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About 3 months after we arrived in France on our 1 year visa de long sejour, we started to think that we would like to stay longer.  The cost of living was much lower than we expected and with a little bit budgeting we felt we could stretch our resources another year. I had taken 2 years leave from my job, so there was no problem with that and Paige was “inbetween jobs” at the moment.

We had our initial year approved after going through the obligatory paperwork in Australia and then once we arrived in France we completed the next step of the process (identical to our friends Wayne & Sue’s account here, same place too) and obtained our first one year visitor’s titre de sejour. Fortunately French immigration laws allow for the titre de sejour to be extended each year. The process involves collating a lot of paperwork and proving that we can support ourselves financially. As visitors, we are not allowed to work here, so financial support is what we have in savings and any income stream we have back in Australia.

Unlike our initial titre de sejour which was issued by the L’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Integration (OFII), extensions are processed (more informally) by the local prefecture (or sous-prefecture) in our region. The prefecture is an administrative body that manages car registrations, driving licences, naturalisations and identity cards, as well as renewals of the titre de sejour.

Renewal applications can only be made within 2 months of the expiry of the current titre de sejour. It is best to apply when just within that time frame. That will give enough time to panic and reorganize things if it all goes wrong. We made an appointment at the Beziers sous-prefecture online. The sous-prefecture has an online booking system, that allows booking to be made up to 3 weeks in advance. Places fill quickly, so it is best to get online within 3 weeks of your two month application time frame. Bookings are for individuals, so we booked two consecutive slots.

We had been to the sous-prefecture a couple of times, once to change our address for immigration records and the other to change our address on our carte grise (car registration). When we went the first time to change our address, they didn’t want to know about that and gave us a list of documents we need to bring when we came back to apply for our renewal. The list they gave us was similar to the one here. They had ticked off the documents that were relevant to us.

We had separate appointment times, but went in together.

We needed 3 passport photos. Check

Most supermarkets in France have a self-serve photo booth that has OFII approved photos.

2 self addressed and stamped envelopes – Check

Copy of marriage certificate – Check

Don’t know why, but it was probably the document the interviewer spent most time looking at.

Passport. Check

Photocopies of passport ID page, visa, and initial titre de sejour.

We highly recommend purchasing a cheap printer, copier, scanner when you arrive in France. For about 50E it will save a lot of running around and hassle.

A copy of the medical certificate that was issued by the OFII when we first arrived – Check

This wasn’t on the list they gave us, but EVERYBODY we spoke to or read about that had gone through the process said it was required. The interviewer gave it a quick glance only.

Proof of residence – Check

We are renting a house for 12 months, so we just supplied a copy of the contract as well as a letter from our car insurer which had our name linked to our current address. Our interviewer only seemed interested in the letter and gave a quick glance over the contract. Unlike our initial visa application in Sydney where we had to supply a full 12 months of accommodation and copies of ID of our landlords, we only had to show that we were living somewhere. We had our landlord’s ID ready, but that wasn’t asked for.

We also had a letter (+ copies of ID) from some English friends in the north of France indicating that we would stay with them during the last 3 months of our time in France. The interviewer wasn’t interested in that and handed it back to us. She said if we move north, go to the prefecture there and show them the letter.

It appears that all that was required was some form of documentation that linked us to an address, eg, a bill or letter from some French organization. But based on previous experiences we came prepared with a swag of documentation.

Proof of Financial Resources. – Check

There is a lot of uncertainty about how much money one requires in order to demonstrate one can support themselves financially. French documentation don’t actually give a figure. However the document list we were given said that an amount equal to the French minimum wage per person is required. Which, at the moment is about 1425E a month. This is offset  (I assume) by whether you are renting or own your own property in France.

The document list stated we needed to provide any documents that we felt demonstrated our capacity to support ourselves.

We simply printed our online statements from our Australian banks. We don’t have French bank accounts, as fees for transferring money in bulk are slightly more expensive than credit card payments and cash withdrawals. We also rent out our home in Australia and had our property manager draft a letter (in English and French) that outlined the rental income we were getting from that.

The interviewer took a quick look at our first statement, then a more detailed look at it trying to find how current it was (all documentation must be no less than 3 months old). Satisfied that it was current, she put it and the other statements and our rental statement aside and continued to the next step.

She didn’t even do a currency exchange calculation given prevailing exchange rates. I had done a separate summary page that summed up our net worth in euros. She seemed to accept that and wasn’t bothered by any more detail.

Health Insurance – Check

By health insurance, we mean travel insurance. We purchased a year’s travel insurance online from an Australian company. It has a medical component that basically will cover the costs of any emergency or medical treatment that requires hospitalization and also includes repatriation back to Australia if needed. The interviewer had a quick look at it, asked if it was insurance. Yes we said. She put the document down and seemed satisfied with that.

This requirement was also not on the list we were given. But like the medical certificate, we felt that it was necessary, as it was for our original visa.

That was the end of the documentation. The document list also said that “originals” must be provided and an approved translator must translate any document not in French. We had originals ready, but they were not asked for. We had no translations done apart from our Google translated property manager’s letter. Our interviewer did not appear to speak much English, so I’m unsure how much of our documentation she understood.

However, all that didn’t seem to matter. We were fingerprinted again (as in Sydney) and we signed in a couple of boxes and was told that we would receive a letter in a few weeks with notification that our new titre de sejour (in the form of a plastic ID card) would be ready for collecting from the prefecture. For this we need to pay 87E each (when we collect the cards), but we must purchase 87E worth of “timbres fiscaux”. These are stamps that can be purchased from most tabacs. It seems officialdom does not like to deal with cash or cards. We bought ours from the tabac in town.

We are now waiting for our cards to arrive, contemplating how we can stretch our resources in to a third year.

Update: Notification to pick up our cards arrived a few days before our existing visa/titre de sejour expired. The notification said we could pick them up from the sous-prefecture in Beziers the day after the expiration (and no sooner). We did just that, paid out tax (we were required to pay 106E each, so we had to buy more timbre de fiscal) and now are good for another year.