March 27, 2010

Moving To France Tutorial - Part Two

By now you've answered the important question in Part One, Why do I want to live in France?, and you're excited to begin your new adventure.
Now on to the fun part.

Step Two: Find Your French Consulate

Americans cannot legally just jump on a plane, land in France and stay forever without some kind of VISA. There are many kinds - student, au pair, working, internship, the Long Stay Visa for non workers, and the recently created Compétences et Talents card - "You may be granted this card if you are likely to make a significant or lasting contribution, through your skills or talents, to France’s economic development or to its intellectual, scientific, cultural, humanitarian or athletic prestige, and directly or indirectly, to that of your own country."

You cannot apply for a visa once you have arrived in France. It must be done from your home country before you depart.
Here is the French government page with the information to determine if you need a visa.

The French Consulate you work with depends upon the state or area you reside in. Each one has its own set of rules, so don't bother trying to follow those of another Consulate. Get on to their website, make a list of the requirements and paperwork, including translations, photos, etc., and get to work!

Boston - Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
New York - New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Bermuda
Washington DC - Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Chicago - North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin
Miami - Florida, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, the US Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos
Atlanta - Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi
Houston - Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana
San Francisco - Alaska, Northern California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Northern Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Los Angeles - Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Southern California, Southern Nevada

When we applied with the French Consulate in San Francisco eight years ago we were neither students, au pairs, doing an internship, nor had we been hired to work in France. Also, the Compétences et Talents card had not been invented yet, so that left us with one choice - the Long Stay Visa - which came with these words of warning: "This visa DOES NOT allow you to work or enroll in courses or studies while in France... As a consequence, the proof of sufficient fundings and assets to support your stay in France without working for more than a year will be crucial to qualify for this visa."
Additionally, the San Francisco Consulate had a "special" requirement that we didn't find on any other French Consulate website - proof that you have at least $1800 a month per couple for expenses. Which we didn't have. So we ignored it and applied anyway. Obviously they ignored it as well when they reviewed our application and issued our visas without this requirement.
By the way, it is now $1800 per month, for each person.

Your homework this week:
Have a look at your Consulate's website and see which visa you need.
Sharpen your organizational skills - you're going to need them!
Start your Visa dossier.
Begin taking French lessons. If you haven't already.

Coming up in Part Three: Finding a place to live in France.

*Please note that the information given here, while believed to be as accurate as possible at the time of writing, is general information only, and no liability can be accepted. Before acting on the information, please ensure that you take expert advice from the relevant authorities. Pin It


Anonymous said...

Brilliant follow-up to #1. I had no idea that there was a long-stay visa. Live and learn. Glad the consulate ignored the revenue requirement in your case.
Good luck to anyone who tries to get into France now.

spacedlaw said...

Good heavens!

aimee said...

Merci bien, Loulou. Maintenant je peux penser un peu!

Unknown said...

Just so daunting! What could I possibly contribute to France but enthusiasm?

Jennifer said...

Thanks! We were glad that they ignored it as well, or else we never would have made it.
I wonder if they're more strict now.

I know!

You're very welcome. Hope it helps.

It is daunting, but not impossible. And I'm sure you could convince someone in French bureaucracy that France needs more people with your enthusiasm! :)

Drink, Memory said...


I ran into an interesting stumbling block I thought I'd share with you regarding getting a visa. (I am still in France, but I figured I'd start preparing my files early.) I am starting with getting criminal background checks. The state one is fairly easy, they mail a package here, I take my own fingerprints, mail it back. The FBI one requires more fingerprints, and they have to be exact and on a special form. But the issue is the local report (NY)won't give me a copy of my fingerprints! Did you run into this? Or were you able to have your prints made in France? I can't even find a contact number for the FBI.
I was also curious if you'd considered going through an attorney to get your visa, or if you know anyone who has? FYI, I consulted one and the fixed fee is 2,500 USD not including transaltions. So if anyone wants to's not cheap, but if you've ever overstayed a tourist visa it might be helpful.

Jennifer said...

Drink, Memory
Thanks for the information.
I wasn't asked for my fingerprints but have heard that others have been. Also, I didn't consult an attorney. We did it all ourselves.
Sorry I couldn't be of more help!

Alicia said...

The FBI background check is no longer a requirement as of April 2010.

Jennifer said...

Alicia - Thanks for the update.
We weren't asked for an FBI report from the San Francisco Consulate back in 2002 either, but maybe some of the French Consulates continued to ask for them.

emattar said...

I found your blog by accident and I am so happy I did. I have been researching this topic for some time now and all I get is conflicting information on the internet and other blogs. I will be retiring in a few years and I am looking into residing in France yearly from a period from 3 months to 5 months (partime basis). My great grandfather was French and I always have been fascinated with France. I am very organized on the things I do and I started my aventure by first making yearly visits to France and learning French. Now I am in the process of getting as much information as I can so that I make my dream come true. I am an American citizen and as I understand it, in my case, all I need to do is to is rent an apartment get traveleres insurance and buy my plane ticket, if I am to stay like a tourist for short period of time. I am also retired on disability from the Fed government and pay my BCBS medical insurance diretly through my retirement funds. Would I have to get additional insurance or would my Fed insurance sufice? could you please share any knowledge you may have of my questions that will help my on my planning.

Jennifer said...

I'm sorry it took me so long to reply. I wasn't sure exactly how to answer your question when I realized that the best place to start is by calling your insurance company and asking them what is covered when you are abroad. That will most likely answer your question.
Happy New Year!

sxyknikrs said...


I'm researching moving to France and one of the things I thought about doing to get my 'sea legs' was to spend time housesitting around France to help determine exactly where I would like to settle. I want to do it for a lengthy period of time, not a two week 'sit.' No money changes hands but I wonder if this would be considered work and require me to have a different kind of visa. Any thoughts.

Jennifer said...

I really have no idea, sorry. I assume you are from a country that requires a visa? If you are just house sitting, then you can stay for 3 months on a tourist visa without any worries.

smack said...

Thank you for your excellent blog! As far as I can tell, as a French speaking American, my options are 1. Enrolling in a superfluous college course for a visa, or 2. Going on a tourist visa and working under the table as I did in London, which is risky, or 3. applying for the long stay visa, and keeping my fingers crossed they magically overlook my lack of riches, which seems unlikely to succeed, except your example indicates it's worth a try. I would really appreciate your advice. Thank you.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for reading and stopping by to comment.
I'm sorry to say that I can't give you the advice your looking for. :)
What kind of visa you apply for and what kind of risks you want to take, if any, are decisions that only you can make. Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

smack said...

Thanks Jennifer! So just to clarify, in your case you just left the income part of the application blank, and they gave you one anyhow? This was I gather 8 years ago....

Jennifer said...

No, we filled that part out. It was about 13 years ago, so I'm not sure if the application has changed since then or not.