What Is a VLS-TS?
The VLS-TS or Visa de Long Séjour – Valant Titre de Séjour is a special long-stay visa for those visiting France for over 90 days who fulfill specific criteria (such as being students, interns, spouses, etc.). The visa also acts as a temporary residence permit, meaning that applicants do not need to register or apply with the prefecture for a residence permit upon their arrival in France. The visa can be for stays lasting 3 months to 1 year, but not longer, and allows you to live and work in France.
To find out if you need a visa for your stay in France and what documents you need, please consult your consulate/visa office or take this test provided by the French visas website.
In this post, I will be speaking specifically about my experience in 2019 as an American citizen applying for a VLS-TS as a spouse of a French national while living in the United Kingdom on a 2-year residence permit. I got married in France, so the process for those who were married outside of France could differ.
If you are an American applying for a VLS-TS IN America, I suggest taking a look at Charlie’s blog post on this subject at Am I French Yet?
Step 1: France Visas Website
All information you will need is available on the France Visas website. Again, this is my personal experience in July of 2019 and information provided may no longer be correct or relevant for when you apply.
France Visas is the first step to the application process. You must make an account to fill out and submit an application form on their website. Make sure when you fill out your application you put the date you will enter France, if not your entry at the border may be refused.
Applications for a long-stay visa cannot be submitted more than 3 months prior to the start of your trip, but I urge you to get your items together and apply in as soon as possible just in case demand is high. In my case, I got married on July 27th, applied for my VLS-TS on the 29th with an entry date of September 1st (which is really not that much time and made me very nervous).
Step 2: Appointment with TLS Contact
Once you submit your application on the France Visas website, you will be asked to make an appointment online (the appointment is free) to finalize your application in person. At this point, the application process is outsourced to TLS Contact which has branches in Edinburgh, Manchester and London. These are the people who will take care of the application and submit it to the consulate for you; when I applied, you could freely choose which center you would like to apply at since you have to go in person to submit your application. Once you submit your application through the France Visas website, you should immediately go to the TLS Contact website to register and make your visa appointment as the time slots can fill up very quickly.
Your Appointment at TLS Contact
Bring an original and a copy of all documents; you will need:
- Passport (or travel document) issued less than 10 years ago, containing at least two blank pages, with a period of validity at least three months longer than the expiry date of the visa requested
They will take your passport to put the visa inside, so do not plan to use it!
- Copy of ID page of passport
- Application form dated and signed, which must be printed and returned in original when filing the application. No scanning.
- France-Visas receipt which must be printed and returned in original when filing the application. No scanning.
- TLS Contact appointment confirmation page which must be printed
- Residence permit if you are not a national of your country of residence
- Your Livret de Famille and a full recent copy of a French marriage certificate, drawn up or transcribed
- Proof of the community of life with your French spouse and your intention to maintain it in France (joint bank account, bills in both names, copy of entry stamps into France from your passport, etc.)
- Proof of insurance*
- Proof of sufficient funds**
*I did this as it was listed on the documents to furnish when I submitted my application online via the French Visas website. To be safe, I purchased a 3-month long insurance covering “all medical and hospital expenses for which you may be liable for, as well as medical repatriation costs and expenses in the event of death” that would hold me over while I applied for my “numéro de sécurité sociale” (social security number) upon arrival in France. I did this through Europ Assistance.
** Although this was not listed (from my recollection), out of habit from having applied for several other Visas, I brought a print-out of my own personal bank account records to show that I had money to cover my stay and was not a financial risk.
My Experience with TLS Contact in London
As I would be returning from France at the time of my application, I chose to apply for my visa in London as it would be easiest. My appointment took place 8:30am Monday the 29th of July, essentially the beginning of the week at opening. After reading reviews online, people said that the earlier times were better as things could get backed-up later in the day.
When I arrived before 8:30, people were already waiting and divided into three separate lines. We were all let inside (after going through the metal detector) to stand and wait in line yet again. In this line, we were met by a preliminary agent who reviewed our application for completeness, signed us in, and directed us where to go.
After this, I was told to sit and wait to see a specific agent. There was a large screen with numbers to be called, but I did not receive one.
After waiting for at least two people to see the agent, I was allowed in for my interview/application submission. She was actually a French native but spoke in English. She asked me for originals and copies of my application documents as described above.
This is where I ran into two issues: I did not take the original of my husband’s ID card with me because, of course, he stayed behind in France and that was his sole form of identification. Because of this, she asked me if my husband had written a letter to the consulate describing our life together, etc. (which he hadn’t, although I had read about this being requested as additional proof on some blog posts I saw while researching the VLS-TS application process). However, I did have copies of his parents’ ID cards as well as an “attestation d’hébergement” that stated we were living with them at the time which may have helped with this matter.
The second issue I had was that, despite having them done by a professional French photographer with years of experience, my ID photographs were not satisfactory. She told me that I would have to use their booth to take new ones. This cost me 6 quid, but was payable by debit card.
Following this, you are led to the other side of the wall for biometrics. You are asked to give them your information and then wait until you are called. Once you are called, you are led to a numbered room where they will confirm your identity, scan your finger prints and take a biometric photograph of your face. The agent working this part reviewed the photographs that I had just finished taking and was worried that the background was not uniform enough and that I would have to re-take the photograph. At that point, I was a bit fed up and I just said we will try with this photo because I was not about to dish out another 6 quid on shit photographs.
Once that was all done, I was able to leave freely and wait however many weeks for the results of my application (the website says 15 days, but times can be shorter or longer).
Getting Your Visa Results
You can follow the progress of your application on the France Visas website, but they will not tell you whether or not the visa was successful or refused. Unfortunately, you have to wait for your passport back in order to find out.
In order to receive your passport, you can either go back in person to the branch in which you applied, or you can pay for Express Courier Return shipping. Because I lived in York at the time and train prices being what they are, I opted for the shipping. This cost me £15 and was payable by debit card; they will ask you how you would like to retrieve your passport when they review your documents and if you choose to have it posted, you have to sign a release form that essentially states they are not liable if the passport is lost or stolen.
I applied the 29th of July and had my passport back with a brand spankin’ new Visa inside on the 5th of August. I think I was quite lucky to get it back so fast as I have heard much longer wait periods, but that definitely quelled my anxieties about just how long it would take! Of course, every branch is different, and having any extra supporting materials to show that you intend to reside in France and have a life there are a big plus in aiding the consulate’s final decision.
Your Arrival in France: Validating Your Visa
When you receive your passport back, they give you a little paper insert that tells you what you need to do when you arrive in France, which is to validate your VLS-TS and pay the visa tax of 250€.
The VLS-TS must be validated within three months of arriving in France, if not, you are considered as illegally living there and will be unable to re-enter the Schengen Area. Luckily enough, the procedure is much simpler nowadays due to modern technology and is done completely online.
As indicated on your paper insert, you must validate your visa through the Government’s Etrangers en France portal which is run by the Ministère de l’Intérieur. This validation process is available in French only and I suggest you do it as soon as you arrive in France unless you will be moving to a different region within your first three months in the country (I will explain why below).
What you need to validate your visa:
- Your visa information
- The date you entered France (Make sure your passport is clearly stamped because you will need this as proof for later applications; this had me freaking out because I entered the country the 31st of August instead of the 1st of September, but I just wrote that I entered the 1st since I do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area for stays of 180 days or less anyway)
- Your address in France (again, if you plan to move regions, please see my experience/advice below)
- A credit/debit card to buy a “timbre fiscal” online; the cost is 250€ (this can also be done at a newsagent, but I suggest the online version)
Make sure to save the timbre fiscal, you will need it to prove that you paid for your visa later on
Why I Should Have Waited to Validate but Didn’t
Little to my knowledge did I suspect that after moving to France in August that I would quickly find a job in stained glass conservation starting in November in a completely different region.
Unfortunately, I was unable to wait for the regional move to validate my visa because we had booked a trip to Malta, and I was scared that if I did not validate the visa before our trip—despite the ability to travel in the Schengen Area visa-free—that I may not be let back into the country.
However, if I could have, or had known I was going to move so soon, I would have waited until I knew our new address before I validated the visa as it has made dealing with the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) and the entire integration process more difficult and sooo much longer.
After Your Visa Has Been Validated Online
You will be given a confirmation page (like the one above) that states you have validated your visa. As of this moment (2019/20), you must carry this confirmation of validation page with your visa at all times. I did not know this since it was not specified in the confirmation email nor on the paper itself, but when I went to my OFII appointment, they told me it should be with the visa at all times. I am unaware if this will be the new procedure since they are transferring from the old system to a new one, but it holds true for the moment.
At this point, you are freely able to leave and enter France without a hitch!
Once the visa has been validated online, your information gets passed over to the relevant territorial authorities of the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) in your area. They will send you (eventually…) a “convocation,” or summons, by mail for an initial meeting to start your integration in France. You can read more about that here.
How was your experience applying for your VLS-TS? Let me know in the comments below.
A support unit has been set up at the Directorate-General for Foreign Nationals in France:
phone number: 0806 001 620