French Visa & Carte de Sejour Rumours Debunked!
Noel has received his Carte de Sejour. What should have been a relatively easy process did become a bit of a nightmare. We learned a lot – this may help you!
I have a European passport, Noel has an Australian passport. I read so much information on this, my head was spinning, examples:
- If he/she has a European passport then their partner is entitled to stay without a visa.
- If he/she has a European passport the partner is entitled to stay, with a visa.
Okay, you get the idea, here’s a quick breakdown of the process we went through:
- We applied for a visa within three months of arriving (as per the rules – IF the partner has a European visa).
- Australians are entitled to visit France (or anywhere in Europe for three months).
- We applied in Dijon, as that was our nearest Prefecture.
- We were asked to stay in the area (we didn’t – read on).
- We went to the Prefecture (in Dijon) and they searched my European passport for a visa – but eventually worked out that I had a European passport!
- They presented us with a form and told us to fill it out and mail it back.
- We filled out the form and mailed it, they mailed it all back, asking for more, we mailed it back, this went on for five months.
- We could not talk to anyone in the Prefecture, by telephone, personal visit or email, they just kept telling us to mail our documents.
- They eventually started asking for paperwork that was not listed on the application form, and that we had already sent.
- By this time we had moved south – they didn’t comment on a new address.
- We reached the end of our tether and went to Agen Prefecture (now, our nearest).
Here’s what happened at Agen:
- After initial contact via email, we were invited to attend (with no pre-arranged date/appointment), so we took that (emailed) invite with us.
- We talked to a real live person, (she had enough English and I had enough French (and a dictionary), to get by.
She gave us a list of five additional bits of paper she wanted and said ‘when you return with those, I will issue your visa.’
- She fined us 50 Euros for over-staying the three months (despite our process with Dijon) – we would have to pay it on the next visit.
- Two weeks later we returned to Agen (we had missed our arranged appointment as we were waiting for paperwork – we tried to obtain another appointment by email but received no response, so we just turned up).
On the day we got the visa
We rolled up with all the paperwork requested.
- They were miffed we didn’t have an appointment, but after we explained that we had tried to arrange one via email (and that we had no car and travelled there by bike and train) – they felt sorry for us and put us in a room.
- “This is either very good, or very bad!” we said!
- The interviewer understood we had been trying to obtain the visa since we arrived, and ‘deleted’ the 50 Euro fine!
- She checked through our paperwork, nodded, made positive comments and GAVE US THE VISA!
- It is a temporary visa until the card (like a credit card) is processed at another location, they will write to us when they have received the card and we can collect it.
- We have to collect it within three months, it will be ready in January sometime.
Dijon gave us one form: ‘Premiere Demande ou Renouvellement – ressortissant de l’union europeene – MEMBRE DE FAMILLE -.
Agen gave us another: Carte de Sejour.
Dijon wanted (all copies):
- Copies of passports.
- Birth certificate (translated to English – I did this on Google, but they do ask it is done by an official translator).
- Proof of where you stayed (and why) in France, for first three months.
- ‘Family’ proof (marriage certificate for us).
- Proof of funds (bank statements).
- Health Insurance.
- 4 x photos (like passport photos).
This was for the applicant – they then asked for health insurance for me also, but at this point we had given up with Dijon.
Agen wanted (they also wanted to view originals and keep a copy)
- A different form requiring the names of Noel’s parents, DOB and any children.
- All of the above Dijon requirements, plus Noel’s entire passport photocopied.
- BUT, they wanted the health insurance and bank statements translated to English too.
- We have a French bank account, which seemed to help. They wanted to see a minimum of 1,000 Euros in there.
- By this time I had my European Health card (EHIC), which helped (they wanted to see some kind of insurance for me too).
- You MUST apply before going to France – Not true – if one of you has a EU passport
- You will need a medical – Nope
- You have to leave the country straight away, as we had been here five months! (advice from Australian Embassy) -Nope
- Fine for over-staying three months – Nope – If you have been trying to gain your visa already and have dated correspondence.
Our Advice & Top 10 tips on the French Visa process
- Do not go to Dijon Prefecture or any large city’s Prefecture.
- Find a smaller Prefecture, somewhere where you can actually talk to someone.
- Take the research with a pinch of salt – different websites (that looked official) all had conflicting information.
- If someone says “this is how you do it” be aware that:
- everyone’s circumstances are different.
- each Prefecture is like dealing with a different country, they all have different agendas.
- nothing is set in stone, it depends who you deal with on the day too!
- If you need to translate Health Insurance documents, ask your insurer, ours gave us a French translation within
- twenty-four hours (not google translated either!).
- Try and arrange a French bank account – this helped! If not, ensure your statements are translated to English.
- If one of you is a UK citizen, ensure you have your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).
- Research & learn some questions/answers in French before you go, to make the interview easier.
- Create a ‘contents’ page at the top of your application, so everything can be found quickly.
- If you disagree with what is happening (as we did with the initial fine), ask to see someone more senior. We were just lucky, and on our second appointment we were seen by a senior employee, who ‘let us off’ the fine as she deemed it unnecessary in our circumstances.
The visa is FREE, we had to pay for a lot of postage (our application became quite ‘thick’ and heavy).
Solutions to problems with your EU rights here. This is a great European Visa Resource. They had already told us they would take on our case if we were fined.
Health insurance at a very good price (and they translated our docs into French!).
UK Citizens applying for your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) here.
If we had gone to a Prefecture, such as Agen, first, the whole thing would have been done and dusted in two visits, and with little pain.
December 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm
WELL DONE!!! You two have reinvented the wheel far more simply than any other posts we have read. Glasses raised in your honour!! 🙂
December 22, 2014 at 3:37 pm
Thanks guys! That’s appreciated – a lot of thought went into keeping a long and boring subject, short and sweet! Glad you noticed! 🙂
December 22, 2014 at 3:42 pm
Well done for sticking with it. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
December 22, 2014 at 4:12 pm
Thanks Sandra! 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
December 22, 2014 at 6:11 pm
Well done, and I will bet you a pound to a penny that if you asked 10 other people how they got their carte de sejours, they would give you an entirely different list. It seems to be so hit and miss and depends on who/where you apply but that’s France for you. Merry Christmas and hope all goes well for you in the new year.
December 22, 2014 at 8:02 pm
I couldn’t agree more – like I said to Viki – I think if people go to a smaller Prefecture it is much easier…. still, it does depend WHO you get on the day – Merry Christmas to you too and all the very best for 2015!
December 22, 2014 at 7:12 pm
Wonderful advice!! I’m not looking forward to going through all this! (Andrew is Australian and I’m British) but I’ve also got a NZ passport, and will hopefully get one for Andrew too.
December 22, 2014 at 8:01 pm
Thanks Viki, the best advice is to go to a small Prefecture – that information is priceless! Keep us posted on your travels – love your website!
LikeLiked by 1 person
December 23, 2014 at 12:44 am
That was a lot of work but so happy Noel can stay in France with Barge.
LikeLiked by 1 person
December 23, 2014 at 9:10 am
Thanks Leslie, it was. The irony is, if we had gone straight to Agen first, I reckon we would have had it done it two weeks! Anyhow, another ‘thing’ ticked off the list. 🙂
February 4, 2015 at 5:39 am
Hi Jackie and Noel
My partner is Irish with an EU passport. I am Australian. We are planning to move permanently to France in 12 months time. I have been told time and time again that I need to get a long stay visa from the Consulate in Sydney before I leave. Also, if C and I are not married, does this matter? She has been living in Oz for 10 years … would this complicate her application for an EHIC? Your advice is timely and very much appreciated.
February 4, 2015 at 8:15 am
Hi Tony, I hadn’t lived in the UK for over 16 years – they didn’t check that – all they wanted was an EU passport. As for not being married. I’ve heard two different things and know of one couple that got married before coming over – for this reason (obtaining the visa!) – recently I have read that parts of France are becoming more accepting of relationships without a marriage cert…. sorry, I can’t say for sure on that one. But if you are going to try, I’d bring a lot of evidence of your life together…. actually when I think about it – the form didn’t specifically ask for a marriage certificate, it asked of proof of our relationship… so that makes me think it would be okay. Just ensure you bring a lot of official paperwork – originals too (bills, bank statements) with both names on. I keep hearing that the Sydney Consulate is telling people this – I can only assume that they do not know of the agreement/rules between spouses and EU passports. Noel has an Australian passport – I have UK and Australian (I kept my Australian put away – didn’t need to confuse the issue) – and we certainly didn’t apply to the Sydney consulate prior to arriving. We did it all here – I hope this helps and best of luck – do let me know how you go!
February 4, 2015 at 8:44 am
Brilliant. Thank you so much for such a quick and comprehensive response. Yes, I will keep you informed.
LikeLiked by 1 person
February 7, 2015 at 3:18 am
Did you have to apostille your husband’s birth cert. and other documents? …. i.e. have an Australian Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs stamp on them?
LikeLiked by 1 person
February 8, 2015 at 3:39 pm
Hi Tony, No we didn’t. Agen wanted originals (to see and a copy to keep) and Dijon wanted photocopies only. Neither requested they be verified, stamped etc in any way.
March 29, 2015 at 3:59 am
Re obtaining a carte de sejour for an Aussie, I have heard from different sources that having a 12 month comprehensive travel insurance policy satisfies the health insurance requirement. Do you know? Can you comment?
March 29, 2015 at 7:18 am
Hi Tony, as per the article Noel was required to get health insurance, the travel insurance wasn’t enough. On the post there is a contact for very reasonable (and accepted) insurance.
Agen Prefecture accepted my European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Hope that helps, regards, Jackie
May 11, 2016 at 4:10 am
I am a UK Citizen living and working in France for the last 2 years. I want my parents to come France. They have been issued a short stay type c visitor visa. I contacted the prefecture if my parents can apply for carte de sejour as they are Parents of EU national. The prefecture says that my parents need to come on type D visa to apply for carte de sejour. This is against the EU Directive 2004 freedom of movement. I also contacted prefectures in other cities, some of them say that my parents can apply for Carte de sejour on type C visit visa as they are family members of EU national (not French national). I can’t apply in another prefecture as I have to show proof of residence. Please guide me what shall I do to convince prefecture?
May 19, 2016 at 3:59 pm
Hi there, I am sorry it took so long to reply. I have been travelling and away from the internet.
I can’t really help you. It was so complicated just trying to figure out what we should do. From the little information I have from you, I would think the situation is the same, as they are family they should be able to receive a carte de jour. I do not know about the different types I am afraid – sorry.
Can you visit a smaller prefecture and sit and talk to them – we found Dijon impossible as you could not talk to anyone – but a smaller perfecture allowed us to sit and chat and work it out.
Other than that – have you joined FB groups – living in France – those types of groups? There is plenty of advice out there – they maybe able to help more.
I can understand your pain.. It is so frustrating when you receive different advice. Keep plugging away and try to arrange an appointment with a prefecture that will advise.
All the best. Jackie
July 16, 2017 at 11:37 pm
Thank you for sharing your experience with Carte de Sejour. One small question: were you able to travel during the time you were waiting for the Carte de Sejour? My wife and I are in a similar situation, I’m EU citizen and she is not (but from Canada, so needs no visa). We will go to Paris starting in September and want to travel a few times. I heard that to receive a CdS can take several months.
July 22, 2017 at 12:34 am
Hi, sorry it took a few days to answer. We were told that where you apply (location) is where you must stay. However, we applied in Dijon and then moved south to Agen – no one commented on our new address (at the Prefectures). Dijon did not have one clue what they were doing, Agen sorted it in two weeks (completed and collected the cds in that time.)
I have read (but the Prefecture would say ‘no’) that if one-half of the couple has a EU passport then they cannot ‘remove’ the other person (without the EU passport) – yet to be proved I think… but sounds like a good argument!
I would recommend you go to a small town Prefecture to apply. It worked for us very well and no one asked why the sudden change of address. So I wouldn’t worry – although the official line is you should stay in one place (mind you that was the official line from Dijon who were absolutely appalling – initially they looked through my EU passport and said ‘you have no visa, you have to leave!’
Does that help? Probably not! 😉 To be honest, it didn’t worry us at all – the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing in this situation and if all else fails, plead ignorance… good luck and let me know how it goes!
July 22, 2017 at 12:45 am
Thank you very much for the reply! Unfortunately we’ll have to apply from Paris, since we’ll be based there.
I actually meant travel outside France. We hope to go to Asia for a week and then for a week to another Schengen country (traveling together). Did you do any such travel during the wait period? I heard it should legally be OK, but I wonder how border agents would react if they see that my wife stayed in the EU for more than 90 days and doesn’t have a CdS yet…
LikeLiked by 1 person
July 25, 2017 at 1:44 am
Okay, I see… I really am not sure. But I would go and just take copies of paperwork to show you are applying. It is not your fault they take longer than the 3 months (if they do)… so as long as you can prove you are doing the right thing, then I think you should be fine. I’ve heard of a few people just not bothering to get their cds, as many people say if one person is married to another with a UK/EU passport, then they cannot physically separate them… if you see what I mean. I am sorry I don’t have the definitive answer, but personally, I’d take as much documentation as I could to prove I was in the process of applying and just do it…. good luck, let me know how you go.
July 25, 2017 at 2:50 am
Thank you again! We’ll definitely take documentation with us, especially our marriage certificate (planning to get that authenticated in France). Will try to report back once we get there.
LikeLiked by 1 person
July 25, 2017 at 5:17 am
Best of luck with it all… do remember it is only my opinion and not checked fact. That said, I would do it this way if it were me. Enjoy!
December 31, 2017 at 11:03 am
Just to let you know that we had no issues leaving Schengen several times during our wait for the Carte de Sejour. At the prefecture people we talked to were understanding, though they acknowledged we weren’t officially allowed to leave during the wait period. They advised us not to show the recepisse at the border. We finally picked up the card a few days ago!
December 31, 2017 at 8:28 pm
That’a great! I am so glad it all worked out. Some Prefectures, we found out, were understanding and others were straight down the line (and others didn’t even understand their own rules!). So I am pleased you found a good one that appreciated you were doing the right thing! Enjoy. Happy New Year.
January 1, 2018 at 11:24 am
Thank you. Happy New Year to you too!
January 1, 2018 at 12:28 pm
Jackie, I apologise for not having kept you informed of our move to France. Overall, it has been quite successful, with just the odd frustration. I got my CdS from Agen, after a hassle-free interview, although I did have to ring and query the delay after three months! Both Cliona and I are in the health system (CPAM) and I have converted my driver’s licence to a French one (no probs). Tony Hull
LikeLiked by 1 person
January 1, 2018 at 7:51 pm
Hi Tony! That’s wonderful to hear! Yes, things don’t happen very fast, but you got there, with the health system and driver’s licence – I am impressed. I do hope you enjoy it, we still miss parts of France, they will always be happy memories for us – such a beautiful land. Enjoy and all the very best for 2018.