Jackie Parry – author


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Top 10 tips for gaining your Carte de Sejour

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!

Our Circumstances

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).
At the train station at 7 am after a refreshing bike ride in the dark!

At the train station at 7 am after a refreshing bike ride in the dark!

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.

The paperwork
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).
  • SSAEs
    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).

Rumour/Fact

  • 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.
It was a good day - Noel found his beer!

It was a good day – Noel found his very own beer!

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).

More help/contacts
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.

In Summary
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.

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Fined for staying more than 3 months in France

In short, Noel has been fined for staying longer than three months in France – during the application process. If you want to know how or why, read on…

Background
I have a European passport, Noel (husband) has an Australian passport and UK Residency. Near the end of our first three months, Noel applied to stay longer, as per our instructions from the Prefecture.

For five months we’ve been playing ‘ping-pong’ with the Dijon Prefecture. More recently they’ve started asking for stuff NOT on the application form (instead of the same stuff we’ve already sent them six times already – no exaggeration there).

We’ve now moved to the SW of France and took advice to see the local Prefecture here, to get some help. Here’s what happened:

Mistake No. 1
We had to catch the train, to Agen (nearest Prefecture). We cycled eight kilometres to the station.
Missed the train by eight minutes, next train was in three hours.
We decided to have another go on Monday, but then we saw a rather large taxi.

Mistake No. 2:
‘How much to Agen, please.’
‘Fifzeen or sizxeen’
‘Great!’ For a ten minute ride, that sounded about right
One hour to dismantle bikes and seats – but a good idea…..
… until we had to pay.
‘How much?’
‘$58. 20 please!’

A better Prefecture
The Prefecture in Agen is fantastic compared to Dijon. Dijon is like a cattle-market on steroids, where strange woman hand over their baby to complete strangers, so they can join the scrum. This is the place that, on our first visit, they searched through my passport (European) and demanded to know why I didn’t have a visa – so you get the idea.

In Agen you take a number and after just a few minutes you are sitting down talking to a person, a real person. We explained our situation with my poor French and her poor English, but we did rather well (aided by dictionary).

Mistake No. 3 – Assuming Agen Prefecture would call Dijon, clarify and sort the mess out.

Cut a long story short  (yes, this is the shortened version)
– We have to start again.
– Include our Australian bank statement translated French (erm, aren’t  2, 3, 4, written he same?)
– Translate health insurance documents to French
– Print out French bank account statement (showing more than $1,000).
– ‘Basically, in Agen, all we need to see is that you have money!’
– We have another appointment next Friday

Whooooo hoooooo…. until…..

‘Oh and because you are here longer than three months, we have to fine you.’
“WHAT?”
And there’s Mistake No. 4 – doing the right thing!
So, a $50(Euro’s) fine

On the way home
As we sat on our train, waiting to leave the station to return home, we had a little chuckle about the mad-cap day; and we were just relieved to be going home.

Mistake No.5, thinking we could relax
‘Everyone off!’ And all of a sudden, we had to change trains, a fault had been found.
We all shuffled off
We all went to platform five
On arrival to platform five, we were told to go back to platform four
All rather boring with large bikes; up and down thirty or so narrow steps with 10,000 other people.
‘Platform four-and-a-half now please folks. Actually just run head-first at that brick wall as fast as you can and I promise that you’ll be home in a jiffy.’

Okay, they didn’t actually say that last bit, but at this point, nothing would have surprised me.

Arriving to our stop, we passed a hardware shop which had some building materials we wanted. So loaded up with heavy gear, we cycled the eight kilometres home just before dark and decided to open a bottle of wine.

On a positive note & in summary
– It was a ‘successful voyage.’
– Whether you are on a boat, horse, bike or train, getting back ‘into port’ safely is a successful voyage.
– We’ll complete the four page (new) form (previous one was one page!)
– We’ll pay the fine if we have to (but will argue the point first).
– We’ll be grateful, the fine could have been $2000!
– We’ll deal with Agen as we can actually talk to a human
– If we continue dealing with Dijon, it costs around $15  each time we mail the application – that’ll add up pretty quickly (already has)
– We figure, that if we walk away, or continue to deal with Dijon, at some point, someone, somewhere will check and we’ll be in even bigger doo doo.
– We may, possibly, finally, get this sorted…

…. Why is it, then, that I can sense Mistake No. 6……?