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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I have a question for anyone who has very recently gone through the visa application process as a non-French spouse of a French citizen, as everything seems to be changing and it's not clear where I should go - préfecture or OFII - upon arrival in France.

My husband and I got married in the US and are moving to France in April. I just received my long-stay spouse visa, and the consulate told us that within three months of arriving, we must go to the préfecture with my visa & passport, livret de famille, my birth certificate, and a small OFII form that they signed, to apply for a new one-year visa. Then, in one year, I'd reapply for a 5-10 year carte de sejour.

However, the visa they gave me says it is good for a year, starting this April. It is a type "D", for "vie privee et famille", and it authorizes me to work.

So, did they already give me the first one-year work visa by a lucky mistake? Do we need to apply for something else within three months? My [French] husband searched the websites for the prefecture and OFII, but says they are very confusing. He found some French language expat blogs where the most recent postings say that now foreign spouses must mail their documents to the OFII and wait to be given an appointment (skipping the prefecture altogether, for the moment).

Should we go to the prefecture, as the consulate in the US says, go to the OFII, or just mail documents to the OFII? Also, we are confused about the timeline: does it all have to be done within three months, or do I have a year, as my visa is good for a year?

Timing is a bit critical for me: for the first few months in France, I will be finishing my thesis, and I may need to go back to my university in North America to meet with my committee once or twice before going back for the final defense. So I'm a bit worried at having a lot of OFII-related appointments that could conflict with those trips back. Also, I'm sure I will be assigned some French classes, as my French is not good, but there is no way I could finish my thesis while taking French classes, so I'd need to postpone them till after my final defense. Is it possible to postpone them like this?

Finally...I've seen people mention a "carte de sejour" and a "titre de sejour." Is there a difference?

Thanks so much for any advice! I will be sure to post my experience once it is all over, as it seems that the transition to the new OFII procedures is confusing for everyone!

(P.S. I did read a lot of postings here from non-French spouses...but was still confused, as not everyone is in exactly the same situation as me)
 

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My husband and I got married in the US and are moving to France in April. I just received my long-stay spouse visa, and the consulate told us that within three months of arriving, we must go to the préfecture with my visa & passport, livret de famille, my birth certificate, and a small OFII form that they signed, to apply for a new one-year visa. Then, in one year, I'd reapply for a 5-10 year carte de sejour.
Do exactly as the consulate told you to do. Actually, you should send in the form for the OFII to the OFII as soon as you arrive in France and have had your visa stamped on entry. The OFII will give you an appointment to come in and complete the formalities you need to complete. (Basically, they stamp the visa in your passport to validate it, give you a medical exam and sign you up for your contract of integration.)

The visa is only a document to allow you to enter France. Once you have entered, you must then apply for a residence permit. For the first year, the OFII validated visa in your passport functions as your residence permit. At the end of your first year, you need to renew your "titre de séjour" - at which time you'll get a carte de séjour.

During that first year you will have to take French classes (if you don't already speak French) and attend a couple of day-long classes on life in France.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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One thing to note about going back and forth to NA...

My husband (a post doc in Paris) and I applied for our residency permits in November and still have not received them yet. When we applied we were told that if we left France prior to receiving our residency permits, we would not be allowed back into the country. Seemed a bit odd to me, as you'd think an American passport should get you back into the country just fine, but this is what they told us... (Note: the visas in our passports were only good until Jan, as they said we needed to apply for residency by then.)
 

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Validating your visa

the visa they gave me says it is good for a year, starting this April. It is a type "D", for "vie privee et famille", and it authorizes me to work.
This is the correct visa, and yes, you can work as soon as you enter France.

Once you have entered, you must then apply for a residence permit.
This isn't exactly correct anymore. The long-stay visa is valid for one year, so you do not need to go to the préfecture to request a carte de séjour until 2 months before your visa expires. It is not to be done once you have entered, but ONLY at the end of your visa validity. If you go to the préfecture as soon as you arrive in France, they will send you away.

Here is what you need to upon arrival in France:

1. Send the Demande d'Attestion OFII document along with a copy of the ID pages of your passport AND the stamp in your passport received at the border.

Download the form here if you don't already have it: consulfrance-chicago.org/IMG/pdf/formulaire_ofii.pdf

2. Wait for OFII to contact you with the date and time of your appointment. This could take a month or 6 months, you never know, so you might be able to go back to North America without it interfering with the appointment.

You will be required to do a medical visit and get your visa validated that basically just means your visa is indeed good until the expiration date printed on it. When you go to the OFII office for your medical visit/validation process, you will need to bring:

* your passport,

* a proof of accommodation in France (such as EDF bill),

* one ID picture,

* means of payment for the processing fee of 340 € for a conjoint d'un Français (usually you need to buy the OFII timbres from a tabac or centre des impôts beforehand.)

When the file is complete, a registration stamp (and sometimes a yellow attestation card) will be added to your passport.

3. If you plan to stay in France for longer than one year, then you must go to your préfecture 2 months before the expiration date on your visa to do a première demande de carte de séjour, which involves another stack of paperwork to provide (but each préfecture is different to what they require, so you'll just have to ask them.)

However, if you've been married to a French citizen for more than 3 years by the time you go to the préfecture, you can ask for the carte de résident, which is valid for 10 years.

For those who are not eligible for a carte de résident right away, each year that you want to renew (do a renouvellement), your carte de séjour will cost 110€. For those who are only PACSed to a French citizen or who simply work in France, you will need five years of either vie privée or salarié carte de séjours AND proof that you made at least 12,000€ each year before you can request the carte de résident. (You can also request French nationality after five years of living in France - not necessarily working - so in some cases, it is easier to get nationality than the 10 year residency card. Go figure!)

Since you are married to a French citizen and plan to live in France permanently, you will also have to sign the contrat d’accueil et d’intégration (CAI), which may also require a day of "formation" in French language and values. From what I've heard, it can be a waste of time for people who are not from third-world countries and the language portion is extremely easy. But just be prepared that it is yet another appointment that will be scheduled for you.

All of this information about the long-stay visa, validating your visa, the timbres/fees, etc. is available on OFII's website: ofii.fr
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you everyone for the responses!

It makes a lot more sense now, that the visa I have now is the visa I'll have for the first year, just that it needs some extra stickers and stamps to validate it, and that we now contact the OFII first, rather than the prefecture.

To Camp0332: you write that you and your husband are applying for residency permits; when you applied for them, what did you have/get at that point in your passport? A visa of some sort, or nothing? However, neither of you are French citizens, correct? That might make the difference.

If you do have some sort of stamp or visa, does it say multiple entry? Mine does, perhaps if we have trouble we could always argue based on what the visa actually says. Maybe my husband can try asking our consulate again, although they didn't seem to know much about the part of this process that occurs in France.

As for the French lessons, does anyone who has had to take them know if there is some sort of time limit for signing up for them?
 

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Thank you everyone for the responses!

It makes a lot more sense now, that the visa I have now is the visa I'll have for the first year, just that it needs some extra stickers and stamps to validate it, and that we now contact the OFII first, rather than the prefecture.
Yes, definitely.

To Camp0332: you write that you and your husband are applying for residency permits; when you applied for them, what did you have/get at that point in your passport? A visa of some sort, or nothing? However, neither of you are French citizens, correct? That might make the difference.
I'm a little confused here, too. I think it may be the terminology that's getting in the way. Perhaps when she said "residency permit" she means "titre de séjour" - which in your first year in France is the OFII-validated visa in your passport. A "carte de resident" is the 10-year carte de séjour, which you normally don't get until you've had a carte de séjour for a few years.

If you do have some sort of stamp or visa, does it say multiple entry? Mine does, perhaps if we have trouble we could always argue based on what the visa actually says. Maybe my husband can try asking our consulate again, although they didn't seem to know much about the part of this process that occurs in France.
The consulates have very little idea what procedure is like in France, as they report to an entirely different Ministry than do the prefecture. The other problem is that procedures vary greatly from one prefecture/departement to the next.

As for the French lessons, does anyone who has had to take them know if there is some sort of time limit for signing up for them?
If the OFII determines that you must take the French lessons, they will sign you up for them at your visit there. Or, they will give you a list of the classes in the area where you live and tell you when and how to register. The time limit is actually for passing the French test that concludes your lessons. That you must do by the time you apply for your first "real" carte de séjour at the end of your first year in France. I believe you're required to submit your proof of having passed the test, along with the certificates of completion for the "civics" classes when you apply for your carte de séjour.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
OFII French class requirement: what is the maximum?

(I posted earlier about my situation, but have a few specific additional questions so am breaking them up into different posts)

I am moving to France with my French husband at the end of next month. I have the entrance visa, but it's likely I'll be assigned French classes. As Bev mentioned in her answer to my previous post, classes will need to be completed, and the French exam passed, before I can renew my visa when it expires in April 2012.

How quickly can the classes be done? For my first few months in France I will still be working on my phd thesis; I can't take French classes till my thesis defense is over. That was hopefully going to be in October, but the way things are going there is a good chance it will be pushed later in the year.

So, my plan is start French classes in January. However, is it feasible to think I can complete all the required classes, pass the exam, and apply for the visa renewal in April, in order to be able to travel in April 2012? My best friend is getting married in the US in April, and I can't not go!!! In fact, if there is a good chance I couldn't go in April, she might be willing to move her date (it's only tentative at the moment).

Thanks for any input from those who have taken the required French classes!
 

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(I posted earlier about my situation, but have a few specific additional questions so am breaking them up into different posts)

I am moving to France with my French husband at the end of next month. I have the entrance visa, but it's likely I'll be assigned French classes. As Bev mentioned in her answer to my previous post, classes will need to be completed, and the French exam passed, before I can renew my visa when it expires in April 2012.

How quickly can the classes be done? For my first few months in France I will still be working on my phd thesis; I can't take French classes till my thesis defense is over. That was hopefully going to be in October, but the way things are going there is a good chance it will be pushed later in the year.

So, my plan is start French classes in January. However, is it feasible to think I can complete all the required classes, pass the exam, and apply for the visa renewal in April, in order to be able to travel in April 2012? My best friend is getting married in the US in April, and I can't not go!!! In fact, if there is a good chance I couldn't go in April, she might be willing to move her date (it's only tentative at the moment).

Thanks for any input from those who have taken the required French classes!
It really depends on the French requirements you wind up with. They can require you to take up to 400 hours of free French classes and you won't finish that in just a couple of months. OTOH, the level of French required to opt out of the classes is pretty basic. So unless you literally have no exposure whatsoever to the French language, you may not have to do much with the French classes. (Though you will have to attend the "civics class" thing, no matter what.)

I'd wait and see what verdict you get from the OFII before you get too concerned about it. But if you do need to go for the classes, I wouldn't put them off.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hey Bev,

Thanks for the response!

I do speak a bit, but when we went to the consulate in the US for our marriage-related paperwork, I could not understand most of what the woman was saying. Although, she was a mumbler...I watched some of the excerpts from the OFII "Living in France" video that are posted on their website, and usually understood the gist of what they were talking about.

So, for me I think it's a crapshoot. I could get lucky and be really "on" that day (it happens sometimes), and/or have a lax interviewer, and get nothing. Or, the interviewer could be very strict and give me the whole 400 hours. Most likely, it will be something in between.

I guess I will just have to wait and see, as you said. It's just really hard not to know, and to think that it could become a huge problem. There really is no way to go to French classes while writing a thesis, though.

I don't mind doing a full-time intensive course (as long as it is after my defense, of course!) in order to get the hours done as soon as possible, but it sounds like the free courses aren't offered that way. If not, and if we are willing to pay, can the requirements be fulfilled through a private school that does offer a full-time intensive courses? Or are we required to go through the OFII-sanctioned schools?
 

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I'm not sure if they would let you go through a private course to avoid the freebie classes, but seriously, the "test" of your French is really pretty basic. Fill in the blank with anything that makes sense, state your address in French, stuff like that. We've got a few folks here who have passed out of taking French classes altogether, so I expect they'll be by shortly with some encouragement.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I just took the exam ,and it was realy easy and basic...really no point of stressing over it.
As for the number of classes now its either 120 if ur level of french is ok,meaning you can understand and reply on questions in à very simple way...or 280 h if your knowledge of french is lower of what i mentioned. I had 120 and finished in 1 month and 1 week ...7 h a day 4 days a week.
 

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Correction about the number of classes ..so :
- DILF ....240h
- DELF....120 / 180 h
So more u know french ,less the number of classes .
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
That is GREAT news, thanks for posting your experience! It's reassuring to hear, as well, that you could do all the hours at once, in full-day classes.
 

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Well most of the people dont work and have no other obligations so the classes start at 08:30h till 17h with 2 breaks for coffee and of course a lunch break. And also they (ur prof.) can be understanding if you have some other obligation or whatever ..they can be flexible . I'm telling you this because in the begining they will tell you that its very strict and that you CAN'T miss a class ,which is nonsence coz people have lives of course :) .....

So good luck with ur classes and dont worry at all.. and btw ,u'll meet a lot of ppl and it's quite fun ;)
Take care
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yes, I'd also heard that the classes had strict attendance policies...another reason I didn't want to start them before finishing grad school. But it's also good to hear that can be flexible, as well.

I am actually pretty excited about the classes...even if the OFII interview goes well, the plan was to take a few months of classes before starting a job. Everyone here seems to enjoy them quite a bit and it must be one of the best ways to meet people when you first arrive. Plus it would be amazing to be able to hold a real conversation in French!
 

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Yeah it's a great way to meet ppl and make friends,mainly coz we all are in the same situation - non french and have no or few friends here ,so yes...its great. And other positive thing - nobody there will correct ur grammar which is soooooo annoying when french pop do it :)
 
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