This post was most recently updated on September 7th, 2021
Table of Contents
The Short Version
I feel like I need to state that every case is different. I had been planning for this move for several years and started researching very early on all my options. Please, take the time to do your research, ask questions, reach out to people. But please don’t get discouraged if people don’t respond; I sent out quite a few emails and it was crickets on the other end.
So, if you are in a similar situation and you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me: email@example.com. I know how frustrating it can be to find the information you need.
Back in May 2019, my then boyfriend and I were discussing what our next steps would be in our relationship. I knew marriage was out of the question for him and I was completely okay with that. Before I left Paris for Ohio, I decided to do some research and see what our options were. The only solution I came up with was I’d return on a tourist visa and we would get PACS’d.
PACS stands for Pacte Civil de Solidarité (civil solidarity pact), which is done between 2 adults of the same or different sex, to organise their common life together. In easier terms, it allows the couple to benefit from some of the legal rights as married couples, a simplified version of marriage, with specific benefits. It is the other legal option to marriage. That’s a whole other story you can read here (post coming soon on PACS).
We decided that would be our thing. I’d return home. Pitch the perfect temporary role with my former employer, save the money I wanted to have set aside for my tourist visa and be back to Paris within a matter of 4 months. But after my former employer told me they were shutting down 2/3 of their locations, there was no need for me. I was back to square zero. I had 2 weeks to move out of my current apartment and back to my hometown and find a job. This was not in the “big plan.”
So I moved back in with my parents, got a job at the local coffeeshop and started researching options again. I gathered all my information on this process and pitched it to my then boyfriend; nervous and unsure of how he’d respond. Well, he’s my husband now so I’ll let you figure out what his response was.
So here’s the skinny. If you and your French mec/meuf decide to get married in the States, there are some things you need to do in a specific order. And there’s always plenty of paperwork to keep you busy!
The following is the process that was pretty straight forward for me and my mec.
Before the Wedding
This website from the consulate in Washington DC explains the whole process for what is needed before getting married, how to validate your marriage in France as well as what is needed for the livret de famille. Please note this site is in French.
Check your local county’s rules on getting married. Documents you need, how much it will cost, if there is a waiting period, how long you have once you apply for the marriage license to get married, etc… Each county is different in regards to what is required. I recommend for your French partner to bring a copy of their birth certificate, ID card, and passport.
Apply for un certificat de capacité à mariage (this will be needed for your French partner). Plan for this process to take 8 weeks. The return envelope needs to have the address of your French partner’s residence. The banns will be published at your French partner’s local mairie (town hall) and they will be posted for 10 days. The certificat will be mailed once all the steps have been completed. You can now proceed to plan the wedding! We did not need this when we applied for our marriage license in the States, but he brought it along just in case.
Once my husband received the certificat in the mail, he booked his plane ticket and 10 later he was flying into the States so we could get married!
After the Wedding
Now that you’re married, you’ll need to get a certified copy of your marriage license. This will done at your local probate court level. You will need a certified copy to send in with your paperwork for the transcription of your marriage.
I was able to request a copy in person, the same day, for my marriage license. They cost $2/copy at my local Probate court office. You’ll use your marriage license and some other paperwork to file for your validation of your marriage through the French Consulate of Washington D.C.
This process should and will take up to 2 months. Once your marriage is validated, you will receive your French acte de mariage (marriage license) and livret de famille. With these documents in hand, you can apply for your visa de long séjour-valant titre de séjour, your third and final step in the visa application process.
Applying for the Visa
Once you have received your livret de famille and the l’acte de mariage you are ready to apply for your visa.
I highly recommend (and I can’t stress this enough) make several copies of all the documents requested on the form. Also make copies of items that may not appear on the list. For example, I had made copies of my ID page on my passport, just in case. In my appointment I saw two people, the gentleman who processed my application and the lady who took my fingerprints and photos. The gentleman said my application was in perfect order, but when I went to see the lady, she asked for a copy of my ID page. She said it would be better if I included that in my application, just in case. It’s best to read between the items required, if possible. You’ll thank yourself in the end.
Things have changed since I last needed to apply for a visa for France. Everything is now routed through Washington DC. The Embassy in Chicago still does some administrative tasks, but all things visa related has been relocated. They’ve also outsourced the application process itself. This site is in English, as well as the application process and it’s fairly straight forward. There’s a helpful quiz that you fill out and it tells you what visa best suits your needs, if you don’t know which visa you’ll be needing. Once you’ve got that all sorted out, you simply need to make an account, fill out the forms online and select a location, date and time for the in-person portion of the application at the nearest visa center. This whole process online took about 20 minutes.
There will be your application form and a registration receipt at the end that you will need to print out. This receipt you will need to bring with you to present to the front desk as well as the visa application agent you will be speaking with (I printed out 2 extra copies because you never know).
Arrival of the Visa
When your appointment has finished at the visa processing center, it will be mailed off to Washington DC and you’ll be able to track the process through the same website you used to apply for your visa. You’ll be given a number to follow on a receipt that the processing center agent gives you with all the necessary information. The site is a little slow in updating; I had been checking it every day and was surprised when the UPS man knocked on my back door and had my Visa envelope in hand. It took a little over a week for my passport and visa to be returned to me.
When you receive your passport with the visa inside, there will be a little slip of paper with instructions of what to do when you arrive in France. You will need to validate your visa and wait for a convocation from the office of immigration (OFII), to come in the mail for your courses and paperwork.
This whole process, from start to finish, took about 7-8 months. Most of it was waiting for paperwork to process and come back from the consulate. I had to resend my birth certificate in the beginning beause Ohio changed how they formated the certificates. The new ones do not include the city. That was requested from the consulate for the certificat de capacité à mariage.
This post will be updated on a regular basis when there is new information to be shared.