The French Visa for Americans that You’ve Never Heard Of
It wasn’t on the consulate website. I couldn’t find any information about it online. What was this elusive visa? The visa Profession Liberale is like the magical unicorn visa the Skills and Talent visa used to be, but it’s much easier to get if you meet certain guidelines.
The best way I can describe it is that it is a visa for freelance work in France. Golden ticket, huh? Now does that mean it’s easy to get? um no. See my story about getting my criminal background check done in France. Unlike other visas, the requirements are not outlined for you. A lot of the time it felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants. But I got the visa! Time will tell how it works out but I am absolutely thrilled. Unlike other work visas where you are tied to the company that sponsors you, this visa allows me to essentially work for myself.
I’ll go into a little bit of the process but I can’t recommend enough working with an immigration lawyer on this one. The help guiding the way is priceless. Unlike the Jeune Professionale Visa where the FACC was helping with the process and next steps, this one is uncharted territory.
An email to my consulate said that what I needed to bring was:
- Proof that you have a professional goal. Please, write a letter and come with professional contracts in the past, present and .. for the future (if you can). Come with diplomas according to your job, certificates proving your level and experience etc.. with a summary of your activities.
- Proof that you have enough money in your bank account (roughly a minimum 1200 dollars per month during your stay in France)
- Proof of accommodation in France
- Medical insurance with deductible 0 and,
- A criminal record provided by DPS TEXAS OR FBI.
Not vague, but not really specific either. When I don’t know exactly what I need, I get stressed. The last four points are straightforward. The first, not so much. There are so many things that could apply, and what does it mean? A three hour chat with my lawyer and several things were cleared up.
- 80% of the file should be in French. No need to translate diplomas.
- Proof of my professional goal should come in the form of recommendation letters from a couple past jobs, pay slips from my most recent job, and then letters of support from people in France that wanted to work with me in the future. Past-Present-Future
My dossier ended up being 60+ pages (I’m not really sure on the exact count but that’s what I’m estimating based on multiple copies I’ve made of the whole thing at the Office Depot down the street). Something that wasn’t so great about this visa was that I had to be back in the US to apply for it. That meant an expensive ticket for two 5 minute long meetings at the Houston consulate, the first to drop off my application, and the second to pick up my 3 month “starter” visa, to be renewed upon arrival in France. On top of that, I had to drive five hours to get to Houston from Dallas for these meetings. (Thanks little sister for driving my jetlagged-self the day after I arrived!)
The whole review process took about a month. I had a little delay because there was a little confusion on one of my professional goals that we had to clear up. After that, there was more paperwork in France that I’m currently working through with my lawyer. A meeting to the prefecture to set an appointment up to get my carte de sejour was the first step, followed by signing up my business on URSSAF which also meant opting into the IRS tax relief and medical system. This week I have my meeting with the prefecture and my lawyer has said it’s going to be one of those catch 22 things where I show up and they say you don’t have the documents, and I say yup, and they give me another appointment. The catch 22 part comes in because they actually gave me the appointment too quickly (crazy right?!) so all those documents they need in order to approve me in the system, don’t actually have time to arrive in the mail before I have my meeting.
fun. Croises les doigts!
UPDATE: See an even more comprehensive write up at Dispatches Europe.