Ah! The story of getting my French visa. Buckle up, this journey requires commitment on a serious level.
I learnt a lot through this; I cried a lot, and I got frustrated a lot and angry a bit too, but I never doubted that I was meant to come and live in France. Perhaps some of the information I learned along the way might help you if you are yet to head down this path too.
Selecting the right French Visa option for YOU – not so easy.
The French immigration system is very complicated – like all administration systems in France. If you are just starting the process, get used to the frustration.
I have also put together a list of what is needed to apply that I got from the lawyer … and it is not on any websites get it here.
Need a real explainer video on French bureaucracy? This one is HILARIOUS and SPOT ON
You can’t just apply to immigrate to France like you can to Australia. You have to apply for a long-term (12 month) visa first and then apply to renew that in France before the 12 months is up. After 5 years of living here, you can apply for French citizenship … which is my goal.
I have also put together a list of what is needed to apply that i got from the lawyer … and is not on any websites get it here.
Background to my WHY
In 2017 I was living in Melbourne Australia and life hadn’t been going the way I wanted for several years. I felt blocked and stuck and was not getting the work or income I wanted. The numbers were getting bigger and bigger – but that was on my credit card, not my bank account.
I had wanted to live in France for half my life and it had been my 5-year plan – my dream – for over 10 years. My limiting belief was: “How could I be successful in another country if I wasn’t successful in my country of origin?”. I also had elderly and unwell parents and felt I should stay in Melbourne with them while they were alive, as well as an elderly cat I loved very much.
I was desperately seeking answers, so I went for a channelled psychic reading in May 2017. I received some advice that triggered me to take action. When I asked the medium what my block was, he asked what I wanted to do. I said “to help people live a more fulfilling life”, to which he said, “Our purpose is not to help others, but to live the happiest life we can for ourselves. Then we will create the energy that will attract opportunities to us.”
With that revelation, I sold my home and most of my belongings, and moved to France! For more details see my first blog.
I created my plan – starting with the sale of my home. A biggie!
It was a 2-step move because I needed to get a visa to be able to live and work in France. I sold my home in November 2017 and went to Nice in February 2018 on a 90-day tourist visa with an objective to learn French.
The plan was to come back to Melbourne at the end of June to apply for my working visa and be back in France by September 2018, at the latest. My intention was to collect the information I needed for my visa while I was in France.
The weekend after I moved out of my house in November, I went to a French fair in Melbourne to see a presentation on property buying in France by a man named Michael Bula. I made an appointment with him later, for a significant payment of $600 or something, and got some advice (which wasn’t actually that useful) as well as a recommendation for an immigration lawyer in Paris who could help me get a visa. His name was Stephane Halimi.
I thought … Fabulous, it is all falling into place so easily for me. ?
A recommendation for a Visa lawyer in Paris is a good thing, huh?
Well this guy charged me 400€ upfront just to talk to him … and he kept me waiting for an hour and a half at 9pm my time. I should’ve seen the signs there and then and, in fact, I did think this is bullshit service. At the time I thought …
What’s more arrogant than a Parisian man? A male Parisian lawyer!
(Disclaimer – If you are a Parisian man, it’s a joke. I do know some lovely non-arrogant Parisian men so please don’t take offence.)
When I finally spoke to Halimi, he said he could get me a visa even though I didn’t have the income history the immigration Department normally requires. He would do this application for me for a mere 4000€ paid upfront without a contract! (Yes, I can hear you say “Are you kidding? And you still went ahead with him?” or maybe that’s the retrospective voice in my head.)
In my defence, I did Google other immigration lawyers in France and couldn’t find anyone else who I thought looked good, or who would reply to my enquiry. I thought I needed to move quickly to choose one before I left for France in February so everything would happen in my planned timeline.
I naively paid Halimi even though it was a huge amount of money to me and I did see some red flags. I justified it as investing in myself to create the life I desired and he was the option presented to me by divine guidance. Maybe not so divine as it turned out.
We then started a very long and exhausting exchange of emails trying to decide which visa was the best for me with me trying to find out what I needed to provide.
My French Visa Immigration Options
The options I considered and the information Halimi gave me about them were (note I’m not sure I have the correct French names for them):
1. A long-term tourist visa – the easiest to apply for and get. Requires the least amount of information for the application. You have to prove you have the money to support yourself as you cannot work in France at all and that you are covered for health insurance. It does not count towards applying for citizenship though and you are not allowed to work. So, not appropriate for me.
2. An employee visa – if you have a job contract with a French company this one is the best as your employer does all the work for the visa. Again, did not apply to me.
3. A talent visa – this one would’ve been fabulous as Halimi told me it is a 4 year visa but then I was told by French immigration in Sydney they only give 12 months for any visa so who knows. They basically give this visa to people they think would be good for France because of their talent or status. I did have a book I’d written and a great resume for it to prove I would be a great person for France to have, but not the income history, so Halimi discounted this one for me.
4. A business owner visa – I was going to go for this one at one stage in my journey, but more about that later. Applies if you have a company in France with a French partner. Requires a lot of paperwork and proof of the company’s performance.
5. A professionale liberale visa – which is the one I applied for. It is for people who are going to work for themselves as freelance. You can’t become an employee, only a contractor. It requires a lot of information to prove you can earn enough money to support yourself.
I went to Paris in April and met with Halimi, who kept me waiting for over an hour again with no explanation, but left our meeting feeling confident he could get me a visa, even though we still weren’t sure which one.
Sometimes the Universe Appears to Drop Opportunities in Your Lap
Serendipitously, before I left Nice in May, I became friends with a woman I had met in Melbourne the year before who was now also living in Nice. We decided to start a business together in Nice for women providing experiences in French food and wine. It seemed such a great thing to do, so I went down the path of finding out about setting up a business in France and looking into the business visa (Option 4). That was the seed that started my creation of Club MojoCircle.
Back to Melbourne to Prepare my Application for the Business Visa … optimistically.
I returned to Melbourne at the end of June 2018 ready to place all of my attention on my visa application and business plan writing. I was still not sure whether I could apply for the Business visa (option 4) or the Professionale Liberale one (option 5). I needed Halimi to tell me what was required.
So many emails were sent to Halimi asking questions for clarification and every time I would be waiting for ages (often 2 weeks) for a response from him.
Emails, emails, emails…
When he did respond it contained only vague information that he had already told me. What an extremely frustrating experience it was and no help to me at all. Halimi wouldn’t tell me the specifics of what I needed to provide for either visa application. Honestly, I was attempting to navigate in the dark about what I needed for my business venture application visa – but I kept going determinedly.
I was originally hoping to be back in France in August, but I now saw that wasn’t going to happen.
To get a long-term visa, you have to submit your application in person for an interview at a French embassy in your country of residence. In Australia, the only embassy is in Sydney, which meant travelling all the way to Sydney for a 15 minute appointment!
By the way, just so you know, you cannot apply for a long-term visa nor change visa type whilst in France.
I found out, it’s a 2-month wait when you make an appointment, so in early July I got an appointment for 4th September. Enough time to buckle down and compile the necessary documents for the application … or so I thought.
The Trials of Halimi’s Support (or Lack Thereof) Continue
At the end of July, and after a month of much hassling and harassing of Halimi, I finally got a list of what I needed for my application portfolio. (I’ve put it at the end of this blog if you are interested).
BUT … he also told me: “Since we first talked, I explained to you that without written evidence relating to your successful past experiences and future plans, no professional visa will be granted.” Even though he had assured me six months earlier, before I paid him 4000€, that he would get me a visa. I had told him my income history then.
He was telling me I would not get the visa! I didn’t know what to do. I was distraught.
I wanted to sack him and get a refund, but he refused to give me one … even though he was not providing the service he sold me. I felt I didn’t have a choice but to keep going with him. I asked Halimi for a template for the business plan I needed for the application. His response was “It’s different for every business.” No help whatsoever!!
Business Partner and Venture Loses its Shine
So, I got busy writing my own business plan for my anticipated venture with my friend in Nice. That business venture support in France was not delivering the information to help with the visa either though, despite sounding so positive at the start. For various reasons, I was beginning to have doubts about going into partnership with my prospective partner. I kept trying to get the business information from her about setting up the company but she couldn’t provide anything as she was unable to get it from her sources. I was really starting to stress a lot as I was not getting what I needed from either my lawyer nor my prospective partner. I was getting nowhere.
Only 3 weeks before my Visa appointment, my prospective partner called me to say she couldn’t do the company setup without me being there and instead recommended a whole lot of other suggestions for a visa that I had previously considered and rejected as not viable.
I was devastated and just burst into tears. I felt like the ground had disappeared beneath me and left me in freefall.
Was this actually going to happen?
It just had to because I knew it was my path forward in life and part of my purpose!
Switching Visa Type – Creating New Documents Under the Gun
So at the last minute, I had to totally change my visa application back to the Professionale Liberale- based on my own coaching business. This meant rewriting my business plan and creating a completely new business forecast. It was back to the drawing board for some serious work as I had almost no time before my appointment.
I asked Halimi when he needed to receive my portfolio to be ready for my appointment on 4 September and he said 2 weeks before that date. Shit, this was pushing it with only 1 week to pull it all together … and still not even being certain about what I needed. I got it all together, with no further advice from him, despite asking, and sent it all to him by email by his deadline 2 weeks before.
A few days went by and no response from him. So I rang him … only to be told he was on 2 weeks vacation! O.M.G.!!!
That was something he didn’t think was worth mentioning to me even though my portfolio needed to be finalised in that same week. It was like he had my money upfront so he didn’t care what happened to me after that. It was the most appalling service. My whole life was depending on this visa. It was super high stakes for me.
I spoke to another lawyer at Halimi’s firm who said she would look at my file. Her response a couple of days later was still vague. I still did not know if I had an adequate portfolio. I had to ask again straight out (as well as send a very upset email), did I have what I needed and she said “NO”. Oh my god, can you imagine the stress at this stage. It was overwhelming. Oh by the way, Halimi did respond to my upset email – from his holidays- to pretty much threaten me about sending such feedback to him. The only time I ever got a timely response from him!
There was nothing I could do except cancel my appointment and make another one for 23rd October – another 2 months delay.
So, I wasn’t going to France in September to start my new life as I had planned.
I was bitterly disappointed about postponement of my move to France, not to mention highly stressed about not knowing how I was going to get this visa. On the positive side, I got to spend 2 more months with my partner before I left him. So that was a bonus.
It was extremely frustrating as Halimi was telling me he wouldn’t apply for me with the income history I had … but I had already paid him to do so and he wouldn’t refund my money. How could I change my income history? I had lost all faith in his ability to get me my visa.
Well, Out with the Old and In with a New Lawyer 1 Week before the Death Knell.
At that stage I was given the name of another immigration lawyer in Paris – Haywood Wise – from a Facebook contact. He responded immediately to my email and spoke to me for free – that was a good start. He was an American in Paris so he understood the meaning of customer service. He agreed to look at my portfolio and let me know if he thought I had a good application for a price of 300€. I had to do it – I had to spend even more money on this. His response was “YES”. He knew how to position my income history so it would work. Whew, you have no idea how relieved was to hear that.
He was literally my knight in shining armour
So we agreed to a reduced amount of 1800€ for him to complete my application portfolio (as I already had most of it) and get this, he wanted 50% upfront and 50% on a successful application. Why didn’t I find this guy 6 months ago and save myself 4400€??? I just kept shelling out more money for this visa. Now I was up to a total of 6500€ – one extremely expensive visa experience.
Haywood’s advice, service and support were fabulous and we completed my documents, with translations and all, but only in the nick of time. I was printing it all out (like over 100 pages worth) the day before I was flying to Sydney for my new appointment.
The appointment went very smoothly.
My advice to you for your VISA appointment is:
- Don’t arrive early. They won’t let you in. ?
- Don’t bother with fancy organised folders for all your papers. They ask you to take them all out. ???
- Do take a registered addressed envelope for the return of your passport. ✉️ ??
- Have clean hands for the fingerprints 😛 Ok that is a bit of a joke but they do take all your fingerprints and a photo as well as your papers. ??
- You only need to allow about 15-20 minutes for your appointment that you flew all the way to Sydney for. ?
- They check all your papers and ask questions if anything is missing but they are nice and friendly so it is easy. ???
Then, about 2 weeks later, I received my passport back with my French visa in it. I was soooooo excited and relieved, I cried … but tears of joy this time.
It was all happening. I was going to France to live. YAY!!!
In the meantime … there had been some interesting developments in my personal life.
While all of this was going on for me, my relationship partner (who I had prepared myself to leave to follow my dream life) was making some life changing decisions for himself. He had decided he needed to study to change his career, but couldn’t find a course on sustainability that he wanted in Melbourne.
Then he found one that sounded fabulous on a website. Lo and behold, not only was it in France … but it was in Nice. How amazing is that? Coincidence? I think not!
He talked to the university in September and applied and got accepted to do a Masters of Sustainable Design. They said he could start in January to do some prerequisite units to be ready for the masters course starting in October this 2019.
- He applied for a student visa and managed to get an appointment the day after mine, so we were able to go to Sydney together, which was nice.
- We got our visas at the same time.
- He put his house on the market, sold it in 5 weeks for a decent price in a down-turning market, which was great.
- We booked our tickets together to leave at the end of December.
- We got the settlement date we wanted – a week before we were flying to France.
- He sold all of his belongings in only 2 weeks
It was all perfect and in super easy flow.
We left Melbourne Australia together on 29 December 2019 and arrived in Nice on 30 December, just in time to celebrate a new year and a new life. He has been a fabulous support for me settling in here, especially as he is fluent in French, and I am loving him being here with me to share all the French experiences with.
So when they say everything happens for a reason, it’s true! The reason for my visa delays turned out to be a really good one – so he could come with me. Mind you I could’ve done without the stress and the waste of 4400€.
In conclusion, my advice is:
- Avoid Michael Bula (Melbourne Australia) or Stephane Halimi (Paris)
- Find an immigration lawyer who has been recommended or at least has a good online rating … although I didn’t find any like that at the beginning
- Do not pay anyone the full fee upfront for a visa application
- I recommend Haywood Wise at https://www.wiseavocats.com/ or (a later addition) Jen Radford at https://monamiandy.com in Nice
- Trust the process and try not to get stressed about delays. Nothing happens quickly in France
- Get used to needing a whole heap of paperwork and records in France. They love paper so much … in triplicate at least.
- Download my list of what is needed for a Business Visa Application here.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is based on my own personal experience. It is not intended to be a complete guide for a visa application and I take no responsibility for this information being up to date or correct, nor for your process or outcome in applying for a visa. Your choice to use any of this information is your responsibility. My recommendation is to engage the services of an immigration lawyer for the best advice.