All the same but different

France has 10 consulates in the US  and when applying for a visa you must use the office that has jurisdiction over the state in which you live.To get a long-stay (1-year) visa to live in France you have to prove essentially three things: that you have enough money to live on your own, that you have your own private health insurance, and that you have a place to live. All of the consulates agree on those points but then they begin to differ. The Atlanta office wants both an English and a French translation of every document. Chicago wants a letter explaining why you want to move, as does the NY office along with your FBI record. Some want two photos with your application while others want only one. Some want it stapled or glued and others don’t want it attached.

To be as well prepared for our visa appointment as possible, we’ve printed out the requirements from all of the consulates and will attempt to have all of the documentation that would satisfy any office. By the way, we understand that at these appointments, which cannot be made for more than 3 months before your US departure day, you simply hand over all of the documentation, the person processing your request either confirms that you have provided everything that they need or tells you what else you are going to have to send in and then you leave to await their decision. The stated processing time varies from about a week to several weeks yet online I often see that the approved visa (don’t forget that they hold your passport during this period since the visa is really just a stamp inside of it) comes back in just a few days.

The best advice that I’ve seen over and over, including from a former visa processor, is to follow the instructions from the consulate’s website EXACTLY. We have read a few instances where upon arriving at the consulate people are reprimanded for not calling to find out the latest information required but then other consulates do not take calls. Present all of the documents they want, in the order in which they have requested them, prepared precisely as they have indicated. At the appointment be cordial and keep in mind that the processor is just trying to confirm that you, like a dozen other people that day, have brought in the proof that you will not be a financial burden to the French people. I’m certain that US taxpayers, welcoming overseas visitors to our shores, have the same concerns here.

Bonus tip: Your consulate might require that the visa fee be paid in cash. Since the fee is set in Euros and then converted to US Dollars that day, take a few extra single dollar bills to be able to provide exact change in case it differs from the fee published on their website.