readers describe the French visa process
Several Britons with second homes in France have complained of complications in obtaining long-stay visas for France, which we highlighted yesterday. A few praised the process.
Read more: French long-stay visa delays hit UK owners of second homes
Since Brexit came into force on January 1, 2021, Britons are only allowed to stay in France and other EU countries for a maximum of 90 days out of 180 days. Many Britons with second homes in France wish to stay longer and therefore apply for visas.
Further to our report yesterday (March 8), The connection heard from several other readers about their experience with the process.
Some point to problems with the organization of the visa center, the inconvenience of collecting passports and a lack of clarity on the online application portal, while others describe a positive and simple system.
Basically, in order to apply for a visa, you must first submit an application via the France-Visas portal, including your contact details, then make an appointment to submit your supporting documents.
These appointments are handled by a processing agent called TLS Contact, which has centers in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. It is only possible to reserve a time slot after creating a separate account with the agency you will be frequenting.
You must attend the appointments in person, then once the visa is processed, return to pick it up in person.
“The worst visa application I have ever made”
A Report Reader, who has a second home in France, applied for a visa last year and said it was “without a doubt” the worst visa application I have ever made.
This woman said she had experience applying for visas in different countries, but said: “Move to Syria, Iran, South Africa, Japan and America, the France takes the cookie.
“The service they outsourced was really poor and very disorganized, although some of the staff were really lovely.
The visa department then held his passport for three weeks and “I phoned and asked for it to be returned to me. No answer. My husband went camping outside and they were really angry. Eventually someone helped me get it back.
“The system just doesn’t make sense and I’m writing to the French ambassador. It serves no one. »
‘The staff were excellent’
Judith Kilshaw, a retired nurse who has a second home in Provence with her husband, said that after applying in early January, she managed to get an appointment at TLS Manchester within a week and her passport and his visa had been returned to him within a fortnight. .
“We are ready from April 1! she says. “This contrasts with trying to do the same last year using our more local TLS contact in Edinburgh. We tried for over six months and never managed to get an appointment.
“Traveling to Manchester wasn’t exactly convenient but the process was very efficient and the staff were excellent and very helpful with all the paperwork so no complaints from us this time around.
“The post-Brexit 90-day rule has made life a little more complicated, so hopefully this visa will make life and travel a little easier for six months of the year.”
“A Complete Nightmare”
“TLS is a complete nightmare,” said another reader. “Their website is not easy and you can’t talk to anyone if you have a problem.
“We asked them to call us several times but they never did.
“Finally, we managed to complete our application form and get an appointment for our interview.
“We had our interview on Monday (March 7) at the London branch.
“We had to wait three hours before we could talk to someone. It wasn’t easy even then. We had taken everything that was requested on their checklist, but then they wanted photocopies of documents that were not even mentioned on the checklist.
“Fortunately, they made the necessary copies for us because they could sense our frustration.
“The final straw for us was that we were hoping to have our passports mailed back to us in Dorset but they are not currently offering this service as they are switching to a new courier company.
“You now have to return to London to collect your passport and stand outside in a long queue to do so.
“Funny thing is they still advertise the return mail service on their website and on their screens at the visa centre.
“To say we are less than impressed is an understatement.”
Caption: Michael Allen and his partner Sue – pictured here in Les Deux Alpes in 2018 – managed to get a visa
Michael Allen, a retired Royal Navy officer, told Tthe connection: “We have long-stay visas and are here in the Alps in our second home, skiing and snowshoeing – but never again.”
He applied from his home in Devon with his partner Sue Collyer, a retired assistant manager, and traveled to TLS Contact in London for the appointment.
“When we arrived it turned out I was on a date but my partner was not,” Mr Allen said.
I tried to explain that it was a joint application, so they allowed us to create an account for her on their computer and log in with all the details. Except that when she entered her passport number, he rejected it, on the grounds that it was used elsewhere: in the application I had made.
“The supervisor called her supervisor and in the end the application was dropped and we went to the interview, which we waited for about an hour and a half.”
The interview itself then lasted about an hour, and the couple then had to proceed with their biometric enrollment. In total, it took “eight hours of bureaucracy”.
“And they wouldn’t send the passports [back to our address], so two weeks later I had to go back to London to pick them up in person. It cost a lot of extra time and money,” Allen added.
“TLS London staff were very helpful, but the system they use is incompetent.
“We won’t do that again until owners can make a simplified version online.”
“We will only be visiting now using the rolling 90-day, 180-day method. This will be severely limited in the future as we generally like three months in winter for skiing and around 70-90 days in summer and autumn for hiking and climbing in the Ecrins National Park as we did usually within the last seven years. years.
“Unfortunately, that won’t happen now.
Another reader said they had a “positive” experience applying for a six-month visa. He submitted his application on January 16 and made an appointment for February 16 at TLS Contact in London.
The appointment went well and on February 25 he was informed that his passport was ready for collection, with the visa inside.
This experience was echoed by a few other readers, one of whom said he applied two weeks ago, had his interview on Wednesday March 2 and received his visa yesterday (March 8).
“Three hours drive each way for a two-minute test”
Another reader also reported that she and her husband managed to get an appointment at TLS Contact shortly after applying for their visa.
However, after submitting their papers and undergoing the biometric tests without a problem, her husband was then informed a few days later that his biometric test had failed.
He then had to drive three hours each way back to central London to spend a few minutes re-fingerprinting.
The couple then had to return to the center once more to collect their passports. TLS Contact previously offered a courier service for returning passports, but this has since been suspended.
“We must add that the staff were very helpful at all stages of the process,” added our reader. “The main issue is whether you have to phone the centre, which we did before the first visit.
“We were in a queue for 45 minutes, then the line cut,” then the same thing happened the next time.
“Hard to know what proof you need”
Sam Crossley, an engineer with a second home in the English Channel, said: “It doesn’t seem unreasonable that they are asking for proof that you can pay yourself and have health insurance because it’s fair enough to want to make sure you are not a burden to the state.
“However, it is very difficult to know exactly what you have to do because it says you have to prove your socio-economic status but does not say how. You have to be able to support yourself but it does not say in the same place how much money it involves. If you dig, you can find it, but it’s not easy.
Another one Report reader, a retiree who has owned a house near Nice since 2002, and who has always spent six months or more in France, applied for a visa at TLS Contact London in April 2021 after a “long process to gather the right papers”.
She went to the appointment with the necessary documents, including her title deeds and her EHIC card, which is listed as valid proof of visa healthcare coverage for up to six months. She also had regular travel insurance that covers some medical expenses abroad.
“They wouldn’t accept my candidacy but no one would tell me why. It is impossible to talk to anyone in this center. So I started sending an email to the French Embassy in London. Eventually they sent me the official statement, nothing personal, about medical insurance requirements and not travel insurance.
“I tried to get international medical insurance, but it was very, very expensive.
“A few days later, the French office announced that it would accept EHICs.
“I’m sure if the French had looked at my candidacy at that time, they would have understood the mistake but it didn’t seem possible to change the decision.
“It was very stressful. Like all bureaucratic companies, including the UK and France, it seems to me that the front end doesn’t know what the back end is doing and they don’t understand each other.
Six-month visas for Britons to stay in France: Health requirements
Travel to France: can spouses of EU citizens stay longer than 90 days?
What is the minimum income required for a French long-stay visa?