French Long Stay Visitor Visa – Tips and Tricks

So you want to get a long stay visitor visa for France? I’ve got some tips that can save you a lot of headaches. Firstly, it should be noted that I am an American citizen applying for a long stay visa while living outside the U.S. (New Zealand to be exact). My need for the visa was based on the fact I will be participating in a sailing race called The ARC. The boat I will be crewing is located in France and will need prepping, moving down the coast of Spain, Portugal, and eventually to the Canary Islands. It is also important to note that though France is my base, this visa allows me access to the rest of Schengen for the length of its validity which is indeed very useful for my intentions of spending time in Spain and Portugal. That being said, much of what I tell you is applicable to ANYONE wanting to apply for ANY visa for France. So let’s delve into it.

You can apply for this visa NO MORE than 3 months before you are planning on entering France. Not a single day earlier. If you try and apply 3 months and 1 day before you arrive, your visa will automatically be denied. You MUST apply for this visa in person. These are clearly stated on the embassy website, but they are common mistakes that can keep you from getting the visa.

The French love paperwork and adore bureaucracy. No matter where you are applying from, when you go to the website of the French embassy in the country you are currently in, there will be a list of required documents. It’s a little long, but take this list very seriously. If you’re missing a single item from the list, or something is filled out incorrectly, you will not get your visa approved. When I went to the French Embassy in Wellington, I printed out the list from their website, ticked off everything, and placed it on top of my documents when I handed them in so they could see I had everything. If you make it easy for them, you’re infinitely more likely to get the visa.

Speaking of paperwork, it is highly advantageous to bring documents with you to your appointment beyond that which they require. For example I had my plane ticket stating what day I was to enter France, a letter signed by my host in France (in both English and French), tax documents from my host showing they are tax paying residents, a copy of the registration for the boat I was to be sailing, and so on. At my visa appointment I was asked to prove why I needed a long stay visa (as if what they required wasn’t enough proof) and the extra documents were very helpful in proving that. The gentleman was very impressed. Really though, bring anything and everything you have that could even remotely help you. You may not need it in the end, but it could also be the difference between being granted a visa and not.

Let’s talk about insurance. The wording on the website is a bit difficult to understand in terms of the requirements your insurance must meet. I’m not going to break it all down, but I can tell you I went with Seven Corners Insurance. I chose their Liaison Majestic plan and had no problems. When you purchase it, you are automatically emailed the letter you have to provide to the embassy stating you are covered for France! It was super handy and I can highly recommend using them.

One thing to keep in mind is the amount of time it takes to get a copy of your criminal record. In some cases it can take months and months. Don’t think you can wait until the last minute and get one. One thing that isn’t clear is how recent this document has to be. The one I used was 7 months old, but seemed to work. However, I wouldn’t try to use anything much older. Don’t take my word for it, but maybe as long as it is dated within the past year it might be okay? My official answer however is plan ahead and have one done as recently as possible.

One last thing. DO NOT give them any reason to think you will want to stay in France more than one year. Have a French girlfriend? Not when you go to apply for this visa you don’t. Going to stay with your girlfriend’s family who live in France? They’re now your ‘family friends”. Being linked to a French citizen in a romantic way might lead them to believe you have other interests beyond being just a visitor. The French government needs to know you have a plan for leaving their country, and having an onward ticket a year in advance is for weird people. So if you can’t prove you’re not going to stay, at the very least don’t give them a reason to think you might. I won’t say mentioning your girlfriend at the appointment will get your visa rejected, because I don’t honestly know. You’re applying as a visitor though which is meant to be temporary, so skipping over that fact might not hurt.

Let’s recap for those who came here and skimmed this article and those who I have completely lost.
– Need insurance?
– Request for a copy of your criminal record a few months in advance of your application
Be Organized. Have all required paperwork and keep it neat
–  Bring supporting documents to your interview just in case
– You don’t have a French girlfriend, even if you do.

Hope this answers some of your questions and helps you on your journey to getting a Long Stay Visitor Visa for France. Bonne Chance mes amis!

Have any questions regarding this topic? I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments below!

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