The struggle of obtaining a French long stay visitor visa..
My decision to move to France has been one of the most exciting yet difficult decisions I have ever made. Before our wedding this past summer, my husband and I were in a long distance relationship while I was living in Los Angeles and he was living in France. Upon my arrival in France we researched all options possible for us. We found that the best option for me was a French long stay visitor visa which would allow me to stay in France legally for up to a year with option to change my visa to a spousal visa and/or residence card once we were married.
As we began digging deeper into what it takes to obtain this visa we ran into a TON of questions. With so much information on the internet it was hard to determine what was the best route to take and what information was correct/updated. Being that I lived in Los Angeles at the time it was important that I followed the guidelines listed for my particular city on the Los Angeles french consulate website The website was helpful giving a thorough understanding of each document that is required to apply.
My first bit of advice would be to start gathering all your information well ahead of time. Check the internet, look at multiple blogs and google, google, google to answer any and all of your questions for what visa is right for you. Use as many resources as possible to get all of your questions answered.
What kind of visa should I get?
The Visa that we decided was best for our situation was the French Long stay visitor visa. This visa would give us the chance to be together in France legally until we marry. However, the downfall to this visa is not being able to work. If you are someone who needs to work during your stay and will not have additional financial support you would need to into other visa options.
What is a French long stay visitor visa?
The French long stay visitor visa allows visa holders to reside in France for more then 90 days and up to 12 months.
Everyone needs a visa in order to stay in France over 90 days unless you are a citizen of the following countries: Andorra, Austria, Estonia, Ireland, Monaco, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Finland, The Netherlands, Latvia, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Liechtenstein, Poland and Sweden. If you are not a citizen of the countries listed you will require a visa.
When should I apply for my visa?
Start to plan your trip as early as possible. You can apply for your visa no earlier then 3 months before your departure date. I suggest once the 3 months until your departure date hits start the application process as soon as possible.
What do I need for my visa application?
As listed on the Los Angeles french consulate website here are the documents you’ll need to apply for your visa. I provided my documents according to the Los Angeles french consulate website, but please make sure you follow the list on the website that applies to you as there are small changes in documents needed depending on where you are in the US.
Provide all original documents and make AT LEAST one copy of everything ( I made two of everything just in case), the visa department will not make any copies for you.
Original Passport: (make sure your passport has at least two blank pages, it must be valid for at least 3 months after your return to the US and also needs to be delivered less then a year ago.)
Proof of residency in your consulates jurisdiction: I provided my California ID as well as an electric bill with my name and address.
Processing fee: I anticipated a processing fee charge of a little more then it actually was based on what I read on other blogs. At the end of the appointment I was charged $100- The visa department will only accept visa or master card.
Application form: Make sure you indicate your departure date as well as the number of months you wish to stay in France.
Passport photograph: I got these done in a passport photo booth for just $5 bucks, I’ve been able to use individual photos for multiple things, having a few of these laying around has come in handy!
Long Stay or Temporary Stay form: Make sure you check off the right choice that applies to you, long stay and temporary stay are different.
OFII: This form is in French, I had my husband help me fill this out. It’s not too hard to understand but make sure you use a translator to make sure it is filled out correctly or have some help. All you need to complete is the upper half of the form.
Statement of Purpose: I provided about a page long statement of purpose. At the top of the page I provided all of my passport information- my full name, passport number, date of issue, date of expiration, authority, date of birth, and place of birth. I also included the date and began the statement with “To the honorable consul Embassy of France” In the statement I gave the dates of potential stay in France as well as a short back story on our relationship and our future plans and reasoning for my visit to France. I also included my plans during my stay. Attached to the statement of purpose I included a table of contents for the documents that would be found along with the statement of purpose and the order. I also had my statement of purpose notarized on the last page.
Signed letter promising not to engage in any paid or commercial activity while in France: This was pretty straight forward, I typed up a letter that stated I would not participate in any paid or commercial activity signed it and had it notarized.
Proof of financial means: This is where it got a little tricky, we were unsure of what was going to be considered “enough money” The French consulate basically wants to know that you have enough money to take care of all your financial needs during your stay without participating in any unauthorized work. I was unable to dictate what the exact amount of money I would need in order to be approved. So just to be safe I provided as much financial proof and security as possible. Here’s a list of the documents I provided for this section of the application.
My last two monthly bank statements showing my monthly balance as well as proof of the means in my savings account.
My husbands last 2 monthly bank statements along with his professional basketball contracts providing his yearly salary for the last two years.
My husbands parents were gracious enough to help us through this process just to make sure we were completely covered and we provided their last 2 monthly bank statements as well.
11. Proof of travel insurance abroad: I bought travel insurance with Insubuy for a total of $400-50,000 with no deductible, which is exactly what is required for your application.
Proof of accommodation in France: My husband provided his official apartment lease and rental agreement signed by both parties, a copy of a recent utility bill with his name and address, and a copy of his french ID. We also provided an official invitation from my husband inviting me to France with a little back story on our relationship and future plans as well as his promise to provide financial support as well as housing during my stay (financial proof attached).
A self addressed FedEx air bill and envelope: I went to the FedEx print and ship center nearest to me and showed them what was written on the french consulate website just to be sure I got exactly what I needed. They provided me with a self addressed envelope and sticker to put on the envelope so the visa department could mail the passport back to me.
When you are ready to make your appointment make sure you triple check that you have all your paper work in order, even at times when I thought I had everything complete there was still something missing, you will eliminate stress by taking your time through this process and not rushing if you prepare well in advance. I bought myself a folder big enough to fit ALL my paper work in to keep myself organized. In separate sections I had my documents, and my husbands documents.
Once you have all your paper work in order, it is time to make an appointment.
Every visa applicant must apply in person and must make an Appointment on the French consulate website designated for your state.
When will I know if my visa it is approved or not?
According to the French consulate website it states that you will get your approval within 14 days of your appointment. My husband and I began the countdown the day I left the visa office thinking we had to wait an entire 14 days. Surprisingly a week after my appointment I received a FedEx envelope at my front door. Confused as to why it had came so early I quickly opened the envelope to find my passport and OFII form inside. Inside of my passport was my French long stay visa along with the photo that was taken during my visa appointment! I was approved and off to France to be with my love!
Do I have to buy a plane ticket beforehand?
I purchased my plane ticket to France beforehand and provided the reservation along with my documents even though it wasn’t listed on the consulate sight.
Can you change the dates of your stay after your application has been turned in?
No, once your visa application is turned in you cannot make any changes, if any changes were necessary you would have to resubmit a new application.
Is the application fee refundable if the visa is not approved?
No, the application fee is non refundable.
I hope this was helpful, please leave me a message in the contact section if you have any additional questions, I would love to help!
Check out my next post on how to validate your visa after your arrival in France!