Last year I applied for a French long-stay visa and I really screwed it up! As a result of my stupidity, I was approved for only a nine-month visa in my one-year restricted passport. However, this long-stay visa also came with restrictions, the most important being it’s not eligible for “Cart de Sejour” – meaning the clock hasn’t started yet on my steps toward French residency. I now have a new ten-year unrestricted passport and I need to reapply for a real, unrestricted French long-stay visa at some point before my visa expires. That time is now!
As I begin researching the French long-stay visa situation I realize in horror that EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED in the nine months since I last went through this!
So, here we go again – How to apply for a French long-stay visa – Part Deux!
Step 1 – Create an account on the France.visas website
The magical “Visa Wizard” will ask you a few questions to determine which type of visa you’ll need. If the long-stay visa (aka Visitor Visa or Visa D) is the answer, the steps that follow will likely apply to you. You’ll need to complete your visa application online, save it, and print it. Once you hit “submit”, they’ll ask whether you need to schedule an appointment or have already made contact with the appropriate consulate. If you need to schedule your appointment, check the list of the consulate contact information provided. (Here is a list of the contact information for each consulate.)
Step 2 – Schedule your appointment to request your French long-stay visa
The biggest change in the past nine months is the outsourcing to VFS Global. This process is currently in transition to be completed by late July 2018.
“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.”
During this transition time, some of the consulates are still accepting appointments directly. Once a consulate has begun outsourcing, the appointment will need to be scheduled directly through VFS. To schedule your appointment through VFS, you’ll need to create an account on their site and pay a fee of $31. Check the consulate contact list for options in your consulate area and the link to create your account on VFS.
Required Documents for your French long-stay visa
Once you’ve submitted your application online and scheduled an appointment, you will receive an appointment confirmation document (print this) as well as a list of required documents (print this too). Here’s the list:
Application form – printed, signed, and dated. Also, bring an extra copy of this application form.
Passport photo – They are very particular about photos. Mine were rejected so I had new ones taken on site at VFS. There is a $12 charge for this service. The photos need to have a neutral face with mouth closed on a white or light gray background. The face should be straight to camera (no head tilt) and ears visible and just the head and upper neck in the photo. Standard US 2×2 size is acceptable. You’ll need one photo for each application plus an extra one (so bring 3 total).
ID showing residency in the consular jurisdiction – in my case I’ll use my Minnesota driver’s license.
Passport + photocopy – Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months past the validity of the visa and have a minimum of two blank visa pages. Keep in mind that the last two pages of your passport are NOT visa pages but are just “endorsement” pages. (This is where I really screwed up last time.)
You also need to provide a copy of the passport information page, preferably a colored photocopy rather than black and white. You do NOT need to provide a photocopy of ALL passport pages – just the information page.
Purpose of Travel
“No work” clause – a signed statement promising that you won’t work for any French companies while on your tourist visa.
Criminal record extract – This requirement is new for the Chicago consulate so I had some questions. I called the VFS helpdesk (347-252-3055) and was actually able to speak to a human being. He confirmed that an FBI background check is not necessary and that a Minnesota criminal record extract is fine. I was able to order it online for $24.95 and received it immediately.
UPDATE: The jury is still out on this question. The people at VFS in Chicago debated whether an FBI background check is required and said they’d submit my application with the state criminal records extract and we’ll find out if it’s approved. The following day I called the French consulate in Chicago – they told me to contact VFS or the French embassy in DC. I called the French embassy in DC and they also referred me to VFS.
Final Answer: I received my visa without the FBI background check!
OFII form – fill out the top part only. The local authorities in France will complete the rest after visa issuance. This form is required only if you plan to stay in France for more than a year.
Letter of Intent – Some applicants have reported that they were asked to write a “Letter of Intent” describing what they plan to do in while France. One applicant I spoke with received this as a part of her “required documents” list. Another was asked to write it during the VFS interview. This letter was part of the original documents I presented to the consulate during my first attempt at a long-stay visa but I was not required to write this the second time around. Be prepared.
Apartment rental contract (or proof of accommodation) – Since I signed a 3-year lease on an apartment in Nice, I’m submitting the entire 13-page contract as proof of accommodation.
Renter’s Insurance – Not required for the visa application but I’m submitting it as a bit of bonus paperwork. (She handed it back to me and didn’t seem impressed by my “extra credit” paperwork.)
Funds – Proof of means of financial support
I printed 3 months of bank statements from both my French and US banks as well as my most recent IRA statement. Last time I submitted 7 months of bank statements and the woman seemed a little annoyed at the overkill. I also created a “financial summary” page translated it into French and converted the funds into Euros.
How much money do they consider “enough” to support yourself? That’s a bit of a gray area but I’ve read that they consider 1500 EUR per month (French minimum wage) as adequate.
Health Insurance Policy – valid for first 3 months, which is a welcome change from last time when they required coverage for the full one-year validity of the visa.
I purchased a health insurance policy through Isubuy last fall and the policy is still valid. The French government has very specific insurance requirements and Insubuy provides a “visa letter” with a breakdown of all these requirements. They specifically look for a minimum coverage of $50,000 with a ZERO deductible.
Most importantly: PRINT THE DOCUMENT LIST (the one that was generated by the Visa Wizard) and attach it to your paperwork. When I called the helpline, the recordings stressed this point. Do not submit your visa application without this document list attached or (they claim) they will reject you immediately.
Step 3 – The appointment
Last time, I arrived at the Chicago consulate with my paperwork neatly arranged in a hardcover binder resembling a graduate level dossier. I nervously waited to hear my name called, and finally got to the bullet-proof window. Unfortunately, the hardcover binder would not fit through the small slot under the bullet-proof class so the woman demanded that I take everything out and slide the papers under the glass.
Valuable tip: Do not use a hardcover binder. Keep all the papers loose and paperclipped into their respective categories with the document list on top.
My appointment at the Chicago consulate last fall was done in 20 minutes. The current VFS system is brand new for Chicago and is a disorganized mess.
I arrive at 2:15 for my 2:30 appointment and a security guard ushers me into a holding cell where ten others patiently wait. Some had been there since 1:00. About 45 minutes later, one of the VFS guys pokes his head in to answer any questions. An hour after my arrival, we move to another holding cell, this one with air conditioning. (We’re finally getting close!) At 3:45 pm, there are still eight of us waiting patiently. By 4:00 pm, six people remain.
Finally, two hours after my scheduled appointment time, I see a person. I enter the small office where the unsmiling woman quickly examines my neatly organized stacks of paper and makes notes on her checklist. I notice her note “FBI background check?” and tell her I had called the helpline to check. She doesn’t have the answer to that burning question and says the consulate will determine whether it is necessary.
Examination step complete, I return to the air-conditioned holding cell. A few minutes later they usher me into another office where they create the UPS documents and take care of all payment. The total comes to $150 ($115 for the visa and $35 for the UPS shipment). The shipping fee includes the UPS envelope so it’s not necessary to bring one with you. The woman estimates the approval time will be 2 to 15 business days.
Finally, I graduate to the final door, the biometrics office, where they take a photo and fingerprints. Then, almost 3 hours after my arrival at VFS, I walk out to a beautiful day in Chicago and head back to the airport.
The Rest of the Story:
I receive an email from VFS 8 business days after my appointment advising me that my passport is in the mail! The following day, the UPS man shows up at my door and I greet him with a kiss! (Yahoo!)
I the end, as frustrating as the paper chase is, I KNOW life in France will be well worth it!
Any other French long-stay visa tips or questions? Please let me know!