In my previous post on French Long Stay visa (AKA OFII), I outlined the process I went through to apply for the French Long Stay visa. Once you get the stamp in your passport, there is still more to go.
After landing in France, you have to let the state know you are there. You have three months to get the final OFII stamp for your long stay visa . You send them the form you get back from the consulate along with photocopies of your stamp, passport and entry stamp. As I was planning on travelling, I had to use the hostel I was staying at for a return address for the letter. No email here. Physical mail.
Note: Make sure you pick a good hostel. I was in a crummy part of town, so it was a drag staying there for three weeks.
I sent my in and I got a response a day or two later. I didn’t pick it up for a few days, however, as it usually takes a few days to process. When I did pick it up, it had a problem. I was missing some information. If memory serves, I was missing a photocopy of the EU entry stamp in my passport. I sorted this out and sent it in. All told, I lost about a week because of this.
Finally, my form came, with a date in May. This was only 3 weeks from when I got the letter but it was a little too close to the three month deadline for my liking. Enough time for me leave Paris and visit some friends in Toulouse!
When the day of the appointment came, you go and you wait. They give you an eye exam, weigh you and do a chest exam.
They then sit you down with a doctor. The doctor you sit down with speaks English and French. I suspect other languages too. The woman giving me the eye exam didn’t speak English, but it was no problem. We spoke in broken French and gestures. It worked out okay.
The conversation with the doctor, is a conversation. I felt she had some concerns and was on the fence for passing me. Seeing the chest X-ray on the computer behind her, I think it was to do with a chest infection I had. I mentioned that and she passed me.
Once the doctor part was done, I was home free! Except I was missing one piece of paper.
I had my tax stamp (another $250 Euros!). I had my passport. But, I was missing a piece of paper with my current address on it.They wouldn’t pass me unless I had a piece of paper with where I was staying. I protested saying I was at a hostel. I couldn’t get a gas or electricity bill with my name on it. She said she needed a piece of paper with my address on it. She was cool enough to let me get back there the next morning with it.
I showed up the next day with a letterhead from the hostel with a date stamp. I was sceptical that this was fine. No problem! They stamped my sticker and I was good for the rest of the year!
If I were to do this travel again, I wouldn’t go the French Long Stay visa route. By the rules of Schengen, I can run around Europe for three months every six months with my Canadian passport. The visa allows me to stay in France for the other three months. Once you are in Europe, it’s not clear how they keep track of where you are. If you take buses or trains your passport isn’t scanned. I personally don’t want to be stamped with “Illegal Immigrant” when I leave, so I’ve been a good boy keeping track of my time and not going over.
With that in mind, if I were to do this again, I would probably spend 90 days in Europe and the next 90 days in non-Schengen countries like Croatia, Cyprus, Serbia and Bosnia &Herzegovina, for example. The cost of living there is MUCH cheaper and just as beautiful.
Of course, from the outset, I wanted to work on my French and explore France to see if it was a place I’d like to live after retiring. I’m not disappointed I spent that much time in France, by any means. It’s just now that I’ve done this, I’d do it different next time.