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Validating your France long stay visa is an easy process. Or so it should be.
After making the decision to follow my dream of moving to Paris, navigating the bureaucratic maze to get a long stay visa, there is just that one simple step left: validate the France long stay visa.
When your long stay visa, beautifully affixed and filling its own page in your passport, is returned to you by courier in your home country, a letter accompanies it.
Read More: Here is the process I followed to receive a long stay visa in France, also known as a VLS-TS.
1. The Letter: Welcome To France
“Welcome to France! You have been issued a long stay visa serving as a residence permit, enabling you to legally stay in France.”
I remember the rush of excitement when I received this welcome letter.
“Within the first three months following your arrival, you must register and validate your visa at the following address.” This address is for “Etrangers en France.”
2. France Long Stay Visa: Pay The Timbre Fiscaux
In order to validate your France long stay visa, you need:
- information on your long stay visa such as the date it was issued and the number of the visa
- the date you entered France
- your current address
- a credit card to pay the “timbre fiscaux” or tax.
About six weeks into my year in France, I knew I had better validate my visa. I had recently moved and was getting accustomed to the surprising first confinement, due to the coronavirus, in my 17 square metre apartment in le Marais.
I did start the process.
I paid 200€ ($308 Cdn) for the “timbre fiscaux électronique” for foreigners and immediately received an email confirming my payment with an official-looking document from France’s Ministry of the Interior.
I might have been distracted that this “timbre” only lasted 6 months and needed to be purchased once again in October. I might have been happy to receive the official email.
Whatever the reason, I missed the final step.
Don’t do this.
3. Long Stay Visa: Get Your Official Reference Number
You need to pay the “timbre fiscaux” AND keep going until you receive a reference number that starts with the number 9 (not sure it will always be the number 9) and a confirmation email with the title “Confirmation de validation de votre VLS-TS.”
The reference number allows you to log in the Ministry of Interior site and is the number for all future correspondence in this regard.
I received the email receipt saying that I had paid the tax or “timbre fiscaux” and thought I was done.
If it had been a normal year and I had travelled outside of France, for example to London, I would have been denied entry back into the Schengen Area, because my France long stay visa was not fully validated. Oops. Kind of a major mistake.
4. Expect The OFII Appointment
When you get your reference number starting with 9, your information is sent to OFII, the French Office for Immigration and Integration. In the confirmation email that you have validated your visa, it states that you will receive an email or registered letter for a medical appointment with OFII.
Months after I arrived in France, I read that I was supposed to have received a registered letter for a medical appointment. I didn’t realize that I had not fully validated my visa and thus my information had not been sent to OFII.
When I called OFII, to see why they had never contacted me for a medical appointment, it was clear they had no record of me. I did not have the magic reference number beginning with a 9.
5. France Long Stay Visa: Timing Is Everything
As always with French bureaucracy, timing is critical. If you decide to renew your visa, you can’t apply 6 months beforehand. You can only apply for an appointment at the prefecture about 2 – 3 months before your visa ends. I, of course, couldn’t make an appointment at all as I was quite sure that I would receive the letter for my medical appointment (which I should have done months earlier) after I had returned to Canada.
Believe you me, you cannot rush the French bureaucracy even when you have made an honest mistake.
OFII just didn’t answer the phone. The day I planned to go to their office in-person, someone answered. I explained the situation. The reply? “Il faut patienter, madame.”
I accepted what was and decided to wait and see what happened. I started looking at flights to Canada and thinking about how it would be awfully nice to see my family.
And then, out of the blue, I got an email from OFII. Nope, not a registered letter (I never did receive one) but an email giving me a date for my medical appointment and what was required of me.
I had waited for three weeks. I had read there is often a three-month waiting period between validating your visa and getting the medical appointment.
Perhaps the coronavirus year was working in my favour. I mean, how many foreigners are in France right now?
6. OFII: What Is Required For The Medical Appointment?
Accompanying the email from OFII is a list of what is required for the appointment and the location of the medical examination.
- the appointment letter (most important to even get in the door)
- your passport and current visa
- recent chest X rays
- glasses (if you wear them)
- a list of your vaccinations.
7. France Long Stay Visa: Getting A Chest X-Ray
In Canada, one needs a requisition from a doctor to get an X-ray. I made an appointment with a doctor. Doctors in Paris are just not like in Canada. They answer their own calls, there is no receptionist and the offices appear totally disorganized. (This grand generalization is based on two offices I have been to.)
I went. I got the X-ray requisition for a fee of 25€.
At the radiology office I found out that for an official reason, like the OFII appointment, I did not have to have a requisition at all. Ouf.
I waited to be called. Went into a tiny booth and took off my shirt and bra. My eyes scanned the little room for a gown, cloth or paper, but there was nothing. The door opened on the other side and my hands flew up to cover my breasts. Half-naked I walked over to the X-ray machine, followed the technician’s rather gruff instructions, really concentrating on my French, and just like that I was done.
I didn’t understand the final instructions and hovered in the little booth for far too long. Of course, I saw the technician circle a spot on my X-ray and immediately my mind started racing.
I was soon called to a conference room and waited for the radiologist. At this point, I was sure something was wrong.
When the radiologist arrived, she told me everything looked good and handed me a large white envelope with my X-rays inside.
All set for my OFII appointment, I paid on the way out. 69€. ($95 Cdn).
8. France Long Stay Visa: The OFII Appointment
I arrived in Montrouge to find a group of at least 20 people outside the door, behind the barrier. My appointment was at 1:30. I waited. At 1:25 a security guard called out for the 1:30 appointments. With the appointment letter, my passport, and a security check, I was let in!
I sat in the waiting room with about nine other masked people.
Eventually, six of us were called to another waiting room. And then it all began.
First: temperature taken, phone number given, questions in English about tuberculosis, and a questionnaire to fill out, best in your first language.
Next: height, weight, vision and a prick of blood for a diabetes check.
Then the doctor: Into a private room, discussion about the questionnaire, a glance at the chest X-rays and vaccinations records, breathing checked with a stethoscope and blood pressure taken. PHEW – all done.
The doctor hands over an official medical form that needs to be stamped on the way out.
Please note: If you do not have your X-rays done beforehand, you can have them done at Montrouge. It too is a little room, with no gowns and the possibility of either a male or female technician. I would call and verify this before going.
9. The Next Step After OFII
With the appointment at OFII done, I am finally official in France! The nurses and doctor at the medical appointment were very kind and welcoming. For some reason, I was still nervous when I was there. Perhaps it was the fact that I was quite a few months late having my appointment.
UP NEXT: What to do when the first available appointment at the préfecture is after your France long-stay visa has ended. Here is how to get a récépissé.
I hope this is helpful for those on a VLS-TS and others dreaming of getting one in the future..
Until next time,