Applying for a long-term visa in France can seem challenging, but we’ve helped thousands to secure the ‘holy grail’ that is the VLS-TS! Here are our (failsafe) Top Tips.
1. Prepare your passport
Be aware that the original of your passport will be retained during the application process, so make sure you keep a few copies with you in case you need to do anyadmin-typee stuff until it is returned. This is usually a couple of weeks later.
2. Plan ahead
Timing is key; you can’t apply earlier than three months ahead of the desired arrival date and no later than one month prior to entry into France. Make sure you have booked everything taking these dates/constraints into consideration, especially plane tickets or suchlike.
3. Choose the right type of visa
Do you need a visitor’s visa, a business visa or another type of visa? The ‘visitor’ and ‘business’ visas are the most popular ones. The visitor’s visa is generally aimed at people moving to France to retire or perhaps coming for a sabbatical or an extended holiday. The business visa is for those planning to start a business in France and includes those planning to run gîtes as well as businesses such as consultancies, hospitality and catering services and so on.
4. Get your paperwork prepared
Make sure you have all the proper documentation. You will need two approved format ID photos, proof of accommodation, proof of income or savings, your passport and one copy of it, the reason for your stay and, of course, proof of medical insurance.
5. Choose your travel dates carefully
Ensure that you have proof of travel documents (tickets or flight details), and make sure the dates fit nicely within the expected timeframe.
6. Organise your living arrangements
Don’t overlook the ‘proof of accommodation’ element. This could be a copy of a lease agreement or a copy of the “acte de vente”, which proves ownership of a property in France. If you are being put up by a family member or friend, you will need what is known as an “attestation d’hébergement”. This states that the person in question is letting you stay with them, and you can download a standard template easily online.
7. Make sure you have ‘sufficient funds’
You will need to provide proof of income that is equivalent to the minimum wage in France. Known as the SMIC (le salaire minimum de croissance), this is currently around 1300€ per month (in 2023). Couples are given a slight ‘reduction’, so if you are applying together, you are required to show an income of around 2000€ per month rather than 2600€. Many applicants don’t have a monthly salary as such but, instead, have various sources of revenue. All of these, whether pensions, dividends, rental income or interest from savings, for example, can be taken into consideration.
Any available ‘savings’ will also help you to qualify. However, these must be ‘available’ in terms of liquidity, and you need to be able to show savings that could allow you monthly withdrawals that are at least equivalent to the SMIC.
8. Sort out your health insurance before you apply
Proof of medical insurance is often a sticking point with visa applications, and most types of visa require a policy that provides cover equivalent to that of the French national healthcare system (la sécu). The France-visa official website clearly states this requirement, but the policy specifics aren’t clearly defined, and many applicants only discover that their policies are non-compliant during the interview process. This means that you will be required to undertake another interview, as the application will be turned down. Some policies are systematically declined, and these include travel insurance, Schengen insurance, repatriation plans, policies with any type of excess (such as deductible elements, co-pay or co-insurance) and emergency-only plans. Make sure you show up at the interview with both the certificate of insurance AND the proof of payment. You should stick with insurance companies or brokers such as Fab French Insurance that are used for French visa applications.
9. Don’t forget to activate your visa
You will need to activate your long-term visa once you are in France. This is an essential step in the process and must be done within three months of arrival in France. Failure to do so means you are no longer legally present in France and will be unable to re-enter the Schengen Area. The process is completed online on the visa & residency official website.
10. Take the next steps toward French residency
And last but not least – after three months in France, you can begin the process of making your situation a bit more permanent. There are two things here to consider, and they need to be tackled separately; unfortunately, getting one doesn’t mean that you automatically get the other. The first is applying to the CPAM (caisse primaire d’assurance maladie), which, once completed, gives you access to the French social security system. The second is a residency permit application (carte de séjour); this is basically a ten-year visa and is much easier to renew than a standard visa.
One final pro tip!
You need to obtain your insurance documents BEFORE the interview at the visa centre. They’ll expect to see both the certificate of insurance AND the proof of payment. This shows that your policy has been issued and, thus, can’t be cancelled, meaning you’ll be covered from the moment you arrive in France.
Then the only thing left to do is raise a glass to celebrate your successful visa application!
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