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A long-stay visa for France was on my radar for quite some time before I applied. I have always wanted to stay in France for longer than the 90-day period allowed for a Canadian in the Schengen countries.
I am a Canadian gal with French Canadian blood who just keeps being called back to France (and writing about it) so I decided to tackle the bureaucratic hoopla and apply for a long-stay visa in France.
What’s written below is my experience of obtaining a long-stay visa for France.
France Visa: Timing Is Everything
You can’t apply for a long-stay visa for France more than three months before your arrival date. Therefore, you need to do some mental gymnastics to figure out your arrival date and the timing of the interview which is not to be more than a month prior to entry.
I purchased an airline ticket and decided I was going to France regardless. I would either stay for 90 days or 365 days if my France visa was approved.
Long-Stay Visa France: The Application
In order to apply for a long-stay France visa, you need to make two accounts. One with France Visas-The Official Visa Site for France and a second with VFS Global, an official partner of the Embassy of France. VFS Global has four Canadian locations: Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
On the Official Visa Site for France, fill out the application which requires
- personal information
- the address of your accommodation
- the intended date of entry
- the purpose of the visit
- your means of support for the duration of the stay
Once you have completed the long-stay visa for France application, you receive a checklist with a barcode displaying your application number.
Phew – step one. All done. Next, it’s time to gather all the paperwork.
Timing is Everything (Once Again)
You can’t print off your application from the Official Visa Site for France until you have booked an appointment with VFS Global. On the VFS Global site, you can’t see the calendar ahead. It shows you the earliest booking possible but until you have paid for an appointment, you can’t see the full calendar. As I was coming from out of town, I found this very frustrating.
Nail biter…what if your passport is not returned in time for your departure?
Documents Required For A Long-Stay Visa In France
Here’s what you need for a long-stay visa in France:
Appointment Confirmation Letter: Bring TWO COPIES of this form dated and signed. You are asked for this upon arrival at the appointment before you enter the interview room.
Receipt of France-Visa Application: This has the France-Visas Checklist, listing the required documents. You are asked for this as soon as you arrive before you enter the interview room.
Visa Application Form: The application form, completed on the Official Visa Site for France, needs to be printed, signed and dated.
Valid Passport: A passport issued within the previous 10 years ago, valid for three months after the intended departure date from France (or the Schengen area), containing at least two blank pages and without any physical damage. Bring a photocopy of all the pages of your passport.
Canadian Citizen: If you are not a Canadian citizen, please bring proof of your legal residency in Canada: residence permit, study or work permit with a valid visa or a visitor’s visa with proof of 3 months residence.
ID Photographs: Bring TWO recent photographs meeting the visa requirements. Check here for the size and requirements. Do not glue it to the visa application.
Legal Letter: Two copies of a letter under oath stating that you will not engage in any work while on your long-stay France visa. Write the letter, take it to a Notary Public and swear under oath. Although the checklist asks for two copies, the appointment officer only took the original.
This is what I wrote:
“To Whom It May Concern,
I, your name, promise not to seek employment or engage in paid professional activity while living in France on a long-stay visa. “
Proof of Socio-Economic Situation: I brought pension statements (regular monthly income) and bank account statements (see below).
Proof of Funds to Meet Needs in France: Bring printed copies of your chequing and savings accounts. Be sure to print off the last three months and the statements must show your name and current address. They are not interested in your investments. You may add additional documents if you choose. I chose to add one extra financial statement.
But how much is enough? It is tricky to get a straight answer here. In one place only I was able to find a guideline. On the official France Visas website under “Upon Your Arrival,” it lays out the resources you should be able to justify.
Travel Health Insurance: You must purchase health insurance that is valid in all the Schengen countries for the entire duration of the stay. The health insurance must cover repatriation, deportation, death, all medical expenses and €30 000. This is an expensive venture. I used the broker Insubuy.
Proof of Accommodation: Bring printed proof of your accommodation for one year.
Questions While Preparing
I had a lot of questions to ask such as
- Is it all right to have only the first month of accommodation booked?
- Does it matter if it is a hotel or Airbnb?
- What are the health insurance criteria?
- What are the criteria for proof of funds?
- Do I need to have an exit ticket?
- What is the exact size of the visa photographs?
I called VFS Global several times. Except for the question about health insurance, they were unable to answer any of my questions regarding the long-stay visa France application. I called one morning with ten questions and they answered one.
France Visa: The First Appointment
I had heard that most people need more than one appointment for the long-stay visa for France. I was hoping that I had prepared everything and would nail it on the first try. Unfortunately, I needed a second appointment.
I flew to Vancouver from Kelowna on the morning of my appointment (flights had been delayed and cancelled the previous two days due to typical Canadian winter weather). I intentionally left the two days following my interview wide open in case I needed a second appointment.
- Arrive early (but not too early) with all your papers ready
- Show your TWO appointment letters and the checklist to the front desk
- Have a body scan and a bag check
- Put your cellphone in aeroplane mode
- Enter the appointment room
- Wait to be called to the desk
There is no privacy, so you can hear the other appointments ahead of you. Questions like “Do you have your itinerary?” “Do you have your exit ticket?” My heart sunk as I did not have either. Luckily for me, this man was applying for a different French visa. He left shuffling all his papers in a pile, knowing he too would have to make a return visit.
I waited to be called to the desk, with my “dossier” full of papers and photocopies.
What I Was Missing
- I had not noticed that my passport needed to be photocopied. It is one of the few things they will do for you on the spot.
- Proof of accommodation for one month was not ample. I needed proof for the entire year.
I had to make another appointment for while I was in Vancouver and luckily for me in the next two days there was one appointment left.
I finished booking accommodation for the year. A huge stress. Where will I be all year?
The following morning, I was downtown early to print off my confirmations for my accommodations at a copying shop. There was a long lineup. My thumb drive didn’t work. And neither did the printer attached to the computer.
Sometimes being nomadic is stressful.
Just in the nick of time I got everything printed off and ran to my appointment.
France Visa: The Second Appointment
The officer checked that all my accommodation dates lined up.
I signed a form saying everything was authentic.
All my papers were slipped into a green envelope ready to be couriered to the Consulate General of France in Montreal.
Biometrics Needed For The French Visa
You are then called into another room where your photo and fingerprints are taken.
The Wait For My Long-Stay France Visa
A few days later, the first text message is received: ” Your visa application (ref #) is under process at the Consulate General of France in Montreal.”
Two days later, another two messages are sent: “Your visa application (ref #) has been processed at the Consulate General of France in Montreal.” This is followed by a message saying exactly when your application will be dispatched by courier.
When the envelope finally arrives, you have no idea if your application for a long-stay visa in France has been successful or not.
Honestly, opening the envelope is a little like being at the Oscars.
Inside I found a “Welcome to France” letter and my passport where an EU visa was attached to page 20.
Once in France, you have three months in which to register and validate your long-stay visa.
It was a quick eight-day turnaround from the time I handed my passport and all my documents in until I received my passport back. They do not guarantee the timeline but in my case, I was suitably impressed.
The Cost To Obtain A Long-Stay France Visa
On-Line: When you make your appointment on the VFS site, you pay for the appointment which is $37.23 Do not pay for the courier here ($35.00) as if you have to return for a second appointment as I did, the original courier fee is lost. I had to pay for two appointments: $74.46
Courier Fee: $35 ( I paid this twice) = $70
Photocopy Fee at VFS Global: I did not see that I needed a photocopy of every page of my passport. They will do this in the office. $9.00
Visa Fees to Apply: Once your papers have been approved: $144.55
Notary Public for letter under oath: $44.80
Printing at Staples: $12
Total for my long-stay France visa application: $354.81
Plus the cost of the Travel Health Care which was over $2000 Canadian. Ouf…
Canadian Provincial Health Care
If you are Canadian, you need to check in with your provincial health care as you want to be in good standing with your provincial health care when you are travelling long term.
This is what I found out for my home province of British Columbia:
British Columbia Health Care:
Eligible Absence: For an absence of 6 to 24 months, you have to have been in Canada for 6 months of the 12 month period preceding departure. Phew. I almost went away in November 2019. This would have negated all my efforts to apply for a long-stay France visa at this time.
You can’t have already had an extended absence for 4 years before nor can you apply for one 4 years after your return.
Can I return to BC for visits? The longest I can stay in BC is 30 days without jeopardizing the eligible absence. I can stay in other parts of Canada longer.
Inform your provincial health care of your date of departure.
Here I come! I can’t wait to write even more about your glorious secrets. With my long-stay visa for France in hand, I am ready for what treasures will unfold in this, the next chapter of my life.
When you arrive in France with your France visa, you have 3 months to validate it. Here is how to validate your France visa.
If you decide to stay in France, applying for a Titre de Séjour is your next step. Here is how to apply for a Titre de Séjour.
If the next available date at La Préfecture de la Police for your Titre de Séjour is after your current visa ends, here is how to get a récépissé-intercalaire .