So you have made it through the France-Visas & VFS Global maze, obtained your long-stay visiteur visa (in the form of a sticker pasted into your passport), and moved yourself to France. Congrats! But we are not quite finished with the intake process just yet, there remain a few steps to be completed in France to make ourselves official residents. Thankfully they are not at all difficult.
Stephen already wrote about his experiences and the two basic assignments remain the same now as when he went through them almost a decade ago — we need to register our visa with OFII, and we need to complete a medical exam. The biggest change since Stephen’s time is that the registration portion is now done entirely online, and if that wasn’t great enough news, the process also involves fewer steps and requirements. It is completely painless (except for the 200 € fee) and can be completed in a few minutes.
The medical portion is also very straightforward, the only thing that requires forethought is that you will be asked to provide your vaccination records. Those will obviously be much easier to obtain when you are still in America so add that to your list of things to do before you leave.
Registration with OFII (l’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) must be done within the first three months of your arrival in France. Since the process only takes a few minutes there’s no reason to put it off.
To start go to: https://administration-etrangers-en-france.interieur.gouv.fr/
If you prefer there is an option to set the website language to English though it might still leave you with some French phrases just to keep you on your toes! Several options are presented, we want of course: Je valide mon VLS-TS (Validate your VLS-TS long-stay visa).
You will be asked to enter various pieces of information that are shown on your visa sticker, including the “from” date (de), the “until” date (au), and the “on” or issue date (le). Remember that dates are entered with the day first, then the month and year.
Under remarques (remarks) we will specify our visa type, for us this will be Visiteur. You will also be asked to select a Référence réglementaire (regulatory reference) number from a drop-down list. You can find this number somewhere on your visa in small print, for me it was R311-3 5° and I believe this should be the same for all visitor visas.
You will need to provide various pieces of personal information; all of it is straightforward and self-explanatory. Finally you will need to pay a fee that will cover the expense of your upcoming medical appointment. The payment can be made online with a credit card, but it wouldn’t be France if the process weren’t slightly convoluted.
First you will be sent to a site to purchase a timbre fiscal électronique (electronic tax stamp), and then you will need to return to enter the 16-digit timbre code given on your receipt as proof of payment. But at least you did not have to wait in line at the tabac to buy your stamp! At the time of writing the fee was 200 €.
Having provided proof of payment you are now done. Your visa is now registered and you will be assigned an identifiant (personal ID number) and password which you can use to access your personal account. We will use this same website and account a year later if we wish to extend our stay, and this ID number we are told is our official ID as a foreign national residing in France and “will be used in all administrative procedures while you are in France.” So probably best not to misplace it.
OFII Medical Visit
At the time your visa is registered you will be informed about the upcoming medical requirement, but this is just to forewarn you. There is nothing to do until they assign you an appointment time and place, in my case it was a further five weeks before I received my Convocation Visite Médicale (medical visit summons) by email.
This summons informed me of the date and location of my OFII medical appointment. I was additionally instructed to get a radio pulmonaire (chest x-ray) at a separate medical office of their recommendation. I needed to make the x-ray appointment myself, and it had to be performed before my OFII medical visit, as I would need to bring the results with me.
I walked down to the indicated radiology center and was glad I brought a printed copy of my convocation letter because they wanted to see it. (Buying a printer has been the best purchase I’ve made so far in France and saved me countless hours of walking to, and dealing with, the print shop.) Although the radiology lab was not affiliated with OFII they were used to having OFII immigrants come through so they knew exactly what I needed. Of course this visit was not to have the x-ray performed, it was simply to make the appointment. As they were apparently quite booked, the soonest they could schedule me for the x-ray was the day before my OFII visit! This seemed like cutting it a bit close for comfort but it all worked out.
It is entirely likely that in the larger cities these two steps (the x-ray and the OFII medical) are combined into a single visit, the way it was for Stephen in Paris. But if you find yourself in my situation, I definitely recommend not delaying at all to schedule the x-ray appointment.
Day of the X-Ray
I arrived at the radiology center at the appointed hour (for some reason these things are always at the crack of dawn). Along with my passport, I had once again, and as instructed, brought my convocation letter. Even though the convocation is not for the x-ray, it lets them know why you’re there to get one. After being checked in I was sent to a waiting room. A few minutes later I was summoned by a nurse into a small changing room where I needed to remove all clothes from the waist up. I was led to the x-ray machine which looked basically like a wall of glass. I stood on a little pedestal and was instructed to stand with my chest firmly pressed against the glass. At her command I was to take a deep breath and hold it (inspirez et retenez votre soufflé) while the x-ray was performed.
This done I redonned my clothes and returned to the waiting room. Barely ten minutes later I was handed an envelope with the x-ray image as well as a letter with their official conclusion: image thoracique normale. It was signed by Docteur Cockenpot, which I’m pretty sure is a name I hadn’t seen in America.
I was free to go, and there was no charge for this visit. I had spent less than one hour from the time I left my apartment to the time I walked back in my own front door. There are advantages to living in a small town!
Day of the OFII Visit
These are the list of items I was asked to bring to the OFII medical exam:
– Printout of my OFII Convocation (the summons letter I was emailed)
– Radiologies pulmonaires récentes (chest x-ray and letter)
– Carnet de vaccination (vaccination records)
– Comptes rendus d’hospitalisation (hospitalization records)
– Lunettes de vue (prescription eyeglasses)
– Carnet de maternité le cas échéant (maternity booklet, if applicable)
This appointment was held at my local OFII facility and also went quickly. After verifying my identity I was brought in to see the doctor. He posed a variety of questions such as my age, existing health conditions and whether I took any medications, marital and work status, and whether my teeth were in good condition (he took my word for it). He took my weight and height which was the extent of any physical “examination.”
I wore my glasses and even also brought my current eyeglass prescription, however I was not asked to show these. I had no hospitalizations to report.
He asked for the results of the x-ray which I had just taken, which I handed over. He then asked about my vaccination records. Of course the vaccine most on everyone’s mind today is the Covid vaccine. The question was asked if I had received it, and if you have by all means bring the documentation for it. However at the time of writing (February 2022) it is not obligatory to have received the Covid vaccine for purposes of your long-stay visa. Now if you want to drink a coffee outside a café, that’s a different story. 🙂
As for “regular” vaccines which is what they really want to know about, I had searched in vain for a list of requirements. As of 2018 France requires a total of 11 vaccines for children to enroll in school, but nowhere did I see what the requirements were for adult immigrants and of course most of us were born long before 2018. Although childhood vaccines in America are largely similar to the ones given in France, actual policies vary by state as well by which decade you were born.
My parents incredibly still had my little booklet from childhood in which was scribbled by half a dozen doctors the multitude of vaccines I had been given as an infant. I brought this with me to the appointment but I had a feeling it might not be considered the best possible record.
In anticipation that a more official (and legible) transcript might be appreciated, I had contacted my state health department before leaving the US. Practices no doubt vary from state to state, but in Kansas I was told that records are destroyed after 10 years. Being quite a bit older than that I found their policy to be somewhat inconvenient. No problem, they said, you can easily obtain a copy of your vaccination records from your old high school. Who knew the American public education establishment was the true repository of our nation’s vaccine records! Not me, as I had been educated outside of formal public institutions, but I list it here as another avenue you can pursue if you are looking for your own records.
There is yet another option, and that is to take what is called an “antibody titer test.” I was able to get one at my doctor’s office in America without trouble. It is a simple blood draw, and afterwards they provided me a nice printout showing my antibody levels for measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chicken pox), and hepatitis B. I’d received quite a few other vaccines as a child but my doctor told me these were the main ones they tested for and I accepted his word for it.
I was right that the French doctor at my OFII visit didn’t seem too interested in looking at my tattered childhood vaccine booklet, but he had no problem with my titer results and proclaimed them satisfactory. I still can not claim to know what official list they are looking for specifically, but I suppose in the worst case they could ask you to retake some.
This ended the “examination.” I was returned to the waiting room and after a few minutes an attendant brought me two copies of a short letter titled Certificat de Controle Medical (Certificate of Medical Inspection). Along with my information was the following simple statement followed by the doctor’s signature: Remplit les conditions sanitaires pour être autorisé à résider en France, or, “Meets the health requirements to be allowed to reside in France.”
The attendant explained to me that one copy was for my own records and the second would need to be given to the prefecture at the end of my first year in France, if I chose to extend my stay beyond that point. If so, I would need to start the renewal process between 4 and 2 months prior to the end of my visa validity, using the same website listed above.
I was asked if I had any questions, the only one I could think of was, “Is there anything else I need to do?” The answer was no — I was free to live my life as a legal French resident for the next year.
Once again this whole process went very quickly, I was in and out in less than an hour. My interview with the doctor was conducted in French but I suspect he could have spoken English if necessary, and the attendant who dealt with me before and after spoke English.
A Note About Visas and “Titres”
The type of long-stay visitor visa we have obtained, and which was pasted into our passports by the French embassy before we left America, is called VLS-TS, which stands for Visa de Long Séjour – valant Titre de Séjour.
Translated that means a “long-stay visa that is valid as a residence permit.”
Technically speaking it is not itself a residence permit (titre de séjour), it is a visa that is valid as a residence permit. With this visa we can reside in France for one year without needing to do anything at the Prefecture. If we want to stay beyond the one-year validity period of our visa, then between 4 and 2 months prior to its expiry we need to apply to the Prefecture to renew our immigration status. It is then that we will finally be asking for a titre de séjour and if granted they will give us a physical carte de séjour visiteur (visitor residence permit card). This card will from thenceforth replace the sticker in our passport as our official identification.
I mention this in the event, that like me, you found yourself early in your research with a great deal of confusion about cards and permits and visas and stickers and their French translations, as many of these terms are used interchangeably by various people on the internet, and of course the process has changed over time and some information becomes obsolete. When Stephen went through the OFII process he received an additional sticker in his passport at the conclusion of the process. That no longer occurs. For our first year in France we will get nothing in addition to that, though as described in this article, we do need to register this visa with OFII in order to make it official.
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