This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

I am writing this post as an American, planning to marry a Frenchman and settle in France. In the summer of 2019, I applied for and received a visa long séjour valant titre de séjour (VLS-TS), a long-stay visa that acts as a temporary residence permit after validation. Having arrived at the beginning of September, I am currently navigating the next steps of the visa process and our upcoming civil ceremony. While some information in this post is very specific to this particular case, much of the information here, regarding the visa process, can be applied towards other types of long-stay visas.

**Please note that the following post is my personal experience and I cannot guarantee that others will have the same exact experience. I hope that you find useful information here, but do keep in mind that you should proceed based on your own unique situation. Also note that requirements can and do change! Use this post as a starting point, but stay up to date on the information that is supplied on government websites.

The Long-Stay Visitor Visa

When I started the visa process, I had a lot of questions, and I found it difficult to locate reliable and up-to-date information. As a direct result of this, I decided that if I managed to get through it all and be granted a visa, I would start a blog to help others figure it out. Well, here I am! My biggest source of information was other blogs. However, while I did find a few blogs addressing how to get the visa process started as the spouse of a French citizen, I never found a blog that spoke of the process as someone who was not yet married. I turned to comment sections for advice and ultimately used my best judgment when deciding how to proceed. 

Given that my plan in the long run is a permanent move to France, I knew that a long-stay visa would be best to start out with, but I was unsure how to indicate the category of my visa and to make the purpose of my stay clear. It’s not as simple as choosing a long-stay visa. You have to know the type: spouse, worker, visitor, etc. In my case, I wanted to make sure I selected the visa that would allow me to get married and then apply for a residence card later.

The former long-stay visa application, which was used before VFS Global began handling applications, had a box to check if you intended to get married in France. The new application does not mention marriage as a reason for coming to France, at all. I was unable to locate any official resources about what to do if you plan to get married to a French citizen and move to France. This scenario was not mentioned among the long-stay visa categories

To see if I was on the right track, I decided to call VFS Global. I explained my situation and asked for advice on the type of visa to apply for. I also asked follow up questions to see if additional documents would be necessary. They essentially told me, after each question that I asked, that they could not give me any advice. I should refer to their website, and, using the information provided, make my own decisions about which visa to apply for and how to apply for it. Very helpful, thank you. 

I thought I might have better luck soliciting the New York City French Consulate for information, but I was immediately told that the visa branch of the consulate was closed, and I should contact VFS Global with any questions I might have. Great, yes, cool. In retrospect, I should have contacted the Washington French Consulate, as they are the ones who now handle the visa applications, but this was not clear to me at the time, so I didn’t even consider it. I wish you the best of luck if you attempt to call either VFS or one of the consulates! 

The United States government, while known for being strict about granting visas of this nature, at least provides detailed information about how to do it on official websites. And so, I turned to the website of the US Embassy in Paris for more information. According to their Marriage in France document, “If you plan to settle in France [after marrying a French citizen], you should apply for a long-stay visitor visa.” France – 0, USA – 1 

UPDATE (July 2020): The Marriage in France document no longer exists. It seems to have been replaced with the General Guidelines for Marriage and Civil Partnerships (PACS) in France.

Applying for the Visa and Booking Your Appointment

The visa application must be completed and submitted online. The online application is fairly straightforward to use and generates a PDF version of the application for you to print out. Other than the application, there are no other documents that need to be submitted electronically. The maximum length of a long-stay visa is one year. On the application, I indicated my stay would be more than one year.


In the spring of 2018, the French consulates of the USA began outsourcing the collection of visa applications and documents to VFS Global. There are centers located in many major cities in the USA, and you can apply at whichever one you like, regardless of where you live. I booked my appointment, via the online booking system, at the New York City location (145 West 45th Street). There was a booking fee of $28.45. 

When I submitted my application at the end of June, the first available appointment date was three weeks away. Summer is a busy time for visa applications, so this did not surprise me. Depending on the time of year, the availability of appointments can fluctuate. Plan ahead, while also keeping in mind that you cannot apply for a visa more than three months before your departure. If there’s an appointment cancellation, the new opening will be reflected on the site, so check back frequently if you want an earlier date.

Documents to Prepare

When it comes to preparing for the visa appointment, err on the side of being over prepared. If you’re in doubt about a certain document, bring it with you. Be sure to keep photocopies for your own records.

After submitting your application, you’ll receive a list of required documents that you will need to bring with you to your appointment. As an American citizen, residing in the United States, here’s what I ended up bringing:

  1. Appointment confirmation page 
  2. Current passport 
    • Valid at least three months after your return date 
    • At least two free pages
    • You will be handing this over, so make sure you photocopy your passport page for your own records
  3. Old passport 
    • I submitted photocopies of my previous visas (not necessarily required but I thought it might aid my application)
  4. Application
    • Printed, signed, and dated
  5. One ID photo
    • US passport photo size works for this. Mine was slightly too big, and he just cut it to size.
    • Annoyingly, they’re just going to staple this to your printed out application form, because France.
  6. Sworn statement saying that I will not work in France for the duration of the visa
  7. Proof of professional status
    • I recently quit my teaching job, so I brought the letter from my employer accepting my resignation. Seeing as how I was unemployed at the time of my application, I don’t think that I actually had to bring anything for this. 
    • Essentially, prove your status as a working professional or student, if either of those cases applies to you.
  8. Proof of accommodations in France 
    • I had my boyfriend write an attestation d’hébergement based on this example, in which he stated that he would be housing me for the duration of my visa. 
    • I also brought one copy each of his rental agreement, a recent electricity bill, and his passport, for good measure! 
  9. Proof of funds
    • Three months of bank statements (savings & checking)
    • Three months of credit card statements
    • The amount of resources you must justify depends on whether you have already paid for accommodations or not. 
  10. Medical Insurance for the duration of the stay 
    • I brought a Confirmation of Coverage letter and a copy of the insurance card.
    • I paid a little over $400 for one year of coverage with IMG – Patriot International, and I bought it through Insubuy, which helps you compare a few different plans. When you indicate that you want Schengen Visa medical insurance, it makes sure that all the requirements are met. Upon purchase, you immediately get temporary cards and a Confirmation of Coverage letter in your email. If you need to cancel the insurance, as long as no claims have been made, you get a prorated refund from the date of cancellation. 
  11. Credit card for paying the fees
    • I was charged a total of $145, which paid for the visa ($110) and mailing fees ($35). If you choose to pick up your visa in person, you will only be charged for the visa. The visa itself costs 99 euros, so I think the actual amount you pay changes depending on the exchange rate for the day.  
  12. Copy of my plane ticket so they would know my departure date (not required)

Based on my desire to marry and settle in France, I brought a couple of supplemental documents with me that I thought might help: 

  1. Letter of Motivation 
    • I wrote a letter in both French and English explaining my intent to marry and to integrate myself within French society. Without going into too many details, I briefly gave some background information on myself as a French teacher and on my relationship. 
  2. Sworn statement regarding marital status 
    • I created a simple document in French and English indicating that I was not currently nor ever have been married. 

The Appointment

I showed my appointment confirmation upon entering the center in New York City (145 West 45th Street) and was then directed to the elevators to begin my ascent to the fourth floor. This building handles a lot of visas, with each floor housing a few different countries. There was a small queue to check in at the desk on the 4th floor, where I was given a ticket with a number. We were instructed to turn off our phones, and then a security guard did a quick inspection of our belongings. I was directed into the French visa waiting room where screens above indicated the ticketed number currently being served. It was easy to know when my number was called and which window to go to. 

The man who assisted me really didn’t seem particularly knowledgeable about the visa process. He only asked for things that were explicitly listed. For example, the paragraph above the list says that I should bring copies of previous visas, but since this was not on the actual list, he didn’t ask me for them. As another example, when proving I had sufficient means, I wanted to give him my credit card statements, but he said it wouldn’t be necessary since it’s not real money. It should be noted that credit cards are listed as a way to prove you can provide for yourself on the application itself, so I insisted he take the statements anyways. He eventually ended up saying that I could include whatever I wanted in my application, at which point I emptied out the folder I had brought with me. I’m not sure whether any of those extra documents actually helped my application, but I don’t think they hurt it! 

After handing in my application and supporting documents, I was directed to take a seat again in the waiting area. I didn’t have to wait long before I was called to a small room for the biometrics fingerprinting. This is also when they took the picture that would later be on my visa. 

In total, I was in and out of the building in under 15 minutes, which left me feeling anxious about the outcome of my visa. The last two times I had gotten visas, I had applied directly at the French consulate, where after meeting with a visa specialist, you had a good idea of whether your documentation was sufficient or not. The specialist would actually take the time to look at your supporting materials, which puts you at ease (once it’s over!). What if I forgot something or they needed something else? Would they actually take the time to contact me about it or would they just refuse my visa? Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out.


Did this guide help you? Say thanks with a cup of coffee!


Receiving the Results

The good thing about VFS Global now handling the collection of applications and their subsequent transportation is that you’ll receive electronic notifications about the status of your application. The downside is that these notifications really don’t tell you anything about your application except where it is literally located. It was nice knowing that my visa application had made it to Washington, for example, but imagine my chagrin upon receiving this text: “Your processed application ref no.XXX is being dispatched via courier on 26-07-2019.” What does that even mean?? Am I getting my visa? Was my application rejected?? I was especially anxious because, after being told the application review would take a couple of weeks, my passport was on its way back to me exactly one week after I had dropped it off in New York. I was told I could track my application with the long reference number printed on my receipt, but don’t torture yourself with that. No real information is given via this tracking service either. 

No one was home when they attempted to deliver my passport. It’s one of those instances where someone actually needs to sign for the delivery. A note was left saying that it was being brought to UPS and I could get it there. I signed for the envelope and found my passport with it’s pretty new sticker inside.

Arriving in France and Next Steps

Upon entering France, if you were granted a long-stay visa, the border police will only ask to see your passport containing the visa. In my case, they did not even look at that page at all, but as long as I have a stamp indicating my entrance date into the country, I’m all set.

The next step for me is getting my visa validated within three months. Only people with visas valid for between six and twelve months are required to do this. According to the slip of paper I received with my visa, this process is apparently done online. Once married, I should be able to change my visa status from a visitor to the spouse of a French citizen, which will allow me to work.

Questions? Comments? Similarities or differences between your visa experience and mine? Reply below!  

Long-Stay Visa for France
Tagged on:             

18 thoughts on “Long-Stay Visa for France

  • September 12, 2019 at 3:24 pm
    Permalink

    Oh, zut alors! There’s got to be an easier way to escape from Trump & Co. Maybe I’ll try the Canadian northern route… 🙂

    Reply
    • September 16, 2019 at 8:31 am
      Permalink

      Oh, zut, says the French man with the French passport! 😛

      Reply
  • July 1, 2020 at 3:25 am
    Permalink

    I’m gonna be going through the visa process soon. We got married here in the 3rd country that we live in and had the marriage registered with the French government (that whole process was pretty long and tedious, American getting married to a French person in a 3rd country, lol, I don’t recommend to go this route if you have a choice, we didn’t have a choice since I was on a really strict work contract and couldn’t move to France right away). But I’ll be doing the visa process with the consulate here (post-COVID, it’s gonna be interesting, lol) since I’m a legal resident in this country. I don’t have to go through the VFS Global, thank god, the consulate here where we live handles the visa process, and they’ve made it super simple for spouses of French people. It’s a smaller consulate and we’ve been there quite a few times already so some of them already know us. But anyways, always consult the consulate where you live because the process may be a little different in each country.

    Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 9:49 am
      Permalink

      Hi Emilie! Adding a third country to the mix adds a whole other level of fun, haha. I’m glad that the consulate where you’re applying has made the process simple for spouses of French people. I hope everything goes smoothly for you. Good luck!

      Reply
      • August 17, 2020 at 7:20 am
        Permalink

        I had my visa appointment almost 2 weeks ago. Not a good experience, though it might have been my attitude that made it worse. I was the last appointment of the day, so the guy at the embassy wasn’t exactly happy to deal with me, and didn’t even say hello to me (even though I tried to say it to him), he just asked me what I was there for. I gave him all the paperwork the Embassy initially asked for and didn’t give him the other documents I had, he didn’t ask for anything else. But, once he saw my ID photo, he was like, nope, it has to be a white background (mine was light blue), but I was like “but it just says a light color (fond clair)” and in my ignorance both me and my husband assumed any color that was light, and the guy said, nope, fond clair means white, hahahhahaha, and he gave me 30 minutes to find a photo machine in the subway in Seoul to fix it (though all the photo booths in Korea heavily photoshop pics without you being allowed to say no to it), but the embassy guy said to come back if the machine was broken and he’d take the photo (though it’s highly irregular for him to do it and he didn’t want to do it, but that he would do it if the machine was broken). I had a full on panic attack because my husband wasn’t right outside the embassy (he wasn’t allowed in for the appointment which pissed him off anyways) and when he did find me standing there freaking out, he went with me to find this photo booth in the subway. And of course it was broken, lol. So I went back to the embassy, told the guy it was broken, he set up the camera and took the pic in like 10 seconds. WHY DIDN’T HE JUST DO IT IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!????? It would’ve saved me a panic attack and getting all hot and sweaty from the rain and the humidity in Seoul (and him having to see me a second time, lol). Anyways, he processed my request and I’m supposed to get my visa sometime this week, hopefully

        Reply
        • August 18, 2020 at 8:33 am
          Permalink

          Oh, gosh! What an ordeal! They always have to find something wrong, don’t they? For the record, “fond clair” does not mean white! And light blue is actually mentioned on this official website which details the photo standards in France… https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F10619

          I’m glad he helped you out in the end, and I hope you get that visa this week!

          Reply
          • August 18, 2020 at 9:37 am
            Permalink

            We had a form from the Embassy in Korean that specifically says not to use a white background, which we used to do my pics. But when I showed the guy that form (he spoke Korean better than me so I knew he could read the form), he said, nope, that’s only for passports not visas, hahahahhahah, geez!!!!!

          • August 18, 2020 at 9:44 am
            Permalink

            What?! Wow!

  • July 23, 2020 at 12:54 am
    Permalink

    Ok. I’m not going to lie. I don’t understand the process of anything you described. I’m interested because soon I will be going through the same thing, marrying a Frenchman and applying for a visa to stay in France. Is it really as complicated as you described above? And do I have to apply for a long stay visa in America, if we plan on getting married in France first ?

    Reply
    • July 23, 2020 at 6:58 am
      Permalink

      Oh, Valerie—getting the visa is the easy part of the process! 😅 😊 I understand that this can all be very overwhelming (especially with the added difficulty of a pandemic!), but know that other people have made it work, and so can you! Also keep in mind that you can talk to several people about their experiences, and they’ll all tell you it went differently for them.

      There are multiples ways that you can go about marrying a French person and settling in France. I chose to get a long-stay visitor visa so that I could start my life in France with my Frenchman. We left the States on a plane together 🥰 Then, we got married in France, and now I can change to my next status which is a family and private life residence card. I don’t have to go back to the States to do this.

      Some people go to France with no visa (under the 90-day visa-free travel limit). They get married, and then they come back to the States and apply directly for the family and private life visa (vie privée et familiale). Visas are typically issued from your home country. Other people get married in the States, and then get their marriage recognized in France before applying for their visa.

      There’s not necessarily one right way of doing things. If you’d like to talk with other people about their experiences, I would recommend joining these two Facebook groups: Married to a Frenchman and Life With a Frenchie.

      Wishing you all the best. Good luck!

      Reply
  • July 30, 2020 at 5:54 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Ellen! I’m in a similar situation as you. I am an American getting married to a Frenchman in two weeks at the local mairie here in France. I currently hold a long stay visa VLS-T. I haven’t been able to find any official government information on not going back to the US to change my visa status. Where were you able to find this info? What govt agency should I be contacting? The local prefecture, OFII office? Any direction is greatly appreciated.
    Thank you!
    Lauren

    Reply
    • July 31, 2020 at 6:02 am
      Permalink

      Hi Lauren!

      First of all—congratulations on your upcoming wedding!! I’m sure it’s not what you envisioned amid all this chaos, but I hope you have a wonderful day 🙂

      The procedure is called “changement de statut,” and it’s very common. Let’s say you came as a student, and now you’re working. You would need to change your visa status. I came as a visitor and now I’m married, so I need to change the status of my visa in order to reflect that. One of the resources I tend to use for information is https://www.service-public.fr/

      I came on a VLS-TS. The TS (titre de séjour) denotes that I have a right to a residence permit, and I went through a validation process with the Office of Immigration. It’s also a renewable visa. I’m not as familiar with the VLS-T, but from what I understand, it is a temporary, non-renewable visa. I’m not sure what this means for being able to change your status.

      After my wedding, I called the Préfecture to explain my situation and set up an appointment to change my status (my appointment is at the end of August). This person emailed me a list of documents I would need to present. I would recommend you call the Préfecture as soon as possible—don’t wait until after your wedding.

      In my experience, it sometimes takes a few tries before you find someone with the right information. There are a lot of inconsistencies in French administration.

      Whatever the outcome, I wish you all the best!

      Ellen

      Reply
      • August 27, 2020 at 9:55 am
        Permalink

        Hello again! We are officially married! I am now trying to contact the local prefecture to confirm the requirements I need to meet in order to get a change in visa status here in France (information varies online and we are wondering if there are exceptions being made during Covid) since my visa is VLS-T and not VLS-TS. We first tried to contact the prefecture in Bayonne, near Biarritz where his mother lives and where we stayed for a couple of months. We thought this may be easier given it’s a smaller town but, you guessed it, it’s not :). They are only open four hours a day, won’t return emails and you have to call between 9and 10 am to schedule an appointment. However no one answers this number-we tried for a week. So now we are back in Paris where we live and can prove our residency. We have been callomg the local prefecture here every day and end up reaching the end of the line and get hung up on. I was hoping you possibly had an email or direct number for the Paris prefecture? If not we will just head over to the office and see if we can get anything accomplished in person. Either way, thanks for reading and for your help!
        -Lauren

        Reply
        • August 28, 2020 at 9:43 am
          Permalink

          Hi Lauren! Nice to hear from you again. Congratulations on your wedding!

          Yes, the information does vary, or sometimes it’s just not clear. Very frustrating. I’m sorry that you’ve been having a hard time contacting the préfecture. They’re hard to reach under normal circumstances, so now it’s even worse.

          The main number for the Paris Préfecture is 34 30. I’ve had better luck reaching them first thing in the morning. I believe the line opens at 9am. Rumor has it that if the line hangs up on you, if you call back right away, you’ll get magically put through. (Myth? Maybe worth a try! 🤷🏼‍♀️ Seriously, let me know if it works! 😅)

          Here’s an email address you can try: pp-dpg-sdae-10eb-sejour@interieur.gouv.fr
          You can also try sending them a message right through their website: https://www.prefecturedepolice.interieur.gouv.fr/Demarches/Particulier/Ressortissants-etrangers/Ressortissants-etrangers/Titres-de-sejour-Nous-contacter/Nous-contacter-salle-sejour-Amerique-Asie-Europe-Oceanie

          I was at the Préfecture today to apply for my Vie privée et familiale carte de séjour (and woohoo! I was approved!) At this time, I don’t think anyone without an appointment is allowed inside. It was a bit crazy there, but there were some agents outside that you could possibly approach.

          As another resource, I’d recommend you check out the following Facebook groups: “American Expats in Paris” and “Applying for a French CdS.” You might be able to connect with someone in a similar situation.

          And one final website, which explains that there is a procedure for those who married a French person, but did not arrive on a VLS-TS: https://www.demarches.interieur.gouv.fr/particuliers/carte-sejour-vie-privee-familiale-etranger-france Obviously, I can’t guarantee anything, but maybe it will work out for you.

          I am sending you good vibes and wishing you the best as you navigate all of this! I’ll be awaiting your update! 🙂

          Reply
  • August 6, 2020 at 10:19 pm
    Permalink

    I really like your post. Thanks for sharing that! My boyfriend is Italian and he lives in France. We would like to live together for 1 year and see if we get on well. Do you think the long stay visitor visa would be the best visa for me? Thank you! 🙂

    Reply
    • August 7, 2020 at 3:07 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks, Érica!

      I’m really not qualified to give advice about what kind of visa you should apply for. I chose the long-stay visitor visa because it made sense for me and my situation! Namely, it would give me a full year to get married and begin transitioning to a permanent life in France, and I could switch to another residence card (family and private life) after marrying my French husband. I quit my job to start this new chapter of my life, and I had the required financial resources saved up. With the visitor visa, you are not allowed to work for a French company or solicit French clients.

      There is a lot to consider when choosing your visa, especially during the current pandemic situation. Keep in mind that only certain types of visas are being issued at this time. Find out more information here: https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/

      Good luck!!

      Reply
  • October 15, 2020 at 5:25 am
    Permalink

    Hi! Your advice is very helpful. Does anyone have any reports they would be willing to share about how long it takes on average to get the visa processed? We are getting married in France this month and I will fly back to the USA to do the visa. Considering COVID, the quarantine period, and the fact that we have pets together here in France, we are trying to plan ahead. I have read reports elsewhere that are anywhere from a few days to two weeks? All the best !

    Reply
    • October 16, 2020 at 6:31 am
      Permalink

      Hi Alex! Congratulations on the upcoming wedding 😀 Can I assume that you’re marrying a French citizen?

      Your estimated turnaround time for the visa sounds about right. There are a lot of factors that can affect the processing time, but, generally speaking, the spouse visa (vie privée et familiale) is quite straight-forward to obtain. I’ve always booked my flights and included my flight info with my visa paperwork. They say that they take this into account. I’m not sure if they actually do, but I haven’t missed a flight yet 😉

      If you’d like to hear recent experiences about applying for a visa, I recommend these two Facebook groups to you: Americans in France – Open & Kind group and American Expats in Paris. Even if you’re not in Paris, there is a wealth of information in that second group.

      Are you currently here on a visa? If so, you might qualify to apply directly for a carte de séjour vie privée et familiale through marriage without having to return to the United States (https://www.americaineinfrance.com/2020/09/01/carte-de-sejour-vie-privee-et-familiale-through-marriage/).

      Best,
      Ellen

      Reply

Leave a Reply