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Bonjour des amis,

I have spent a bit of time looking for posts that are similar to my situation but have been unable to get all of the answers I'm looking for. Plus, I've read that there have been some recent changes in immigration laws, so I know that I should be looking for the most relevant info available...

I am a US citizen and I married my French (natural French-born citizen) partner 19 months ago. The wedding took place in the US, and we resided together in the US for all but the past month (18 months together without separation). My wife had a good opportunity suddenly come up in France and went back to continue her work there. I was registered to return to university this Fall (in the US) and continue my studies here. With her going back to France and the prospect of me staying in the US for the next few years without her seems quite unappealing to me.

I have been looking into some different programs of study in France, and there are quite a few that I'm interested in, including some technical BTS, DUT and Bac-Pro courses. I'm sure I will be able to find the right match for my goals, with further research. (Plus, knowing I would have the next 12 months to study French intensively before beginning a program, I know I'd be better off overall and in addition to my technical studies.)

I have just booked a one-way ticket to rejoin her in France, in the beginning of December.

We already have the Livret de Famille.

I have over $15,000 in savings. I have current health insurance, and I will book travel insurance for the date I leave the US and I'll make it a 12-month policy, so those concerns should be alleviated.

Now here is where I need some guidance. Can I just enter France under either the Schengen or US-France Bilateral Agreement (84 UNTS 283), then once there, apply for residency under some form of long-term or spouse visa? I've read of people who had luck changing their status, and others who've had to leave the country to start the process. Under my circumstances, nationality, length of the marriage, and so on is there a definitive answer as to whether or not I MUST apply now, or can simply ask for a change of status once I'm already there?

IF I must make the application now, I'm reading on the French consulate website that I will need a number of things, most of which I'm not concerned over. The requirements I am concerned with are:
Proof of marriage : family book "Livret de famille" (+ ONE COPY) and / or recent (less than 3 months) copy of the french marriage certificate​
As I stated above, we were married in the US. Hence, we only have a US marriage certificate. I thought the Livret de Famille was our equivilent French document, but since it states that I need the Livret de famille and/or a recent copy of the French marriage certificate, it leaves me a little confused. (Hopefully it just isn't being specific enough, in the case of couples who married outside of France.)
Proof of Spouse’s nationality : spouse’s original « carte nationale d’identité » or consular registration card (« carte consulaire ») or « certificat de nationalité française » or the « ampliation du décret de naturalisation ou réintégration » of your French spouse (+ ONE COPY)​
My wife obviously has her CNI with her. I do have a copy here with me, but it appears I'd have to take her original plus a copy with me to the consulate when I make my application? I guess I could have her mail it to me, but this is not the kind of thing I fully trust to be mailed such a long distance, not to mention that she may need it in the meantime while the card is over here in my possession...

MERCI BEAUCOUP to anyone who can help me out!
 

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You will need to apply ASAP for a visa (a spouse visa) to enter France. Visas can only be granted outside of France at a consulate. Those changes of status you hear about are for folks who are already in France on a long-stay visa and thus already have some form of residence permit.

If you've already got your livret de famille you're half way there. Presumably, you've done all the necessary with the consulate to obtain that, so you don't actually need your US marriage license/certificate. (I'd take it with me, with a couple of copies - just in case - but I wouldn't bother getting it translated.)

Yes, you will need your wife's carte d'identité - however she may be able to get a couple of copies of it certified by the local mairie. (Basically, they certify that the copies are in conformity with the original.) There is every reason she wouldn't want to mail her card to you, and there's a reasonable chance the consulate will accept this. Maybe at the same time, she could get the mairie to certify a couple copies of her passport (just on the theory that, if the consulate hesitates, you have another document to offer).

The key thing you need now is an appointment at the consulate that covers your part of the country. Those can normally be booked online, but make sure you get in there to get a convenient date. They do get booked up at certain times of the year.

But the spouse visa is the closest thing to an "automatic" one that there is. They actually can only deny you the visa if you are considered a threat to national security or something. Once in France, you'll have the OFII routine to get through, but that's also pretty much on rails and should be a mere technicality.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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