When it comes to applying for a French visa, it can be a stressful time. And unless you’re a citizen of an EU country – you will need a visa to stay longer than 90 days out of 180, or to live in France on a permanent or long time basis. We’ve received several emails from people who apply for a visa and are told no (and you don’t get told why). And more emails from people asking for help. They’re unsure which of the many types of visa to apply for. Not sure they have the right paperwork, insurance etc. And we get it, it can be very confusing, and very nerve-racking while you wait for an answer.
We asked the experts at French Connections HCB (FCHCB) what people can do to help themselves when they apply for a French visa. Over the past three years, FCHCB have successfully applied for more than 1200 French resident permits (carte de séjour) for English-speaking clients from all over the world. They advise that to help with successful application, it helps to show that you are going above and beyond to embrace the French life. Here are their top tips:
Applying for a Visa for a permanent move to France
First, we always say that you should try to put yourself in the shoes of the local Prefectures whose job it is to deliver residency permits. Getting a visa isn’t just a tick box thing. The local administrators are inundated with applications from citizens of America, Great Britain, Australia and Canada and other countries around the world. So help them – and you help yourself. That’s why we created our Moving To France package. It’s based on our experience and knowledge (being French ourselves) of how the system works.
When it comes to a residency application – there are three basic requirements when it comes to French admin.
1. They are looking for reassurance that you have sufficient funds to cover yourself. In real terms, this amounts to a minimum income of 1384 euros per month, per person, after tax. That is based on the SMIC (Salaire Minimum de Croissance) – the minimum wage in France (2023).
2. They need proof that you have somewhere safe to live – whether it’s a permanent home or rental. If you’re in the process of buying, an ‘acte de vente‘ – a document that shows you are in the process of buying will be accepted. And if you’re renting, a French rental contract is required.
Insurance is critical
3. Evidence of private medical insurance. If you’re British and in receipt of a state pension, you can come to France with an S1 form and that will enable you to apply without private medical insurance. But you should consider if that’s the best move. An S1 effectively signs you out of the NHS and there is no easy way back. If you’re in any way not 100% certain that you wish to remain in France, it’s good to keep the NHS option open at least while you ‘test drive’ your new home. If you don’t have the correct private medical insurance – you’re pretty much guaranteeing a fail in your visa application.
So, back to that point where we said help the local prefecture by making their job easier. Consider what might make you stand out. Provide more than you need for your application to be accepted. In our Moving To France package we define 9 different stages along your journey to becoming French. Each one of them is designed to reassure the administration that you are going above and beyond in your intent to become a French citizen.
The stages of applying for a visa
When it comes to applying for a French long term visa, these are some of the most important stages and how we take away some of the pain and make your start of a new life in France less of a worry:
1. Your long stay visitor visa. FCHCB can help you gather the required documents (proof of address, photos, etc) and check their validity. We can submit the application on your behalf, book an appointment for you at the visa centre and follow up with the authorities. And we’ll monitor and ‘hand hold’ until your visa is successfully delivered.
2. Visa validation. Once you arrive in France, it is mandatory to validate your visa to make it official. We will complete this procedure for you, including processing the visa validation fee payable to the French authorities.
Healthcare and tax
3. Carte Vitale. This is what gives you access to the state healthcare system. You can’t apply for it until you have been in France for at least three months – hence the need for private medical insurance (point 3 above). We will take care of all the arrangements and create your online healthcare account.
4. Tax code creation. We’ll get you set up in the system, help you gather the correct documents, check their validity and submit your application online. If for any reason you aren’t eligible for a tax code, we will refund this part of the quote.
5. Tax return. Proving your income by submitting your first French tax declaration goes a long way in helping you to secure a visa renewal. We partner with one of the most trusted accountancy firms in France to make sure it is done quickly, affordably and efficiently.
6. Driving licence exchange application. Once you arrive in France, you have 12 months to exchange your driving licence for a French one. We will help you assemble valid documentation, recommend a translator (it’s part of the application that your documents are translated into French) and submit the application for a French licence. The process takes a long time to complete as long as 18 months is not unusual though you are permitted to drive once you submit the application. We will monitor its progress and keep you informed.
We can also help you buy a vehicle in France. It can be really challenging to do this in a different language so we offer a service to help you search and negotiate. We work with a network of trusted agents right across France. Plus we have partnerships with all the main car manufacturers, so we can guarantee to get you the best deal on your new car. We can even organise to have it delivered to you. And we can help you with insurance through our trusted partner Fab French Insurance, for a highly competitive quote.
If you prefer to bring your own car to France, we also offer an import and vehicle registration service.
7. Residency application or renewal of carte de séjour (the residency permit). We assist you in preparing all the relevant documents, check their validity and submit your application. We’ll also provide over-the-phone translation assistance if you are required to deposit your file in person at the prefecture. And we can prep you for your obligatory face-to-face appointment.
First Six months in France help
Once you move to France, you might decide you’d like a bit more help. Things like admin tasks, letters to your bank, making appointments on your behalf, over the phone translation assistance, writing letters in French for you etc. We offer a 6-month VIP package which means you can contact us to help with all your moving to France tasks.
Of course, everybody’s circumstances are different. If you would like to talk to us about what’s best for you, you can book a 30 minute initial online consultation with us here. The consultation costs 90 euros but this is deducted from the first service that you book with us.
Find out more about French Connections HCB and the packages they offer here: frenchconnectionshcb.com