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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Bonjour à tous !!

A few months back (maybe even shorter) I posted a thread about applying for the CeT card and after planning an entire project and consulting a few of my friends in France (where I'd be "living" for almost 6 months on a technically "invalid" tourist visa) I decided it was going to be such a huge risk to apply for this auspicious card that I hesitantly applied to a university in the city I'd fallen in love with. Mind you, the plan had never been to go back to school but, I did love the language and had been learning quite a bit while handling daily operations such as shopping for my morning baguette, going shopping at my favorite magasins etc, that I thought it'd be great to actually learn how to read, write and express myself fluently.

I will admit I had several concerns when researching different sites online for the visa application process. For starters, the French government site had mentioned a letter from my US university stating that I was currently enrolled (mind you me, I graduated several years ago and haven't been a student since) as one of the requirements. Next up was the requirement to register with Campus France, which seemed like a bureaucratic way of making more money. I began the application process but ran into several issues when filling out my form online and no one ever seemed to respond to my emails.

On my own, I decided to schedule my appointment at the consulate in my state and city of residence (in the US). I electronically completed all of my forms on the Campus France site and printed out a copy of my dossier (although I never sent the money order). Just shy of my return to the US to apply for my visa, I read that now Biometric Visas would be the new system. Instead of having to wait 4 to 6 weeks, assuming all my paperwork was in order, I could have an answer in 48 hours.

The day of my interview at the consulate, I had photocopied all of the required documents they ask for and more. I included copies of my high school and university diplomas, my transcripts, a notarized letter from a parent saying they'd provide me with 430 euros/month (even though they wouldn't), a copy of my parents' three last pay stubs, my birth certificate, the Campus France dossier I'd printed offline, my résume (or CV as they call it here), a letter of recommendation from a friend I'd met in France, a copy of her French national ID card, the letter of acceptance and convocation from my French university and of course my passport.

I thought the interview would be in a private room with some scary French woman or man asking me tons of questions, but contrary to my expectations, I was placed in a room with about 4 or 5 other applicants where we all awaited our turn to approach one of the two glass windows with young women on the other side. When it was finally my turn, I came up and handed my dossier over to her with my long-stay visa application that I'd filled out. I spoke to her in the best French I knew how as she checked off all of the required items and browsed through the stack of papers I'd voluntarily given.

After a few minutes, she simply wrote "dossier complét" on the top and asked me for my passport. I handed it over to her and then she asked me for my money order. I was worried that she'd call Campus France and realize I hadn't paid my $120 money order and tell me I couldn't get my visa until after paying this fee. Then she asked me to scoot my chair back against the new backdrop to snap my picture. I was then told to place my hands on the finger print scanner. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. When she asked me for my money order for the visa, I gladly handed it over. She looked at my dossier again and told me to come back in ten days. Ten days ?! What happened to 48 hours ??

Well, when I got home, I concocted some melodramatic story about leaving the state (which wasn't a lie, because I was technically leaving, just not the dramatic part). They told me I could call back in 5 days to see the status of my visa. Well, I called back (anxious thinking they'd discovered my Campus France faux pas) only to hear that Paris had responded and that I should come to the consulate the following day. They hung up the phone quickly. Couldn't they just tell me what Paris had said ? The woman didn't sound very cheery, which only increased my anxiety.

When I arrived at the consulate again, the security guard didn't even let me into the visa room. She simply took the paper I'd be given at my first appointment stating that I'd paid my fees for the visa and told me to wait. She came back less than five minutes later with my passport and some paper in hand. She didn't say a word. When I opened it up, I found that my visa had been approved and glued to my passport. Was this it ? No congratulations or this is what you do next ? All I could do was smile and laugh.

Well, now it's been just a day since I've arrived back in France. It felt silly walking through customs this time because every time I've entered or left France, no one ever really pays much attention or asks any questions. They just smile, say bonjour and stamp away. I have an appointment with my school counselor tomorrow to find out how soon I can apply for my carte de sejour, attain my student ID card and figure out how to apply for CAF, my sécu sociale, trade in my driver's license (I'm a resident of one of the 13 states that allows you to surrender your US license for a permit conduire without the driving classes or exam), open a bank account and all the rest.

I just thought I'd tell everyone out there who's losing sleep or feeling some of the same anxieties I did while going through the process that applying for a student visa is NOT anything to lose sleep over. The print can look scary and overwhelming. Sometimes it even seems like too much trouble, but take my word for it, it's much simpler and less scary than it seems. Good luck to everyone! I'm working on my CDS next ;-) I'll keep you posted. And Bev, thank you for all of your help and knowledge. You really do a great job of answering everyone and sharing what you already know.

Bonne journée mes amis
 
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Thanks for that update LFC, the moral of the story is not to waste any energy worrying about those things one cannot change... trouble is some of us are born worriers (including you, I suspect!)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for that update LFC, the moral of the story is not to waste any energy worrying about those things one cannot change... trouble is some of us are born worriers (including you, I suspect!)
Haha, not so much of a born worrier. Though when there's something I truly want (and this visa was something that was extremely important to me) and then there's signs of things being a bit difficult, I tend to want to think of all of the possible scenarios. But, I do agree that we shouldn't waste unnecessary energy until we let destiny take its course ;-) Have a great day! Love from France.
 

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Haha, not so much of a born worrier. Though when there's something I truly want (and this visa was something that was extremely important to me) and then there's signs of things being a bit difficult, I tend to want to think of all of the possible scenarios. But, I do agree that we shouldn't waste unnecessary energy until we let destiny take its course ;-) Have a great day! Love from France.
When dealing with the French administration, I've always taken the position that you prepare for the worst if only to make sure things go smoothly. If you're not prepared for the worst, it ALWAYS happens that way. If you take the time and effort to prepare, then it goes far smoother than anticipated, and you think all that effort was wasted - but it wasn't, really! :confused2:
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
CDS:::Bank Accounts:::Fun Admin Stuff

To continue with the adventures, I've now been back in Nantes for a little under two weeks and the real fun has begun. With these fancy shmancy new biometric visas there seems to be a few advantages over the old system. Commencing with the CDS. This is now going to be a thing of the past (or at least will begin to slowly phase out) according to my school counselor. When I went to my university to ask for the documents I'd need to take to the prefecture, she informed me that my bm visa IS my CDS and that anyone with this type of new visa will not have to apply for a separate carte. Not only does this save me some time on having to reprint all of the necessary documents and having to go down to the prefecture to process it all, but it also saves me some euros (and who isn't grateful for that with the dollar being so shamefully low in comparison these days).

Now, the downside, and maybe it worked this way with old visas too (not sure) is that until I have my visite medical (which at this point is going to take about 3 months because of everything being backed up, apparently) I can't leave the country because even though my visa is valid from the day of entry, it's not "active" until after this physical. Now, seeing as I really love France, not being able to leave it for a few months isn't really such a bad thing. But, when it comes to things like being able to receive my housing assistance from CAF, even if I apply now, I won't receive those benefits until after my visa's activated (though that's not even that bad considering benefits will be retroactive). Again, no real complaints here, just a head's up for those considering or in the process of attaining a student visa.

Other than that, I've noticed lots of differences in administration versus how things are done in the States. For starters, I needed to open a bank account, which I thought should be easy enough now that I've got legal status to be here. In the US, I would simply pull up to any bank of my choosing, walk-in and open an account. Well, it seems the French take opening accounts quite seriously and require you to make an appointment to meet with a branch advisor. How busy could these banks possibly be, right? Well, I made my request about a week ago thinking I could come in the next day or two. Wrong. Although it wasn't super long, I had to wait until today for my appointment. I choose to open an account with Banque Populaire since they have a branch right across the street from the university I'll be attending. The advisor was quite friendly and jumped right into explaining the accounts offered to students. When the time came to start filling out paperwork I was caught a little off guard when he asked me if I had my rental agreement or something of the sort on hand (I think they call it attestation de domicile). It just so happens that I DID have it, but I never would have thought they'd need this from me to open an account. Apart from that, other differences included that when all the administrative stuff was finished I expected to receive a temporary bank card with my real one to arrive via post at home. Err, wrong again. He told me the first card and check book will arrive at his office next week (after the first time card/book, all following mail will be sent directly to my flat). In the end, I walked out with a nice big notebook full of documents containing my RIB & IBAN and his card, with which I assume that if I should have to modify or inquire about my accounts, he's the guy I should go to.

Moving right along ... next up I wanted to open up my interet, tv, ligne fixe & mobile account. There are some great offers right now because of the holiday season and when I went to one of the magasins yesterday to do so, I was turned away because I didn't have a RIB yet (seems like every type of utility requires this here. It seems like they don't want to just take your word for it when you say you're going to pay something every month. Who can blame them?) So today, I went back really excited thinking I'd finally be able to buy my new iPhone 3Gs, make my deposit on the internet, tv & home phone box and be on my merry way. Errr ... wrong yet again ! Not only do I need a RIB, but I will also need either 1) a voided check or 2) my carte bleu, of which I will have neither until of course, next week.

Well, so far I have to say that things are still going pretty smooth, considering. They may be different than I'm used to, but it's just the way things are done here and I figure the sooner I accept that and get used to it, the less I'll be stressed out. And up to now, I don't really feel all that stressed, so I feel pretty good about the adjustment. My best advice for anyone attempting to do the same thing or already in the process is to practice lots and LOTS of patience. It will go a long way. I'll keep everyone posted on the latest. For now, bonne soirée!

A+
 

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Thanks for the update. This will certainly be useful for many folks lurking here.

A couple small points (clarifications):
From everything I've read, these new visas get you out of having to apply for a CDS only for the first year, and only for certain categories of visas. If you're staying longer than a year, you wind up having to get a CDS. Actually, I know a few folks who prefer having a CDS they can use for identification if only to avoid having to take their passport with them all the time.

Opening a bank account always seems to be a surprise to new expats here. It's a very formal process, and yes they want stuff like proof of residence and (for working folks) three months' back pay slips - or some other proof of your income. Then, when you need more checks or more deposit slips, you have to go in and pick them up at the bank. If you "forget" and the bank has to mail them to you, you'll get hit for about 5 - 12€ in postage charges because they only send them registered mail. There are a bunch of other nickel and dime banking fees that will drive you nuts - but not much you can do about them. (Cheer up - until a couple years ago the banks charged you about 25€ to CLOSE your account!)

But it sounds like you're progressing nicely.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the update. This will certainly be useful for many folks lurking here.

A couple small points (clarifications):
From everything I've read, these new visas get you out of having to apply for a CDS only for the first year, and only for certain categories of visas. If you're staying longer than a year, you wind up having to get a CDS. Actually, I know a few folks who prefer having a CDS they can use for identification if only to avoid having to take their passport with them all the time.

Opening a bank account always seems to be a surprise to new expats here. It's a very formal process, and yes they want stuff like proof of residence and (for working folks) three months' back pay slips - or some other proof of your income. Then, when you need more checks or more deposit slips, you have to go in and pick them up at the bank. If you "forget" and the bank has to mail them to you, you'll get hit for about 5 - 12€ in postage charges because they only send them registered mail. There are a bunch of other nickel and dime banking fees that will drive you nuts - but not much you can do about them. (Cheer up - until a couple years ago the banks charged you about 25€ to CLOSE your account!)

But it sounds like you're progressing nicely.
Cheers,
Bev
Thanks so much Bev !! I would have preferred to have the CDS too, but when I reapply for my visa at the end of this year, then I guess I'll have the chance to do so anyways ;-) In the meantime, thanks for the clarifications about the banking as well, in reference to picking up refill check books. That's great to know ! For the type of student account I opened, I'll pay a 3.90 euro fee per month, which seems extremely reasonable. I guess we'll see how it all pans out when I actually start using the account.

I've also managed to purchase the 12-25 carte SNCF for the rail discounts and I'm really excited about that. Seeing as I won't be able to travel around Europe just yet, I think I'll take advantage of the next three months to visit some other cities in France, since I plan on calling this place home.

I also forgot to mention I went to the prefecture today to inquire about surrendering my FL driver's license in exchange for a French permit conduire, but the office closed at 12h30, so I'll try my luck again tomorrow and post any updates on that little adventure!

Bonne chance à tous!
 

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I also forgot to mention I went to the prefecture today to inquire about surrendering my FL driver's license in exchange for a French permit conduire, but the office closed at 12h30, so I'll try my luck again tomorrow and post any updates on that little adventure!

Bonne chance à tous!
Oh yeah, that's another one of those "tips and tricks." Even if the prefecture is open all day, there are sometimes specific days and hours for exchanging licenses or for other specific transactions.

Does that monthly fee for your student bank account include Internet access? I know having to pay for Internet access is one of my long-standing gripes about the banks here, but it's one of those things you can't do anything about.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Oh yeah, that's another one of those "tips and tricks." Even if the prefecture is open all day, there are sometimes specific days and hours for exchanging licenses or for other specific transactions.

Does that monthly fee for your student bank account include Internet access? I know having to pay for Internet access is one of my long-standing gripes about the banks here, but it's one of those things you can't do anything about.
Cheers,
Bev
So, for starters, I went back to prefecture today only to find out that because my visa status indicates I'm a student, they won't exchange my license. I am allowed to drive with my US license for up to 10 years as a student (at least that's according to the lady at the prefecture). If I decide to stay here and my status changes THEN I can come back and exchange it. Kinda bummed, but oh well. It could be worse !!

And yes Bev, that fee DOES include internet access. Kinda silly if it didn't, but I guess that's only silly because in the states of course it'd be included. What's NOT included in that fee is if I decide to call the bank, at which point I think there's a .34 cents/minute charge.

Moving right along, next week I'll go back to my university to meet with my student advisor to fill out my CAF paperwork for the housing assistance. I've already sent in my long sejour application to OFFI to request my visite medicale. Not sure how long it'll be before I hear back from them. I love to do research online and I've come across a few sites that say it's a good idea to head down to the local marie and get accquainted with the clerks, so I think I'll do that next week.

I'm also thinking of checking out a few asso's that peak my interests to try and expand my social circle a bit. I'm not sure what all it takes to create an asso of my own, but as an artist I know I have more than a few services I could offer to generate some income. So, plenty of things on the agenda. I'll keep you all posted ;)
 

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What inspired me to ask about the bank fees is that what you're paying is almost exactly what I pay just for Internet access (though I think I get phone access, too, without the surcharge).

It's not a bad idea to make friends at the local mairie. Never know when it can come in handy. They are also the center for info on most local associations (they nearly all get some form of subsidy from the mairie).

I know a few folks who have set up "associations" to ply their trade under the "non-profit" label. Be careful with that - the law of 1901, which governs associations, has been abused in the name of making a living and they periodically crack down on these sorts of arrangements. The legalities for associations are kind of mind boggling and if you're looking to do something with your art, you may be better off either with an auto-entrepreneur or just as a BNC (which is a way of reporting casual income from a sideline). Not sure if you are subject to restrictions on either of these on a student visa, but if you ask around, I'm sure you can find out.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Thanks for posting the updates. As we're about to move over shortly into 2010, I've enjoyed reading about your experiences. I guess we'll have to make our medical appointments right away, because my husband will be expected to travel for business and I don't think it will go over well if he's stuck in France for 3 months. Yikes!
 

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I wish it were that simple

Thanks for posting the updates. As we're about to move over shortly into 2010, I've enjoyed reading about your experiences. I guess we'll have to make our medical appointments right away, because my husband will be expected to travel for business and I don't think it will go over well if he's stuck in France for 3 months. Yikes!
Believe me, I definitely didn't want to wait three months. However, the way that it works is that once you arrive in France, you will be asked to mail your visa paperwork that you receive after obtaining your visa. Then, once the OFFI office receives this paper, they process it and THEY give you the appointment, but it's not at a day or time of your choosing. They send you the "convocation" which is a letter telling you the day, time and place where you will have to show up for your "visite medicale" and then voila.

Best wishes to you though. I'm glad my post and updates help!
 
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