a French visa is not an easy process and they were right. It’s time-consuming and incredibly stressful, but if it were easy I guess everyone would do it. So, before you decide to apply for a long-stay French visa I have one bit of advice: You’ve REALLY gotta want it!

In researching my options for relocating to France, the long-stay visitor visa seemed difficult but possible. So, I spent a few months in Nice putting the puzzle pieces together to create my visa application – which resembled a graduate-level dossier. 

Here is the tale of my journey along the bumpy road to creating a life in France – the things I’ve learned and the huge mistakes I’ve made along the way.

The French visa dossier and last minute prep at a Chicago Starbucks.
Visa application dossier

Update April 2018: As I begin the process of re-applying for my long-stay visa, I realize EVERYTHING has changed!

A brief summary:

“To better welcome the public and reduce waiting times, the Consulate General of France in Washington will outsource the collection of visa applications to VFS Global.

This new process will gradually be put in place between April and July, with the opening of 10 visa application centers: in Washington (April 18), New Orleans and Houston (May 30), Chicago (June 5), Boston (June 6), San Francisco (June 27), Los Angeles (June 28), Miami and Atlanta (July 19) and New York (July 26). Until then, filing procedures remain unchanged. Once these centers are open, applicants will be able to apply for visas at the VFS center of their choice.”

Here’s a link for more current information.

Updated article: How to Apply for a French Long-Stay Visa – Part Deux

(These requirements are directly from the Chicago consulate website. Each consulate has specific requirements, so check with the consulate in your area.)

1.) One application form filled out completely and signed by the applicant.

2.) One US passport size photo on a white background with no glasses and no hat (and please do not smile.)

I initially used a passport photo machine in Nice to complete this assignment, then realized the photos are the wrong size. I had them retaken at the local AAA Travel office in the US and my “do not smile” ended up looking like a crazed serial killer.

3.) Questionnaire

The questionnaire is in French and needs to be completed in French, so I met with a French translator in Nice for assistance. This form also needs to be notarized.

4.) Original passport or travel document (+ ONE PHOTOCOPY of the identity pages).

“Your passport must have been issued less than 10 years ago, be valid for at least three months after your return to the US and have at least 2 blank visa pages left.”

This is where I screwed up badly. It’s not something I’m proud of but I’m sharing this story for educational purposes.

My passport was 2 years away from expiration in 2019 but was well-used with over 75 stamps and just 2 blank pages – so I thought I was just barely within the visa requirements. On the long flight returning from Nice to the US, I decided to give myself a little “buffer” room and started picking at a loose visa sticker – specifically, the Cambodian visa that takes up an entire page. It peels out easily in one piece and opens up another visa page! (Yay!)

I arrive at the Chicago consulate the following day, confident that I have all my ducks in a row. My dossier is perfect, very professional and impressive! Suffering from massive jet lag, I really just want to get this interview over, fly back to Minneapolis and get some sleep. 

Finally, my name is called and the woman immediately asks for my passport.

You don’t have enough blank visa pages left. You’ll have to get a new passport and come back,” she says in a very business-like tone. 

Slowly, reality sinks in. “This CANNOT be happening!”

When I show her the blank pages at the back, she points out that THOSE ARE NOT VISA PAGES!! They’re just pages. (I honestly had no idea!) She also examines the page where the Cambodian visa once existed and immediately determines that page is NOT usable since there is evidence remaining of a previous visa.

I had just flown in from Nice, hadn’t slept for days, and walked away in shock and disbelief.

But it gets worse…

The next day, I arrive at the passport agency in Minneapolis to get an expedited passport (in 8 business days or less) and am immediately grilled on the condition of my passport. There are unexplained staples that seem to indicate missing documents (huh?), there is a peeling Narita transit stamp, and there’s the blank page where the Cambodian visa had been. My passport is declared “mutilated” and I am now subject to passport probation – reduced to a one-year validity on my new passport.

This passport probation now makes it impossible to apply for the coveted one-year long-stay French visa, which requires a minimum 3-month passport validity at the end of the visa. (S**t!)

So, I create my Plan B: I apply for a 9-month visa. Then I’ll leave the country before my visa expires and return to Nice with 95 days on my passport to get a 3-month Schengen tourist visa. In September, I’ll return to the US to renew my passport for the full 10-year validity (and possibly repeat this whole nightmare visa process again? Ugh!)

After that day at the passport office, I googled the topic of “passport mutilation” and opinions seem divided on peeling out used visas.

“Jack” from Seattle claims, “I could start a recycling center with all the old Chinese visas I’ve picked out of my passport over the years!”

A good friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) confessed, “I’ve peeled six old Cambodian visas out of my passport over the years with no issues. I guess I got lucky!”

In the great visa debate, some travelers interpret the warning printed in the front of the passport as a legal “gray area” while others are aware of the seriousness of this crime and caution against it. 

Moral of the story – if you’ve got the urge to pick at old visas in your passport, step away from your passport. Do not do it! Trust me!

Long-stay French visa
A most important document.

5.) Status in the US – If you are not a US citizen, a copy of your green card or visa.

This one was easy. I wrote a simple statement: “I am a US citizen”. I also signed and dated it.

6.) A letter explaining what you intend on doing in France.

From the blog posts I studied in preparation, this one seems to be vitally important. I kept is simple and direct, stating that I want to learn to speak the language, study the culture, and write about my experiences. I think they want to know you’ve got a genuine interest in the country and a valid reason to be there.

7.) Letter promising not to engage in any employment in France (signature certified by a notary public) 

One of the stipulations of the long-stay visa is the “no work” clause. I wrote a short paragraph promising I won’t work for any French companies and had it notarized (in Nice by a really HOT French lawyer!) The French government wants to be sure you’re not taking a job away from a French citizen, which is understandable.

8.) Letter of employment in the US stating occupation and earnings

I skipped this one since I have no earnings from the US.

9.) Proof of means of income – letter from the bank, investment certificates, pension slips, …

To prove my ability to support myself, I provided bank statements from my US and French bank accounts, pension statements, and documents from my retirement account. Some suggest you provide 3 months of bank statements but I submitted 10 months. (I’ve heard they love paperwork!)

Unfortunately, she handed back 7 months of bank statements and didn’t seem amused by the excess paperwork. I guess three months of statements are sufficient.

So, how much money is “sufficient” to support yourself in France? Some say that it’s French minimum wage (about 1500 Euros per month) but there’s no official amount published anywhere.

10.) Proof of medical insurance:

“You must bring proof of a valid overseas medical insurance with a minimum coverage of 50,000 US for emergencies and repatriation and NO deductible or co-pay. The letter provided by your insurance company MUST clearly state these conditions.”

I did a lot of research on insurance and purchased a policy through Insubuy. They provide a visa letter that details exactly what the French consulate requires. Just to be safe, I also provided a copy of the plan summary pages.

11.) Marriage certificate or family book + Birth certificates for children.

I skipped this one since it does not even remotely apply to my life.

12.) Enrollment in a school for the children.

Again, no kids so no need. 

13.) Proof of accommodation in France (title deeds, lease or rental agreement.)

Proof of accommodation – the most difficult assignment of all. Most people aren’t able to spend time in France prior to applying for the visa, and it’s stressful to sign a lease BEFORE they approve the visa, but that’s just the way it is.

Luckily, I was able to spend two months apartment hunting in Nice and stumbled upon the perfect apartment in a perfect location and right within my price range. The apartment lease document is 13 pages long, so I provided a copy of the lease as well as the government required renters insurance document.

In my research, I read one post from a man who had been rejected for the long-stay visa. He had given the name and address of a hotel to show proof of accommodation. That is NOT what they want to see and was rejected. Others have submitted an email from a landlord and later were asked for additional documents – passport copy and utility bills from the landlord.  If you go this route, provide tons of supporting documents up front to avoid any unnecessary delays. 

14.) Long-Stay French visa processing fee.

The current fee is $116 USD and payable in cash only. Check the consulate website for updated fee information.

15.) If you intend on staying in France for more than 6 months: One residence form duly filled out (upper part only).

This form is a little confusing, so I asked the French translator for help. Basically, you just need to provide your parents’ full names and birthdates. The rest of the form is completed by the authorities in France once you’re approved.

Unfortunately, the consulate woman tossed my form in the trash, claiming that it’s not necessary for anything less that one year. So, I really don’t know!

Update: The French government requires this form only if you’re staying in France for more than one year. The Chicago consulate website has now been updated to reflect that information. 

16.) A self-addressed prepaid EXPRESS MAIL envelope (please do NOT stick the mailing label on the envelope).

The Long-Stay French Visa Consulate “Interview”

I receive my new (restricted) passport in just 4 business days and immediately make another appointment with the Chicago consulate for 10:00 on a Monday morning. Sadly, my short flight from Minneapolis to Chicago on Sunday is delayed 20 hours (seriously).

So, I buy a ticket on a 5:00 am flight on Monday morning and make it to Chicago just in time.

Long-stay French visa
Chicago Midway – almost there!

Waiting patiently for my turn, I observe/critique the others in the waiting area. One young woman has her documents in a flimsy, well-worn folder, the kind junior high kids might use. I mock her silently as I thumb through my documents that resemble a graduate-level dossier.

Ditching the dossier

Finally, at a little past 10:00, the stern-looking Visa Woman finally calls my name. She looks at my passport and asks for my documents. As hard as I try, I can’t fit my beautiful dossier through the small slot underneath the bullet-proof glass.

She gives me an impatient look and snaps, “Take everything out. Step over to that counter if you need more time.”

So, I rip apart my dossier and stack the mound of papers in order with the “Table of Contents” right on top. I slide the pile through the small slot where my “Table of Contents” immediately lands in the trash bin. Then she begins quickly and efficiently thumbing through the stack of paperwork.

She questions my intended length of stay and I humbly request the maximum allowed on a restricted passport (early July?). I assure her I’ll be back in late June to get my passport renewed.  There are no questions about my passport probation. She’s just too busy to care.

Lastly, she fingerprints and photographs me and our brief chat (“interview”) through bullet-proof glass is quickly over. I skip out of the building and up Michigan Avenue feeling such a huge sense of relief!

Now all I can do is wait. And pray. And drink wine.

Nine days later….nothing in the mail. More wine.

Ten days later….I pack my bags and stalk the mailman. And then I receive an email from the French consulate apologizing for a delay due to “technical issues”. Pour some more wine.

Long-stay French visa
Wine therapy

Finally, sixteen days after my interview, my passport arrives in the mail with a long-stay French visa valid through July 1st. Best I could hope for…all things considered!

And eight hours later, I’m on a flight into my new life!

 (Check with the consulate in your area for their specific requirements for the long-stay French visa. Click here for a link to all required documents for the Chicago consulate.)

The Rest of the Story (March 2018):

A few weeks ago, I made a trip to Marseille to apply for a new 10-year passport. Since I was on “passport probation”, I was required to request my new passport in person from the Consulate General. After a brief interview, my application was processed and I received my brand new full-validity passport in about a week.

My original long-stay French visa was issued for nine months which was the maximum allowed on my restricted passport. Next month I’ll make a trip back to the US and go through the entire process again.

(Updated article right here…”How to Apply for a French Long-Stay Visa – Part Deux”.

(Passport Photo credit: LucasTheExperience via / CC BY-NC-ND)


(Visited 7,002 times, 2 visits today)
Please share!

25 Replies to “How to Apply for a Long-Stay French Visa (& not screw it up!)”

  1. Colleen Bentson says: Reply

    Love your stories Andrea! Any time your ready for a little vacation to Spain let me know. I have a great place near the beach in El Puerto Santa Maria. Come and visit for a cheap vacation whether we are here or not, the place is yours????

    1. Thanks, Colleen! I’d love to visit Spain sometime – very soon! Thanks for the offer!

  2. OMG! I love the Table of Contents ends up in the bin. That’s too funny! Glad to hear it’s all sorted and you’ll be back soon….for some real wine. Bravo!

    1. I was SO prepared, and she just didn’t appreciate it! Can’t WAIT to get back to some wonderful French wine and a little sunshine!

  3. good for you hanging in there.
    And thanks for the advice about messing with your passport!!! BAD GIRL
    ALways welcome in Bend

    1. It was a long, tough fight and I’m SO glad it’s finally over! Now it’s time to settle into my new life in Nice. Come visit sometime! Hopefully, I’ll make it to Bend soon!

  4. Reading this gives me such anxiety! LOL. We just went through the process in Los Angeles – less than 2 weeks ago, still waiting on our fate – and our VFS process was slightly different from this but just as intense and filled with so much paperwork! My husband has already quit his job and we’ve given notice on our American apartment and are already paying for a French house so I’ve been crossing fingers and toes that they say yes. Hope your new French life in Nice has been wonderful!

    1. Hi Vizzy – Please don’t let my stupid mistakes cause you any more anxiety than you’ve already got! The process has changed slightly from when I went through this nightmare last fall. I went through VFS in Chicago recently and the intake process was kind of a mess (they had just transitioned), but I had my visa within 7 business days! I hope everything works out for you two and you create a wonderful new life in France!

      1. We got ours Monday! I was so relieved and happy I cried. LOL. Now we are scrambling to pack and get the dog papers in order (we are bringing our two chihuahuas) because we leave in less than 2 weeks. Our next thing to figure out is getting the Carte de Sejour on that side. If you have any tips or info on that I would love to hear it.

        1. Hi Vizzy – Congratulations on your visa! I wish I could give you tips on your Carte de Sejour but I’m still going through the process myself! One tip I can share – mail your paperwork into the Prefecture as soon as you get to France. It’ll take some time to get your appointment scheduled. And then relax – it’ll all work out!

  5. Can you send me your Letter promising not to engage in any employment in France (signature certified by a notary public).? Im having problems with this. .. thank you

    1. Hi Monica – Sure, I’ll send it to your email. Hope it helps!

  6. Sarah Crawford says: Reply

    Hi Andi! I’m currently in the process of applying for a long-stay visa and was wondering if you could answer my questions.. Do I need to provide any proof of flights? And do you know if I need to book roundtrip and show proof of my return to the U.S.? I will be applying at the Miami consulate and theres nothing about this but I need to figure out if it’s okay to just book a one-way now and book a return flight while abroad. Also, do you know if it’s okay if I fly into another country in Europe rather than France? I’m probably going to stay a week in the Netherlands before my 6 months in France.
    I appreciate any insight and advice you can give me!

    Merci beaucoup!

    1. Hi Sarah,
      I just provided proof of my outbound flight into France and they seemed very disinterested in it and tossed it aside, so I don’t think it’s required. If you plan to fly into the Netherlands prior to your arrival in France, you will clear immigration in your first point of entry into the EU – so Amsterdam (I’m assuming) will stamp your passport. When you fly into France, find the immigration office at the airport and get them to stamp your passport too.

      I hope this helps and best of luck in your planning! Let me know if you’ve got other questions!

  7. Hey Andi, I’ll be applying for the long stay visa next month, I want to spend 6 months in France and 6 months in Portugal, my question is if I get approved for 1 yr France visa I’m allowed to visit and stay in other EU countries correct?

    1. Hi Zoe, Congratulations on your decision to make a move! Your question is a valid one and I’m honestly not sure of the correct/legal answer. You could probably get away with it, but I’m not sure that it’s entirely legal. When you apply for a one-year visa, you need to show proof of accommodation in France for the duration of the visa. Of course, there are always ways around that but the intent of the visa is that you’ll be spending one year in France. You’re free to travel to other Schengen countries but I’m not sure that 6 months in Portugal would be considered “traveling” there. So, I think you’d probably get away with it if this is just a “one-year plan”, but if you choose to renew your one-year French visa, you’ll run into problems. Best of luck to you and I hope you make it work!

  8. Could you please post the wording of your letter promising not to work? Thanks.

    1. Hi Dave,
      The first time I applied, I kept it simple and very brief: “I _____________ promise that I will not work for a French company while residing in France.”
      Signed, dated, and notarized. I believe VFS also had me sign a “no work” statement when I applied at the Chicago office.

      Just keep it brief and to the point. Best of luck!

  9. Thanks for the reply, I was wondering about the “for French Companies” part. Was that broad enough for them? I am a small business owner and while I am planning on being on “vacation” for 6 months. I will occasionally have to take phone calls or troubleshoot problems. I was worried that if I scoped it in narrow like you suggested they might think i am trying to be tricky. Sounds like it wasn’t a problem for you though. Did they ask “well you won’t work for German companies while in France either…right?” (For the record all my clients are local west coast Canadians and there is no competition whatsoever with French firms)

    1. I think their main concern is that you’re not taking a job away from a French person. A friend of mine in Nice works for a company based in the Netherlands and has no problem on a long-stay visa. (I’ll also send you an email attachment with a longer French version of this statement. I’m not able to copy/paste here.)

  10. Hi Andi,
    So glad to have found you on this blog. And congrats on renewing your French visa! I am applying for my long term visitor visa right now and having quite some issues with the application. There is one section in the form, “Your Plans” and you have to select the reason for the long term visa. It is broken down into 2 dropped down menu. (1) Did you select select Familial or Private Establishment (Adult) in the Your Plans section and (2) Did you select Visitor in the Main Purpose of Stay section? I am visiting France to study a bit of the language and to travel. If I select “Study” as Your Plans, I am automatically guided to the Student Visa procedure and I’m really just looking for a long term visitor visa. Also, I work part-time remotely so not sure if I should fill in the form with “unemployed” or “liberal profession”. Any feedback on what you have selected will be very helpful. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Annie,
      Best of luck in your visa application! It’s not easy but it’s SO worth the effort!
      Regarding your specific questions:
      1.) This one I honestly don’t remember (sorry, it’s been a while!).
      2.) Definitely select visitor since you’re applying for a Long-Stay Visitor Visa (Visa D). As you discovered, even though you plan to study, that’s not your main purpose and there are strict educational requirements if you go that route (Student Visa).

      The Long-Stay Visa prohibits working for a French company or taking a job away from a French person. If you mention that you work part-time remotely, make sure you specify that your employment doesn’t fall under one of these categories. They’re mainly looking for the proof that you’ve got the funds to support yourself.

      I hope this helps! Best of luck in your exciting future!

  11. Question for all… our family of four has appointments in San Francisco in two weeks. As I fill out our applications on the French Visa (official govt site) Can our whole family be added under my account our does everyone need their own account?


  12. Hello, Andi,

    Did you end up receiving your sought-after 10-year visitor visa? Why did you have to make a trip back to the US for the application. My family and I followed a similar process in June and are now residents of Bordeaux. I too have visitor status and plan to apply for citizenship on day 1,826. I too had difficulty with the whole bank account/apartment catch-22, but mischief now managed, my aim is never to have to leave. Did you receive your carte vitale? I’d love to chat should you feel like reaching out via email. Also, I don’t get out of Bordeaux much, so should you find yourself here, drop a note. I’d love to meet in person.


    1. Hi April,

      I haven’t received my 10-year visa but I do plan to apply for it sometime before the usual 5-year mark and will hope for the best!

      A few years ago, I was required to go back to the US to reapply because my first visa was just a 9-month visa due to my big screw up with my passport. (Never peel old visas out of your passport! Big mistake.) So, I had to go through the initial application process all over again, which also puts me a year behind on the quest for the coveted 10-year visa.

      The quest for my carte vitale is still ongoing! I initially dragged my feet on jumping into that application process but now I am in the game! They have received my initial documents but then sent me a letter requiring more docs, which I’ve sent but haven’t confirmed that they’ve received. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one!

      Definitely feel free to contact me via email and we can chat!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.