Applying for a long-stay French visa (or Visa de Long Séjour) can be a long and tedious process. It seems like the paperwork is never-ending, and just when you think you’ve finished it’s time to renew your visa.
I have a lot of experience applying for long-term French visas. In fact, I am, currently, applying for French citizenship.
This step-by-step guide will focus on applying for the long-stay (spouse of a French citizen) visa. I will take you through the entire process, and provide you with all the information you need.
Types of Long-Stay French Visas (for Americans)
The type of visa required for U.S citizens to enter France depends both on the duration and the purpose. There are different visas depending on if you are a tourist, a student, married to a French citizen, or have a job.
If you are traveling to France and plan on staying for 90 days or less, then, as a US citizen, you don’t need a visa.
If you plan on staying longer than 90 days, you will need a visa.
There are several long-stay visa categories, including:
- Employed (with at least a year-long contract).
- Temporary worker (with a contract between three months and one year).
- Scientific researcher.
- Student or intern.
- Spouse of a French citizen.
- Spouse of foreign national legally living in France.
- Visitor with accommodation, travel insurance, and sufficient funds.
I have had two types of visas while living in France, a scientific researcher visa and a spouse of a French citizen visa.
This guide will cover how to apply for a long-stay visa – spouse of a French citizen.
How to Apply for a Long-Stay French Visa (Spouse of a French Citizen)
To join a family member in France you will need to apply for a long-stay visa. You must be a legal resident in the country where you submit your application.
Step 1: Brace Yourself
Take a deep breath and get ready for the endless amount of paperwork.
Step 2: Submit Your Application Online
Go to the official French visa website. Create an account and fill out the online application form.
After you submit your online application, you will need to print your submitted application.
You will also get a registration receipt by email. It contains your application number and a list of documents you will need to submit at your in-person appointment.
Important: You can’t apply for this visa more than three months before your arrival date.
Step 3: Schedule Your Appointment
Your country of residence will determine the location of your appointment.
After you submit your application, you will need to schedule your in-person appointment. In most cases, this will be your nearest French consulate. In others, it will be a visa application center, like TLScontact or VFS Global.
Important: There is usually a long wait for appointments. Book an appointment as soon as you have submitted the online application.
Step 4: Gather the Paperwork
Once you have made your appointment, you will need to gather all the necessary documents.
- 2 Copies of your Long-Stay Visa application form.
- 2 Copies of your passport + original.
- 1 Recent French marriage certificate. The date on the marriage certificate must be within 3 months. For weddings celebrated outside France, the marriage must be registered in France. Certificates can be ordered here. Be aware that you must select where the marriage was celebrated (in France or outside France). These are two different services and it’s important to select the correct one. You MUST submit an original, copies are not accepted.
- 2 Copies of your “Livret de Famille” (Family Book) + original. (Only the pages containing your and your spouse’s information.)
- Proof of your spouse’s French nationality – This can be either a copy of their passport or identity card + original. (2 Copies)
- 2 Recent photographs (sized to EU specifications). Here is French visa photograph requirements. The size is important. It’s not the same as the US passport photo.
- 1 Copy of your plane or train ticket. This is proof of your arrival date and your entry location.
- Proof of your current country of residence. (2 Documents are required. Bank statements, electricity bill, etc. all must be dated within 3 months.)
- Written and signed letter by the French national certifying the transfer of residence to France for the couple. (You should have a handwritten version as well as a typed version).
- 1 Copy of your appointment letter. (This is not for your application, but you will need it to enter the consulate or the visa application center.)
Bring the following additional documents, in case there is a mistake:
- 2 Blank copies of the Long Stay Visa application. If you made a mistake, they will ask you to resubmit the application, and you want to have a back-up ready. Blank Long-stay visa application forms can be found here and here.
- An extra copy of each of the above documents.
Important: There is no fee when you submit your application. Free admission is granted to spouses of French citizens. But, you will pay a fee when you enter France (see below), so it’s not free.
Important: Some consulates or visa application centers want all non-French documents to be translated. I applied in the UK and submitted everything in English. This is not always the case, so check carefully!
Step 5: The Appointment
On the day of your appointment, you will be asked to submit all the above paperwork. You will also need to show the originals. So, make sure not to forget anything.
Important: You will turn over your passport and your spouse’s passport/French ID card. So, do not make any travel plans during this time.
Important: If there is a document missing or any mistakes, you will have to make a new appointment. In some cases, you will be allowed to provide everything by the end of the business day. So, make sure you have extra copies. I also had everything stored on my phone, I brought my laptop, and a USB stick.
Step 6: Your Application is Accepted
Your application will be reviewed and, if everything is in order, it will be submitted for a final review. This will take on average 15 days depending on your situation.
Once your application is accepted you will receive an email or text stating that you can collect your documents.
Your passport will contain a 1-year visa. You will also receive a document containing instructions for the next steps. Don’t lose this document, it contains the amount you will need to pay to validate your long-stay visa.
Step 7: Validating Your Visa
Once you arrive in France you will need to validate your visa. This is all done online.
First, you will need to create an account on the “foreign nationals in France” website.
Second, you will need to purchase what is called a timbre or a virtual stamp. You can purchase your timbre here. The amount you owe is on the document that was given to you by the consulate. I paid 250 euros.
Third, log back into the “foreign nationals in France” website and validate your visa. This is done by entering the number on your timbre.
Finally, you will receive a validation certificate by email. Do NOT lose this document. It is required to renew your visa.
Step 8: Medical Appointment
Now that you are officially registered you will need to undergo a medical evaluation.
You will receive a letter from the OFII (Office Française De L’Immigration) stating the date, time, and location of your appointment. Don’t miss this appointment, it’s very difficult to reschedule.
At the appointment, you will undergo a full examination. After which, you will receive a certificate stating that you completed the examination. Do NOT lose this document you will be asked to present it over and over.
Step 9: Civic Training Courses
You will also receive a welcome visit letter from the OFII (Office Française De L’Immigration). This letter should arrive around the same time you receive your medical appointment.
There are 4 full-day civic training courses required by the OFII. The first of these is called a welcome visit. It involves a language test as well as an interview.
The interview is designed to help you settle in France. You will get information on how to find a job, apply for a medical card (carte vital), etc.
The language test is for A1 level (beginner level). It’s not required to speak French before arriving, but I would recommend having a basic level of understanding. Your life will be much easier. If you don’t pass the language test, you will have the opportunity to enroll in free French courses.
At the end of the first day, you will receive two documents; 1. contrat d’intégration républicaine and 2. a language certificate. Safeguard both documents. You will need to present the originals when you renew your visa.
You will also schedule the next 3 civic training courses. These courses will cover the history, culture, and social system in France. It’s designed to provide you with all the information you will need to settle in France. They are long and tedious, but informative.
Once you have completed your 4 days, you will be able to renew your visa. This whole process will take about 6-8 months.
You will need to renew your visa roughly 3-6 months before your 1-year visa expires. (If you live in Paris, apply 6 months in advance.)
Renewing Your Visa
Congratulations, you’ve made it this far!
The first year goes very quickly. By the time you finish all the above requirements, you will need to renew your long-stay visa.
The process is fairly simple and quick (for the French system).
Step 1: Make an Appointment Online
First, you will need to make an appointment with your local prefecture. This can be done online.
Step 2: Gather the Paperwork
To renew your French visa, you will need the following documents (Originals and copies are required.):
- 2 Copies of your passport + original
- 2 Copies of your visa (+ original) and the validation certificate. This is the validation certificate you received when you arrived in France. Refer to Step 4: Validating your Visa.
- 2 Copies of your Livret de Famaille + original
- 1 Recent French marriage certificate. The date on the marriage certificate must be within 3 months. For weddings celebrated outside France, the marriage must be registered in France. Certificates can be ordered here. Be aware that you must select where the marriage was celebrated (in France or outside France). These are two different services and it’s important to select the correct one. You must submit an original, copies are not accepted.
- Proof of co-habitation (2 Documents are required.) – You will need to prove that you and your spouse live together. This can be bank statements, an electricity bill, or quittance de loyer (a rent receipt). Each document must be dated within 3 months.
- 3 Recent photographs (sized to EU specifications).
- 1 Copy of the Contrat d’intégration républicaine (Step 5: Civic Training Courses). You will need to show the original, but do NOT turn it in.
- Convocation letter with your appointment date and time. You would have received this letter either by email or in the mail.
- Déclaration de Communauté de Vie – This example is for Bas-Rhin. You will need to fill out the declaration that corresponds to your department.
Step 3: The Appointment
Both you and your spouse are required to attend the appointment.
At your appointment, you will submit all the above documents, and, you will need to show the originals. If everything is correct, you will be issued a Récépissé.
A récépissé is a temporary permit issued to you while you wait for your Titre de Séjour (resident permit).
Step 4: Collecting Your Titre de Séjour
After a few months, you will receive a letter stating that your Titre de Séjour (resident permit) is ready.
Before you can collect your Titre de Séjour you will have to purchase a timbre (i.e. renewal fee). This is the same website as above and can be found here.
After payment, you will receive a receipt by email. You will need to show this receipt when you pick-up your Titre de Séjour.
*If you are applying during COVID, you will submit your receipt online and your Titre de Séjour will be mailed to you.
Now, you can take a break! You have two years before you will need to renew your Titre de Séjour. While it was a long process, there are a lot of advantages to having a long-stay French visa. The most obvious is that you will be eligible to apply for French citizenship. And, I don’t need to state the advantages of having an EU passport.
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