Which visa is best? Long Stay Student Visa or Long Stay Visitor Visa?

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Which visa is best? Long Stay Student Visa or Long Stay Visitor Visa?


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Old 12th January 2012, 03:45 AM
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Default Which visa is best? Long Stay Student Visa or Long Stay Visitor Visa?

Hi, I'm new to the site with a question about which Long Stay Visa would be best for me: Student (Plan A below) or Visitor (Plan B).

About me: I'm a 60-year-old U.S. citizen engaged to a permanent resident of France. (She is a citizen of Japan, not France). We hope to get married in the next couple months in Paris and live together there in the apartment that she owns.

ORIGINAL PLAN: Naively, I thought I could fly to Paris on a 90-day tourist visa, get married and apply for residency. We have learned that, due to new laws, if I got married on a 90-day tourist visa, I would have to return to the U.S. and wait eight months for a visa to return to France. Too long; not good!

PLAN A--STUDENT VISA: MY fiancee has been told by her prefecture office that a "Long Stay Student Visa" would allow me to enter France, live with her in Paris while we apply for a civil marriage ceremony, wait 45 days for approval, then get married and petition for permanent residency--all without having to leave the country. Not bad! The only hitch is that the language school I would like to attend near her house is not listed among those appearing on the CampusFrance website that facilitates the student visa process for the French consulate. (I'm trying to find out now if I can apply for a Student Visa with a school that's not listed on CampusFrance, but Campus France is not answering. Anybody know?)

PLAN B--VISITOR VISA: Recently, I learned that there is also a "Long Stay Visitor Visa" which I think uses the same form as the "Long Stay Student Visa." The "Long Stay Visitor Visa" doesn't require advance enrollment in a school. Instead, it requires me to show sufficient funds to support myself without working for a year plus proof of insurance. (Proof of insurance may also be required for the Long Stay Student Visa as well--I'm not sure. Anyone know?)

PROS AND CONS OF STUDENT VISA
The advantages of the Student visa are that the prefecture office has already told us that it will work--that we can get married on it without me having to leave the country. It would also allow me to legally work up to 20 hours a week. The drawbacks are: 1) It requires me to pay in advance for language classes that I may or may not find useful, 2) It's not clear that CampusFrance will process the school I've selected and, if it doesn't, I honestly don't know how to proceed, plus 3) It may strike the Consulate as strange that a 60-year-old is applying for a student visa. (Frankly, I don't know if that would matter or not.)

PROS AND CONS OF VISITOR VISA
The advantages of the Visitor Visa are: 1) I won't have to pay in advance for language classes that I may not use, 2) I won't have to figure out the CampusFrance puzzle, and 3) I won't need to buy health insurance. (But like I said before, I'm not sure about this one. Maybe I do need health insurance for the Student Visa because I'm over 25 years old. Anyone know for sure?) The disadvantages of the Long Stay Visitor Visa are: 1) We don't yet have the "blessing" of the local prefecture office as we do in the case of the Student Visa (although my fiancee will check on that tomorrow), 2) It requires bank statements showing I can support myself for a year without working (Note: I believe I can satisfy this requirement), and 3) The Visitor Visa does not allow me to work at all. (Although I am assuming once we marry and my status changes to resident I will be allowed to work, yes? Anyone know?)

WHICH IS BEST?
So there you have it. Which is better for me--Long Stay Student Visa or Long Stay Visitor Visa? Or, another way of asking the same question: Which visa gives me the best chance of being approved?

I'd love to hear what more experienced ex-pats have to say about my choice and the various gaps in knowledge that I've highlighted. Any and all suggestions will be taken seriously. Thanks in advance for your advice!

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Old 12th January 2012, 09:56 AM
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OK, first a couple of caveats in your plans:

You will need private health insurance no matter which plan you take. It's part of the requirement for the long-stay visitor visa as well as for the student visa. Just check the French consulate website.

OK, so I'm assuming that the 8 months you would have to wait if you go back to the US after the marriage is for her to fulfill the requirement that she has lived in France for 18 months before she can sponsor her "family member" for a regular "regroupement de famille" visa. That, you're going to have no matter what. Even if you go over on a visitor visa, I believe you won't be able to change your status until your wife has the required 18 months of residence. And on that visitor visa, you won't be able to work.

On a student visa, you could work part time (up to a certain number of hours a year) but if I were you, I would stick to the programs that are included in the Campus France umbrella - which, unless you're going for a degree, are mostly going to be pretty intensive French programs (also means fairly expensive).

Maybe someone else has some ideas for you.
Cheers,
Bev

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Old 12th January 2012, 10:23 AM
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Default Thanks Bev!

Thanks, Bev, for the info about health insurance. Very helpful; I appreciate it.

I’m not sure, however, that your assumption is correct regarding my fiancee’s situation.

You wrote, “I'm assuming that the 8 months you would have to wait if you go back to the US after the marriage is for her to fulfill the requirement that she has lived in France for 18 months before she can sponsor her "family member" for a regular ‘regroupement de famille’ visa.”

Actually, she has lived in France as a permanent resident (not a citizen) for the last three years (from 2008 to now) as well as for 20 years from 1982 to 2002.

I got the impression from her that the eight months is a new law, but I will check with her on this so and get back to you.

Thanks again!

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Old 12th January 2012, 05:10 PM
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If it's a really new law, I wasn't able to find any reference to that on the Service Public website - at least not yet. If she has been resident in France for 3 years already, she should be able to sponsor you under a "family regroupment" visa immediately after you are married (but this is an election year and there are rumblings about tightening up visa requirements - so you never know).

But, if you marry in France on a Schengen visa and then you return to the US, it can take a few weeks to up to 3 months or so for a family regroupment visa to come through. Unfortunately it's not automatic like a French spouse visa would be.
Cheers,
Bev

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