Auston and I knew after completing our backpacking trip that we wanted to return to Spain to continue studying Spanish. Our goal was to spend at least six months in Madrid but we also wanted to go to France for a couple months to visit family and perhaps start dabbling in French. Unfortunately, according to the Schengen Agreement, Americans can only be in certain European countries (including Spain and France) for a maximum of 90 days within a 6 month period. Sure, we could leave after three months and go to another country in Europe, since we can spend up to 6 months in the UK. But as fluent English speakers, we’re not looking for English immersion – even though we’d need it to ever understand British English! So we interpreted this Schengen policy as “Americans must scheme their way into Europe if they want to stay more than 90 days”. As Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother would say, “Challenge accepted!”
Thankfully, my husband is very skilled at scheming. So this little Schengen Agreement issue was not going to stop him from getting us 6+ months in Spain and France. As usual, he began diving into his research and sending me links to the plethora of blogs and forums that discussed staying in Europe past the 90 days. I was tempted to ignore his emails and let him handle it on his own while I sit back enjoy the spoils of his work. Alas, there were a lot of options and this was a two person job – as he made very clear to me! It wasn't easy to figure out how to apply for a long stay visa in France so we hope this information is helpful.
Well after some research we came up with two options for obtaining a European visa. We could apply for a long stay visitor visa in France or we could apply for an English teaching assistant position in Spain to receive a year long student visa. We decided that teaching English in Spain was ideal because that’s where we prefer to live and it’d be guaranteed work. However, in case we didn’t get the positions (our applications are still pending) we also applied for the French visa. We felt it was a good option since Auston has family in France that we planned to visit anyway and we’d like to spend a couple months traveling around the country. Still, we thought it was a long shot knowing they’d check that we have adequate funds for our entire stay in France. While we knew we did since we travel fairly cheaply, we weren’t sure that the French consulate would agree.
Applying for the long stay France tourist visa was an in-depth process. We compiled loads of paperwork for the French visa application – anything that could possibly prove to them that we were trustworthy and financially stable! Here’s everything we submitted based on their requirements and extra information we had on-hand just in case.
1. Proof of residency in our consulate’s jurisdiction: Easy – our Arizona driver’s licenses.
2. Original Passport: Our passports valid at least 3 months upon our return to the U.S.
3. Processing Fee: US$127 each – nonrefundable even if denied.
4. Application Form: This required standard identification information. However, this is also where we used the assistance of Auston’s family in France for certain questions. If an applicant doesn’t have friends/family in France, we assume you’d book accommodations in advance (hostel/hotel) and provide that information.
5. Passport Photographs: Submit two.
6. OFII Residency Form: We did not need to submit this because we requested a visa for 6 months or less. This form is required for stays longer than 6 months. Though we may have been able to do it, it just seemed like further unnecessary complications as we’d have to register with the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) during the first three months of our arrival in France. No thanks.
7. Recent Police Record: We requested this from our local police departments in our resident cities. The specific form we requested was a Letter of Clearance indicating that we had no police record. It took about a week to receive. (Update Feb 5th, 2016: Note that some consulates are no longer requiring a police background check as part of the application process including Los Angeles and Chicago. However, some still may require this and New York in particular requires a background check by the FBI. Be sure to check the specific requirements from the consulate where you're applying.)
8. Signed Letter Promising Not To Engage In Any Paid Activity In France: This was straightforward. The only means of payment we currently earn are via our blog and Auston’s freelance writing, neither of which involve income from France.
9. Proof of Financial Means: This was the tricky part. We have about US$8,000 in our savings from our recent tax return plus what we had remaining from our backpacking trip last year. That’s not enough for two people to live in Europe for 6+ months. However, we also make a small income from the blog and Auston’s freelance writing – plus, we travel cheaply anyway. Still, we had to prove we could afford it so here’s what we submitted:
401k (retirement) statements: Not money we plan on using, but no harm in showing we have it.
Bank statements of all savings/checking Accounts: Like I said, amounting to about US$8,000.
Blog income invoices: What we had earned thus far.
Statements from freelance writing income: Auston makes $25/article.
Letter of Financial Support: This was specifically for me. Auston had more earnings than me because of his writing plus he has a larger 401k. To give me a financial boost, I requested that my mother write a letter of financial support. I got this idea because it is a suggested document to submit for long stay visa in France for studies, though ours is for visitors. So my mother graciously wrote a letter stating that she would help me out monthly and included her bank statements as well. Do note that I have no intention to receive money from her while traveling. It’s just to give me that extra boost (though I have a feeling if I called her with a tear-filled voice begging for her to buy me a plane ticket home because I missed her so, she’d whip out a credit card without hesitation).
*In the end, we both “proved” that we could support ourselves with at least US$3,000/month between savings and potential earnings during the 6 month visa period we applied for.
10. Proof of Medical Coverage Abroad: We purchased Travel Insurance through WorldNomads.
Note: You can buy this exact travel insurance directly through our site by clicking this link or by using the quote tool on the side bar of this post.
11. Proof of Accommodation in France: Again, through Auston’s family. Though we assume you could use pre-booked accommodations. You could likely rent an apartment through AirBnB or similar since they will provide you with a rental contract stating the duration of your stay. Just be sure to book an apartment that has flexible cancellation in case there is a problem with your visa.
Need help with your application for your Long Stay Visa for France? WE CAN HELP! Learn more here…
There you have it. That’s everything we needed to submit our applications for the French tourist visa. In addition, we had to make an appointment online and actually visit the consulate in person in Los Angeles to submit them. We truly thought it was a long shot and probably wouldn’t get them. But submitting them was fairly straightforward. We had no hassles. They quote the processing time for Americans at about 14 days. Our passports were mailed back to us in less than two weeks with approved visas and we were good to go! We were even granted a little longer than we had requested. Our visas expire November 20, 2013 though we requested them through October 1. Can’t complain about that!
Update: We recently discovered that Spain offers a similar type of Residence visa and we have written about the process for applying for that visa as well.
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