Another Long-Stay Visa Application

Since we will be staying in France for over 5 months this year, I will need to get another Long-Stay Visa, like I did in 2013. Since Rita still holds her Swiss citizenship, she doesn’t need a special visa to stay as long as she wants in Europe. 

In 2013, the process seemed rather protracted, and just a little dramatic in the end (with my passport containing the Visa only being returned to me a couple of weeks before I was scheduled to fly out). But thankfully, there have been some changes in the rules, and as the spouse of a Swiss citizen, I get to take a few shortcuts in the visa application process. 

Last time, in addition to filling out the application forms and supplying photos etc, I also had to provide the following:

- Written Explanation of Purpose of Trip

- National Criminal History Record Check (less than three months old)

- Statutory Declaration stating that I would not work in France

- Proof of Residence in France (not a barge)

- Bank Statements for the past 3 Months

- Proof of Medical Insurance while in France

- Proof of Return Travel Arrangements

This time, as spouse of a Swiss citizen, I just have to provide:

- Proof of Family Relationship (Marriage Certificate)

- Proof of Nationality of the Swiss Spouse (Swiss Passport)

- Proof that I will travel with Swiss spouse, or join them in France.

Seems much simpler this time, but I’ll keep you updated on progress with the application.

UPDATE #1: 13 March 2018

I had an appointment booked at the French Consulate in Sydney for this Friday, 16 March. But as I was filling out the application form yesterday, I realised that we couldn’t find the original of our Marriage Certificate. I have a copy, but the original (which was carefully filed) has gone missing. It’s probably in a box in the shed from when we were preparing to sell the house a year or so ago. And it will take a couple of weeks to get a new Certificate. So today I reluctantly cancelled my appointment, and will wait until the new Certificate arrives before making another appointment.

UPDATE #2: 30 March 2018

A new Marriage Certificate arrived in the mail today, so I made a new appointment at the French Consulate in Sydney. It is for Friday 13th April. I hope that is not an omen!

UPDATE #3; 13 April 2018

I drove up to Sydney on Wednesday and stayed at my niece Tessa’s home overnight. On Thursday, we went to visit my sister Mena, who recently entered an Alzheimer’s Care Home nearby. This morning I took the T-Way bus in from Winston Hills to the Queen Victoria Building terminus, which is directly opposite the French Consulate in Market Street - all very convenient. Had time for a coffee inside the Queen Vic Building (one of my favourite places in Sydney) and got to my appointment 15 minutes early. Waited while two people in front of me were attended to, and noticed that the lady at the counter was much friendlier than the guy I encountered in 2013. 

When it came to my turn I had my papers all in order, and placed them on the counter with a friendly “Bonjour”. She asked me what type of visa I was applying for, and after I explained she replied "You’ve filled out the wrong form!”. I was quite taken aback by this, as I had checked this several times when I was twice completing the application form online. We talked back and forth a bit as I struggled to understand where she was coming from (strange visions of the 2013 appointment and Friday 13th kept going through my head). 

Finally, she clarified what she meant by the “wrong form”, when she said that I didn’t need any visa at all, even though I was staying more than 90 days. Despite what I had read on the website, she said that as the spouse of a Swiss citizen, I could enter France without a visa and then apply at the local Prefecture (in Montauban) within the first three months for a Carte de Séjour (a Residency Permit). This would allow me to stay in France for as long as I wanted, although it would need to be renewed annually. This sounded too good to be true, so I explained what I had read online and she said she would go and check with “the boss”. She returned a few minutes later, and said that he had confirmed her opinion and that I didn’t need to apply before I travelled to France, but would need to do so as soon as I got there. My mind was still racing trying to comprehend the situation, and all I could think of was arriving in Paris and wondering what I would say when Immigration asked how long I would be staying, as they always do. When I said 5 months, I imagined their response would be to see my Long Stay Visa in my passport. So I asked if it would be possible to still get a Long Stay Visa now (for which I had all the paperwork completed) so that I would have no problems when I arrived in Paris. She explained that that would not be possible, and that I should just explain the situation and say that I would be applying for a Carte de Séjour in the next few weeks. I was still dubious, and so I asked if I could get a letter from the Consulate saying that I had applied for a Long Stay Visa and that they had advised me to apply instead for a Carte de Séjour when I got to France. She said they couldn’t do that, but she went back to the office again and came back with a photocopy of the pages from the website explaining the situation surrounding the Carte de Séjour for family members of citizens of Switzerland. She said just to show those papers at Immigration Control in Paris and have a copy of Rita’s Swiss passport and our Marriage Certificate at hand, if needed.

I walked out of the Consulate somewhat dazed. The trip to Sydney had been fruitless, but if the Carte de Séjour was the answer then it would make any trips to the Consulate in Sydney unnecessary in the future. Oh well, at least I got to see my niece and sister while I was up here!

Stay tuned for further updates.