After targeting France as my focal point for a year abroad, I started to dig into what it would take to secure a visa. Through my work in the United States, I had a broad framework of how countries look at foreigners trying to secure visas. It’s a complex process regardless of what type of visa an individual wants to pursue.
France has many visa categories, but the main three are: work authorizations/permits, educational visas and long stay visas. These visas allow an extended stay in the country (more than 90 consecutive days). A United States citizen is eligible to visit France and stay in the country without a visa for up to 90 days. This is a good amount of time, but it was not my first preference.
A work permit allows an individual to work in France and the European Union (EU). This type of visa request is not generated by an individual, but rather from a company hiring an individual or transferring the individual into the country to work for a period of time. While I would have liked to work for a French company or US company based in France, it was not to be. Preferences in my field of work are given to citizens of the EU, as well as individuals who speak two or more languages (French being essential).
An educational visa is a permit to study in France at at French university. This visa hinges on an individual’s acceptance and enrollment in a certified program.
A long stay or “visitor” visa is for individuals who can prove their financial ability to live in the country without the need to work. This visa actually prevents an individual from pursuing work in France or the EU; the government wants to be sure French/EU citizens have access to valuable French jobs, especially in a time of high unemployment in the country. It seems the long stay “visitor” visa is a category for retirees and pensioners. Strangely enough, this was the best path for me to pursue a permit to live in Paris.
The requirements for the long stay visa are extensive. After my first read of the Consulat général de France à Washington requirements, I closed my computer and put this whole “Paris idea” at the back of my mind. The prerequisites to apply for a long stay visa were scrupulous, not to mention bureaucratic. Who has the time or patience to deal with this?