[Sponsored article] When living in or visiting France on a long-term basis, most ‘non-EU’ citizens (i.e from the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Australia and since 2020, Britain, too) must obtain permission to stay.
Fab French Insurance, the Insurance Broker for the English-speaking community living in France, has this advice:
How Do French Visas Work?
For stays over 90 days, you’ll need either one of these long-term visas:
- Long-stay one year visa, known as the VLS-TS, or “Visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour” in French.
- Long-stay temporary visa, known as the VLS-T, or “Visa de long séjour temporaire.” This visa only applies for stays between three to six months.
Whatever the planned length of the stay, it must be scheduled in advance and from your country of residence.
➡️ Pro tip: If you intend to live in France for more than a year, you should think about applying for a residency permit.
Documentation Required for a Visa Application
Given the various types of visas available and the massive differences in terms of process for each, applying for a long-term visa can quickly turn into a nightmare! Thankfully, the French government has created a website called France-visas. The website is in English and helps you find out which type of visa you need to apply for. France-visas also provides details on both the process and the paperwork that needs to go with your visa application.
It is often said that Brexit has taken its toll and complicated the application process. It’s true that it actually has had an impact on citizens from all countries, with application rules also being tightened for U.S. citizens. For example, some types of visa applications require an insurance policy to be taken out and the requirements for that insurance are now being applied with more severity than ever before.
Some documentation is required for all applications, regardless of the types of visas, including:
- ID photographs
- Private health insurance
And some documentation may be required, such as:
- Travel documents
- Proof of financial situation (usually bank statements)
- Proof of residency / accommodation in France (rental agreement, hotel/gite reservation, proof of homeownership, etc.)
Applications may vary according to the type requested. But, most of the time, the following checklist is relevant:
Where to Apply for Your Visa?
For long term visas, you can’t apply more than three months before the scheduled departure date, but you don’t want to wait too long as the process can take time. Fab French Insurance usually advises that you apply at least one month prior to departure.
The application can be made directly online as well via the France-visas website and you can even save your application and resume it at a later date.
Here’s the link to the official website for visa applications.
You then need to schedule an appointment at your local VFS center (the name of the contractor might be different, for example it is VFS in the U.S. and VLS in the U.K.). Depending on where you are located, how busy your local center is and also the current geopolitical situation (for example, the crisis in Ukraine has made all applications from Ukraine a priority and this has led to other applicants experiencing delays), appointments can be obtained anything from the next day or a month later, so make sure you factor this variability into your schedule.
How to Prepare for the Appointment with the Visa Application Center
Remember that your passport is an important part of the application process and that your passport will be held and will not be returned until you come back to the visa center. Assuming all goes well during the appointment, you should then get your visa within one to fifteen working days. The delay can vary. However, the same factors that influence the time taken to get an appointment also influence the delays involved in providing the physical visa and handing back your passport. This means that you could potentially be without your passport for nearly three weeks: be aware of this and factor it into your plans.
➡️ Pro tip: even if you intend to apply for residency, the first step will be to get a one-year visa (VLS-TS), so make sure your passport’s expiration date is after the intended arrival date: + 15 months.
Another common source of rejection during the appointment is the medical insurance requirement. If this doesn’t fulfill the criteria or if you can’t provide any required supporting documentation, your application will be rejected.
The requirements are not that complex when it comes to insurance and a copy of your insurance certificate should be enough.
➡️ Pro-tip: most successful applications have the following elements in common:
- The certificate shows coverage for at least the duration of your visa and, if this is not possible (or it ends before the visa), then the certificate should mention that the insurance policy is scheduled for automatic renewal.
- It mentions that you’re covered for medical expenses and hospitalisation (not just hospitalisation).
- The medical coverage should be at least €30,000.
- The certificate should not mention any medical exclusions.
- It covers your public liability in the EU and includes a repatriation plan.
Also, don’t forget that your visa must be ‘activated’ once you get it and there is a fee for this. This can be done online directly on the Ministère de l’Intérieur (the equivalent of Department of Homeland Security in the U.S.) website.
👉 Five Steps to a Stress-free Visa Application
- Gather all the required information – e.g. passport, ID photographs, supporting documents and proof of medical coverage.
- Complete the online application form on France-visas.
- Book your appointment with the visa application center (details on the website).
- Your passport will be withheld until your application is confirmed (or denied).
- Collect your visa and don’t forget to pay the visa validation fee on the official website.
As they say in France, “une image vaut mieux que mille mots” (a picture is worth a thousands words). So, here’s a quick summary of the process:
If all of this still seems confusing, our friends from Fab French Insurance & HCB French Connection offer assistance with the entire visa application process and carte de séjour paperwork; these types of services are well worth considering as it will leave you free to get on with organizing the more enjoyable aspects of your stay in la France!
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