The French Visa for Americans that You’ve Never Heard Of

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.

30 thoughts on “The French Visa for Americans that You’ve Never Heard Of”

  • Thanks so much for the helpful article! Do you mind sharing how much you had to pay in fees to obtain the profession liberale visa?

  • Hi Molly! it was great reading your experience, Im not an american but actually a Mexican with a working holiday visa currently living in Paris. I was also refered by a friend about the Profession Liberale Visa, but not sure if its available for Mexicans, do you have any information whatsoever?

    Thanks !

  • Hi Jacob! The fee to apply was around 100euros (if I’m remembering right). I just went to go get my actual titre-de-sejour the other day and that was 236euros.

  • Hi Tania! I’m really not sure! What I would suggest is emailing or calling your consulate. It wasn’t on my consulate page – so the only way I knew about it was from talking to an immigration lawyer and then reaching out to my consulate to ask. Best of luck!!

  • Hi Molly. Thank you so much for sharing the details of what you had to do. Very helpful.

    Je me demande … I’m midway through my first year in France on a student visa, but I’m also registered as an auto-entrepreneur. I’m freelancing as an English tutor, have several clients, have even paid my 22.5% social tax on my first quarter’s worth of earnings. (FYI, I registered on the French auto-entrepreneur site and pay the tax online too.)

    With that track record—I figured they would love that I’m already paying tax—do you know if I’ll still have to return to the U.S. to switch status from student to Profession LIbérale? Or do you know how I can find out?

    Thank you in advance for any help!

  • Thank you so much for this information! So helpful! Can you clarify one of the above points–do you need to show that you have $14,000+ in your bank account at that moment when you’re applying, for the whole year, or $1,200 for the month, or $3,600 for the first three months…so confusing! Thanks for any advice!!

  • Hi Rachel! Yes that was a bit confusing! You have to prove that you have the equivalent of 14,000euros in your bank accounts (US, France or otherwise), at the time of application. I took bank statements from the last three months to show them. Keep in mind that all accounts count – I used my IRA balance from an old job in the US – because for the French, it’s still a bank account, even though I technically don’t have access to the money until years from now. Hope that helps!

  • Hi Rebecca! It’s great to start thinking ahead on this because it’s quite a lot of work to put together. Check out Unraveled Paris – Allison Lounes – she’s doing a free live Facebook help session on Jan 20th all about the Profession Liberale visa. Anyways-for your question – I’m pretty sure you still have to go back to the States. Ask Allison though, she would know! Also I knew someone that was previously doing auto-entrepeneur on a Canadian work vacation visa and applied for the Profession Liberale status (in Canada) and got it! Best of luck!

  • Thank you, Molly. FYI, I don’t believe Allison’s sessions are free You have to join her community for a fee.
    Thanks anyway though.

  • Hi Rebecca! The session I was talking about is actually a free FB Live event on Jan 20. You can find details in the FB group Americans in France or Paris Unraveled. Allison is the moderator of Americans in France and every week starts a themed post where you can post any questions you have on that subject. Also just doing a general post in the group helps!

  • Hey Molly, congratulations and thank you for sharing this story. For people such as myself looking for any scrap of help and information, this is really useful!

    I am wanting to know from you if you included in your application an actual business plan as well? You don’t seem to make mention of this yet I would think to apply for this Visa they would want to see your business plans in detail, right?

    Thank you x

  • Hi Karaloo! Yes this is a very important part of the application. I actually wrote a 20 page business plan but then my lawyer paired it down to just 4 pages and essentially what the visa people want to see…. what type of business you’ll be doing, who would be your clients, how much you would charge for each service, and then an estimate of your finances for the first year. Each service was just a couple of sentences each- so it was very succinct and clear. Hope this helps! Bonne chance!

  • Can you recommend a good immigration lawyer? Also for the clients – do they have to be in France? I do a lot of international work. You need contracts or letters of commitment? Do you have an example of what they should say? Thank you this is super helpful!

  • Hi Alexandra! I’m not entirely sure if the clients have to be in France. I would imagine a majority of them would need to be. It was just a letter of commitment saying they were interested in working with me to do X, and would pay me X amount- in an official format with the company name and address, and then I took it a step further and had them stamp the letter or put it on an official letterhead, and then sign it. You also want to have the original copy if at all possible. Hope that helps!! Best of luck 🙂

  • Hello Molly! Thanks for the blog. I was wondering if you’ve gone through the renewal process here at a French Prefecture? Do you have any advice? I seem to be finding conflicting information for the renewal appointment paperwork, and phoning in or having a walk-in just to talk to someone is really difficult to manage with their hours and my work schedule. Mostly i’m concerned about the timeframe and OFII, as I thought the appointment had to be within 2 months of the end of the current visa, now i’m reading it should be before and you need a medical form from the OFII. Any info you might have if you’ve gone through the process would be great, thanks!

  • Hi Natalie! I actually just went through the renewal process. I followed the EXACT list they gave me, and that’s actually (surprisingly!) exactly what the lady asked for. It was the typical: copy of my carte de sejour, passport, proof of housing.. my OFFI medical visit form, and proof that I signed the integration form and did the classes, then something to prove that I was still signed up as a business entity in France (I looked online under my account and there was an attestation proving that I was signed up and up to date with all payments), then proof that I made SMIC (I included my 2016 & 2017 taxes, and my 2018 invoices). She didn’t ask for anything else and said that I would receive a letter in the mail within two months saying when to pick up my new card- again she didn’t really look through my papers, just confirmed I had them- so I don’t think it’s fully approved yet until I actually receive that letter, but I have a recipisse until Jan 2019. So… yes for mine I needed a form that I’ve done the medical visit and integration courses. If you haven’t received a letter about these, I actually would go into the prefecture to ask- because they forgot to signal this to be mailed out to me originally actually but since I had a preliminary 3 month visa, they caught it when I did the initial renewal. Again- probably the worst that might happen is you go in for your renewal visit and they say where are these and you say you don’t have them and didn’t receive a rdv in the mail for them and they just tell you to do them before they can renew. Might be smart to head this off though and go in now to ask so you’re not delayed with the renewal. I actually was told to start making the appt 5 months in advance in Paris, but since I’ve moved to Strasbourg it was about 1 month in advance. If you haven’t made a rdv yet for your renewal, go ahead and do it now :-D. Hope this helps! ps you should be able to find the list of items required for the renewal online.. Best of luck!!

  • Hello,
    Thanks for the excellent information regarding profession liberal visa. I am indian and i am currently in france on a long stay visitor visa and i have my renewal appointment for carte de sejour in a few days. I am a tennis player in france and i can also teach tennis. I wanted to know if i can convert my visitor visa to liberale profession in this renewal quoting my tennis profession and my project to play and teach tennis in france.

  • Great article! Can you comment briefly on how you acquired health insurance meeting that standard? From the brief reading I have done with my limited French, it seems that members of the liberal professions are eligible for health insurance from the Régime Social des Indépendants (RSI), but only after three months of continuous residency – another one of those catch-22s. Which health insurance did you choose, and have you successfully switched over to RSI?

    I know that in some countries (like Germany), choosing private health insurance can have long-term, even permanent consequences, preventing you from ever returning to the public health insurance system. Do you know if one could take out private insurance for the visa application and then switch over after three months, for example? Thanks!

  • Hi Brian! My apologies that I was late to respond to this! Once I was back in France with my Profession Liberale visa, I was eligible to apply for a carte vitale. The process was incredibly easy. I visited the RAM office that was closest to me, said I wanted to apply, filled out the form and sent in a picture and my bank RIB and voila had my card in about 15 days. Entirely different than the hassle I’ve heard of other people trying to get one with a different visa.

  • Hi Molly! Great article.3questions- how were you able to find French clients that would write you letters of commitment and also, about how much did you pay in lawyer fees? Also how long did the entire process take from when you contacted your lawyer, to actually submitting your application? Thanks!

  • Hi Chelsie, I was working in France with the Jeune Professionel Visa for a year and a half prior to applying for this visa. During that time, through networking, I was able to find clients to write the letters of commitment needed. For lawyer fees, gosh it really depends, and honestly, you can do this without a lawyer. First step- email your local consulate and ask for their requirements for this visa. Then follow the above 😉 It took me two months to gather the information and a month to get the visa from applying to actually holding it in my hands, but it can take a lot less time than that. I have a friend who got it in 3 days 😉 Hope this helps!

  • Hey Molly, thanks for this super helpful article. I’m applying for this visa in 6 weeks! I have everything I need except letters of support from client. I have some people/companies willing to sign but I don’t know what the letters should say. Can it be quite simple?

    “I want to confirm with this letter my interest to use your _______ services in the future. I confirm my interesting in your services at costs of _____________ per day.”

    Does that work?

    Thanks a lot!

  • Hi Juan! Yes! I think my letters were just 2-3 sentences- just like this. 🙂 Make sure they’re signed- bonus points if they’re on the company letterhead and stamped. Essentially the more official looking, the better! Good luck! Molly

  • Bonjour Molly,
    Thank you for writing a very informative article!
    I have a question about medical insurance, what type did you get? Is travel insurance ok?
    Merci d’avance

  • Hi! I got mine at IMG and I believe it has to be a year of coverage. I had the Patriot International Coverage. Hope this helps! Molly

  • Hi Molly,

    Thank you for the information. I am currently living in France and attempting to change my visa to entrepreneur/profession liberale. I know I will have to return home. I live in the same area in the states and will have to visit the Houston prefecture again. Could I get the name of the immigration attorney that you worked with? I would really appreciate it. Thank you so much!

  • Hi Ashlei,
    Honestly, I would not recommend the guy I worked with. Yes he helped me get the visa, but really messed up the setting up of my company afterwards. What I can recommend is to make sure you work with someone that has qualifications. Be careful for people that say they can help, but do not have any official title in this sort of work (there’s a lot out there!!). I honestly wish I had done this myself and I’ve helped a friend get through this process as well. The problem was that I didn’t know what the qualifications were – this visa wasn’t listed on the Houston embassy website and the information I did find was very vague. I would suggest emailing the Houston embassy and simply ask what is required (this is what I did). If you have the time, I wouldn’t worry too too much about the application process- if you’re missing something, they’ll tell you and you’ll be given time to get it. I hope this helps! And I wish you the best of luck. Best, Molly

  • Hi Molly,

    Great article!

    What is the procedure after arrival in France? I know to validate the visa (now online) and register as AE but is there anything else? Many thanks!

  • Hi Molly,
    Many thanks for sharing your experience! It really helps! 🙂
    I got my professionale liberale visa last December and had been living in France since.
    Due to COVID… the plans aren’t rolling out as smooth as I had hope it will and hadn’t been working.
    [Thankfully I have rental property from my home country to collect rent from]
    In view of this, any advice on how I should go about renewing / getting my carte de sejour?
    Thank you so much!!

  • Hi Eva! You have to finish registering your business if you haven’t already 🙂 The steps might have changed since I did it, so it’s best to ask at the prefecture what is needed. Good luck!

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