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How Americans can move to France (and stay here)

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How Americans can move to France (and stay here)
Photo: AFP
09:02 CEST+02:00
French president Emmanuel Macron is urging American scientists, academics, entrepreneurs and indeed any "responsible citizen" to move to France if they are disappointed by Donald Trump. Anyone Americans interested in crossing the pond should read this first.
Donald Trump's election win in November 2017 send shockwaves around the world as well as in America.
 
So too did his decision to ditch the Paris climate deal which prompted French president Emmanuel Macron to send a message, in English to Americans, urging them to find a new home in France.
 
Many may be tempted.
 
On the day Trump was elected, a website explaining how Americans could move to Canada crashed and The Local's own article about the ups and downs of moving to France as an American suddenly became popular.
 
If you are one of them and thought of Trump is enough to make you want to pack your bags and take the next flight to France - then read this before booking your ticket (and please don't book the next ticket... the processing times are not in your favour). 
 
Yes, as with anything administrative in France, moving here as an American involves a lot of paperwork.  
 
 
(Tom FLeming/Flickr)
 
However, those wanting just a taste of France won't need a visa if the trip is for fewer than 90 days (unless you're a diplomat or a journalist). All you need is a passport that's valid for at least three months. 
 
But for anything longer than three months it gets complicated. 
 
Any Americans planning to stay in France - assuming they don't have an extra European passport - will have to get ready for a truckload of paperwork. 
 
First things first, find your closest French consulate here. And be prepared to travel, the consulates are few and far between, with one generally serving several states (see image below).
 
 
 
When you've found your consulate, you'll need to decide what sort of visa to aim for before making an appointment, and there are many on offer - from spouse visas to scientist visas. 
 
Here are the most popular of the "long stay visas" - and note, these all need to be sorted prior to departure (so there's no point coming over here as a tourist and then hoping to figure it out from France - they'll just send you back).
 
Spouse Visa
 
So you've already got a Frenchie on your arm. You'll be able to get a 12-month visa and you'll have to register at the Immigration Office (OFFI) within three months of arrival. This will count as your residence card (more info on how to get residency later).
 
The processing time of this initial visa can take up to three weeks so don't delay. The good news is that the application is free but you'll need a heap of documents including application forms, proof of marriage (in French as well), proof of your spouse's nationality, and a residence form. More info here.
 
Photo: AFP
 
Work Visa
 
The toughest part of this is that you need to find a job first. Let's say you manage it, you then need to have your work contract approved by the authorities at the French Labour Ministry (then again at the OFFI offices). If you're bringing family on this visa, get the employer to start a file for them at the same time. American consuls advise up to three weeks of waiting time for the visa. You'll need to fill in application forms, residence forms, and you'll need to pay a processing fee of around $100. What are you waiting for?

Find your dream English-language job in France
 
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The Paris commerce capital La Defense. Photo: AFP
 
Visitor Visa
 
This is for those who want to stay for more than three months but don't have a job, a French spouse, or plans to study. The visa takes a month to process, and it doesn't look easy to get. You'll need: filled-in questionnaires and application forms, a letter of explanation as to what you intend to do in France, letters promising that you won't work in France, proof that you can support yourself in France, proof of earnings, proof of medical insurance, proof of accommodation in France, and a few other small things. Oh, and around $100 for the pleasure of the processing fee. More info here
 

Photo: AFP
 
Student visa
 
The good news is that the fee is around half that of the other long stay visas, at about $50 and should only take two weeks to process, but the bad news is that it's no walk in the park. You'll need a series of documents from Campus France, financial guarantees, enrollment proof, a bunch of forms, and even airline reservation proof. More info here
 
How to survive Paris on a student budget
Are you a student in Paris? Here's how to save some money. Photo: AFP
 
Au Pair visa
 
If you're a student, between the age of 17 and 30, and don't mind a few household chores, then this year-long visa could be right up your alley. You'll need all the usual forms, but also an "au pair contract" approved by the French ministry of labour, an invitation from your host family, and you'll have to sign up to language courses for while you're here. Read more about becoming an au pair here, and find out more on the visa  info here
 
Secrets and lies: The life of an au pair in France
Photo: Evil Erin/Flickr
 
Besides these options, there is always a scientist visa, an internship visa, and a diplomatic visa.
 
And how to stay in France (when the first year is over)
 
At least two months before your visa runs out, you can apply for a residency permit (carte de séjour) so that you can stay longer than just 12 months. 
 
By now, you should have your papers in order (plus copies!), all of which you should take to your local prefecture in order to lodge an application. You'll have to prove things like your family situation, your resources financially, your employment contract, your address and more. 
 
Once you've been here for five (continuous) years, you're eligible for permanent residency. Just remember to bring all your documents along to the appointment, of course, and be prepared to prove that you can speak at least a decent amount of French. 
 
Where to go (and who to meet)?
 
And lastly, if you're wondering where to settle down here, check out our story on where exactly Americans choose to live in France. And don't forget to see the 11 types of Americans that you'll meet in France. 
 
 
The 11 different Americans that you'll meet in France
 
Another version of this article was published in November 2016. 
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