19 February 2024

MOVING TO FRANCE getting the right visa

A display of tulips in our village.

At the beginning of 2023 we started the process of moving to France properly.  To do this we had to get the right kind of visa.  This is a long stay visa that lasts for one year and is called a VLS.

This visa allows the holder to stay in France for one whole year, during which time we could come and go as we please (no complicated Schengen calculations needed) and is the first step to an application for residency.  Getting it was a similar tedious process to getting the VLST the previous year, compiling numerous documents and personal information including evidence of income, of having somewhere to stay and having health cover, then taking them to an appointment at the visa centre.

Regarding health cover, for the previous six month visa (VLST), the UK GHIC card (used to be the EHIC card), is sufficient.  It entitles the holder to basic emergency treatment in other EU countries.  We also bought a private annual health insurance to cover the things that the GHIC doesn't, such as repatriation.  The situation is different when applying for a one year visa.

For people like us who are in receipt of a UK state pension, cover is provided in a form called an S1, which is obtained from the Dept of Work and Pensions (DWP) usually requiring just a phone call.  This is a document that effectively transfers health care from the UK to France.  (France provides the health care to UK citizens living in France and the UK pays for it). To get it we had to give the date of moving to France so we chose a date that coincided with when we wanted the visa to start and about a month after our appointment at the visa centre.

(The health cover situation is different for people who are not in receipt of a state pension or wish to work in France.)

As with the previous temporary six month visa (VLST) we had to compile all the documents and apply online for an appointment with TLS (the agency that handles all applications).  There are only three TLS centres in the UK that do this; in London, Manchester (Salford) and Edinburgh.  On the day we went along for our appointments, the centre in Manchester was crammed with young Chinese people who were all holding UK passports but mostly ill prepared for the process.  Consequently the centre was running very late and - the toilets were closed!

All in all it was a miserable, tedious and expensive exercise, although made easier by the fact that we had been through a similar process the previous year and had much of the information readily to hand.  We had all our documents in order - actually compiled in the correct order for handing over - as per the instructions on the French Government website, including having a set of the right kind of photos.  

As the hours ticked away we sat with head in hands thinking thank goodness we would not have to do this again!  We were full of admiration for the staff handling the applications for their immense patience in dealing with so many people who were not well prepared, short of documents and photos.

Once we finally got to the front of the queue the young woman who dealt with us whistled through the process in under ten minutes.  Then we had to go for "biometrics" - the taking of fingerprints and more photos and then finally, several hours after we arrived there, we emerged into the pouring rain in Salford to search for a public toilet!  The total cost on that day was, from memory, around £300 as we had paid extra for our passports to be delivered to our home by courier rather than have to go all the way back to collect them.

Salford is a devil of a place to get to from where we live but I have read that TLS have moved premises to an address not far from Manchester rail station, which will make life a lot easier for most people needing to go there.  (Assuming of course that there is no rail strike on the day of your appointment!)

Our passports with visas attached were delivered to our house about two weeks later.  They came by Royal Mail.  They also included instructions for the next step in the process which was to validate the visas within three months of arriving to live in France.  This we did a couple of weeks after we got here.  It involved logging onto the French government website and paying a fee of 200€ each.


Next time..........compiling an inventory.

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