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.