Once you make the decision that you’re going to move to France you are then faced with a variety of choices of things that have to take place before you can actually leave. Unfortunately it seems as if they all need to be done at the same time but obviously they have to be done in some kind of order; hence, the chicken or the egg. One biggie is applying for your visa which cannot be done any sooner than 3 months before you leave the US. Since you don’t know if an appointment is going to be available when you are ready to book it, looking about 4 months ahead seems to make sense. So once you get the appointment the mad dash begins to gather everything the consulate wants to process your request.
You need an airline ticket before going to the consulate, but what date do you book that for? Your visa might come through in two days or it might take two weeks or more. Curiously, most consulates tell you that you should NOT buy the ticket ahead of time but only bring in a reservation and then buy the ticket once the visa is granted. We have been unable to find an airline that will let you make the reservation without buying the ticket within 24 hours.
You need a place to live and a lease or mortgage to prove that you’ve secured that. As with the airline ticket, when do you start the lease or mortgage? What happens if your visa is not approved? We know one landlord who agreed to a one-year lease but also agreed to let the tenants out of the commitment if they agreed to pay his normal higher monthly rate should the visa fall through.
You’ll need medical insurance. Luckily that can be done online, almost instantly, with the required documentation printed out at will.
Other documents such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, or anything that is not timely can be requested as soon as you know that you’re going. Others such as a police report, bank statements, or pay/pension stubs should probably be obtained close to the date of your appointment to be as current as possible.
One last thing: your house here. Sell it as soon as you decide to move. Without the concern of when that big-ticket item will sell, you can concentrate on everything else you will need to do ahead of time.
If we were to do this all over again we would: LIst your house for sale as soon as you know that you want to move and then start gathering the documents that are not of a timely nature. Once it sells, book your accommodation, and your airline ticket, and your visa appointment. Then get all of your other documents together and go off to the consulate expecting a positive result. Sure it’s scary and of course there are no guarantees that it’s all going to work the first time as planned, but if you don’t at least give it your best shot, you’ll never know.