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French residency after our first year on a VLS-TS Visiteur visa


Previously, on Adventures in Becoming an Expat, we applied for and validated our French VLS-TS Visiteur visas, including the OFII medical exam.

⚠️ Disclaimer: I'm writing about my own experience going through the validation process for a VLS-TS Visiteur visa, in Strasbourg, in the last half of 2022 (and also the first half of 2023, unfortunately). I hope this information can be helpful, but please note that the process will vary between prefectures and from year to year.

If you've gotten this far in the French residency process, the hard work is behind you. Apply for the renewal on time, expect delays, and monitor your inbox and (in theory) you'll be fine.

We (inadvertently) applied late, and that — combined with a weird documentation glitch on their end — resulted in significant delays. From application to approval it took around four months; the day we picked up our Cartes de Séjour was nearly seven months after application.

If you're going through this process, I recommend joining the Legal France Facebook group as it's run by an immigration lawyer who's well-versed in the edge cases.

When and how to apply for renewal

This is, in my opinion, not stated clearly enough for first-time applicants: apply for renewal three months prior to your visa or CdS expiration date. Don't apply within three months. We misinterpreted this and it made our situation more stressful.

Application is done online, through the Ministère de l'Intérieur's Étrangers en France portal. This is a painless process, in my experience, as it's the same system used to validate a visa on arrival. You can begin the application for your Carte de Séjour and save your progress without submitting.

At this point, for us, the only requirement for the application that caused confusion was the official photo, and knowing what we know now it's super easy. The CdS demands an "ephoto", and you can obtain one at any Photomaton-brand photobooth. There are dozens in Strasbourg, from outside supermarket entrances to inside laundromats. The booths have touchscreens, allow you to select English (along with a few other languages), and accept credit card payments. Go through the process to select ephoto pour titres de sejour, get a photo you're happy with that meets requirements, and you're done. It'll print out receipt with a QR code, copies of the photograph, and an identifier that gets entered into the renewal application.

Do note that your photo on the physical CdS is printed greyscale — and borderline impossible to see — don't worry too much about getting the perfect photo. Keep in mind these photobooths can take photos sized for US Visas, which can be used for US Passport applications. If you need to renew your passport, this is the way to get a photo quickly and without hassle.

How we screwed up

Plain and simple, we applied late, on 23 October.

Right now, logging in to the portal tells me that I need to apply for renewal between 01 September and 01 October — this is a one-month window, opening three months prior to my CdS expiration of 30 November. As far as I can tell, because we weren't technically renewing a Carte de Séjour but applying for our initial issuance, the system didn't understand our visa's expiration dates and didn't warn us about the appropriate application window.

So: use caution and avoid waiting to apply or renew. If you apply too late you may be on the hook for an additional "regularisation" fee of 180€ on top of the renewal fee.

Requests for further information

Within a week of application we both received a "Request for additional information":

Merci de nous fournir une attestation d'assurance maladie privée dont les droits sont ouverts jusqu'au 31 décembre 2023, date de fin de validité du titre de séjour sollicité.

We'd sent in proof of health insurance from the Ameli website with our renewal application, and because of how the social security system's website generates certificates of coverage ("attestations d'assurance") they are good for exactly 12 months from the date you request the certificate and print or download it. This is a strange artefact of how the system works, and it appears that the specialists handling CdS applications may not be aware of this.

After contacting Ameli's helpdesk and being told that, no, they can't issue anything else, we downloaded new instances from Ameli and submitted those as a response. I tried to explain the situation in the comment form (in both English and robotranslator French — sorry, fluent Francophones):

J'ai téléchargé une nouvelle attestation Ameli. Il n'est délivré que pour 12 mois à compter d'aujourd'hui et ne peut pas présenter d'assurance jusqu'en décembre 2023. Merci pour votre patience et votre aide !

I uploaded a new Ameli attestation. It is only issued for 12 months from today, and cannot show insurance through Dec 2023.

This didn't get a response, and based on our eventual CdS issuance was satisfactory. Either the explanation (or the ability to generate a new date on the coverage?) was enough to convince them, or someone else processed it.

How they screwed up, maybe

As we approached the end of November and our visa expiration date loomed, we were getting concerned about what was going on. We messaged several times, and eventually were told that, essentially, they could not locate our (digital) fingerprints from our initial visa application back in 2021.

After checking the file in the computer system, we find that the application has been verified by the instruction service and that your fingerprints are missing. Your prefecture will check whether your fingerprints are already in the database. If not, they will contact you directly to take your fingerprints.

This delay continued with no updates until we received a retroactive extension to our visas, an "attestation de prolongation d'instruction", in January. At some point in there, they found our fingerprints. We've read that the switch to the new application system (ANEF?) is a huge undertaking and is running into glitches, so this type of issue will hopefully become less common in the future.

Wait and approval

In mid February, around 4 months after application, we received notifications that we both had a 'favorable outcome'. At this point, responsibility would now be on the Strasbourg Prefecture to print the cards, notify us they were ready, and schedule our appointments to pick them up.

About a month after that, in late March, the prefecture sent an SMS stating that the CDS were ready for pickup and linking to the site for appointments:

Votre titre de séjour ███████████ disponible en pref. Taxe à payer : 0225 EUR. AVEC TIMBRE FISCAL. PRENDRE UN RENDEZ-VOUS RUBRIQUE RETRAIT WWW.████████.GOUV.FR

After purchasing the tax stamps, we scheduled appointments over the weekend and realized the pickup dates available were about a month out. So it goes!

Pickup appointment

The appointment confirmation process made it extremely clear that you need to be on time, and described what to bring with us to collect our Cartes de Séjour:

  • le timbre fiscal dématérialisé du montant indiqué dans le SMS
    • tax stamp in the amount specified in the SMS
  • votre ancien titre de séjour et récépissé, le cas échéant, ou votre ancien titre de voyage
    • previous residency permit (in our case, our visas, in our passports)
  • une pièce d'identité (passeport ou CNI)
    • passport
  • un justificatif de domicile de mois de 6 mois
    • proof of residency from the last 6 months
  • un stylo noir
    • a black pen

On the day of, we brought the requested items and arrived about 20 minutes early. The police officer guarding the entrance helped us figure out which line (the one with no wait, labeled "visa appointments" — in reality the line for any appointments) and looked inside our bags. At this point it started to become clear that the document list from the appointment wasn't complete — he also wanted to see the emails confirming our appointments. I had, thankfully, printed these out and had them with us, as another prefecture's website had listed it as a document to bring.

Inside, there was no line and the windows listed for our appointments were staffed and open, so we walked up to ask if we needed to take a number or something like that. Instead, the friendly guy behind the counter asked for our passports and started the process early!

The only hurdle we ran into was when he asked to see our "Notification de décision" for the application, which hadn't been listed as a requirement. We managed to find copies of it on our phones, and this worked. Bring this document with you! After the fact, I realized I'd printed them off and stuffed them in our passports (they serve as a temporary visa), which was a facepalm moment.

At that point, all that was left was to sign receipts stating we'd picked up our cards. We didn't need to bring a pen after all.

Previously, on Adventures in Becoming an Expat, we applied for and validated our French VLS-TS Visiteur visas, including the OFII medical exam.

Validating French long-stay visitor visas (VLS-TS Visiteur) in 2022


Previously, on Adventures in Becoming an Expat, we applied for (and received) French VLS-TS Visiteur visas. Up next, wenconvert our visas into Cartes de Sejour.

⚠️ Disclaimer 1: I'm writing about my own experience going through the validation process for a VLS-TS Visiteur visa, in Strasbourg, in the first half of 2022. I hope this information can be helpful, but please note that the process may vary between prefectures and from year to year. This is a long read as I've tried to be as thorough as I can.

⚠️ Disclaimer 2: Many summaries of this process are outdated, about Paris, or both. Many of them highlight disgruntled staff who exclusively speak French. We did not encounter this. Our experience in Strasbourg was that the OFII and radiology staff were helpful, friendly, and almost all spoke fluent English. We were grateful for how painless this was for us as (currently) monolingual Americans.

There are two steps in validating a VLS-TS visa and turning it into a residence permit — a "titre de sejour" — that is valid for 12 months. (It's also renewable; more on that process when we do it.) The first step, validation, happens online within 3 months of arrival in France. The second, a medical visit, is scheduled by OFII, the Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Integration.

Visa validation

Unlike what you may read in older articles, as of 2022 this process is completed online. We hit the Étrangers en France website, changed the language to English (top right), picked the 'validate' option, and entered our data. As part of the process you're directed to another platform where you pay the stay tax and receive your Timbres fiscaux électroniques, your electronic tax stamps. You'll enter the number on the stamp to complete the validation process.

After paying and completing the online form, you'll be emailed a confirmation document and login information for the EeF site. This login (among other things) allows you to make address updates, begin the renewal process, and apply for work permits. The confirmation document doesn't schedule the medical exam, but it does state:

This medical visit to a doctor is compulsory. [...] Following the medical visit and examinations, you will be given a medical certificate attesting that you fulfil the medical conditions authorizing your stay in France. You must submit this medical certificate to your local prefecture to renew your residence permit (the request must be made two months before your validated visa expires).

We completed this step on 30 January 2022, two months after arriving and a day or so after moving to the Strasbourg area, our soon-to-be-permanent prefecture.

OFII medical process

Supposedly OFII will send an email or post you a letter with your Convocation, your summons to the medical visit. This did not happen in our case; after almost two months of anxiously waiting, I sent an email to the Strasbourg OFII office. An agent responded within a week, with radiology visits Tuesday, and medical visits the following day. I was happy to see we wouldn't have to run all over the city or have to spend hours waiting for each others' appointments.

Le jour de la visite, vous devez vous présenter munie de :

  • la présente convocation,
  • votre passeport, votre carnet de vaccination, vos radiologies pulmonaires récentes, vos comptes rendus d'hospitalisation, vos lunettes de vue ainsi que votre carnet de maternité le cas échéant.

Je vous précise qu'il n'est pas nécessaire d'être à jeun.

Translated, on the day of your visit, you must present yourself and the following documents:

  • 🔲 this convocation letter
  • 🔲 your passport
  • 🔲 your glasses or contacts, if you wear them
  • 🔲 your complete vaccination records (note that this is not just Covid vaccinations!)
  • 🔲 the OFII-ordered radiology
  • 🔲 any recent pulmonary radiology reports or images
  • 🔲 any recent hospital records
  • 🔲 any applicable maternity records

Having completed treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma last year, I brought a lot of supplementary documents:

  • the summary-of-treatment handoff letter from my oncologist
  • the report for recent complete blood tests, ordered by my new French GP
  • textual descriptions of my last two CT scans; I included a (presumably crappy) robot translation into French for each


The radiology appointment in our case was at SIMSA, at Place Kléber, and it's a large commercial radiology clinic. We brought passports and our convocations; in hindsight, I should have provided my CT scans here.

We arrived early, checked in, and wound up being seen before our appointed time. The receptionist spoke solid English, which we appreciated.

The clinic wasn't empty, but it was far from crowded at 14h on a Tuesday. Unlike other accounts we'd read, there was no need to fully or partially disrobe for the chest X-ray. It does sound like if you're wearing an underwire, this may change things, as they're trying to image your lungs.

I needed a follow up profile view scan, likely because I hadn't provided info about my cancer treatment. I was able to briefly explain to one of the radiation techs that I'd completed cancer treatment for lymphoma, and she passed that along to the radiologist for their read of the profile view. After about a 10 minute wait, we were handed folders with the images and the radiologist's analysis. In my case, it read "Masse médiastinale avec un lymphome connu" — mediastinal mass with known lymphoma. Both of our reports stated "Absence de lésion pleuro-parenchymateuse d'allure évolutive" — absence of pleuro-parenchymal lesion with an evolutionary appearance, meaning that we didn't have evidence of Tuberculosis.

With that done, we were free to leave. There was no payment required, as it's part of the OFII stay tax. The two of us were heading back to the tram within an hour of our arrival.

The OFII medical visit proper

Aside from a moment of confusion at the security desk (our names weren't on the day's rendezvous list, for reasons), the medical visit itself was quick and low stress. It was less like a medical exam than it was a couple of quick tests and a brief interview with a doctor.

At the door, we showed our passports and convocations, and once they figured out that we were due to be there that day, we were escorted upstairs to the waiting area. The receptionist handed us a mental health survey, which we filed out and handed back with our combined paperwork.

A few minutes later, we were called back to the nurse's office together (the whole process was done as a couple). She immediately apologized for her "limited" english, which was frankly excellent; almost the entire process was in English. After a brief review of our files, we each did a verbal Q&A screen for tuberculosis. She did give a brief explanation of this part in basic French, but we got the gist of it.

We were asked if we wanted blood tests for HIV and Hep B / C, which we accepted; these were a finger stick, and she moved on to other tests while they sat. Weight and height were recorded, and used to determine need for an additional diabetes blood test. After a cursory vision test (read half of biggest line with each eye) and a short survey, our blood tests came back negative and we were brought back out to the waiting area.

There was no wait -- we were immediately met by the doctor, who left it up to us if we wanted to do the interview single or as a couple. The whole interview was conducted in English.

She reviewed Shanna's medical history first, then asked a couple of questions about our health, why we were in France, and about our professions. Between my cancer and Shanna's nursing background, we wound up on brief a tangent — she asked us about healthcare in the US and how it's paid for, and we talked a bit about how it differed from France. Her questions about medications were mostly focused around if we knew how to refill prescriptions here in France.

She then moved on to my (much larger) file. She asked a few questions about my cancer treatment after reading the handoff letter my oncologist prepared, but didn't go in depth aside from asking if I was taking any medications (I'm not) and when I was due for my next CT scan (August, per my French GP). Throughout the process she seemed to be trying to make sure that any conditions or treatments were going to be taken care of. The whole interview was extremely low stress.

At that point she signed and stamped our Certificats de Contrôle Médical, our medical exam certificates, reminding us that the original she was giving us was the sole physical copy we'd get. A second original is sent to the prefecture. After wishing us the best in our move and our arrival, she sent us on our way.

That's it — it was a low stress, quick process, and we're now officially able to renew our VLS-TS Visiteur visas as Cartes de Séjour this fall.

Paris (2021)


First days of the move to France.

Somewhere over the North Atlantic
Somewhere over the North Atlantic

Eglise Saint-Ambroise
Eglise Saint-Ambroise

Canal Saint Martin
Canal Saint Martin

Île de la Cité and Notre-Dame
Île de la Cité and Notre-Dame

Cathédral Notre-Dame de Paris
Cathédral Notre-Dame de Paris

Looking down the Seine from Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation
Looking down the Seine from Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation

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Acquiring French long-stay visitor visas (VLS-TS Visiteur) in 2021


In episode 2 of Adventures in Becoming an Expat, we validate our visas and complete the OFII medical exam process. Episode 3 sees us convert our visas into Cartes de Séjour.

We applied for two French Long-Stay visitor visas in September 2021 through the San Francisco Consulate, though the application appointment itself was done at the San Francisco VFS office. Our applications were accepted, FedEx'd to the Consul General in Washington, DC, processed, then returned to us.

  • 09/01 — submitted applications online
  • 09/13 — completed application appointment at VFS
  • 09/22 — received our passports with approved visas

The rest of this is meant to be a reference for folks going through the same (or a similar) process. Neither of us are lawyers nor are we immigration specialists, we're new to all of this and you should take this all with at least a grain of salt.

Documents & forms

As we'd seen in various blog posts, we assembled these documents in a big-ass folder, organized and tabbed. This was overkill; the application agent we worked with dumped it all out and organized it herself.

This particular list of documents began as the official list from the Receipt France-Visas — the 'instruction sheet' you get after starting the process online. I've included additional items (like copies of our marriage license) that the agent included with our applications; had we not brought them to the application appointment, it could've been awkward.

Here's the full list we used for each application (with annotations):


  • 🔲 Signed & dated application [from]
  • 🔲 Receipt France-Visas [once you've submitted online, you'll get this]


  • 🔲 Passport valid for visa + 3 months
  • 🔲 ID photo that complies with French / EU requirements (35mm × 45mm)

Purpose of travel/stay

  • 🔲 Letter from the employer or proof of business ownership / business license (if self employed). If retired, pension certificate.
    • Neither of us were able to provide either of these options, as neither are things US employers offer.
    • We instead each provided a signed letter in English and French stating that we were (or, in my case, would soon be) retired.
    • A copy of the letter we used is at the end of this post.
  • 🔲 Promise not to exercise any professional activity in France
    • We did research into this and found similar examples; we each included a letter in English and French.
    • A copy of the letter we used is at the end of this post.

Travel health insurance

  • 🔲 Travel health insurance certificate issued by the insurance company (covering any possible costs for medical repatriation, and emergency and/or hospital treatment, for a minimum amount of €30,000, valid in France for the whole stay.
    • We applied for insurance through Insubuy and found a plan that fit our budget and met the requirements.
    • As soon as we had purchased a plan, the provider allowed us to access and print the necessary certificates.


  • 🔲 Proof of accommodation in France: property title deed, tenancy agreement or any other supporting document. Or proof that accommodation will be provided by a person residing in France, or if not, a document explaining the accommodation arrangements planned for France.
    • We included a printout of our initial Airbnb stay. Airbnb has an option to "Get a PDF for visa purposes" when you're viewing trip details; use this if you're using an Airbnb for this purpose.


  • 🔲 Proof of enough resources to cover all expenses during trip (pension certificate or last 3 bank statements).
    • For each application, we printed out a complete set of hard copies of the last 3 months of bank statements (nothing else — no retirement fund or brokerage account paperwork).


  • 🔲 99€
    • This is paid at the appointment by credit card — bring a Visa or MasterCard with you. The VFS location we used did not accept cash.

Additional items, not listed as required

  • 🔲 Cover letter outlining reason for application and move, means of financial support, and intended activities (eg repeating that we will not work).
  • 🔲 Certified copy of our marriage license. This was photocopied and returned to us.

What's next?

We're both vaccinated, and as of this writing, that means we don't need to provide proof of negative covid tests to enter France. We did convert our US vaccination records for use in France as a pass sanitaire, France's take on the EU Covid health pass. Do this as soon as possible, as the office is overloaded. It took far longer than our visas — roughly a month.

At this point, there's nothing left for us to do for the process prior to our arrival in France. On arrival we must validate our visas within 3 months in order to receive a "Titre de Séjour" (residence permit) — more on that once we go through the steps.

In episode 2 of Adventures in Becoming an Expat, we validate our visas and complete the OFII medical exam process. Episode 3 sees us convert our visas into Cartes de Séjour.

Letter promising not to engage in professional activity


Je [soussignée|soussigné], [Your Name] m'engage conformément aux dispositions à l'article L313-6 du code de l'entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d'asile, à n'exercer aucune activité professionnelle dans la mesure où une carte de séjour portant la mention visiteur me serait octroyée.

I, the undersigned, [Your Name], in accordance with the provisions of article L313-6 of the code for the entry and stay of foreigners and the right of asylum, declare that I will not work or pursue employment while in France in any paid capacity.

[Your Name]

[123 Main St]
[City, ST]
United States of America

Letter stating retirement status


Je [sousignée|soussigné], [Your Name], j'ai pris ma retraite et les relevés bancaires inclus montrent que j'ai les ressources nécessaires pour me soutenir financièrement tout en vivant en France.

I, the undersigned, [Your Name], have retired and the included bank statements show I have the resources to support myself financially while living in France.

[Your Name]

[123 Main St]
[City, ST]
United States of America

Reno Air Races (2016)


The 2016 National Championship Air Races in Reno, NV.

P-51D Sparky warming up
P-51D Sparky warming up

P-51D Voodoo taking the lead during a heat
P-51D Voodoo taking the lead during a heat

Sea Fury 924, with the stock Bristol Centaurus engine
Sea Fury 924, with the stock Bristol Centaurus engine

US Navy Blue Angels
US Navy Blue Angels

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