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

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 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 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:


Prerequisites


Application form – printed, signed, and dated. Also, bring an extra copy of this application form.

Passport photo – They are very particular about photos. Mine photos 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.

Updated info:

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.


Accommodation


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.

Update June 2019: (please verify with VFS – this information was provided by a current applicant)

“New info on the VFS system: VFS told me on the phone that if I’m applying for a long-stay visa (longer than 90 days), all of the documentation like “proof of accommodation” and travel insurance only has to cover the first 90 days! (Maybe that’s not true for all nationalities, but it’s at least true for US citizens.)”

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.


Other


Health Insurance Policy – valid for the 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 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.

Applying for a long-stay French visa
Visa application dossier

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.

Door #1

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.

Door #2

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.

Door #3

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!


                                                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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79 Replies to “How to Apply for a French Long-Stay Visa – Part Deux”

  1. I’m happy we applied for a long stay Visitor Visa D in June of 2017 in San Francisco. It went very smoothly and we each received our visa in 3 weeks. I understand the whole French Visa process had being unified across all consulates in the US. We are happily applying for the Carte de Sejour in Nice this August and will be looking To put down longer roots in the near future. Enjoy your blog.

    1. Thanks, Cicely! The whole process would’ve been smooth for me too if I hadn’t been so stupid the first time around! 🙂 Live and learn – and educate others! Hope to see you around Nice this summer.

      1. Hi Andy!

        So I have my appointment on Thursday for my long stay visa and I realize my proof of accommodation might not be enough. Close friends have invited me to stay and provided me with a welcome letter, a bunch of official tax information as well as utilitiy bills proving their residence. Is this enough? I’m hoping this as well as my proof of funds (over 800k in liquid accounts) will be enough. I’m super nervous and heard VFS is a nightmare so that’s not helping!

        1. Hi Denise – It sounds like the information your friends have provided should be adequate but you also want to provide copies of their passports (and visas, if applicable). I can’t speak for the French authorities, but I would assume that your financial situation should lean heavily in your favor. VFS was a bit of a nightmare when I was there in June (Chicago), but they had just done the transition the previous week so I think they were still working out some kinks in the system. The actual approval process was quick and painless – I had my passport back within 7 business days! Good luck to you and please let me know how it goes!

          1. Oh, yeah he sent me a copy of his passport as well! It’s kind of odd that the checklist doesn’t have the FBI check listed on it but everything I’ve read says I need this. I’ll let you know how it goes and fingers crossed it’s not a nightmare! I booked a flex ticket for October 5th 🙂

          2. The murky information on the FBI background check stressed me out at the last minute! I got by with just the MN state criminal records check but I’m not sure that’s standard. Best of luck!

    2. Great Article. I received my longstay Visa but now it’s a little confusing what I do to renew next year. This is my second longstay visa as I came back early last time for a job I couldn’t refuse so I don’t know what happens at renewal time and what are the requirements. I know they will send me a doctor’s appointment at some point… I’ve been in France for almost 4 months and it was very hard to find an apartment because although I gave the resources I am not allowed to work on my Visa it was very frustrating. How were you able to sign a 3 year lease? Thank you! I love nice. Have a wonderful time!

      1. Hi Tina. Congratulations on your return to France! It’s an amazing place! Regarding your renewal question – you’ll need to submit your paperwork for renewal at your local Prefecture within 2 months of the visa expiration date. I just went through the process last month and no medical screening was required. Some Prefectures now have an online appointment system on their website and should also have a list of required documents. I agree – the apartment search is very difficult. I was able to sign a 3-year lease only with a “frozen account” where I deposited the equivalent of one year’s rent. In addition, I still pay rent every month. That frozen account security for the homeowner since French rental laws favor the tenant’s rights. I feel really fortunate to have found a great apartment in my price range. Enjoy your time in France!

        1. Wow! I didn’t even get that far every real estate agency I walked into asked me if I had a job and after that it was the end of discussion. You are so fortunate! I will check to see the requirements renew next year hopefully I can renew again. I lived with my French teacher and his family for a month. Now my French teacher’s condo is free so I’m renting it with my dog. I moved in this weekend. I’m so happy .and grateful after spending a few months in a hotel! Everything works out perfectly but it was a lot! Thank you for this information!

          1. That’s great that everything is working out for you. It’s not an easy move and sometimes it feels like putting together pieces of a puzzle to create a new life. Now you and your dog can exhale and enjoy France! Best of luck to you!

  2. My husband and I have our appointment in Chicago at the end of this month….this information was very helpful, thank you!

    1. Great! Thanks for reading and best of luck with your appointment! I’m sure you’ll love your new life in France and the paperchase will be worth it in the end!

  3. Thank you so much for this info! I’m currently getting ready to apply in San Francisco and saw that everything is changing. Your posts have been so helpful! Hopefully it all works out!

    1. Hi Chrissy – I’m so glad you found this post helpful. I’ll be updating the information after my appointment with VFS and will also add info on the paperchase required once you get to France. Best of luck in San Francisco and in your new life in France!

  4. Hey Andi! I’m in the process of applying for the long-stay visa in order to live in Lille, but I still have a few questions that you may be able to help with.

    -“Once these centers are open, applicants will be able to apply for visas at the VFS center of their choice.” Does that mean that I can now schedule an appointment at any of the consulates, regardless of my residence (I’m an NC resident)? My consulate would be Atlanta, but I’d prefer to apply in DC if possible.

    -I’m struggling with securing housing in Lille since I can’t seem to sign a lease without a visa or French bank account, and I’m not sure if I’ll be approved for the visa without a signed lease. Is it possible to be approved for the visa if I book a hotel, hostel, or airbnb for a month or so and show that I have plenty of savings, a regular income, and have done extensive research on the available apartments in Lille?

    1. Hi Doug – It seems with this new visa system, there are a lot of questions and few answers. I’ll do my best to help!

      Regarding your first question – Yes, eventually you’ll be able to schedule an appointment with any VFS center. I misread that at first and scheduled an appointment at the DC VFS office since it was open first. I got some clarification on that and ended up canceling and rebooking in Chicago. I believe only AFTER all consulates have switched to VFS, that new rule will apply.

      Housing situation – That’s a tough one…a chicken vs egg thing. I was fortunate enough to spend 2.5 months in Nice getting all of that handled prior to applying. I signed a lease without my long-stay visa – no one was concerned about that. I also opened a bank account in France without a visa, but it was difficult. I’d suggest opening an account through HSBC in the US and then transferring the account to France. Most people can’t spend months in France organizing everything and end up booking something through AirBnb, but I think they probably will require more than just a one-month lease. Another option – if you know someone who lives there, they can write a letter verifying that you’ll be staying with them. You may also need to provide a copy of their passport and utility bills if you go that route.

      Hope this helps a little. Definitely try to contact VFS directly if possible. They’re not easy to reach but keep trying! Best of luck!

      1. Thanks Andi! If I’m living in France but working remotely for a US company, would I have to pay any income tax in France (I know I’ll still pay US income taxes)? Just trying to figure out how this would impact me financially. Thanks!

        1. Hi Doug! Unfortunately, I can’t really provide any sound advice on the tax situation because I haven’t had to file yet AND I don’t have any income right now. Here’s a good resource that may be able to answer your tax questions: https://www.taxesforexpats.com/france/us-tax-preparation-in-france.html
          They specialize in situations like yours and hopefully, they can shed some light on the tax implications. Best of luck!

      2. Hi Andi,
        Thanks for your previous reply.
        I see here that you mentioned a written letter from someone who lives in France willing to host you. Do you know if this letter has to be official/approved by the Mairie?

        Thx

  5. Hi Andi,
    Your blog has been so incredibly helpful and inspiring! My husband and I, along with our 2 daughters (ages 9 and 12) are at the beginning of a travel year abroad. We live in California and we are now in Ireland, all set to spend the Fall semester in the UK (as Americans we are able to be there less than 6 months so that created some ease in terms of Visas). Our plan has always been to spend the second portion of our trip France (Jan to June). We recently secured a place to live near Arles and a school for our girls. However, and this is a big however, while at one point we had read that if there is good reason to apply for a long-stay visa from outside your home country it is OK to do so, we are now reading conflicting reports. My question for you: in all of your research, have you ever heard of US citizens applying for France long-stay from outside of the US? Again, thank you for all the hard work and passion you have put into this blog!!
    Warmly, Vipassana

    1. Hi Vipassana,
      That’s a very good question and I don’t have the official answer but I can share my experience. Last Fall I applied for a long-stay visa and, because of my 1-year restricted passport, they only issued a 9-month visa that was “not eligible for Carte de Sejour”, meaning I had to go back to the US to reapply. After speaking to a local agency that specializes in expat issues, I went to the local Prefecture here in Nice to try to reapply locally. I stood in line for 3 hours and was then advised that they ONLY issue Visa D (long-stay visa) in your home country. So, based on my experience I seriously doubt you’d be able to do it here in France.

      Best of luck to you and please let me know if you’re able to accomplish this in France! Thanks for reading – I really appreciate it!
      Andi

  6. Hi Andy,
    You said “PRINT THE DOCUMENT LIST AND ATTACH IT TO THE PAPERWORK” not A document list but THE document list. Where did it come from? Was it something that comes up during the application wizard?
    Ron

    1. Hi Ron,
      Once you’ve completed your visa application on the Wizard and have submitted it, the Wizard responds with your required document list. That’s the one you should print and attach to the top of your pile of papers. Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions or if anything else is unclear. Thanks and best of luck!

  7. Andi,

    Thanks for your reply about the Document List. The problem with wizards is you don’t know what the next screen will be until you get there and there is no going off track for special cases. Hopefully, this one will at least allow you to back track or restart in the event you find yourself going down the wrong path.

    So, you are saying that after using the wizard, you make an appointment with VFS and no longer go to the consulate at all, right? I was also counting on using a Letter of Intent. I wonder if VFS doesn’t care about that and throw it away. It seems more robotic to me.

    Ron

    1. Hi Ron,
      Yes, I went off-track the first time I used the Wizard and then just started over. I actually ended up with two applications on file and worried it might cause confusion but luckily it didn’t.
      Correct regarding your VFS question – depending on which consulate you’re dealing with. I was using the Chicago consulate, which cut over to VFS on June 5th so after that date, everything was done through VFS. You may want to present your Letter of Intent to VFS or at least keep it handy in case they ask for it, especially if you feel it’ll benefit you. That part seems quite random right now – some people need it and others don’t. 🙂

  8. Hi Andi, thanks for your helpful article! I am planning to retire in France and I have a question about health insurance. You said that you bought yours through Isubuy. I can’t seem to choose one. Which one did you buy? Thanks!

    1. Hi Mary – The policy I purchased was through Insubuy and is called “The Atlas Series”. It’s got the required minimum coverage of $50,000 and zero deductible. When I purchased it last year, the French long-stay visa required health insurance for the entire length of the visa. The revised long-stay visa procedure now requires only 3 months coverage. I hope this helps! Please let me know if you’ve got any other questions!

  9. Thanks for your response!!!

    1. No problem and best of luck to you! I hope it all goes smoothly!

  10. Grace Stafford says: Reply

    Hi Andi!
    I’m trying to get some clarity on how to get a year long visa that isn’t temporary and requires you to come back to the US. My plan is to move to France and become a citizen. Currently, I live in the US. Their website doesn’t have a distinction but I’ve read that if you tell them that you want to move there in the future, that they reject you and that if you tell them you want to go and visit for tourism or culture, they issue a year long visa but without the OFII form and you have to come back to the states and reapply for another year. I’d like to just be able to stay in France. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Grace,
      Interesting question. You could apply for a less-than-1-year visa and you wouldn’t get the OFII form. That’s what happened on my first attempt – I ended up getting at 9-month visa and had to reapply in the US. Maybe apply for an 11-month visa? I’m not sure why you’d want to go back to the US to reapply but I’m sure you’ve got good reasons! Best of luck.

  11. Grace Stafford says: Reply

    No, I don’t want to come back to the US. I want to continue to stay. But I was reading on another persons blog that when they told them they wanted to learn about the culture they gave them the year long visa but without the option to do a residence card. They would have to return to the US to reapply for another year. I don’t want to do that. When I leave, I don’t want to ever have to come back. And I read what they give you depends on what your reason is. That’s why I was wondering if it would be bad to tell them I eventually want to become a citizen. I’m afraid if I say to study the language and culture that they will give me the temporary year without the OFII form and I will be stuck coming back to the states to reapply. Also, I’d love to connect personally. I’m in my forties and Nice is one of the places I’m looking at. I’ve been a travel writer and photographer and I’m about to start my own blog and it’s difficult making friends when you are never in one place for a long time! I’m not asking for anything. 🙂 just an opportunity to chat with a like minded individual on a non public basis. If it shows my email to you and you are willing, just send me an email. Thanks so much for your help!

    1. Grace – I reread your previous comment AFTER my coffee and it made more sense! 🙂 Sorry for the confusion. I’ll email you and we can have a chat!

  12. Andi,
    Do you know anyone who applied for this visa for an entire family? My husband and I are applying, as well as our two boys, 13 and 10 years. We are trying to determine which form on the wizard to fill out for them. The one for minors seems to be for minors traveling without their parents, which is not the case for us..
    So appreciate all these details you have written about!

    1. Hi Courtenay,
      I’m sorry but I really don’t have any experience with family visa issues. I’d suggest trying to contact VFS with your question since it’s quite important to use the correct form. I apologize that I can’t be of more help! Thanks for reading and best of luck with your application and upcoming move!

  13. Hi Andi,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the new VFS system. Do you know anything about the letter from employer requirement? I’m trying to find a template but I’m not sure what exactly the purpose of the letter is. I won’t be returning to my job after my stay in France, so I’m wondering if it’s sufficient to state my salary and the time period that I was employed.

    Any help is much appreciated!

    1. Hi Erin,
      I didn’t provide a letter from my employer since I was unemployed at the time of my visa application. I think if you can prove sufficient funds to cover the length of the visa, you shouldn’t need an employment letter especially if you’re resigning from your job. If you can provide a salary verification and sufficient funds in your bank account, you should be fine. But I’d also suggest trying to contact VFS to verify. Best of luck in your application and in your adventures in France!

  14. Hi Andi,

    Your post about your visa appointment has been so helpful! Thank you for posting this. I do have a question though. I’m going to france for Grad school and will be applying for a student long stay visa as well. Will I need copies of a round trip airplane booking? I read somewhere that this is needed but so many people say different things and it is not on the document list. I had bought a one way ticket to France because I won’t be returning to the US until 2020.

    1. Hi Lauren,
      Congratulations on your upcoming adventure in France! Regarding your flight ticket question – I applied for a long-stay visa twice through the Chicago consulate and was never asked for a round trip flight ticket. I fly stand by (airline perk) and just showed a listing for a one-way flight. And since it’s not on the document list, I wouldn’t worry about it. Best of luck in your application! It’s stressful but life in France is SO worth the visa hassle!

  15. New info on the VFS system: VFS told me on the phone that if I’m applying for a long-stay visa (longer than 90 days), all of the documentation like “proof of accommodation” and travel insurance only has to cover the first 90 days! (Maybe that’s not true for all nationalities, but it’s at least true for US citizens.)

    That makes so much sense!

    I’m a bit less sure I understood correctly on this next part, but they also told me that US citizens don’t need background checks — it sounded like only Colombian citizens do.

    I don’t have my appointment yet, but I’ll comment again with an update to confirm after I actually make it through (or don’t make it through) the process!

    1. Hi Time,
      Thanks so much for the updates. Things are changing all the time! The background check question was quite murky when I applied last year and I managed to get by without the FBI check. Best of luck in your appointment and let me know if you get any updated information! I appreciate it!

    2. Hi Tim and Andi,
      Tim – please do post and let us know after your appointment with VFS, I am curious about (a) proof of accommodations for only 90 days for a long stay Visa (we’re American citizens) and (b) whether or not an FBI check is required. My husband and I will apply for a long stay Visa for a year, staying 2-4 weeks in various locations using Airbnb/VRBO rentals as well as traveling to some other countries and staying in hotels .
      Also – we want to travel to the UK for six weeks during the year we are in France, will that be allowed since the UK isn’t part of the Schengen countries?
      I am also curious as to whether there’s any validity to the comment about not mentioning in our intro letter that we are interesting in moving permanently to France. Is this a bad idea? Our 12-month stay is an exploratory trip to determine exactly that!
      Thanks, all.
      Christine

      1. Hi Christine,
        I’ll definitely try to update this article with any new information. Things are changing all the time! In answer to your questions B – the background check. I didn’t get an FBI background check last year and it was fine. I did an online state background check just in case. Your plan to hop around France sounds a little complicated since you’ll need to be in a set location for your OFII appointment within the first 3 months of arrival. You’ll probably need some sort of “home base” for that. Regarding the mention of permanently settling in France – I was advised the opposite when I went through the process the first time. An expat friend urged me to let the French authorities know that I intended to “fully integrate into French society” (his exact words). I think you should just be open and honest about your intentions. As long as you’ve got the funds to support yourself you’ll be welcomed! Best of luck in your new adventure!

      2. Hi Christine!

        If you search online some more, you should be able to confirm that the UK will let you be there for up to 90 days (out of 180?) without the need for a special visa. (Disclaimer: I don’t know anything about the process of coming back in to France after leaving the Schengen area during the middle of your stay, but I’d be surprised if there’s any problem!)

        As for the documents required:

        Once you fill out your application at france-visas.gouv.fr, it shows you your list of supporting documents. You should check that, but mine didn’t include a background check. (I’ve pasted mine below — though yours could be different if your situation is different at all!)

        I haven’t had my appointment yet, but I did call VFS again and confirm that they do *not* require a background check anymore, at least for a US citizen. I also confirmed that the proof of accommodation only needs to be for the first three months.

        Another notable clarification (which, again, you could confirm by calling): The health insurance requirement is currently a 30,000 Euros minimum, covering four areas: medical assistance, repatriation, deportation, and death.

        Example list of supporting docs, for at least some situations:
        ———–
        Pre-requisites
        — Application form, dated and signed
        — ID photograph
        — If you are not a US citizen, please provide proof of your legal status (green card, visa and I94 or endorsed I20 for students or endorsed DS2019 for interns..).
        — Travel document, valid for at least three months after the planned date of return, issued less than 10 years ago and with at least 2 blank visa pages and photocopy of passport pages

        Purpose of travel/stay
        — A note, dated and signed by the applicant, stating that he/she does not intend to have in France a paid professional activity.
        — Letter from the employer or proof of business ownership / business license (if self employed). If retired, pension certificate. If student, certificate of enrollment.

        Accommodation
        — Proof of accommodation in France: property title deed, tenancy agreement or any other supporting document. Or proof that accommodation will be provided by a person residing in France, or if not, a document explaining the accommodation arrangements planned for France.

        Funds
        — Proof of enough resources to cover all expenses during trip (pension certificate or last 3 bank statements)

        Other
        — Health insurance for the full duration of the stay. The insurance must cover the visa’s entire validity period (1 year at the most)

  16. Another notable bit of info I got from the French consulate: Even if you’re there on a regular visitor visa, they don’t care if you work from France — remotely, for your existing job or self-employed business — as long as you’re not working for French clients. (Though you still might have to pay taxes, depending on some things like how long you’re there. Look into “tax residency”!) Specifically, they said:

    “As long as he is not involved in any remunerated activities in France( getting salary from the French companies), he should be able to work remotely for his US based company. This is applicable only if his visa category does not allow him to legally work in France. “

  17. Hi Tim and Andi,
    Thanks for the very helpful information. So you actually called VFS Global and actually had someone help you? I will give that a try with some other questions!
    Andi, you talked about the “clock ticking” with regard to your Cart de Sejour residency permit, and I have a question about that. If our year in France “counts” towards residency but we go back to the USA after that year to sell our house and get packed up and it takes 6-9 months, would that year with the long stay Visa be counted?
    Also, if we tell VFS that we are just going for tourism for that year, do we still have to register with the OFII within 3 months of arriving in France?
    Lastly, both my husband and I will be taking “early retirement” and will not have a pension document as we aren’t yet taking Social Security and do not have pensions. Would a notarized letter from our companies saying we are retired suffice, as long as we have the financial proof necessary to live there for a year?
    Many thanks, all, this forum is very helpful!
    Christine

    1. Hi Christine,
      In regards to your question regarding the time counting towards residency… I believe they count consecutive years before you can apply for the 10-year residency. I missed out on a full year because I screwed up the first time. With a 9-month break in your visa, I think you’ll face the same situation.
      I’d suggest checking with VFS regarding the OFII question since that seems to change frequently. At one time, the OFII appointment was required for stays of over 6 months…then over 12 months. Please check with VFS for the most current update.
      To prove your “early retirement”, a letter from your companies would be helpful but probably not necessary. As long as you’ve got funds to support yourself and promise to not work for a French company you should be fine.
      Best of luck in your big move!

  18. Kelly Jones says: Reply

    Andi! Your page Is the ONLY helpful one out there… I’m so happy I found it. Thanks so much for helping people during this difficult process.

    I have been accepted to study at University Paris Descartes in the first year of undergrad (License 1) and I thought I had all of my documents for my Long Stay Visa in order, but apparently not.

    My French Long Stay Visa request was just REFUSED by the Washington DC Consulate. Their reason for refusal was very vague; “The information justifying your stay is incomplete and/or unreliable.”

    It is impossible to reach them for questions. I am now in the process of re-applying.

    I’ve read over all your pages and comments/replies… there seems to be some contradicting points, some of which I will revisit to get confirmation about.

    First of all, I am an American citizen (26 years old, Bachelor’s Degree obtained in the US.). An organization called Campus France/Etudes en France (EEF) helped me get into what will be my second “go” at a Bachelor’s Degree.

    Here are my concerns I am hoping to get some answers on:

    1. My program is 3 years long, but I have only applied for the first year of school. On the application, should I select a 1 year visa or a “superior to 1 year” visa?

    2. My acceptance to the University Paris Descartes is my “in” to France. I will be staying with my family friend (host.)

    On the VFS Application Form, #24 asks for the “Name, address, and telephone number in France of the employer/ host establishment/ host family member , etc.” Is this where I put my host’s name and address, or “Université Paris Descartes”?

    3. Lodging/Attestation d’acceuil from the Mairie: On the Application Wizard I read I only need to prove my first 3 months of lodging. However, when I read “upon your arrival in France”, they mention needing proof of living for 1 year AND a “Attestation d’acceuil” which my host has to get from his local Mairie. SO, what’s the deal with this?

    4. Lodging: while staying with my family friend/host for the first 3 months, do I have to show my name on their lease? I won’t be paying rent….

    5. Intended date of arrival in France: does this have to be EXACT? I don’t want to buy my ticket before being granted a visa. I’ve read that people go to their visa appointment with roundtrip tickets…

    6. Traveler’s medical insurance: Do I need it? If so, for 3 months or 1 year? It’s not listed as required anywhere, yet I keep seeing it in blogs. (You and Tim had different answers to this question.)

    Thanks so much, and any advice would be truly appreciated.

    Best,
    Kelly from Ohio

    1. Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Unfortunately, requirements for a Student Visa are slightly different than those for a Long-Stay Visitor Visa (Visa D). I had a friend in Nice who applied for a Student Visa last year so we compared notes and found differences in requirements for medical insurance and financial documents among other things. I don’t want to give you incorrect information since I don’t have personal experience with the Student Visa application, but I’d suggest contacting a specialist – Mon Ami Andy (email: info@Monamiandy.com). They’re based in Nice and handle expat visa paperwork for all visas and all nationalities. I’ve found them to be very helpful in the past and hopefully, they can steer you in the right direction to get visa approval. Best of luck in your new adventure in France!

  19. Would the Embassy accept a hostel (not hotel) booking for the first 3 months?

    How about an Air BnB booking?

    1. Hi Jenna,
      In my research before applying for my visa, I ran across a comment on another blog from a man who had his visa application denied because he provided a hotel as his accommodation. Although every situation is different, I think the French authorities are looking for a sense of commitment to settling in France. I’m not sure that they would find a hostel booking as a commitment. I think an AirBnb booking would be more acceptable, but I honestly can’t speak for the French authorities. So, if you’ve got the choice, definitely choose the AirBnb over the hostel. And try to make sure all of your documents are perfectly in order, especially the financial statements. Good luck! The process isn’t easy but it’s SO worth it!

  20. Hi all,
    Jenna, I called VFS Global last week with a few questions about our long-stay Visa. The woman I spoke with said that Airbnb accommodations are acceptable as proof of accommodation. However, in my research I’ve found that booking on VRBO/HomeAway may be a better option, as most of the listings include free cancellation 30-60 days prior to arrival. I don’t believe Airbnb is as flexible with cancellations. If Visa is denied for any reason, I’d rather have the option to cancel our accommodations.

    1. Hi Christine,
      Thanks so much for the updated information straight from the mouth of VPS. Good to know. I think your suggestion of VRBO or HomeAway is wise. I actually signed a 3-year contract on my apartment BEFORE visa approval. It’s a little stressful so having the VRBO option of cancellation will reduce the stress.

  21. Gretchen Keys says: Reply

    Hi there,

    Thank you for posting all of this! Quick question, the instructions note to bring copies of all of the documents required. Did you keep the copies with the originals, or have to separate sets of documents (original and copies).

    Thank you!
    Gretchen

    1. Hi Gretchen,
      I had a separate set of documents and also electronic copies (just in case).
      Best of luck!

  22. Hi Andi
    I have been researching this subject in detail for months and yours is the best summery yet. Thanks for the advice! My wife and I will be retiring to France(hopefully) in a few years(2021) and had a question about the new procedure forms. As a married couple, would we fill out separate forms and have separate appointments at VFS or would it be a joint affair?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Ned,
      Congratulations on your French retirement plans! I believe you will fill out separate forms since you’ll need a visa for each passport. The VFS appointment question is a good one, but since I’m a “single” I’m really not sure. You may want to verify with VFS directly.
      Best of luck in your new life!

      1. Hi Ned,
        My husband and I, and our two kids, just went through this whole process and Andi’s blog was also immensely helpful to us (thanks Andi!). The website forces you to make separate appointments (at least as of this past May 2019 when we were there). HOWEVER, I suggest going together just in case. For us, my husband arrived with one of our children and I had the later appointment wit our other son. As soon as he arrived and began speaking with the security guard, she went into the office and spoke with someone. They allowed us to run over from the hotel and all of us were seen as a family. The people working the VFS office also seemed to think that it’s ridiculous you can’t make family appointments. So, give it a shot! Worst case, one of you waits downstairs in the lobby or something (depending on where you are doing your appointment of course). Hope that helps a tiny bit!! We are now living happily in Brest, Bretagne.
        Courtenay

  23. Thanks Courtenay! An additional question popped up. I have read where you need to have various documents “officially” translated and/or apostilled. Is this still a requirement. For example birth and marriage certificates.
    Thanks
    Ned

    1. Hi Ned,
      For my initial visa application (done in the US), I didn’t have any documents translated. I did provide an unofficial translation (Google translate) on my financial summary where I also listed everything in USD and EUR. When I submitted my documents for visa renewal (done in France), I had everything officially translated: financial documents, birth certificate, etc. Hope this helps!

    2. Courtenay Bowser says: Reply

      Ned,
      No we did not have anything translated when we applied for our visas in Atlanta and it was never mentioned. However, (we are not there yet) I think, as Andi said, we may have to do that for our renewal later here in France.
      Courtenay

  24. Thanks Courtenay for your blog post! In February 2019, I was issued a long-stay visa for 10 months. Unfortunately, the visa I was issued, I cannot renew in France and must apply for a new Visa in the States. I’ve scheduled an appointment with VFS and currently in the process of compiling my dossier again. This time I’m applying for a year visa, but essentially I would like to be issue a unrestricted visa that allows me to renew my visa in France without returning to France (Carte de Sejour residency permit), since I would like to stay longer than 12 months. Currently, I’m studying French and working remotely. Please let me know if you have any suggestions that could help me get a long-séjour visa that is renewable. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jessica,
      I actually went through the same thing when I first applied for a long-stay visa. In my first attempt, I was issued a 9-month visa based on the expiration date of my passport. At the end of that year, I went back to the US and repeated the process at the Chicago consulate. This time I was issued a one-year long-stay visitor visa (Visa D) and was recently able to renew it in France. If you are issued a one-year long-stay visa (which I assume it what you’re hoping for) you should be able to renew in France. Best of luck! I hope this helps…

    2. Yes That’s the question I have too ,do I need to translate my documents to renew now that I’m here in France. I have a long stay Visa and it’s almost time to renew but I really haven’t been able to find much information on what is needed. I’d like to stay longer.

      1. Hi Tina,
        They recommend starting your renewal application process two months prior to the expiration date of your current visa. Mine expired in late June so I got an appointment in April to submit my documents for renewal. I had everything translated into French for the renewal. Since they were so backed up, they issued me a temporary 6-month extension (through October 31st) and I need to go back to the Prefecture (soon!) to follow up on my application. Some Prefectures now have an online appointment system – Nice just recently switched. Check with your local Prefecture to see if you’re able to schedule an appointment online.

  25. Thank you for this helpful post Andi! My partner and I had our appointment yesterday at the Chicago VFS and everything (seemed to have) went smoothly. The documents we brought along were:

    -Appointment letter (if you’re applying with one or more people it helps to make the appointment together so you can be put on the same ticket when you arrive)
    -Application form with one French regulation size passport photo (35mmx45mm). We didn’t need multiple photos.
    -France-Visas receipt (this was used as our checklist, so we didn’t need to print the other one out).
    -Passport with 2 free pages, plus a copy of the information page of our passport. (The France-Visas receipt made it seem like we needed to make a copy of our entire passport, but they only need the first information page.)
    -A letter of intent/statement of non-work. We used the verbiage from the checklist verbatim and included that we would be staying with a family member in France and that we wanted to explore all that France had to offer.
    -NO letter from an employer because we don’t have one. The employee didn’t even ask or make it seem like this would be an issue
    -Proof of accommodation in France. As we’ll be staying with a family member, the family member had to fill the attestation d’accueil out at her home Mairie, or town hall. This had to be notarized and signed by the mayor, and a 30 Euro tax stamp applied. The ORIGINAL had to be brought in and submitted with the application, as it gets stamped, and sent back to us and we need to bring it in to France for submission upon arrival. We also needed to make a copy of this paper.
    -Proof of resources. It wasn’t completely clear as to what qualifies as adequate resources. We heard everything from needing it to be cash all the way to it being a credit card limit. Ultimately my partner submitted her savings account statements and credit card statements highlighting the limit, and I submitted my investment portfolio statements and credit card statements. None of these seemed to be an issue, but we’ll know once we get our passports back.
    -Health insurance visa letter. There was also confusion as to what needed to be covered and what the deductible needed to be. Ultimately our plan had a $250 deductible that DID NOT APPLY to repatriation, death, etc. So even though our letter said $250, we submitted the table of benefits and highlighted the “not subject to deductible” portion of the table. This seemed to satisfy the employee. Again, time will tell whether or not this is ok. The schengen visa does not actually have a requirement for zero deductible, but says that it varies country to country. Endless searching on Google did not provide an answer as to whether or not France requires it. We were told by VFS that a zero deductible is required, but no source/regulation was provided to back this up.

    A few things of note:

    If you forget to make copies of certain documents, VFS will do it for a fee at $1/copy

    Even though the France-Visas receipt makes it seem like you need to make a copy of everything, this was not what we experienced. We really only needed to make a copy of the attestation and our passport page.

    You can no longer bring in a self-addressed express envelope. Your passport can be delivered one of two ways: Back to the VFS where you applied, or to your home for a $35 overnight fee. It was explained to us that if it goes to the VFS office, they have their own processes in place before you can come pick it up (where you’ll have to wait up to a few hours to get it), and so it’s probably better to just pay the $35 and have it sent straight to you. Unfortunately, if there are multiple people (I’ve heard reports of a family of nine before) in your party, you will need to pay to ship every one INDIVIDUALLY. I have no clue why they cannot put them in the same envelope, but they can’t.

    I would advise against making an appointment until you have ALL of your documents. As in, if you are waiting for something to show up in the mail, there’s a slight chance it won’t get there in time and you’ll miss your appointment. This is what happened to us. We allowed nine days for the attestation to be shipped from France. It didn’t come for 2 weeks. You only get one reschedule for free through VFS’s abhorrent online scheduling tool, and after that you need to pay the $23/pp fee again. We are still trying to fight VFS about this and get our money back because no where in the scheduling tool does it state this policy.

    As stated above, the VFS appointment system is AWFUL. If you have a mac, good luck getting it to work. We were finally able to get it to work after trying multiple emails. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason as to when it wants to work. If you call or email VFS for help, they will just say “yes, our website is not great and has some problems.” When asked if there is a timeline for repair, they have no clue. The unfortunate thing is that you NEED this website to work in order to make an appointment. The representatives have no access to the system. So, try many different computers, many different emails, and many different days if the system is giving you trouble. Aside from that, the VFS call center is generally pretty helpful with inquiries and getting you the answers you need.

    We were quoted 2-3 weeks processing time, with it occasionally taking up to four. When I asked the employee if he had an opinion as to how long he thought it would take, he said probably about a week and a half. We shall see.

    I’ll post an update after we receive our visas (or, God forbid, if we don’t) to confirm that all of this works out ok!

    1. Hi Brandon,
      Wow – thanks SO much for providing such a detailed update on your experience and the current application process. That’s very helpful for others currently going through the application stress!

      Please send an update when you get your visas approved. It’ll give hope to many others!

  26. Just got our visas today! Good for a whole year. All in all, that was a total of 7 days to get them! A lot quicker than estimated! I’ll be writing a post on our website in the coming weeks to go over it a little more in depth. Thank you again so much! If you hadn’t written this, I KNOW it would not have been as easy as it was and the task would have seemed much more insurmountable!

    1. Congratulations, Brandon! That’s great news! Best of luck in your new adventures!

  27. Brandon,

    Thank you for this information! My family is applying for our Visa’s now and made the mistake of applying on the VFS website using a Mac. We have been trying for two days now to schedule an appointment in San Francisco, using multiple different computers (Mac and PC) with no success. Not sure where to go from here, maybe start over using a different email address and a PC?

    Please keep us updated on how things go for you. Such a frustrating process, hoping it all works out!

    Mary

    1. Hi Mary,
      I’ve read posts in recent Facebook groups regarding website issues with VFS. Others are frustrated too. I read one suggestion to try at different times of the day since they open up appointment slots randomly.
      Hang in there! It really is a frustrating process but it’s so worth it once you get to the other side!

    2. Hi Mary,

      I had the same issue. We are a family of 4 and when I would look for an appointment for all 4 of us, nothing would show up. I ended up scheduling an appointment for myself and two daughters separately and then my husband right after and it immediately brought up the appointment times. When we checked in at the SF consulate they didn’t mention it.

      Good luck!
      Gretchen

  28. Gretchen,

    Thank you! We are a family of four as well. First, how old are your children? I read that 12 and younger do not need to apply in person. My girls are 11 and 4.
    When scheduling, we’re you able to select the names you had already added to the system from the VFS site or did you start over?

    Best,

    Mary

    1. They were 10 and 12 and the time, my 10-year-old wasn’t fingerprinted but my 12-year-old was.
      Annoyingly, I had to reenter everything every time I tried. It’s a dreadful site.

  29. Thank you Gretchen! I hope you don’t mind if I reach out with more questions.

    Best,

    Mary

    1. Mary,

      When we were having issues, my partner had to call VFS directly where they established a new account login and password for her. It seems like only a few of the attendants know how to do this so you might need to call a few times. We could not find a rhyme or reason on when the site decides it wants to work. Good Luck!

  30. Finally was able to schedule 4 appointments!
    Another question : when I filled our out application for the French visa on the official French visa website, I did the application under my name and included my husband and children as family traveling with me. Do we all need to fill out our own application on this site?

    Thank you!!!

    1. I did separate applications for everyone in the family.

    2. Mary,

      That’s great you were able to get appointments! Each person needs an application filled out, but you can do this through your application, you just add them to it and it will go through all the details that you just filled out for yourself, but for them. I hope that makes sense.

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