How I Got My Long-Stay Visa (Spouse of a French Citizen)

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.

How to Apply for a Long-Stay Visa for FrancePin
How I Got My Long-Stay Visa (Spouse of a French Citizen)

Table of Contents

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

Long-Stay Visa Application Registration ReceiptPin
Registration Receipt

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

There is a lot of paperwork when applying for a long-stay visaPin
There’s a lot of Paperwork!

Once you have made your appointment, you will need to gather all the necessary documents.

Required 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

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Electronic Timbre

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

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Keep the Originals!

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.

A full list of prefectures can be found here. (Bas-Rhin PrefectureParis Prefecture)

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.

Enjoy your life in France with your Long-Stay VisaPin
Enjoy France!

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.

Bon Courage!


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I hope you enjoyed my step-by-step guide to applying for a long-stay French visa. Here are some more articles about France that I think you might enjoy.


Do you have any questions about applying for a long-stay French visa? Leave your questions in the comments below!

Interested in more travel tips & tricks? Check out my other posts for more travel tips.


33 Comments

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  1. Interesting but I do see certain parts of the process are different at some point … I was surprised you get a letter here we only get a text to let us know is ready to pick up a very basic text reminding you as well to buy the timbre, then you have to try the lottery of online to try to get an appointment , then finally go pick up your titre de sejour,,yes during covid here no titre de sejour mailed .. wow crazy how it changes even within prefectures from same department .. ????????????‍♀️

    • Yes! From what I have seen you will either get a text, an email, or a letter. It’s like a game…they don’t want to make it consistent because that would be too easy. 🙂 I found the process of getting an appointment in Strasbourg much easier than in Paris. Even looking at the websites, Strasbourg is way easier than Paris. It’s actually one of the reasons we decided to leave Paris. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle for the 10-year resident card and the passport, so we opted for a smaller city where it’s usually easier. (Well you saw the same thing for the marriage. Everything is much easier outside Paris.)

  2. Hi!
    I have applied my French mariage certificate through online for my long stay visa. Once the certificate is ready, i can download it from my account. I read your blog and You have mentioned that we have to submit original certificate. What do you mean by that?
    Thanks

    • Hi Lakshana
      So, your marriage certificate is issued by the French government via this website (https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1432). Please make sure you select the correct location of your marriage (whether it was in France or not). It must be less than 3 months old when you go for your long-stay visa appointment. You will receive an original certificate in the mail (usually within a few days of ordering it)…you can’t print this document. So, I meant that you can’t submit a copy of this certificate (i.e., you can’t print it out) it must be the original issued by the government. Does that answer your question? Please let me know.

      • Hi!
        Thank you so much for your reply. If I can’t get the printable version of PDF File. What should I do? How can I submit this document? Is there any other way?
        Thank you in advance.

        • Hi Lakshana
          They will send you one in the mail, so I would not worry about that. In my experience, they are pretty efficient. If you are having a problem I would call where you are sending your application or where you have your interview and explain your situation. If you can’t receive mail where you are then I would again call and explain the situation. Or have the certificate delivered maybe to a friend’s place where you can pick it up. I don’t know your specific situation so it’s a bit difficult for me to say exactly what you should do. But if I can provide a better explanation please let me know.

          • I am from Sri Lanka.Thank you so much for your reply. If I get the certificate by email then I can manage my appointment. Can I use the certificate sent by email? Is that so?
            It is so kind of you to help me. Once again Thank you so much.

          • Ah ok, I see. And you are applying as the spouse of a French citizen? Terribly sorry, I just want to sure I completely understand.

            For getting the certificate by email, you would have to call (or send them an email) and ask if you can get the certificate by email. As far as I know, you can only get it by mail.

            I’ve been in your shoes so I know how hard it can be!

  3. Thank you so much for your reply!
    Yes. I am applying for a spouse visa. I understand now. I will try to send them an email and see.

    • Hi Karla,
      So, I provided a letter written by my husband that stated I was changing my residency from the UK to France. I didn’t use a specific template, but I can show you what I submitted. I was living in the UK at the time and he was already in France, but it can still work if you are living together outside of France. We made an official letter so that is what I describe below.

      In the top left, I had the address and phone number of my husband who had an apartment in Paris. Then one line below that on the right I had the address of the TLSContact (where I was applying for my visa).
      The letter continued as follows:

      Oject: Attestation sur l’honneur de transfert de résidence principle pour (insert your name)

      Je soussigné, NAME, né(e) DATE OF BIRTH à PLACE OF BIRTH, demeurant au INSERT FULL ADDRESS OF YOUR SPOUSE IF THEY HAVE A PLACE IN FRANCE, certifie sur l’honneur qu’à du INSERT DATE OF ARRIVAL, mon épouse, INSERT NAME, né(e) INSERT DATE OF BIRTH à PLACE OF BIRTH actuellement domicilée au INSERT CURRENT ADDRESS, prendra comme résidence principale l’adresse suivante: INSERT FULL FRENCH ADDRESS WHERE YOU WILL BE LIVING.

      Fait à INSERT PLACE WHERE YOU WROTE THE LETTER le INSERT DATE

      Fait pour servir et valoir ce que de droit

      Sign the letter

      Hope that helps. Please let me know if you need anything else.

  4. I have a question about this visa.. are you allowed to freely fly in an out of France back to your home country (in my case the USA)? I cannot find any information on this. I know some visas become invalid if you leave or not let you return within a certain number of days.
    Thank you so much for any information!

    • Hi Paola
      You can freely fly from France to the US (and back) on this visa. I’ve done this several times and never had any problems. (You will need to show your visa at the time of check-in and at immigration but that’s all.)
      Hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions.

  5. Hello! I arrived in France last week and I already validated the visa. How long did you receive the letter from OFII after validation? It’s been a week since I validated mine but I haven’t received anything from OFII. Thanks.

    • Hi Karla,
      You will get two letters: one for the medical appointment and the second for the first of the four OFII appointments. I got my visa in May and validated it right away, as you have done, and my appointments were in August. So, it can take some time before the letters arrive. I validated my visa in Paris so that’s why it took a bit long. If you are in a smaller city, it might be faster.

      Hope that helps. If you have any more questions, please let me know.

  6. Hello, can you help with details for spouse of foreign national legally residing in France or are the requirements the same with french citizens?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Glory,
      The process is slightly different. I have not applied for this type of visa myself, but a lot of the advice in my article here can help you (in terms of what you need for each type of document).

      I would suggest you go to this website: https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en/web/france-visas/ai-je-besoin-d-un-visa
      Fill out your information and they will give you the full details on what you need to do (since I don’t know all of your information I would not be able to tell you exactly what to do). A lot of it depends on your nationality, your spouse’s nationality, and their reason for being in France.

      Here is what the French government says about this type of visa:

      Person regularly residing in France for at least 18 months:

      The “family reunion” procedure, which allows you to join your family in France must be followed by your spouse or parent (if you are under 18 years of age) and be submitted to the Direction Territoriale de l’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII ) in your place of residence. You must be able to prove that you have sufficient and regular resources in order to support your family as well as provide adequately-sized accommodation. The local Préfecture (i.e. in the place of residency) will determine whether these conditions have been met.

      Once the application has been accepted by the police station, the consular services will contact you to issue your long-stay visa, which is valid for three months. You will then be issued with a residence permit which must be applied for at the police station in the département where you reside.

      Refugee status, person benefiting from subsidiary or stateless protection:

      If the refugee benefits from subsidiary or stateless protection and is aged over 18, you can apply for a “family reunion” long-stay visa if you are:

      His or her spouse/partner (joined by a civil union), aged 18 years or older, provided that the marriage or union is prior to the date the asylum application was submitted.
      A child of a couple aged under 19 years of age when the asylum application file was submitted
      His/her child under 18 years of age or that of the spouse whose direct line of descent has only been established with respect to the spouse; the other parent is dead or deprived of parental rights
      His/her child aged under 18 years of age or that of his/her spouse entrusted to one or the other by virtue of a decision of a foreign court

      If the refugee, beneficiary of subsidiary protection or stateless, is an unmarried minor, applications for long-stay family reunification visas may be submitted by his or her parents (direct first-degree ascendant), accompanied where appropriate by their unmarried, minor, dependant children.

      If you have any questions about paperwork please let me know. I suspect a lot of it is very similar.
      Hope that helps!

      Jen

  7. Hi!
    I’m married with a french. Its been almost one year that im here in France. Today I had my interview for renewal of my spouse visa. But when they mailed me they did not told me to go there with my husband. I went there alone with all my papers. The madame told me that where is your husband. I can not take your interview without your husband and you have to make a new RDV. My visa has already been expired. Can you tell me how can I have a new RDV and how many time will it take?

    • Hi Bushra,
      I’m really sorry they did not make that clear to you. To make a new appointment you will have to go to the website of your prefecture. They should have an option for you to make another appointment. (In google type: rendez-vous titre de sejour XXX where XXX is the name of the city where you are applying. For the length of time, that will depend. In Paris, it can be a few months but in smaller towns, like Strasbourg, it’s only a few weeks.

      If you have any more questions please let me know. I’m always happy to help.
      Jen

  8. My husband is currently in France as a tourist and is going to fill in the application for the long term spouse visa. Do you know the average delay before obtaining the appointment at the consulate? Can we choose the date? In other words, he will have to come back to the States for the appointment but he would like his stay in US to be quick so he can come back asap with his long term visa and not get « stuck » in US for 3 months again.

    • Hi Cecile,
      It depends on the consulate. For me, it took 3 months to get an appointment, and once I submitted my application I had my visa within 10 days. For some consulates or visa centers, if you are willing to pay for an express service you can have an appointment the same week. I didn’t do that, but I remember the price being roughly $100-200. Either way, you can choose your date.

      I hope that helps.

      If you have any more questions, please let me know.

      Jen

  9. Hi,

    I found this article super helpful, so thank you!
    My question is regarding the more long term plans of someone marrying a French citizen and planning to stay in France. Visa renewal can’t be very sustainable..?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Lauren,
      Glad you found it helpful! 🙂

      After you get your first visa, which lasts one year, you get a two-year resident card. Then, you can apply for a 10-year resident card (if you have an A2 level in French and have lived in France for 3 years). Then, when you’ve been married 4 for four years and have lived in France for at least 3 years, you can apply for the nationality (you will need a B1 level in French). If you have been married for 4 years and have been living in France for 3 years, you can apply directly for the nationality and skip the 10-year card. (But sometimes it can take up to a year to process your application, so having the 10-year card is a nice safety net.)

      So, in my case, my 2-year resident card just finished and I submitted my application for the 10-year resident card (last week 🙂 ). Then, this November, my husband and I will be married for 4 years so I can apply to get a French passport.

      I hope that helps a bit more. If you have any more questions, please let me know. I’m always happy to help.
      Jen

        • Hi. I’m from Canada and on a Working Holiday visa. I’m in Paris with my french national husband. I was wondering if you know if I can apply for the spouse visa without having to leave France? Do you think I can submit all the paperwork at the Paris embassy? We just had a baby and we don’t want to do long distance for months while waiting.

          • Hi Ira,
            Terribly sorry for the delay in my response. I tried to look up your particular situation, but I wasn’t able to find something that guaranteed you could stay in France and apply. For the holiday working visa that you currently have, do you have the right to work or is it just a visitor’s visa (ie 90 days)? If you are on a working visa, you can change your status without having to leave the country. If you are on just a holiday visa, I think you might have to go home or apply from the country where you claim residence. However, if you can apply for fast processing. It’s a bit more expensive, but it will allow you to get an appointment right away.

            If you have any more questions or need any additional help please let me know.
            Again, I’m really sorry for my delayed response.
            Jen