I sat down with our head of immigrations, David Simmons III, to ask him all of your most common and pressing questions about visas, with a focus on our most commonly asked for visa: the visitors visa.

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Hi David! Thank you for joining me today. So, my first question is how long have you been working in immigration?

It’s been almost 15 years now.

Visitors visa

So, in your experience, what is the most common visa people ask for?

We have 3 most common: Visitors Visa (VLS-TS), Entrepreneur Visa (Freelancer Visa) and Passport Talent Visa (business creator). These clients are individuals who move to France out of their own choice and not because their job sends them here. (You can read more about Entrepreneur Visas and Passport Talent Visas here!)

In general, what have you found is the easiest visa to get?

Visitors visas are generally the easiest ones to get.

And what is a typical profile of visitors visa applicant?

I can speak only of our agency, as every agency on the market specializes in a different type of clients/ services.
However, for us most applicants fall into two categories: retirees and families.
Retirees would be someone who is retired and generally is already receiving social security benefits and wants to leave the US for various reasons. Many of them have some sort of tie to France already, maybe they studied here or have family here, or France has always caught their eye. They are generally looking for a permanent move.
The families often want their children to experience France, learn the language, and just have the benefits of growing up here. Some of these are permanent moves and some are for a few years.

What does the process of getting a visitors visa look like typically?

First, you need to make your application, once you have that application made you then have an appointment either at the French consulate (depending on what country you’re in) or you go through a third-party proxy, for example, TLS in the UK or VFS in the US. At your appointment someone will evaluate your application with you. You will leave your passport with them and either you’ll hear back from them with more questions or more documents needed or they will send your passport back to you with your visa inside.

Okay, so how long does it take to get a visitors visa?

Typically you will have your passport back with a visa anywhere between 1-2 weeks after your appointment with the consulate or proxy. Obviously this can vary a lot, but that’s the typical turnaround.

So, once you get your appointment done you should get your visa back pretty quickly. Does the visa become valid the moment you get it back?

No, no, the visa is only valid from the start date on the visa. You’ll put in your start date on your application.

So if I get a visitors visa, will I be able to work in France?

No. With a visitors visa you are not allowed to work, run a business in France, or to be hired by a French employer.

I see. What if I want to study in France? Can I do that with a visitors visa?

No, you would want a student visa for that.

What if I want to participate in an unpaid internship or do some volunteer work? Will I be able to do that if I’m here on a visitors visa?

Yes, you can do volunteer work. However, an unpaid internship would not be possible on a visitors visa.

I’ve heard that you have to have medical insurance with a visitors visa. What type of travelers insurance is recommended for this?

Well, there are certain minimums. France requires that there is an overall value of the policy that will cover up to 30,000 euros of health needs. It also needs to cover the entirety of your stay, so generally up to one year. It also needs to cover repatriation. Repatriation means that, in the worst case, if you are so ill that you need to return to your home country, your insurance will be able to cover this.

Okay, makes sense. I’ve seen the terms visitors visa and tourist visas used in similar situations on the internet. What exactly is the difference between a visitors visa and a tourist visa in France?

The terms visitors visa and tourist visa are often used interchangeably. However, really a tourist visa relates to people coming from countries that cannot enter France for any amount of time on their passport alone. So, if you can visit France on your passport with no visa, which is the case for the USA, Canada, and many others, your passport essentially acts as a tourist visa for up to 90 days. A visitors visa is a way to stay in France for more than three months.

I’ve been told that for a visitors visa I need to submit a ‘detailed travel itinerary.’ What should I include in this? How detailed does it need to be?

Essentially, where you’re going to be and when. Of course there can be changes to this and it is fine to ballpark this. For example, if you’re staying in France for a year and you know that from January to February you’ll be staying in Paris and from March to December you’ll be staying in Avignon, this is what you need to say in your travel itinerary. While these don’t have to be exact dates, the more details you can give, the better.

Ah, okay. So I don’t need to include things like addresses of where I’m staying or anything?

If you have that information, you should definitely include it. But no, technically you don’t need to include that.

Preparing to get your visa

Moving on from the visitors visa, what kind of visa takes the longest to get?

A passport talent (a specialized visa for highly qualified applicants, who will work here, invest in a business here, or artists who want to work in France). There are a few different categories of this but overall that category of visa takes the most time and energy. The longest we’ve seen was a three month wait from the French officials. In terms of wait time, I would put just under that an entrepreneurial visa. Entrepreneurial visas depend on the consulate, but those can be anywhere from a week to a few weeks if they need extra documentation.

So why do visas take so long to get?

What creates the most delays is incorrect/ insufficient documentation. Being “right the first time” has proven to be the best way to get your application approved as soon as possible. Preparing the documentation is what we do best! We make sure that you have what you need so that you won’t be asked for extra stuff.

So is there any way I can speed up my visa?

You can’t speed up the process itself, but getting it right the first time and being completely prepared will make the process as quick and smooth as possible.

Makes sense. A question we often get is when should I start preparing and when should I submit my application?

The earlier the better! To keep it as stress free as possible you should apply as soon as you can, which is 90 days before your planned arrival date. But, we like to start a preparing a bit earlier than that so we recommend starting to get your documents ready 4 months before your arrival date.

We’ve talked a lot about how important it is to have the correct documentation for your visa application. What documents do I need to submit for my visa?

We’ve actually created a visa documents checklist to help you make sure you have what you need and help keep you organized! When you subscribe to our newsletter here we will email you the checklist right away.

Wow! Looking at it now I don’t see any health documents other than the health insurance we already talked about. Are there any specific vaccinations or health certifications I’ll need for my visa application?

No, once you arrive in France there is a mandatory medical appointment that you will go to, so having up to date medical documents would be nice but not necessary.

Okay, nice. So if I have digital versions of these documents, can I apply for my visa completely online or do I still need to go to the embassy in person?

You can’t apply for the visa completely online, but there is an online part and there is an in-person meeting that will require you to either go to a consulate or a proxy.

For this next question let me give you a little hypothetical. So lets say I’m planning on relocating with my family, for example my spouse and 3 kids. Should we submit one application or five separate applications? Are we supposed to go to the meeting with the kids? How long does this meeting usually take?

First of all, you would need to fill out an application for each person. The documentation does not necessarily have to be for each person. For example, going back to the visitors visa, you will need to provide proof of finances to cover your time in France. However, for the children’s application, they will be dependent on you, you can use your financial documents for them as well. But, every single person will need their own application, and if the kids are too young to sign for themselves the parents will need to do this for them. Secondly, everyone will need to go to the appointment. As for if everyone needs their own appointments, this depends on whether you’re going to the consulate or a proxy, but the safe answer is yes, everyone needs an appointment. Those meetings in general will take about 20 minutes per person.

Visa Technicalities

I’ve heard that if my last name has changed, maybe from marriage or from choosing to change my name, it can be more complicated to get a visa. Why is this?

This relates back to having the proper documentation, but as long as your name matches up across all of your documents you should be fine.

I see, so it all really comes back to documentation?

Yes, almost all of the problems people run into when applying for a visa have to do with getting the proper documentation.

What would cause someone to be rejected for a visa?

Not having all of the required documentation, or their documentation does not prove that they have what they need. A good example of this is for a visitors visa there is a certain amount of money that you need to have, so if you don’t have this money or it is not shown in the documentation, you will get rejected.

Is there an age limit on visas? As in could someone’s age cause them to get rejected?

I’ve never heard of an age limit on visas, so no, I don’t think age would be an issue or grounds to get your application rejected.  

So lets say I get my visa, I move out to France, and I’m having such a wonderful time that I forget about my visa and accidentally overstay it. What would happen to me? Could I reapply after overstaying?

Don’t overstay your visa! It’s never good. There can be several different consequences, the most extreme being that you will be kicked out of the country and will not be allowed to return. If you’re here for a long term stay and you overstay your visa this can pose big problems, especially if you’re working here or wanting to work here. As for reapplying, this gets into a gray area. There are things that can be done to try to fix the situation but it really is on a case by case basis. It also depends on how long you have over stayed, over staying one day is a very different situation from overstaying by 100 days. If you overstay your visa I would recommend reaching out to an agency like ours to see what can be done to help you.

So what if my passport expires before my visa does?

You would not have been granted a visa! One of the things that they look for in the application process is if your passport will expire earlier than six months before the end of your visa. They want you to have a six month cushion after your visa expires. Of course, this gets a bit more complicated with children as their passports have a five year limit. But, you will never be in a position where your visa is valid and your passport isn’t.

What if I get here on a short-term visa and decide I want to extend my stay? Can I extend my stay if I originally applied for a short-term visa?

In general, yes. It depends how short the short term is. If your visa is up to one year then yes. If you are on a short term visa for less that three months (which is only needed if your home country will not allow you to enter France without a visa) then no, you absolutely cannot. However, if this is not the case and your visa is from 3-10 months then probably yes, but it depends.

Once I get my visa, is there a limit on how many times I can enter or leave the country?

No. When you have a validated visa it is the same thing as a residency card. So, you are a resident of France and you can come and go as much as you please just like a French person who was born here.

Why should I hire a relocation agency?

You’ve been doing this for a while! Since you’re so experienced, when should I hire an immigration lawyer instead of a relocation agency like yours?

That’s a good question! In order to immigrate to France you are not required to have an immigration lawyer, so you can make the decision yourself. I will say that immigration lawyers are more expensive, so definitely take that into consideration. I would consider hiring an immigration lawyer in a more complicated case, or if you have overstayed your visa, got rejected or if you don’t think that you qualify for a visa at all. Immigration lawyers are experts in special types of visas like health care visas or asylum seekers. They also do other things like citizenship and appeals.
An immigration agent- like us- is fully capable in handling your visa application, validation, renewal or event status change. In fact, we are proud of having a 100% success rate for new applications handling!
It’s also important to note that an immigration lawyer handles only one aspect of your move. If you need other services like business set up, house search, school search or finding a moving company, you need to search for them on your own. Additionally, you are responsible for making sure all those loose ends are synchronized and everyone is up to date with the progress of other party.
A relocation agency will take this burden off you. We ensure of all of these processes are synchronized by our Project Manager. Not to mention that our services are complementary to each other: house search team will provide you with an address for visa application, Health Insurance team will provide your certificate for visa renewal etc.
For our clients it means a complete handover of responsibility, with guaranteed results.

Okay, makes sense. So, basically, a relocation agency takes care of the entire relocation process, which gives you some peace of mind, and immigration services are cheaper with a relocation agency like Your Friend in Paris?

Essentially, yes. But, with more complicated immigration issues you should probably turn to an immigration lawyer. If you’re unsure if you need an immigration lawyer or if you could work with a relocation agency I encourage you to reach out to us either through email (office@yourfriendinparis.com) or by booking a free 30 minute consultation, we can let you know if your case is something we can handle and if not we are glad to recommend a reputable and trustworthy lawyer to help you.

If you still aren’t sure if a relocation agency is the right move for you I suggest you check out our other article. We talk about all kinds of experts you can hire and help you find the best way to manage your unique relocation.

Okay I see. So, final question: Since all this information is available online, why should people hire you?

Great question! Sure all of the information is available, but at the same time you don’t want to do is believe everything you see online. There is a lot of conflicting information out there. So one thing that is very helpful in having someone like us, is that we’ve done this for many many years and we know what is right and what is not.
Another good reason is just for comfort, you can take the worry and stress out of the visa process. With us you are essentially given a few tasks that you’ll need to do but ultimately its in our hands. It’s convenience. When you hire us you know your visa is going to be done on time and be done right.
Moving is always stressful, especially moving to a new country or even a new continent. So you will already have enough on your plate. With our service you can check ‘Visas’ off your to-do list and relax a bit.
We also have a running joke here that there are plane manuals online but you wouldn’t fly the plane yourself. Like flying a plane, the visa process is technical and you want an expert to do it for you.

Alrighty! That’s all I have for you today. Thank you so much for your time!

Of course! And if anyone reading this has further questions they can always reach out to us at office@yourfriendinparis.com or schedule a free 30 minute consultation call to see how we can help you by clicking here.