Many things have changed since late 2013 when I authored this. For a version of this article that takes into account VFS and Covid-19 click here.
You would think the fact that I’m conversational and literate in French, and that I’m a teacher, would alert me to the fact that as I went back and forth with the machinery of the French consulate, I would remember that the very etymology of bureaucracy traces to the French word for desk.
When I first started doing the research behind the visa I would need to live in Paris, I didn’t find much help. About.com had a decent article, but it was from 2006, and who knew what had changed since then? Here’s what I was able to glean from the web, before I made my way to the website for the French Consulate office for my region, which happened to be in Chicago:
- You cannot get a student visa unless you are going to school at least half-time.
- You cannot get an “au pair” visa — where you trade out work around a home in exchange for rent – once you are over the age of 26.
- You cannot get a work visa without a sponsor in France who is guaranteeing your job.
The last option, you have to imagine, for someone who has spent the last decade building businesses, was the least viable. And so, I had to look at the long-term-stay visitor visa.
I received a one-year stay visa just a few weeks ago so this is not just a chronicle of how I did it for the edification and amusement of my friends and family — it’s also a how-to for those of you who are US citizens who want to follow in my footsteps to successfully obtain a visa and can’t get any of the visas I listed above.
Guiding principle when dealing with the French: be calm, polite, friendly, and prepared. And never assume you will simply get the visa because you gave them the form and the money.
What You Need
- A filled out application form. That link is for the English version. I decided to kiss up and fill out mine in French (couldn’t hurt my chances, I thought).
- One passport-sized photo which will go onto the application form. You need to make sure it’s against a white background, captures your full face, has no glasses or hat, and has your mouth closed. Don’t smile!
- Your passport (you’re going to have to leave it with them) plus one copy of the identity pages. I suggest you make a couple of copies so that you have some on file yourself should some mishap happen. This might also be a good time to make sure you have a passport card so that if you need to travel to Canada or Mexico while your passport is with the consulate you will be able. This is mutually exclusive, though — the State Department will need your passport too in order to send you back your passport card so you would have to apply for it in plenty of time to get your passport back before your visit to the consulate. Your passport must have been issued less than 10 years ago, must be valid for at least 3 months after your projected return to the US, and have at least 2 blank visa pages left.
- Status in the US. A simple statement saying “I am a citizen of the United States.”
- Letter explaining what you intend on doing in France. I wrote a one-paragraph statement that said I was planning to visit France and learn about it and perhaps write about it.
- Notarized Letter promising not to work in France. I wrote a one-paragraph statement in which I stated that I would not be working for any French companies during my stay.
- Letter of Employment in the US stating occupation and earnings. So here’s where it gets interesting. It seems as though the French expect that you either have a job or are taking a leave from a job in order to come and they want certification. They are even okay if you continue to draw pay from that employer. As long as it’s not a French company (and hence, you are not depriving someone in France of a job they could have) they don’t care.
- Proof of means of income. They will want at least your last 3 months of checking and savings accounts, if not more. How much are you going to need? Great question. From what I could tell during my interview in Chicago, they want your rent + $800 per month for every month you are staying, minimum. So, let’s say you have a very small place in the city, like my apartment in the 17th arrondissement, where you will pay at least $1000, add in $800, and that brings you to $1800/month. If you want to stay for six months they will want to see that you either have that in savings or that you will earn enough (item #8) in combination with your savings to stay.
- Proof of medical insurance. This one requires a bit more pirouetting. You may not apply for a long-term stay visa until 90 days before your departure. The company I use only sells annual policies. However, the French are going to want to see full coverage during your time there. I split the difference. I got a policy that went into effect two weeks after my visit to the consulate, which was 86 days before my departure (I wasn’t taking any chances!), and when I sent the proof of insurance to the consulate I stated that the policy auto-renews at the end of one year.
- Marriage and/or birth certificates for the children. I got to skip this one!
- Enrollment in school for your children. I also skipped this.
- Proof of accommodation in France. I initially presented them with an email from my landlady. This would be rejected and a copy of her passport, as well as her utility bill, was asked for. Have those on hand to skip my delay.
- The processing fee. This will change so check here to see the latest cost.
- A self-addressed prepaid EXPRESS MAIL envelope. Absolutely no UPS, FedEx, etc. Good ol’ US MAIL.
Did you do all that? Good. You’re still not done.
Make an Appointment
Now you have to make an appointment in their system after you’ve gone through the France Visas visa wizard. The French are not known for their amazing websites and often this link will not work, or be wonky. Be patient. Switch browsers. Keep trying. At some point, you will get to the appointment system. Make an appointment. Keeping in mind that processing time can take up to one month, I would recommend that you have your appointment no later than 60 days before departure. Despite the fact that I submitted my application at perhaps the earliest possible date, I was still incredibly nervous and stressed as the back-and-forth commenced. I wouldn’t wish it on you.
I had no other business in Chicago the weekend I planned for my visa so I simply scheduled a flight up for Friday morning (my appointment was at noon) and a flight back Sunday morning. I got a rental car so that I would be in complete control of my destiny on Friday. Didn’t want to take any chances.
I had all my paperwork together. Now I had to have my in-person interview. Don’t let the word “interview” fool you. All you are doing is dropping off forms, giving them money, and smiling for the camera. It’s all very routine. I imagined I would be asked all kinds of questions about what I would do in France. I wasn’t.
I got to Chicago around 9 am that Friday morning and drove immediately to the consulate. It’s located in an office building but it’s accessible only by a secured elevator. You can only enter the secured elevator with a sticker you’ll be given by the receptionist. Half worried that for some reason my appointment wouldn’t show up in the system, waves of relief washed over me when the receptionist handed this to me. I then went to have breakfast, came back, and dropped off my forms.
It couldn’t be 100% smooth sailing, for sure. At the interview was where I was asked for proof of insurance — I had simply provided them with a photocopy of my American insurance card. I had also originally simply brought a letter from the President of my bank attesting to the readiness of my funds and my good record there. They wanted statements.
As soon as I got back to Kansas City I got the insurance policy and the bank statements. Not enough. They wanted my savings account statements for the entire year. Sent. Now they wanted a photocopy of my landlady’s passport and her utility bill. I reached out to her (Que Dieu vous bénisse, Carole!) and she was very quick at getting this to them.
The interval was total agony. During the one month in which I was sending them (via email scans) all that they asked for, I kept thinking, “All of this to be denied?” It was totally unpalatable. Let me explain how this would go down if I got denied.
I would only be eligible for the standard tourist visa, which anyone entering France is usually eligible for. You may stay in France — or any of the 26 countries — for three months, but then you have to leave the Schengen Zone (the European Union save for the UK) for at least 3 months before you can return to restart with another tourist visa. This would kill my plans for travel, ruin my mobility, and most of all, have wasted all the time I spent applying for the long-term stay visa above.
The final week before I got my visa I was visibly stressed to my colleagues and friends. I had made plans and already made major decisions (and the money that goes along with that) as part of the preparation process and the fact that I might be denied really weighed on me. So my advice, dear readers — don’t let it stress you out! I had applied 90 days out and as much as the French like to take their time and make sure everything is just so, they didn’t want to hang on to my passport unnecessarily long, either.
One of my colleagues texted me when an Express Mail package arrived from the French Consulate. I called immediately. “Open it,” I told her breathlessly. I just wanted to know, Yes or No. I just wanted it to be over.
I heard the package rip. She opened it up. “There’s a visa in here, Stephen.” Despite the fact that I have no problem screaming whenever my soccer team scores a goal, I was in a public place when I was on the call so all I could do was pump my fist in the air. “Thank you thank you thank you,” I told her. “I’ll be by soon.” I said a brief prayer of thanksgiving and then headed into the office to see it myself.
Even now staring at it I get happy. I think of all the documents and diplomas I’ve received in my life and they always seemed to be at the end of an arduous journey. But this document, this was an authorization to change my life. The difficulties and stress in obtaining it melted away in the endless possibilities the next year would present me with.
It’s said that the American Dream is owning your own home. I’ve never understood how paying $100,000 in interest to a bank over 30 years on top of whatever you paid for a home was a dream. My American Dream? Living the life I want, on my terms. This visa cleared any final obstacle to that beginning.
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash
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Thank you for this! I have an appointment on Tuesday for an au pair visa and I was so paranoid that I would get denied (actually, I’m sure of it since I don’t think my French family got my contract approved and I don’t think my French class correspondence will qualify, etc). It’s such a relief that they let you send your missing documents! Did you only have to pay the application fee once? That was another concern of mine. I don’t want to take multiple trips to Chicago or pay hundreds of dollars because THEIR website isn’t clear and I can’t get a response via email OR phone for WEEKS (I know, I shouldn’t blame them when I’m applying!).
Make sure you have all your money with you.
Hey Stephen! I love your blog! It’s super helpful for someone going through the same process. 🙂 One question: how long did it take to get your passport back after your appointment at the Consulate?
Lucy – about 3 weeks once they had all the paperwork they wanted from me.
Awesome! Thanks!! Keep up the blogging 🙂
Hi Stephen! Thanks for your awesome site! Did it take 3 weeks to get the Visa? Or how long?
Sara I had a couple missing components but once they had everything it was 7 business days.
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What? You’re from Kansas City?! Moi aussi. So glad everything went well. The two times I’ve had to deal with the Chicago Consulate have been interesting, but in the end just fine.
Not “from,” but I did spend 7 years of my life there. All good memories 🙂
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that’s really cool blog. i am trying to do the same, only we are a little different.
i will be applying from Chinese office for long stay visitor visa of France. the office in China is very very very strict, i tried to research any chinese has done it,but no luck.
the reason i am going to france is to learn French, since France would not issue student visa for Language only, then i have to look for alternative way which is long stay visitor visa. and my school doesn’t care if i dont have a student visa.
i really wish my application can go through. and i only have less than a month to apply for it. school test is waiting for me in Paris on the 7th September…
ps, i want to ask if you know anyone has similar case like me? or do you think i can apply for that visa with my reason?!
Great information. Thank you so much.
I have one question regarding the medical insurance. Are there any specific requirements as for deductible, co-pay, and annual limits?
No they don’t really care – that’s on you – they just want proof that you have *something.*
Thank you for the info and prompt reply.
FYI, I was told by the Consulate in Chicago (when I was there submitting my visa application and documentation) that my policy needed to include medical evacuation coverage, with no deductible. This was in December 2014. Hope that helps!
Thank you for the recent update, Lucy. $0 deductible and include medical evacuation coverage. Anything said about any co-pay?
Nothing about co-pays. I also looked at my records and the minimum coverage needs to be $50,000 – I doubt there are any policies that small, but the gentleman at the Consulate wrote it down so I thought I would mention it. 🙂
It’s not a non-issue for them based on my experience.
My policy has a small yearly deductible, $750, and when I went to the consulate in Houston they noticed that, mentioned it, then went back over my bank statements to make sure I had the money to cover it in addition to what they’d be expecting for living expenses.
Not saying a $0 deductible policy is a better decision overall, since you need to weight that vs premium payments, but just be prepared to show you have enough money to cover the deductible as well as living expenses.
Thanks for your feedback – that’s helpful for anyone who goes to Houston for approval, for sure.
In my Chicago and Paris experience, they really didn’t look that closely at the policy.
Thanks for your thoughts, Stephen. Great blog, BTW. Maybe see you around in Paris sometime. Just moved to the 10th and should be here for at least a year.
Would love to grab coffee – shoot me an email and let’s get together.
I have been reading more and more of your articles. Great stuff. Thank you for sharing. And I apologize in advance if my next question is answered somewhere on your website. But when applying for a long term visitor visa, for the purposes of the visa application, do you not need to sign a one-year lease contract?
From another one of your articles (I think that you discussed Airbnb), it appears that one does not. (I would also like to have the flexibility of moving within the year.)
But, is a 6-month contract acceptable to the French authorities even though it is a one-year visa?
P.S. Can you recommend the cheapest medical insurance carrier/policy, that you are aware of, that is acceptable to the French authorities. You mentioned in another article that you switched from Cigna to a local French provider in your second year.
Thanks again for your advice.
Coleman – it’s a flat market and Cigna costs the same as my provider, except that my provider requires the entire premium in advance, so I think Cigna is a better option for you – especially if your French is not good enough to simply call up my provider (who doesn’t speak English :-).
As for the original application – I don’t remember having to present a one year lease – I certainly didn’t have one at the time of the application. The French aren’t interested in the details of where – they are more interested in the fact that you have a place – so a QDL or an attestation de hebergement is going to be fine. When I renewed I don’t think I showed them a lease either. That being said, I would encourage you not to move around too much – I’ve maintained the same permanent address in Paris from when I came here through an arrangement with the gardienne of the building. Moving just presents hiccups in paperwork you don’t want.
Good advice. Thanks.
Thanks for the article. Very helpful. Regarding the questionnaire (filled out in french), do you have to have the document notarized by a french “notaire” or a US one? If US, do you have some contact details in Chicago area? Thanks so much.
Sandrine – basic rule – if you are doing something for the US side, English is fine – for example, an American notary and your health insurance policy in English. If you are applying on the French side, they want French-translated health insurance and a French notaire. Your friendly neighborhood Chicago notary should be fine. 🙂
Hello Stephen please I’m in a fix, My friend invite me to Paris for a visit, the problem now is, I’m unemployed and don’t have a business here in Nigeria, He will support my stay in Paris but the Visa requirements says otherwise.
(meaning i will have a job before travelling)
How can i apply for Visa and won’t be denied?
Thanks look forward to hearing from you..
Can you please try, slowly and carefully, to explain your situation again? I don’t understand what you mean.
My story goes this way..
A friend of mine invites me to Paris for a visit, he is an American citizen.
He will sponsor my staying in Paris.
I’m not financial ready..
Can he send his documentaries to me.
C i apply for Visa and won’t be denied??
Cynthia – when you say he will “sponsor your visit in Paris” I hope you mean he is going to give you a large amount of cash to put in a bank account under your name, as that is the only way that you are going to get a visitor visa. You have to prove that YOU have the money – not that someone else – who is not related to you or married to you – has it. So – short answer – no. You can certainly come on a tourist visa and see how it goes from there. That should cost you close to nothing, depending on what the policy is in Nigeria.
Stephen this is such great info- you write clearly, thank you for writing this. 2 questions for you-
I’m considering applying for a 6 month long stay, I’m a US citizen.
1 Do you have to enter France from the country you apply for the visa from? (for example fly to France from US vs entering from another European country) Do you have to exit the Schengen zone from France?
2 Can you leave France and travel to other Schengen countries freely during the Visa? (I can’t see why not as there are not border checks in Schengen)
Hope this finds you well
Mark – to your first question – no – they don’t care how you get there, just that you get there on or after the date of your visa. Ideally on. I actually had to get my customs guy to stamp on the sheet instructed by OFII, as the French border control agents are so sloppy and rushed. His sloppiness would have caused more trouble for me so I had to watch him carefully before he put a stamp on the wrong place.
As to the second, you’ve answered your own question. They have no idea where you are at any given time, and it’s borderless travel pretty much anywhere in the EU – you are definitely going to be passport-checked in Romania, Hungary, Croatia, and Poland, in my personal experience, especially with a US passport, but that doesn’t have any bearing on your visa.
One more for you Stephen (and thank you again for sharing this knowledge)
Arriving in Lisbon May 3rd and will make our way to France mid June. Truthfully I want to use the 6 month french long stay to wonder around the schengen including France. My understanding is that the french visa kicks off when I enter France say June 15th, then I can theoretically wander around the Schengen for 6 months after that. (Unless it starts when I land in Portugal?)
Do I have to then exit the Schengen from France to comply with the visa?
I’m still working out how I’m going to prove accommodation, I’ll let you and your readers know when I figure that one out.
Gosh I would love to hear the answer for Mark’s next question of Dec 29th. Can you use the “normal” 3 month visa to tour Spain or Italy beforehand, and then start the 6 month Visa by entering France? And after that “6 month visitor visa D” is used up, can you leave the Schengen Zone for a few days, then reenter and start a fresh new 3 month Visa? Normally, you have to leave Schengen for 3 months, but can you hop into a 3 month visa after only a few days at the end of a “6 month Visitor Visa D”?
I hear differing things regarding this “leave Schengen for one day” business – I’ve been told of a friend of a friend who does it, and I was also told of two friends of readers of this blogged who received massive fines for doing so.
Here’s the tip: if you want to be here in France for more than 3 months, get a visitor visa! I have laid out the steps here and it’s neither expensive nor difficult! Then you don’t have to worry about all this (absurd) Jason Bourne stuff.
Hello, I had a question that I asked on this site and also asked the french Consulate in Los Angeles. Below, is the question and also the answers I got from the french Consulate:
I have a question that I hope you can answer. My husband and I are planning to travel to France this Fall, and we are nearing retirement age and want to travel in France for a longer time period than previous trips.
We will be applying for a “6 month longstay visa” in Los Angeles at the consulate. We plan to travel to France Sept. 1st. Assuming that we will get the “6 month longstay visitor visa D” that starts on Sept. 1st, we are wondering, if we end up being able to, could we leave the USA sooner and enter Italy for a few weeks ahead of the “6 month longstay visitor visa D”? In other words, could we tour Italy on a “regular 3 month Schengen visa”, then leave the Schengen Zone for a week or so (go to Croatia, or UK) and then enter France and start the “6 month longstay visitor visa D”?
Also: When the “6 month longstay visitor visa D” is over, can we document leaving the Schengen Zone, go to Ireland, and then reenter the Schengen zone again a week later as the beginning of another “regular 3 month Schengen visa”?
I do know that a regular visa allows us to be in the Schengen Zone for 90 days out of 180 days. However, with the “6 month longstay visitor visa D”, as it ends, can we start into the regular visa without waiting, and having to leave the Schengen Zone for a full 3 months?
Thank you in advance for your answer.
The day your long stay visa for France expires you have to leave the Schengen area.
Consulate General of France in Los Angeles
Thank you for your reply. When the 6 months are finished, we have to leave the Schengen Zone. Understood. But then in a few days, can we reenter Schengen Zone on a 90 day visa?
Yes, you can enter the Schengen area again (after a few days) without a visa for maximum 90 days every 6 months.
Consulate General of France in Los Angeles
10390 Santa Monica Boulevard, Suite 115
Los Angeles, CA 90025
And can we visit Schengen zone on a 90 day visa beforehand, leave, and then come back in to start the “6 months longstay Visa D”?
No, not prior to your long stay in France. After your long stay in France you can go back to the Schengen area as described.
Consulate General of France in Los Angeles
My girlfriend and I are planning to stay for 12 months beginning July of 2016. Our purpose of our stat will be to learn the language and explore the culture. That being said I’ve noticed that the visa process is primarily based on individual income. I own my own business and am able to direct deposit the required amount of funds into whichever one of our personal accounts in order to show sufficient income. That being said I would prefer to avoid having to direct deposit our annual living budget (80K-100K) twice into individual accounts if at all possible. If I were to direct deposit a portion of the funds into my own account, the other portion into her account and we transferred both sets of funds into a joint account that is in both of our names would we both be able to use that joint account for verification of income?
On a side note, do you have any tips on finding a place to stay? We would love a beautiful view in the heart of the city under 2500 euros if possible.
John – last question first – give the guys at parisexpat.com a look. They’ve got some good properties and work well with English speakers.
As for the income issue – I think it might make more sense if you had a joint account – then you can both claim access to it?
Hi Stephen! I’m so glad I found your blog! I have an appointment in May (travel date is end of August). The consulate requires a contract for at least 3 months. In your experience, does an airbnb booked for 3 months suffice? Alternatively, how can I get a 3 month contract (preferably one that can be broken) ahead of time?
Where you live is it common to find 3 month contracts that can be broken? That’s what we call “month to month” here, and people rarely do that, given what a premium it is to have an apartment inside the periphique.
May I suggest you simply get an attestation de hebergement, possibly from your airbnb host, rather than try to find a person willing to give you a 3 month breakable lease? 😉
Thanks for your reply! You make a good point. I tried looking up Attestation de hebergement but am still a bit confused… Is there an official form I can find, or is it just a letter signed by the host? I’m assuming it should be notarized as well, yes?
Melissa – not an official form – it just needs to identify the person, identify you, say you’re living there for X amount of time, and to be doubly safe, should come with a photocopy of the person’s ID and EDF. If you can only get a photocopy of the ID that’s fine. Saves a trip to the notary which is expensive and unnecessary.
Dude, you were so immensely helpful! Thank you so much for sharing your experience!
I thought I would go to Chicago and just start filling out forms and leave with my Visa.
Our situation is completely different as we will be retiring and relocating to France, which means I’m not sure how the proof of income thing works.
If you really thought that I think you might examine whether you should really be retiring and relocating to France 🙂
In all seriousness, though, have you ever spent more than 2 weeks here? If you haven’t, I would just come on a 90 tourist visa (no paperwork) and make sure that you really want to do this. I’m always wary of people declaring they want to retire someplace when they haven’t “pregamed” that place yet. Spend 3 months here. You’ll know for sure by then.
The proof of income for you is the same as for any visitor – you just have to prove sufficient income. Just show them a retirement account that will provide you with sufficient income. Or your social security payments. Etc.
Thank you Stephen, yes, we’ve been there. My whole family is in love with France. However, we do intend to rent for a year, at least, visiting the areas we are interested in possibly settling down.
Cool! Well if I can help in any way, please let me know 🙂
Is there an English version of the long stay questionnaire?
Andrea I’m guessing it depends on which consulate you’re going to. I would check with them.
Just came across your blog- the info are so helpful!
I do have a question though- I have a long stay student visa that allow me to start on the 21st August, but i have to go to France earlier on the 13th to take care of the house renting process , do you think I can make it with a reasonable explanation to the customs Officials?
Thanks so much for your reply in advance!
Emily is the visa a sticker in your passport?
Thank so much For replying- yes it is!
I would really find out whether you can show up before the date in the visa. Otherwise, come in through another Schengen zone country like Spain or Germany and then come into France that way and avoid explanations.
Your blog is fabulous and informative! It has helped us so much to be prepared. We are having difficulty finding health insurance. We have an apartment in Grasse and also in New York. We are retired and wish to obtain a long stay visa so we are not subject to the 90 day/6 month rule. Our daughter and her family currently live in Geneva; hence, we would like to spend extended time in EU. Insurance I am finding limits the time one can spend when returning to USA. If we exceed the limit, the policy is canceled. Any suggestion would be appreciated. Thanks.
Lesia – email me and I will get you connected.
Well, I cannot thank you enough for this article. How nerve wrecking it has been, to get some of these things understood, and you have helped tremendously.
The only concern I have left is the Attestation d’accueil, or accommodation certificate. All I have is a friend whom I am staying with, who did write a letter stating she is housing me, and I have copies of her passport and rental agreement, but I see that she may need to get something more formal authorized at the city hall.
I leave to Chicago to turn my papers in, in four days. I’m so worried…I do t have anything official for my accommodation. It would be sad, because anyone can docture a hotel email receipt.
I wouldn’t worry. You’ve done the best you can in your circumstances. Remember that I didn’t have all my paperwork ready the first day myself. They will tell you what you need to get and you’ll get it! 😉
You’re so great in responding, again, I thank you. You sharing experiences on this blog help as well…what a great move!
Al the best!
Wow…took less than three business days to get my visa! Whohooo! You certainly helped, and I thank you for that. There were no issues with my documents, and the accommodation was sufficient with my friend’s copy of rental agreement, utility bill, a copy of her passport, and a signed letter from her stating I would be staying with her. I provided a lot of supporting documents for my income, which I think they are more concerned about. The process too about one hour, including waiting there on a Friday afternoon. Thanks again for your blog, and guidance to all of us!
We are all about happy conclusions here, Aaron. Welcome, and if you find yourself in Paris, do look me up!
I would like that…and will be there November time frame.
My current situation.
1. Working as an IT consultant for LOREAL USA
2. Will be travelling to France on a business trip and need to stay for more than 90 days.
3. Purpose of Travel: Meetings with LOREAL IT colleagues in France for training, visiting L’Oréal factories , collaborating team members on IT project for LOREAL .
4. My first date of travel is 9/2/2016, and will be travelling multiple times in next 1 year.
5. I will not be paid in France
6. US Citizen , MS is Engineering , 15 Years IT Experience
I believe a long stay VISA is required because the total duration of stay in France is more than 90 days.
Pls advise what type of VISA is required and the procedure /steps to get the VISA.
before explaining what the law states I would like to describe a couple of scenarios which should illustrates how to handle the situation:
1 – you will have several “short stays” over a period of 1 year.
A solution could be for you to have no immigration documentation, each stay is about 2 months, maybe less maybe more but never more than 3 months. You make you sure that you do not stay more than 6 months per calendar year.
You stay strictly within the Schengen regulation, since you leave before 3 month stay and less than 6 months for the fiscal residency.
2 – you are not sure that you can limit each stay within 90 days
A solution would be to ask on your own merit a long stay i.e., immigration visa, called “visiteur” which allows you to stay in France but not work in France. Since you maintain all your tied with the American company and you are working in France.
This is the lowest level of immigration status and the requirements are:
Showing that you have accessible about $22,000 in an account including a retirement one,
Showing that you have secured an address in France which can be a hotel,
Showing that you have secured a comprehensive health insurance company. Loreal France should be able to help you with that.
3 – LOREAL France wants you to be able be integrated in the French company even if you are not working.
Then they need to start an expat (cadre détaché) procedure which has no chances to be done by Sept. 2nd.
Therefore considering the fact that you only have a week before leaving the safest thing could be the 1st one and see what kind of immigration status do you need if any. If Loreal does not want to help then 2 – visiteur is your only alternative.
There’s an answer from the Pro himself, Jean Taquet. Hope that helps!
My husband and I are moving to Paris from Manhattan/New York permanently. Since we are retired we have problems finding health insurance despite the fact that we are in outstanding health. Can you recommend a health insurance company who insures retirees? After 3 months of permanent stay we will sign with the PUMa. Still, for the long-stay visa we need proof of health insurance for one year. We will cancel it as soon as we have the Carte Vitale.
I would have emailed you directly, but couldn’t find your email address.
Thank you so much for your help
Marie – my email address is on the right hand side of the blog. If you look there and email me I can assist you further.
Hi Stephen, I am so happy to come across your blog while searching for information on long stay visa application. I know all along it’s not going to be easy. But thanks to your details description at least now I am not entirely clueless. I also LOVE your closing paragraph about living the life on your own terms and I wish I will get to do the same! THANK YOU! ~Allison
Do keep us posted on your progress!
I just had my interview with the French Consulate this morning for a long term student visa. They took all my paperworks, asked me no question, fingerprint, paid the fee and took my passport with a prepaid fedex envelope. is this a good sign that i will get approved?
All the Best,
Sophia if they didn’t have any clarifying questions for you at the time of the interview, then yes, I think it’s a good sign you will be approved.
Hello Stephen , I’m not sure if this would be the right place for my question. I’ve been searching for answers all over the internet but in vain. I’m trying my luck here, if you could help me with this that would be great.
I’m an Indian working in France now. I came for my masters M2 and have been living in France since August 2015. I would like to bring my spouse to France at the beginning of next year. I found that “long stay visitor visa” type seem to match for this purpose. I would like to know roughly about the contents to be written for the “purpose letter”.
This is not an area I feel competent advising in (bringing a spouse who was not previously part of your visa application). I have emailed you privately and connected you with a professional who can assist you further.
thanks much Stephen.
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Thanks for this article, I have been searching the internet for more information on this topic and there is very little out there, so this is great!
I am looking to do the visitor visa application to join my boyfriend (a French guy) in France for about 6 months. I am unsure about the letter of employment however, since I will be leaving my job for this period. I should have sufficient proof of finances to support me during this stay, however I am concerned that they will require me to be employed in the US in order to approve. Do you have any further insight into this?
Sarah I have assisted numerous people with this and you do not have to be employed. Just have proof of access to sufficient income.
Great, thank you! That is reassuring to hear 🙂
Sooo my passport does not expire until 2019 and i only have exactly 2 blank pages. Will the long-term visa take up one of those pages and is that acceptable or should i think about getting a new visa?
Thanks so much
Yes it will take up a whole page and yes you should get a new passport before then.
I am retired and make the trip to France frequently but hate to leave after only 3 months there. I just left France on December 1 but would have liked to stay during Christmas. At any rate, I have already made air line reservations to stay 3 months (beginning in April) and have written a lease for the same 3 months (while I was in France last month). I plan to make an application to stay 6- 12 months and if and when approved for a Visa would change the air line reservations and lease so that I will arrive earlier and leave later. Also, my appointment with the French Consulate is in late December, more than 3 months before my scheduled arrival time in April, but not when I would prefer to depart which would be February. Can this work? Or do I have to make reservations now that show a stay longer than 3 months? and a departure time within 3 months? Thank you in advance for your help.
Dan you have a number of scattered questions. Let me try to get you focused.
No, you cannot go to a consulate more than 90 days before your departure. It says that specifically on the consulate’s website.
When you make up your mind about when you want to go, walk back 90 days in the calendar and that’s the soonest you can go to the consulate. If you follow the directions in this post from that point, you will get a visa. 🙂
Thank you, Stephen. You are most helpful. So, does that mean I don’t need to show an “e-ticket” for my departure date? I would like to depart on February 15 (within the 90 days of submitting my application), but to be on the safe side, I made air line reservations for the first of April (which I could cancel). Thanks again!
Dan – as I said above – my checklist does not include your needing to show them an “e-ticket.” Again, you are obtaining permission to enter their country – a ticket seems to indicate you will get a positive response. Get permission first. I repeat, the French (or any government for that matter) don’t care whether you actually come here during this part of the visa process. You are simply obtaining permission to come. Once you do that, and then you actually do come, there are other steps to complete (which I have outlined). Of course, it is perfectly sensible to, as you have done, buy tickets. But as far as I know, it is not a part of your application.
I should have mentioned that unlike Chicago, the San Francisco Consulate does make it part of the application and clearly states #13 requirement, “E-TICKET OR RESERVATION CONFIRMATION EMAIL SHOWING THE SATE OF DEPARTURE TO
Dan – I stand corrected! Thank you! This is a great piece of info for any of the readers of the blog, though, it surprises me for the reasons I said above – having a ticket presumes a positive response, in a certain way. Nevertheless, follow directions – that’s the key message of this blog 🙂 Bring the e-ticket with the date that matches your request. If other readers have experienced this requirement, please feel free to share with us!
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Thank you for the depth of detailed information. I have a few questions of my own:
We are American citizens living with permanent Mexico residence visas in Mexico (for 8 yrs now). Must we be in the USA to begin the long-stay visa process, or could it be done within Mexico? What type of office are we looking for, specifically?
We are hoping to spend 6 months in France starting later this year 2017. We were intending to buy a return ticket 6 months later (thinking positive), and booking a rental for 6 months. Do you see an issue with our being presumptive with our plans?
We are not legally married with a certificate, but rather, “common law” and did actually get married, just without the paper formality. We work online and get paid into a US bank acct, have 2 business bank accounts listing both of us as signers on the account. Will they understand marriage with no certificate status? Thoughts?
Will we be given an extension of our tourist 90-day visa if need be, for the sake of awaiting the processing of this long-stay visa?
Thanks so much for your help and availability, it is appreciated!
Thank you for your message
1 – We are American citizens living with permanent Mexico residence visas in Mexico (for 8 yrs now).
This means that you have the right to ask for an immigration visa at the French consulate either in Mexico City or another city depending on where you life in that country. When you fill out the form you add the information about your residency rights. This is easy.
2 – We are hoping to spend 6 months in France starting later this year 2017. We were intending to buy a return ticket 6 months later (thinking positive), and booking a rental for 6 months. Do you see an issue with our being presumptive with our plans?
There is here an important question. The legal immigration status is 3 months and then one needs to leave the Schengen area for 3 months in order to come back for another 3 months. So clearly this regulation is not compatible with your project. The fiscal residency starts in your case with a stay at least 183 days and you intent to not stay in France that long. So you are just in between. So this is where you make a choice, either you stay within the 3 months limit in the Schengen area, or you organise your life around the date of the renewal of your immigration title in France. The good news is that some of this can be done through the website, for example booking the appointment for most prefectures now but submitting the file asking for the visa and all the renewal requests you must submit this file. Also you must pick up the immigration ID in person. So it will require some strategy so those dates comply with your schedule in France.
Now as long as you do not stay in France more than 6 months, you will not subject to declare your worldwide income to France. The “visiteur” immigration status allows you to do this.
3 – We are not legally married with a certificate, but rather, “common law” and did actually get married, just without the paper formality. We work online and get paid into a US bank acct, have 2 business bank accounts listing both of us as signers on the account. Will they understand marriage with no certificate status? Thoughts?
Interestingly enough being married or not does not change much the immigration request for these reasons:
1 – it is an individual file anyway and therefore both partners have to prove everything anyway,
2 – in both cases, one needs to sign the affidavit of lodging/support if needed if the documents are in one name. If everything is in 2 names then no problem,
3 – it is personal documents more than the business ones that matters so no need to prove that you 2 can sign for the company.
4 – Will we be given an extension of our tourist 90-day visa if need be, for the sake of awaiting the processing of this long-stay visa?
The legal immigration procedure ALWAYS starts with an immigration visa and therefore it is never possible to “extend” the 90 day visa waiver program. You wait in the USA for the visa to be issued. Some of them like the “mention visiteur” is done very quickly, a matter of a few days, maybe a week once it is submitted to the consulate. So you really do not need any extension.
I hope that this answers your concerns for now.
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Hello! My husband and I are currently in France on student visas which will end in mid-July of this year (we are in extra-intensive french language classes). My husband has been in contact with a company here in France that is interested in using his services as an addictions counselor – not as a hired employee, but as an independent contractor – which would begin in springtime most likely. Is it possible to apply for new visas while here before our student visas expire, and if so, what kind of visa would we select? And do you have a list of requirements we would need to accompany the visa applications? Thank you so much for your help!
1 – Hello! My husband and I are currently in France on student visas which will end in mid-July of this year (we are in extra-intensive french language classes)
I hope that you have gone passed the visa status and that you have received the OFII stamp which is the immigration ID that you should currently hold. This document has your foreign ID Nº.
2 – My husband has been in contact with a company here in France that is interested in using his services as an addictions counselor – not as a hired employee, but as an independent contractor – which would begin in springtime most likely
2 comments here:
1 – the portage salarial makes it possible for consultants working independently to have an employee status. This is important to state since the Student Immigration status only allows you to work as an employee. So this would be a way to start working right away without having to change the immigration. At the same time, the cost of this set-up is awful you retain less than 50% of the money paid buy the client between the social charges and the fee charged by the portage corporation.
2 – If you have been in France for more than 1year and this is your 2nd renewal then it is possible to prepare the file to request the change of status to become self-employed in France. A status that Stephen Heiner has obtained almost the same way.
It does not fit with the above 2.
3 – you can also work in France and invoice from the USA. It is the simplest way of all but you need to comply with some rather strict guidelines to avoid some trouble.
3 – Is it possible to apply for new visas while here before our student visas expire,
I would like to expand here because this is very important. You went through the process of obtaining a “long stay immigration” words have meanings and you are now with an immigration status and you are an immigrant of France and have the right to change your immigration status without having to leave France. BTW, you will be asking for a carte de séjour, which the name of your future and maybe current immigration ID.
These are the steps for students
the immigration visa at the French consulate
the OFII stamp obtaining once the physical is done
the carte de séjour is obtained at the 1st renewal which means the 2nd year in France
this card is renewed every year unless something in the situation changes
4 – and if so, what kind of visa would we select?
Very likely, the name of the carte de séjour would be “Profession Libérale”. The file is made of 3 parts and depending of the people/their profile one is bigger from the other.
Part 1 – the ID of the person
what you are used to give passport – address – financial such as bank statements – marriage license – …….
Part 2 – the project – the business
the cover letter which includes a tiny business plan
a resume = CV
proof of part experience in the field
letters of interest from people in France
Proof of ability to finance such project
Part 3 – “the glitter” = “the media coverage”
articles written about you
articles or books written by you
Most of the file will be made of documents written in French either translated into French or drafted in French.
5 – And do you have a list of requirements we would need to accompany the visa applications?
I gave you just above a list of what needs to be submitted and also needs to be tailored to your exact situation. I hope that with this you already have a really good good idea of what needs to be proved.
Bonsoir Jean ! Thank you so much for your answers. We really appreciate you taking the time to be so helpful and informative. So much to think about and consider! One thing we’ve heard differing thoughts on the amount of money the french government wants to see in our bank account for the “Profession Libérale” carte de séjour visa. If you have knowledge of what this is, that would be so helpful, as I trust what you say to be correct.
Although we arrived in September, it took until today for my husband to receive his OFII medical exam appointment letter…I still have not received mine. Hopefully in the next few days.
Thank you again!
Hello Stephen. My wife and I brought everything we thought we would need paperwork-wise when we came to France last summer as students, in hopes that we would extend our visa to a long-stay status after our studies are complete (this summer). We understand we need to have our marriage license translated and we have a certified copy of such, but apparently the prefecture wants a certified original. To make a long story short, we tried to order one from the site in the US that handles this for our state, but they said since we are out of the country, we would need it to be notarized from the US Embassy since it is a US form and not international. Have you ever heard of this? Only Paris and Marseille offer notarial services once per week, but that is very costly to make a trip for from the Lyon area. The Lyon embassy informed us today that they would not be able to notarized for us on their upcoming “Off Site” day in March. Thank you for your insight you can give me as to where I could go to get this notarized and offering such a great site go us all to glean from.
Ken I’ve only used notary services at the Paris embassy once but it was a breeze. Make an appointment online, show up, pay, all done.
Thanks, Stephen – I’ll do that! Was hoping to not have to spend the euros to make a trip by train to Paris or Marseille just to get something notarized. But it’s got to get done!
Loving your blog!
I have been to and from France for a few years now and I am applying for the long stay visa this time and have my appointment mid Feb. I have 2 questions for you and would appreciate so much if you could help because although I know the system quite well now I am still unsure of a few things that they are asking for.
– If I am running a small freelance business with all my clients in my home country, should I declare this as my form of employment? (I have more than enough money in the bank to cover my stay so not sure if I need to bring this up or not?)
– I will be staying in a colocation but my name will not be on the lease. For the attestation d’hebergement what information needs to specifically be included? Do they need to state how much I am paying? or does my name actually need to go on the lease?
Sorry, you may not be able to answer these questions. I’m just running out of options and not sure exactly what I need particularly for the accommodation …
Hi Annie – remember that being a long-term visitor means that they don’t care whether you are employed or not. They care about whether you have money. You *may* get a question about where that money comes from and you *may* get asked to provide proof – but I would put that in the “not required but smart to bring with me to the appointment” folder. On the ADH they need to say you are staying there for X amount of time, what you’re responsible for, etc. Your name does not need to be on the lease, but they should assume some kind of liability for your renter’s insurance in the ADH or give you a copy of their insurance.
Thank you Stephen! 🙂
I could kiss you for being so thorough and informative about this stressful process. I am in the preliminary stages of applying for a long-term visa for my family of three. I am at a loss when it comes to paying taxes abroad. My husband will be employed by his US based employer but his HR dept. seems to think because we will reside in France for a year, we should be paying income taxes in France (41%!). Do you have any insight?
Seriously, you are my hero right now!
Elizabeth in Los Angeles
Has the HR department ever dealt with this situation before?
No, My husband is an art director for his company and is going to ask his boss (he is based in NYC) for permission to work abroad for one year. The HR person also voiced concerns about the company continuing to pay for our medical benefits if we move abroad. We have many hoops to jump through before getting our visas, you see.
Hello Stephen, thank you for all you are doing. I have searched for your email but not seen it . I am a Nigerian. My husband) who is also a Nigerian is a Doctoral student in Paris. He wants myself and son to join him in France in few months. He is on a scientific visa valid for two years. We are aware we(myself and son) can be depends ts on his visa….famille privee . The French consulate in Nigeria isn’t explicit in what type of visa we should apply for. Husband feels it’s long stay visa from here and we report to OFII on arrival in France for the residence permit. I also read somewhere that he has to apply on our behalf from the Prefecture in France and they communicate to us(beneficiaries) via our consulate. I am confused, is there any way you can advise ?
I’m not familiar with this particular setup (scientific visa with a family add-on) so I suggest you contact my good friend Jean Taquet who is an expert on these sorts of things. He can advise you further. He is at http://www.jeantaquet.com
I planning on applying for a long term student visa within the next month. As I understand, if I am granted the visa it will act as my residency permit and last for the 3 years of my bachelors degree. My main concern has to do with my accommodation and opening a bank account. I have found a place close to the school, but they only rent out the place for a maximum of one year. Do I have to find a new place to live every year? I am thinking of staying in a hotel for a while and then finding a place. I have the funds to support myself, but I’m not sure how I would go about opening the bank account, won’t they require some proof of residency on my part? How much cash am I allowed to bring with me? I suppose I could use online banking to pay for my hotel stay, but I still need cash to get around paris. Also I was wondering if you had a list of things to avoid during the interview.
Michael – take small steps first. Don’t worry about a 3 year lease – get a place first so that you can figure out what is best for you. As long as you have some kind of lease – at least 6 months – you should be able to use that for getting a bank account. If you are a US citizen, that’s another kettle of fish and something I’ve already discussed here on the blog. The international rules are normal: anything less than 10k in a particular currency doens’t have to be declared.
I’ve never had a student visa interview so I can’t offer advice on that.
Bon Soir Stephen,
We are a couple from California currently travelling outside of the US and wanted to apply for a french long term stay visa. We meet most of the requirements at first glance, however I have not been able to find the information anywhere about whether or not we can apply for the long term stay visa while in the EU? We are mainly travelling but our current “home base” for the year is with a college friend in Paris. Do you know if we are able to apply while we are in France for the long term stay visa?
Thanks for the info,
Hi Rosario. The answer is no. You must apply in your home country. Since your “home base” has no legal standing with the French, you have no right to apply for a visa in the EU.
Ok I feared that would be the case! Thank you for the information!!!
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If I’m able to find an employer in Paris to sponsor me (and I think I have), how is the process to obtain a long term visa different? Meaning, would having a job guaranteed expedite the process in any way? And what if I end up changing jobs once I’m here? Is that a big deal? Also, I’m living in NYC now and don’t have health insurance. Will I need to get covered before jumping through the hoops?
If you find an employer in Paris you’ll be obtaining a work visa, which is completely different from the different classes of long-term visa. You can’t “change jobs” here like you would in the United States. You’ll have to find someone else who would be willing to sponsor a non-EU citizen to work here, they will have to then help you obtain a work visa. If you quit or get fired, you lose all residency rights and have to leave France in a certain amount of time.
The health care question isn’t a concern for the French. They don’t care/control what you do in the United States. They only care what happens when you get to their country. You’ll need to show a policy should you go the long-term visa route, but as I said, if you’re looking to be employed here, you won’t be getting a long-term stay visa.
Thank you for providing this process. I really appreciate that you shared your experience step by step so that at least I will be over prepared 😉
Happy to help Lisa – I just didn’t want anyone to go through what I went through when I started this process 🙂
This is such helpful information. (and my gosh — what a lovely person you are to provide this information!) But I am still obsessing over the health insurance requirement. My husband and I have in-person appts at the Boston French Consulate in about 2 weeks, for our trip, with tickets already, leaving August 28th, returning end of May 2018. we are over 65, retired, in good health, have a place to stay with Parisian friends who have written a letter for us, a good amount of money in savings, regular deposits of social security, and we have worldwide emergency room care reimbursement coverage from our Medicare Advantage plan plus the required evacuation and repatriation coverage. But, I am worried we may need more health insurance? Does having money in the bank matter–or should we still get a policy somehow that will cover less-than-emergency problems? Will we be eligible after 3 months to apply for French medical insurance? Thank you so much. Susan
Susan – I must admit I am not familiar as to whether standard Medicare coverage is considered sufficient by the French authorities. I would wait until your appointment in Boston. If they tell you it is insufficient at the appointment, they will simply delay processing your application until you can obtain some, instead of outright rejecting you.
You can buy “assurance etrangers” while here in France, and you don’t need to wait any amount of time to do so. If you’re asking whether you can be part of the French National Health Insurance system, the answer is no. You can only be part of it if you are working (or have worked) in France legally. It is not available to those on an LTS visa.
Thank you! Every new bit of info helps. And again, thanks for this wonderful forum.
Can anyone please straight up name a health insurance plan that includes disability coverage? I have found literally nothing, yet it is specifically listed as one of the health insurance “risks” that must be covered.
I have a long term visitor stay visa in France starting next week. As a visitor I know you’re not eligible to work. I’ve had a skype call from a nannying agency in Paris saying I would need a work visa or a titre de sejour (residency card). Would I be eligible for this position if I acquire a residency card as a long term visitor stay?
No. You cannot legally work in France for something like nannying on a visitor visa. You signed an attestation in applying for your visa in which you specifically said you would not.
Thank you so much for this write up! So as long as you work for only non-French companies and clients, you can have the long stay visa and continue that work? I freelance in America for mostly US/UK clients, and I’m looking to live in France but continue that work.
Yes that’s fine.
Thank you for your blog posts! They are very helpful in figuring out this process. My question concerns the long stay visa. Do you know if the Long Stay Visa permits multiple exits/entries out of France and the Schengen zone? My family and I want to live for a year in France but I would need to commute back to the United States usually once but possibly twice a month during that time for a total of 10-14 days away while my family would stay in France. Also, though we would live in France, I would probably sometimes fly out of Geneva because of the close proximity of the airport there. Would flying out of Switzerland back to the US cause any problems with the visa?
Once you have the visa you can come and go as you please. Though, I don’t know why you would choose to fly out of Geneva – you have to take a 3 hour train to get there and CH is notorious for its expensive flights in and out.
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I’m a US citizen and will apply for a long term visitor visa, I’m retired (67). I’m concerned about the financial means required. My late husband died of cancer a few years ago and I had to use our retirement IRA to pay for hospital costs and treatments. It wiped out our IRA. I have managed to save about $70,000 in savings, also have my social security which is $2300 per month. I will co-own a home in France with my sister who will also retire there. We’ll love together. Will my savings and income be enough for the visas? I’ll be applying through San Francisco Consulate.
Rose – with $70,000 in savings, you far exceed the means test required. Worry not. 🙂
Stephen, thank you. For a year I haven’t applied for fear I would be rejected.
Haha, I meant in the previous message my sister and I will live together…
I’ll update to let you know how it goes.
We decided to buy in the north east, close to a prefecture, hopefully in the same city.
Stephen, I have another question. Today I went to my tax preparer and because I have no earned income and only Social Security, the Federal government will not accept my tax return. Evidently with only Social Security, there’s no way to e-file or send a paper tax return in. The San Francisco Consulate requires a recent tax return and perhaps more. I sent an email to them and asked what would be acceptable, I received the usual form letter from them with no advice regarding my predicament. Any suggestions?
Rose – dealing with the IRS is way outside my competence, and that of the blog 🙂
Stephen, I’ll post what I find out as to how the San Francisco Consulate responds and if they will accept previous returns without the most recent.
It’ll be interesting to hear! Thanks for keeping us posted.
Stephen, after sending an email to the San Francisco Consulate, I received the standard reply a day ago.
This morning I had a personal reply from the consulate.
My contact wrote that my social security statement of earnings will be fine.
I also found out after digging and calling, one can submit a tax return like mine, via..snail mail.
Thank you for a wonderful blog, it’s not often one can ask questions and receive information (correct and through experience).
I’ll keep everyone updated.
Thanks for keeping us updated!
Thanks for your help in advance!
I am a dancer moving from NYC to Paris, and will be sponsored by a french dance company. I plan to spend 3 months, beginning next month, on the tourist visa to practice my french etc., then back to the US for 2 months, then will return to France and begin working with the company.
Is it possible to begin applying for the working visa while in France during the 3 month stay? (I believe you mentioned above that you must apply for the long stay visitor visa in your home country, but wonder if applying for work visa is different).
Does the timing mentioned above generally seem ok? Or would I need 3 months before re-entry, even if on a different visa?
The three month waiting period you are referring to only applies to those utilizing the paperless “tourist visa.” If you’re applying for anything beyond that, they don’t care whether you returned from France the morning of your appointment in the US. 😉
Hope that helps.
Hello, I got a 6 month visa instead of a 12 month. Do I still need to present my forms to the OFII and have the medical exam/validate the visa long sejour? Or only if staying longer than 6 months?
Hey, I’m applying from Israel for a 1 year visa in France.
I’m getting all the documentation ready, and in no place does it mention involving a notary.
In fact in their website it says:
Attention : all documents written in languages other than French or English must be translated into French.
So from what I understand, if my bank statements, my health insurance, my “promise not to work blah blah” are in english, I won’t need a notary.
What do you say?
Ore – in no place in this article does the word “notary” appear 🙂
Well all it’s been five years of open comments on this post, and I’ve since added a free facebook group to handle many of the questions which regularly appear in these comments. I’ll direct you there for further comments/questions.
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