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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello to all!

This is my first post on the expatforum. I have combed the internet and this forum for answers to my visa questions, but since everybody's situation is unique, I have not found all the answers I'm looking for. I find the information, or rather the lack thereof, on some of the French Consulate and Embassy websites rather vague, or contradictory. So... I apologize in advance for any redundancies here.

A little background:

I am a U.S. citizen and resident of Chicago. I am moving to France on Oct. 24th, to live with my boyfriend, permanently. My one-way ticket is purchased. I cannot make an appointment without all of the required paperwork, yet it is unclear as to what exactly "all" the paperwork entails, in part because I am unsure for which type of visa I should apply.

I do not have a job lined up in France yet with my company and it is only maybe possible but not likely that I will be able to arrange this, and if I can I will still not be able to present this idea to them for another month and half. Further, if I can, it may only be a temporary assignment since the French office is in Soucy in the North, and I will be living in Toulouse in the South. Moreover, I am not fluent in French (although I have been actively taking lessons for months), so it is even less likely that I will be able to secure a job with a different company before I move. Lastly, I am pretty confident that I do not have enough assets to be considered officially financially stable independent of a steady source of income, either.

About the only thing I have going for me is that since I am moving there to live with my boyfriend, I already have a place of residence secured. If need be, he can support me while I live there, even if I do not have a job / source of income. We both understand that he will have to show proof of this for my application, but are not clear on what exactly will be required. I understand that he will have provide at least 3 months' of financial statements to show he has means of supporting me. He will likely have to show proof that he is a home owner and is insured. I also believe that some kind of written statement that he agrees to let me live with him and can support me will also be required.

My first question is in regards to those documents he must provide. Have I listed everything that will be required of him, and if so, in what forms should they take? Should they be notarized? Should they be in both English and French? How many copies will he need of each? Will he have to send them via mail as opposed to electronically? Have I left anything out that will be required of him?

My next question is tougher. For which visa should I apply? I am confused about this. Because I am not fluent in French, and let's say for the sake of argument that I will not be able to apply for a work visa to work for my company's French office, I want to be able to move there without ever having to move back to re-apply for a different visa.

As I stated before, it's okay for us financially in the interim if I do not work. I will have time to continue my study of French as we've already lined up private lessons with a professor friend in town (Caraman). However, I don't see myself comfortable doing this for a year or more. I would like to time it so that in 3 months, or 6 at the outside, I will be able to apply for a job in France (provided my French is good enough), or at least teach English privately.

I know that I must purchase international medical insurance before I go. I know I must provide at least 3 months of my bank statements as well (how ever paltry they may be). Because my driver's license is issued by the State of Illinois, I know that it is good in France for at least a year. I will of course have to purchase driver's insurance as well, once I'm there. I know I must have a check-up with my doctor before I go as well, and go to my local police station to get proof that I do not have a criminal record. In what form should these proofs take? In triplicate? Translated? By whom?

And finally, although the romantic in me hates to have to ask this, how much easier would this process be and how much more likely would it make my getting approved for a visa, if we just got PACS'd or married?

I know I have a lot of questions, but every time I think I find an answer online, I found something to contradict it and so far have not found the magical "list of every thing required in detail to apply for a visa."

I have also contacted a few French immigration attorneys via email today and await their reply. I am taking the day off of work tomorrow specifically to work on this since it's impossible to get a hold of a real person on the phone outside of business hours. As I understand it, although I will have to apply for my visa at the French Consulate, I may call the French Embassy in Chicago only between the hours of 2 and 4 pm Mon. through Fri. to ask visa questions. I will be doing this tomorrow.

If my questions cannot be answered here, what in addition to what I've already asked, should I be asking the Embassy?

Any and all help is appreciated. Feel free to direct me to previous posts and internet links as well.

Thanks in advance for your help.
 

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Hi and welcome to the forum.

First of all, I think you may be getting kind of confused on a few issues here. Let me try and deal with at least a few of your concerns.

I am a U.S. citizen and resident of Chicago. I am moving to France on Oct. 24th, to live with my boyfriend, permanently. My one-way ticket is purchased. I cannot make an appointment without all of the required paperwork, yet it is unclear as to what exactly "all" the paperwork entails, in part because I am unsure for which type of visa I should apply.
What nationality is your boyfriend? It makes a HUGE difference if he is French, some other EU nationality or "none of the above."

I do not have a job lined up in France yet with my company and it is only maybe possible but not likely that I will be able to arrange this, and if I can I will still not be able to present this idea to them for another month and half. Further, if I can, it may only be a temporary assignment since the French office is in Soucy in the North, and I will be living in Toulouse in the South. Moreover, I am not fluent in French (although I have been actively taking lessons for months), so it is even less likely that I will be able to secure a job with a different company before I move. Lastly, I am pretty confident that I do not have enough assets to be considered officially financially stable independent of a steady source of income, either.
Basically, you won't be able to get a work visa unless you have a French employer who can run the bureaucratic side of things for you. For a work visa, your EMPLOYER must apply for permission to hire a foreigner. Once that has cleared, then the consulate will call you in for an appointment. But as it is, this doesn't look like a possibility for you.

About the only thing I have going for me is that since I am moving there to live with my boyfriend, I already have a place of residence secured. If need be, he can support me while I live there, even if I do not have a job / source of income. We both understand that he will have to show proof of this for my application, but are not clear on what exactly will be required. I understand that he will have provide at least 3 months' of financial statements to show he has means of supporting me. He will likely have to show proof that he is a home owner and is insured. I also believe that some kind of written statement that he agrees to let me live with him and can support me will also be required.
If your bf is French, you can apply for a "visitor" visa for one year. You'll have to get married during that first year - and then you can change your status to a spouse when you go to change your titre de séjour (i.e. residence permit). You're not allowed to work on a visitor visa - but once you have your change of status then you can work.

My first question is in regards to those documents he must provide. Have I listed everything that will be required of him, and if so, in what forms should they take? Should they be notarized? Should they be in both English and French? How many copies will he need of each? Will he have to send them via mail as opposed to electronically? Have I left anything out that will be required of him?
Depends on what visa you're going for. For a visitor visa, you mainly need to show that you have adequate resources to support yourself for a year (including the health insurance). If your boyfriend is supporting you, then you'll need to provide evidence of his resources plus a letter from him (best if it's in French) saying that he is willing to support you - and that you're planning on marrying (or PACS'ing) within the first six months that you're in France.

My next question is tougher. For which visa should I apply? I am confused about this. Because I am not fluent in French, and let's say for the sake of argument that I will not be able to apply for a work visa to work for my company's French office, I want to be able to move there without ever having to move back to re-apply for a different visa.
You can't apply for a work visa. You need an employer to do that for you. Your options are basically a "visitor" visa (pending marriage or PACS) or a student visa (if you enroll in a study program of some sort). But unless you marry or PACS, you would be expected to go back to the US to apply for a work visa should you find a job and an employer willing and able to sponsor you for a work visa.

As I stated before, it's okay for us financially in the interim if I do not work. I will have time to continue my study of French as we've already lined up private lessons with a professor friend in town (Caraman). However, I don't see myself comfortable doing this for a year or more. I would like to time it so that in 3 months, or 6 at the outside, I will be able to apply for a job in France (provided my French is good enough), or at least teach English privately.
On a visitor visa, you do have the option to set yourself up as an auto-entrepreneur, which would work for teaching English. It's not terribly lucrative, but that's your call.

I know that I must purchase international medical insurance before I go. I know I must provide at least 3 months of my bank statements as well (how ever paltry they may be). Because my driver's license is issued by the State of Illinois, I know that it is good in France for at least a year. I will of course have to purchase driver's insurance as well, once I'm there. I know I must have a check-up with my doctor before I go as well, and go to my local police station to get proof that I do not have a criminal record. In what form should these proofs take? In triplicate? Translated? By whom?
If you're taking up permanent residence in France, you need to exchange your Illinois drivers license for a French one within the first year you are living in France. See the US Consulate publication http://photos.state.gov/libraries/france/5/acs/paris-driving.pdf for details.

You do NOT get a check up with your doctor in the US before moving to France. There is a standard medical exam conducted at the OFII after your arrival in France. And you don't need a police record check to move to France. You will need that if you decide to take French nationality, but in that case, it's an FBI "rap sheet" you'll need, not anything from your local police station.

And finally, although the romantic in me hates to have to ask this, how much easier would this process be and how much more likely would it make my getting approved for a visa, if we just got PACS'd or married?
If you're going over on a visitor visa, you're just about going to have to marry or PACS in order to remain in France. This is, of course, assuming that your boyfriend is a French national. If he's an EU national, you'll need to be married before you enter France to qualify as the spouse of an EU national and thus entitled to enjoy the same rights of mobility as he does.

I have also contacted a few French immigration attorneys via email today and await their reply. I am taking the day off of work tomorrow specifically to work on this since it's impossible to get a hold of a real person on the phone outside of business hours. As I understand it, although I will have to apply for my visa at the French Consulate, I may call the French Embassy in Chicago only between the hours of 2 and 4 pm Mon. through Fri. to ask visa questions. I will be doing this tomorrow.
Don't waste your time and money with "French immigration attorneys" - the process is fairly straight forward and going through an attorney may only cause you more grief. (Been there, done that!)
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you for your quick reply, Bev! I guess I left out that important detail: yes, my bf is a French citizen, born and raised.
I understand that if I am going to work for my company out of the French office that they would do most of the heavy lifting in the visa dept. This is why I'm even considering the idea of working for them when I'd rather leave this company behind when I move. If it helps me get there, then great... I will use it.
However, as I said, I think my chances are about 50 / 50 that they will accept my offer and I cannot make that offer for other reasons, just yet. It couldn't be until approximately the first week of Sept.
So for the time being, let's say for the sake of argument that it's not going to happen.
Are you saying that we either have to get married or PACS'd in my first year for me to remain there and during this time I cannot work, OR... the only other option is: Go on a visitor's visa, not work, not get married, and have to return to the U.S. if I want to change my status?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Is it not possible to go there on a short stay visitor's visa for example, look for work, and if a job is found, change my visa status once the initial period has expired and begin work for a company in France?

Also, what is the name of the document / letter that he will have to craft to show that I will live with him, he can provide for me, etc.? Is it like a sponsorship letter? What is the French term for this? I've seen it before but I cannot find it now.

Thanks again. :)
 

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Are you saying that we either have to get married or PACS'd in my first year for me to remain there and during this time I cannot work, OR... the only other option is: Go on a visitor's visa, not work, not get married, and have to return to the U.S. if I want to change my status?
Basically, yes - that's how it is. At least at the moment.

And changing your status is not an option unless you can get a French employer to sponsor your visa application (which is not easy).
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Is it not possible to go there on a short stay visitor's visa for example, look for work, and if a job is found, change my visa status once the initial period has expired and begin work for a company in France?
You cannot change your status while remaining in France - except if you are already in France on a long-stay visa and get married. Getting PACS'd usually allows you to change status - but it can vary by préfecture and is no where near as sure as changing your status to that of "spouse of a French citizen."

Also, what is the name of the document / letter that he will have to craft to show that I will live with him, he can provide for me, etc.? Is it like a sponsorship letter? What is the French term for this? I've seen it before but I cannot find it now.
Basically you need a letter from him outlining the terms of his support (including the fact that you'll be living with him, if that is the case). It should include stuff like if you are expected to contribute to expenses, etc. What you're thinking of could be the "attestation d'accueil" but that's for someone already living in France who needs official proof of their living arrangements.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The following page from the French consulate in LA might help you.


Thank you, Crawford. I have persued many of the consular and embassy sites. They do vary a little in the information they provide. The Washington D.C. is pretty thorough - moreso than the Chicago one. I do appreciate this link, as well.

Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You cannot change your status while remaining in France - except if you are already in France on a long-stay visa and get married. Getting PACS'd usually allows you to change status - but it can vary by préfecture and is no where near as sure as changing your status to that of "spouse of a French citizen."



Basically you need a letter from him outlining the terms of his support (including the fact that you'll be living with him, if that is the case). It should include stuff like if you are expected to contribute to expenses, etc. What you're thinking of could be the "attestation d'accueil" but that's for someone already living in France who needs official proof of their living arrangements.
Cheers,
Bev
Thank you again, Bev. Frankly it appears that if I were to be hired by the French office, while it might make the initial visa process much less painful, in the long run, it kind of backs me into a corner. Anything I can imagine them hiring me for will not be permanent.

So... long stay visa it is. Hopefully, I will be one of the lucky ones and get a not so grumpy person to answer the phone at the Embassy tomorrow and help me further.

Thanks so much!
 

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Thank you again, Bev. Frankly it appears that if I were to be hired by the French office, while it might make the initial visa process much less painful, in the long run, it kind of backs me into a corner. Anything I can imagine them hiring me for will not be permanent.

So... long stay visa it is. Hopefully, I will be one of the lucky ones and get a not so grumpy person to answer the phone at the Embassy tomorrow and help me further.

Thanks so much!
If an employer sponsors you for a work visa, your visa is tied to that position. If they hire you for a temporary (ie 6 months) assignment, then you're visa would be temporary (ie 6 months). To renew it, you'd have to provide an attestation from the employer stating that you are still employed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
If an employer sponsors you for a work visa, your visa is tied to that position. If they hire you for a temporary (ie 6 months) assignment, then you're visa would be temporary (ie 6 months). To renew it, you'd have to provide an attestation from the employer stating that you are still employed.
Thank you, Dijid.

All of this information is very straightforward and easy to understand. Why is it not so on the various government websites? Never mind. I just answered my own question.

I will let you all know how it goes with the Embassy today and I will share any new information I glean from it.

Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hello everyone! I just wanted to follow up and let you know how everything went. I apologize in advance for the length, but I thought that the details of my particular experience might help someone else perhaps seeking a similar path to a French visa.

So... my phone call to the Embassy was a bit of a downer as the woman on the other end of the phone seemed rather annoyed that I dare call the phone number for visa questions with questions about a visa. She actually said to me, "Ma'am (heavy sigh), everything's on the website." Mind you, this is after about a minute and a half on the phone. But I smiled big so she could hear it in my voice and thanked her for her time and resisted the urge to tell her about the 100's of websites pretty much dedicated to helping other people figure out the visa application process specifically because it's NOT all on the Embassy website...
but I digress. However perfunctory, she answered my questions.

I also received a call back from an American attorney in France who affirmed most of everything I've garnered from my forays into the interwebs. He offered to take care of the visa application process for $1,200.00. Ha!! I also generously thanked him for his time and free consultation and then of course never spoke to him again.

So after several discussions with my boyfriend and yet more internet research, as well as his conversation with his brother's attorney in France, we decided that our best option was to have me apply for the 12-month Long-Stay Visa. In a nutshell: I'm not, nor will I be any time soon, a student, a professor, or a scientific researcher. I don't have a job lined up with a company that could fill out a work visa on my behalf, my lack of fluency in French being a hindrance in this regard, and for the purposes of what we'd like to accomplish as a couple, a short-stay visa would be more or less useless.

The items I gathered and filled out were as follows:
- My passport
- Color copies of the identity page, the bar code page, and several blank pages of my passport
- 4 new passport sized photos
- 1 Long-Stay Visa application, duly filled out in French
- 1 visa questionnaire, also filled out in French, signed and notarized
- 1 different long-stay visa application to present to the OFII upon entry into France and for my temporary residency card (carte de sejour), also filled out in French
- Signed and notarized letter agreeing to not seek employment in France
- A letter from the health insurance I purchased for the duration of my visa stating that the coverage I chose satisfies all Schengen country long-stay visa requirements
- A copy of last year's W-2 and Tax Return
- A copy of the latest statements from 2 different investment accounts with Chase (one immediately accessible, the other one a retirement fund which will be rolled into the first)
- A copy of my most current statement of my 401K through my work (which will also be rolled into the accessible account)
- The original attestation d'accueil my boyfriend obtained from his mayor's office to show he can accommodate me in his home*
- An original copy of his earnings from last year
- A color copy of his French national identity card
- And the most efficiently and formally written romantic letter you've ever seen, in which he scribed in French to the Consulate an explanation of how we met and fell in love, in the hopes that if my meager savings and his earnings and promise to house me were not enough to sway them into believing that I would not seek employment or could afford 12 months without a job... the letter would at least appeal to their humanity. :)

*the attestation d'accueil / logement certificat is really only good for a short-stay visa as the maximum amount of time they will allow you to officially accommodate a visitor is 3 months, but we thought it couldn't hurt to have an official document stating that my housing and daily expenses would be accounted for outside of just my savings.

I also made approximately 400 copies of everything which I have stashed on paper and on several computers and a cloud drive.

My Consulate appointment was on Monday the 10th, which I of course showed up for early. The "interview," and I would use that term loosely, consisted of me standing behind a glass partition through which I passed my paperwork and watched the woman go through everything. She reiterated the uselessness of the attestation d'accueil but kept it on file anyway. She asked me about my three investment account statements noting that two appeared to be retirement accounts, wondering if they would be immediately accessible. I explained in brief that the two larger ones would be rolled into the smaller immediately accessible one once I had given my notice at my work and could obtain the necessary paperwork for my 401k but that I had not done so yet because I was waiting on my visa approval to officially quit.
She asked me for my reason for wanting to journey to France, and I answered with a smile, "Love." to which she nary managed a smirk as she continued to thumb through the paperwork. I explained further that I am moving in with my boyfriend and our hopes are that we'll get married and I will live out my life in France and make it my home. Throughout our brief encounter, I tried to be friendly and to use what little French I have for greetings and pleasantries without being overbearing or seeming to try to hard. She pretty much ignored me at every turn although I think I did hear her mutter a "Bonjour" in return to mine.
I then had my fingerprints and picture taken. She took my prepaid self-addressed Express USPS Mail envelope and said I'd hear from them soon. She did not take the second copy I made of everything even though all the official websites say that you must bring an original plus one copy of everything (in bold letters), noting that "the Consulate does not make copies!" She handed it right back to me, uninterested.

On Wednesday afternoon I received a call from the Consulate and I'm pretty sure it was the same woman I met on Monday. She then proceeded to ask me almost verbatim the same question about my account statements. She started with the lowest balance one. I explained that yes, I am able to cash it out immediately without penalty. The next highest balance account along with the largest one which is about 50% more than the first two combined will all be rolled into the first one so that the monies will all be immediately accessible. I heard her flip through the papers. She got to the statement for the second highest balance account and asked me the same question. I calmly repeated what I just had explained a moment ago, choosing the same words I used before and used the day we met. She thumbed through the pages again until she got to the largest account and lo and behold if she didn't ask me the same question again, this time noting that this account appears to be "...a retirement account, and you're not planning on retiring, are you?" I explained again how they would be combined, and this time chose a couple of different words in case this was an instance of things getting lost in translation, and assured her (again) that the only reason this last account is still an active 401k is that I have not quit my job yet and it is through my job that I will have to get the paperwork to close this account. She said those were all the questions she had but our brief talk did not leave me feeling too confident about having enough money to satisfy them.

The rest of the week was a long one.

Alas! Today in the mail I received my passport back, and it has a new page:
my 12-month visa!!!!

I have also had my paperwork stamped and approved to bring to the OFII, once in France.

I've spent the rest of the time since my last post here putting everything I own pretty much, up for sale on the internet. I've managed to get rid of a few things like my dining set and a beautiful framed Mucha poster that I loved but that loses some of its charm being written in French if it were hung on the wall of a French home as opposed to a Chicagoan one. My car has not sold yet, and neither has the sectional couch from hell (because I keep reducing the price), but I have hope that they will soon. I've decided not to bring my dog on this first trip as it will take some time to settle in and there will be copious visits by and to friends all over France for the first few months I am there. Besides, with all the bags I will bring and the boxes I will ship and who knows what else, it just seems like a better idea to do it at a later date. Once settled however, when my boyfriend and I return here to Chicago for a visit probably early next year, on the return flight we will bring the pooch. Other than that, about the only anxiety I have is deciding on how many boxes of hair dye I will need to ship over in advance for my bi-monhtly root coverage before I find a place to purchase the equivalent product in France. :)

Actually, truth be told, my biggest worry is my horrendous French. After 7 months of study, I'm no closer to being able to understand spoken French than if I had never studied a day. It's terribly frustrating and actually quite humiliating. I cannot speak French. At all. The Consulate should have no worries about my seeking employment because that little detail makes it quite impossible! Ugh. But... I guess my full time job once I land on French soil again, will be the study of the language as if my life depends on it because well... it does. :)

Thanks again for reading. And hey... for any of you in the Chicago area: let me know if you are in the market for a giant, gently-used sectional couch. I know where you can get one, cheap. ;-)

Best to all of you.
 

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Hooray and Congrats

Hello everyone! I just wanted to follow up and let you know how everything went. I apologize in advance for the length, but I thought that the details of my particular experience might help someone else perhaps seeking a similar path to a French visa.

....
Actually, truth be told, my biggest worry is my horrendous French. After 7 months of study, I'm no closer to being able to understand spoken French than if I had never studied a day. It's terribly frustrating and actually quite humiliating. I cannot speak French. At all. The Consulate should have no worries about my seeking employment because that little detail makes it quite impossible! Ugh. But... I guess my full time job once I land on French soil again, will be the study of the language as if my life depends on it because well... it does. :)

Thanks again for reading. And hey... for any of you in the Chicago area: let me know if you are in the market for a giant, gently-used sectional couch. I know where you can get one, cheap. ;-)

Best to all of you.
Best of luck to you. Where in France will you be living? Don't worry. Your French will come eventually. Just keep at it.
hulagirl
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Best of luck to you. Where in France will you be living?
hulagirl
I will be living in a house in the South, just outside Toulouse, in a small town called Caraman. At least, that is where we'll live until we can get a bigger place after some renovations to the current home. I'm excited. Thanks.

Oh! One thing I forgot to mention about the paperwork I included that I presented to the Consulate. I had only a print out of my one-way ticket to France. I have not purchased a return ticket. They did not ask about it.
 
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