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French Long Stay Visa Application Process

Applying for a visa de long séjour

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In April 2006, as residents of Pennsylvania, my husband and I went to the French Consulate in Washington, D.C., which at that time took walk-in visa applications. (This has since changed - now you need an appointment.) We arrived Thursday at about 9:30am, waited in line for 15 minutes, gave our paperwork to the clerk, and paid the visa fees. Then we waited for about 45 minutes before the interview with the Vice Consul. He asked a few questions (why we wanted to live in France, some clarification on our bank statements) and requested two additional documents: a copy of our marriage certificate and a fax or email from the friend who we will be staying with during our first days in France while looking for an apartment, along with a copy of his carte de résident. The other option would have been to give him a confirmed hotel reservation.

Once he had those documents, he said he would start the application process, which takes 6-8 weeks. If approved, we would need to return to the Consulate to pick up the visas. We would also need to have certified translations of our marriage certificate and birth certificates. These can be certified by a professional translator or, since I speak fluent French, I could translate them myself and have them certified by someone at the Consulate (which means I would need to take the originals).

The Vice Consul also explained the importance, upon arriving in France, of immediately apply for the carte de séjour at our local préfecture. The visa de long séjour does not in fact give you permission to live in France - it just gives you permission to apply for the carte de séjour. According to the VC, many Americans are not aware that if you stay in France for more than 3 months, you are required to have a carte de séjour, not just the visa.

In June 2006, our visas were turned down, with no reason given. Per the Vice Consul's suggestion, we appealed to the CRV (Commission contre les Refus de Visa) in Nantes. We received a letter confirming receipt of our appeal documents a couple of weeks later, and then didn't hear anything for months. I couldn't find much information about this appeal process online, but I did read somewhere that if you don't receive a response within two months, you can assume it was denied. We decided to wait a year and then reapply.

Nearly a year to the day after we appealed our visa denial - and long after we'd given up hope - we received an email from the head of the visa section in Washington, DC, followed by a snail mail letter from the CRV in Nantes, letting us know that we'd won our appeal and could pick up the visas at any time, with no additional fees. (It was in this letter that I learned the word saisine.) We needed to fill out the forms again and submit them along with two more photos and our passports. In theory, we could have even done this by mail, but since we were living in Costa Rica at the time, it wouldn't have been prudent to be without our passports for two weeks.

After a few email exchanges, we made an appointment to pick up our visas in October. The head of the visa section said we were on that day's VIP list and just needed to bring the application forms, photos, passports, and a print-out of his email message (to show at the gate), and the visas would be provided sur-le-champ. The only minor hiccup was that we'd been hoping to stay in Costa Rica until May and move to France in June, and he said that was a bit éloigné, so we had to advance both moves to March.

In October 2007, we went to DC and picked up our visas without a hitch - we were there for no more than half an hour. Next came moving to France and applying for the cartes de séjour.


Living in France Legally
   Preparing your visa de long séjour application
   Applying for a visa de long séjour
   Applying for a carte de séjour
   Renewing a carte de séjour
   Additional notes and tips
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