Tag: french expat visa

Moving to France: The Visa

Looks like lots of folks are thinking about moving to France. First, the visa. This post was #1 among blog followers in 2018. Bonne chance!

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.

Moving to France 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

 

french expat visa

French Expat Visa Update: Done!

When you have an appointment at the prefecture to renew your French expat visa, you’d better show up. Rain, shine … or flu! 

Today was the day to update my 12-month French expat visa — or carte de séjour. The event seems to come around much faster each year. I could swear I just picked up mine from last year. Oh well…

It’s not that I haven’t been planning for this day. I’ve been pulling the documents together, with the help of Jennifer at Renestance, for months.  Birth certificate, income statements, proof of address … all together, including translations of each. The only thing I put off until the last minute was getting a new photo. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps I wanted to wait until I had a better hair day. Mistake! I ended up with the flu. Having a photo made when you have the flu makes a bad hair day look absolutely glamorous!

French expat visa — prepping 

I arrived at the prefecture in NImes pretty much on time. Jennifer was waiting for me at the front door, as we had planned. After quick “bisous, bisous” we walked across the street to a cafe. I signed the application papers Jennifer had prepared. All was going well. I handed Jennifer the stack of papers she’d asked me to bring, along with the copies.

Flip, flip” she thumbed through them all.

Where are your bank statements?” she asked? “The ones that show your money coming into France?

Ooops …french expat visa

 

 

 

Thanks to Jennifer’s quick thinking, she captured the bank statements off my mobile LCL account and emailed them to the printer at the prefecture. Promise, I never would have thought of it … in or out of my flu induced stupor!

french expat visa

Here’s Jennifer searching through my bank statements on the tiny iPhone screen

French expat visa — the inquisition

If it all looks pretty tame, you should have seen the room full of people waiting to get to these “windows.”  We were called up to the desk at 11:30 for our 10:30 appointment.

french expat visa

 

French expat visa — expedited

If one good thing did come out of my having the flu, it was that it helped shorten the approval process. All it took was Jen mentioning to the lady behind the glass that I was sick.

Le grippe?” (the flu?) the lady asked in horror.

Oui!” said Jennifer.

In less than ten minutes my papers were scanned, checked and approved. After handing me the receipt for my new carte de séjour, the lady behind the glass announced she was running off to wash her hands.

Conclusion

Could I have made it through the day without the help of Renestance? No way! Jennifer’s familiarity with the process and the system was a Godsend. Not to mention I could never have survived without her French-speaking skills.

Thank you Renestance. ‘Til next year!

 

More about expat visas

Time to Renew the French Expat Visa

french expat visa

 

 

 

 

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