Around France

Time to Renew the French Expat Visa

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time to renew the French Expat Visa. It’s a gift from France that keeps on giving.

Wish I could say that everything about living in France is wonderful. But when it comes to dealing with French bureaucracy, frankly, it can be a nightmare.

As an American expat, I’m required to renew my long-stay visa yearly.  It allows me to stay in France 12 months. When renewing a visa you have to make an appointment at the local Prefector. You have to make the appointment online no earlier than two months before your visa expires. You can’t submit documents online. Most aggravating, the information you have to provide is the same your gave them the year before. You can’t just update it. You have to start all over again.

Here’s the list of items I have to produce this year. Mind you, not all regions of France have the same requirements. Wherever you are, however, materials except for your passport must be translated to French — including bank statements and proof of revenue.

  • Current carte de séjour
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate and translation
  • Proof of address (less than 3 months old)
  • 3 ID photos
  • Proof of revenue (proof that you have at least 1149 EUR per month)
  • Written statement (in French) that you will not work in France

Once your card is ready to pick up, you pay €269 in fiscal stamps. 

Renewing a French Expat Visa

Renewing my visa last year was a real pain. It was to expire in August. So I went to the website of the Prefecture in Nimes in June, two months in advance, as instructed, to set up an appointment.

“No appointments available. Try again,” it said in French, of course.

French Expat Visa

I tried the website again the next day. Same response. And the next day. And the day after that. The same screen appeared each time. “No appointment available. Try again.”

By the end of July, with no appointment, I was beginning to worry. I was told by others they were having the same problem.

“No need going to Nimes in person to ask for an appointment,” they said. Online only.

French expat visaOh, what to do? Visions of gendarmes at my door were running through my head. Worse yet, what if I finally got an appointment, and it was in September?!  I had plans to be in the Dordogne! How could I be in two places at one time? All those non-refundable reservations! Panic!

I started asking around for help. That’s when I heard about a company that helps expats cut through French red tape. Renestance. They literally came to my rescue.

The Renestance office is in Montpelier.  They can help expats wherever they live in France. Jennifer, whom I got to know quite well, lives in Nimes. We met more than once. She could easily go with me to the Prefecture in Nimes. Whenever we could get an appointment.

Renestance was having the same problem with the Nimes website with all their clients. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Renewing a French Expat Visa…finally

Finally, after sending a registered letter to the Prefecture explaining my carte de séjour had expired, I had an appointment. November 29th at noon. By that time I’d spent a vacation in the Dordogne agonizing that I might miss an appointment date. And I’d cancelled my plans to spend the holidays with my family in the States. Oh, the frustration!

During all the waiting, Renestance was busy working on my case. They were online multiple times each day and night checking to see if the website was accepting appointments. They were managing the translation of my documents. Most of all, they were dealing with me!

For example, the “original copy” of the birth certificate that I ordered from the courthouse in North Carolina, where I was born, the one my son hand carried to France when he visited, was lost. Bless his heart, my dear son went to the county courthouse, in person, picked up another “original” birth certificate for me, and sent it by FedEx to France.

By the time November 29th rolled around, everything was ready for the appointment in Nimes. Jennifer met me at the train station, guided me to the Prefector’s office, which had moved sometime over the past year, and she walked me through the whole process. Which, by the way, would have been impossible for me without speaking the language. Yes, American Jennifer speaks perfect French. It was another three months before I actually had a new carte de séjour in hand, but I had a signed government document that served the purpose.

So now, when anyone asks me if there’s anyone in France who can help Americans or other English-speaking expats through the French bureaucracy, the answer is “Yes!” Renestance. They help with visas, drivers’ licences, relocation issues and more. Jennifer is helping me again this year. She’s already made an appointment at the Prefector on March 5th. It’s all under control.

Thank you Renestance!

 

Read about the first experience with a French Visa

 

16 replies »

  1. I have nothing but kudos for the Renestance team. I started working with Renestance in 2015 when the founder, Dennelle Taylor Nizoux, answered my request for information about retiring in France. The team, Dennelle, Jennifer, and Nicole (at that time) worked with me from Day 1, assisting me so I could re-locate to France. My major drawback in moving overseas is that I didn’t know French, except “bonjour”, “au revoir”, & “oui”. Dennelle made me aware of the difficult French bureaucracy. I thought my 20 years in the military prepared me for dealing with governmental “red tape”, boy, was I wrong.
    My first experience was the French consulate’s website. I lived in North Carolina, so the consulate I dealt with was in Atlanta, Georgia, but I found out that the consulate offices in San Francisco and Washington DC have some different requirements for individuals requesting a long-term visa. Renestance guided me through it as I compiled my visa packet. They even suggested I bring additional information, just in case. The goal was to get through the appointment in one trip. Thanks to their help my appointment day came and went with no difficulties.
    I signed up for the “New Nest” program which included a multitude of services, all neatly combined into 1 package. Some of these services included a reconnaissance visit, finding a place to live (and setting up the utilities), assistance in setting up a French bank account, applying for my “carte vitale”, and assisting me in renewing my visa. With the language barrier and my inexperience with the internet, I would not have been able to navigate through all the French “red tape”.
    I was nervous when I finally moved to France. This was a solo move to a country where I had no knowledge of the language. Renerstance made my transition as easy as possible. This team has the background that can help you resolve issues you may experience as you adjust to living here. I highly recommend you check out their website at http://www.renestance.com and see how they can help you. Just tell them that the “history nut” from the mountains of North Carolina sent you, lol.
    Thank for the great article, Barefoot Blogger.

  2. OMG, what a nightmare. At least you have perseverance and were able to find someone to help you through the morass. Good luck with this appointment.

    • Thanks, Elaine. It’s a relief to know Renestance is working with me this year. The system has improved since last year because they’re at least taking appointments. But it just means so much to have someone there who has dealt with this on a regular basis. There are some other tasks I’m going to need help on but… one thing at a time!

  3. You did the right thing, and I’m glad to have the information now. The first year I renewed, the people at the prefecture were absolutely unbelievably rude and unhelpful and I had to make several trips to get the thing straightened out and my titre de sejour renewed. This past year, I went for one visit and was told to leave and return when I had a signed statement from my bank as to my balance. On the follow-up trip, I went with an American friend who speaks fluent French. The woman at the prefecture again tried to throw us out on the grounds that on the previous visit a file was opened, then, when it was explained that no file was opened, we were told to leave and return with the proper documents. No asking if I had the proper documents (which I did), just an attitude of – GO AWAY. Luckily, I had all of the documents, copies, etc. – ready to pass over the counter.

    And yes – the document requirements are different all over France.

    It’s the most unbelievably inept system I have ever encountered. I’ve now had my fingerprints taken FOUR times, shown my birth certificate, my passport, my electric bill, my bank statement, the same amount. All of this could easily be done via the internet.

    • I can hear your frustration! It’s really insane, isn’t it? They say the Gard is the worse, but it sounds like it’s a problem all over. Check out Renestance and hopefully they can make it easier for you. Thanks for you tales of woe 🙁

  4. Not sure it’s worth paying an agency to check a website everyday for you and manage translations. Same stress, same time, lot less money to simply find a translation agency who you can send any documents you need directly yourself rather than have the agency send them for you, and check the prefecture website yourself. Judging by the date of your appointment, you literally saved no time in going through them and got the same result as everyone else.

    • Not sure I agree with you, Laura. If you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, having to deal with anything to do with the government can be frightening. If you know you have to go in person and sit in front of someone who is going to grill you on your life and why you’re in France, it’s reassuring to know the one beside you has been there before. One thing I didn’t add was that at that time, it was very unclear exactly what materials were needed to update the visa. Every region seemed to be different and I was getting a lot of bad information. The website was little help. Also, the date of my appointment shows just how long the company was working on getting the appointment — including the registered letter. Frankly, if I didn’t think this was an asset to me and to others, I wouldn’t have published the post. Nor would I be going to them again this year. Thank you for your comment and for giving me a chance to further explain.

      • If you have the money, why not? Just trying to help. if you change your mind, the Mairie can give you the list of certified translators available locally to cut out the middle man/agency of dropping them off for you, and agencies can’t get appointments sooner no matter what they say. You’re right, though, having a french speaker at the meeting is a good idea if you can’t speak a word, but a friend can do that, or generally, renewal questions are so basic that you could answer themself with just a level A1 french which most acquire within 6 months of living in France.

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