How Do You Get a Visa to Move to Another Country?

Let’s talk about one of the practicalities of moving abroad — getting your visas!

I know this can be a confusing term because the first thing most Americans think of when they hear the word ‘visa’ is their credit card. But when referring to moving abroad — or even traveling abroad — a visa means official permission to enter and stay in another country.

There are lots of countries where Americans can travel without having to do any particular visa paperwork. For example, you can show up at the Mexican or Canadian borders and you just need a passport, and you can show up in most European countries and you just need a passport. America has an agreement with certain countries that allow American citizens a sort-of automatic visa for short visits or basic travel.

But if you want to stay in another country for a longer time period — say, six months — you’ll need to apply for a specific visa to allow you to stay. And if you want to work locally, or be a student, or be an au pair, you’ll need specific visas to do all of those things too.

Visas require a ton of paperwork, and I don’t know of any quick fixes or short cuts. So if you think you need a visa, start researching right away and try to get a handle on what the process is like. There’s no easy way out. But if it makes you feel any better, getting a visa to visit America or move to America, is as hard or harder than any other country. So try not to feel sorry for yourself, and instead, take the opportunity to feel compassion for immigrants all over the world — especially those being forced out of their country or origin, and who still have to deal with all the paperwork and red-tape, even in extreme, life-threatening situations.

As for France, Americans can visit for up to three months, on an automatic-visitor visa. We knew we wanted to come for at least a year, so we knew we’d need a different visa. The best fit in our case is called a Long-stay Visa, and it allows you to live in France for up to a year. If you want to stay longer, you can apply to renew it.

Applying for a visa is risky. It takes a huge amount of time, and it’s expensive too. You have to pay application fees and shipping fees. And you have to sign a rental agreement and buy your plane tickets in advance — even though your visa might get rejected! You may also need to travel to another city in America that has a French embassy, and that’s just to apply — again, before you know if you’re approved. So if you’re not approved, it’s going to feel like a big waste of resources.

When we lived in Denver and were applying for long-stay visas, our assigned embassy was in Los Angeles, and we had to travel there to apply. But this time, our assigned embassy was in San Francisco, which was much easier for us to get to, and required no travel.

I can only speak to French visas, but timing is very particular. They want you to apply within 6 weeks of travel, but no later than 3 weeks of travel. And sometimes, the appointments are fully booked several weeks in advance. So your first step is deciding when you want to move, then booking an appointment for the specific application window, but booking it well in advance when there are still appointments available in the required window of time. (I hope that makes sense!)

In our case, we had a really hard time with the booking system. Since the last time we applied, France has outsourced the visa application process to an independent company, and their booking system was very different than what we’d encountered before. We needed to book six appointments for six people, and tried to do so in plenty of time, but each attempt was rejected. We were trying to book them in a block so we could attend the appointments at same time, but every time we tried, the system would boot us out.

It was super frustrating, and days were flying by, and we knew that appointments were filling up in our required window. We made phone calls and tried to figure out a fix and couldn’t get any answers. Eventually, we tried booking just two appointments at a time — on the same day, but not at the same time — and that worked! But. By the time we figured this out, the soonest appointment available was 15 days from our travel — and we were supposed to have at least 21 days between the appointment and the travel.

The embassy wants a full three weeks to process the visa application. And when you apply, you give them your passports and they keep them. If you’re approved, they’ll put the visa (it’s like a fancy sticker/label) into your passport and mail it back to you via 2-day or overnight Fedex. If your visa is not approved, your passport will simply be sent back, again via Fedex.

We were of course very nervous we wouldn’t receive our passports back in time. And remember, we had to purchase plane tickets in order to apply. Which means, we wouldn’t be able to fly out, because we wouldn’t have our passports. I’m telling you, the timing is tricky even when everything is happening as smoothly as possible.

Once you have your visa application appointment scheduled, you’ll need to gather all the required paperwork. It’s a lot. You’ll need originals and photocopies in triplicate. For each person applying. No exaggeration. No exceptions. If in doubt, make extra copies. And then a few extra again.

Start with an accordion folder, and label each section with the different types of paperwork:
-Birth certificates and marriage certificate (originals plus copies).
-Passports (originals plus copies).
-ID photos — these are like passport photos, but have to be a specific size for the French visa applications, and you’ll need multiple.
-Bank statements from the last three months (and copies).
-Proof of income — this might be paycheck stubs or current contracts (and copies).
-Proof of health insurance (and copies).
-Proof of school registration for the kids (and copies).
-Proof of a place to stay — typically a rental contract (and copies).
-Plane tickets (and copies).
-A letter explaining you won’t try to take a French job, translated into French (and copies).
-A separate visa application for each person (you can find the form on the French embassy website — yes, you’ll need copies).
-And maybe a few other things… I’m trying to remember.

If you just read that list, you may have noticed a few things:
You need to sign a rental contract before you apply for a visa. You need to register the kids for school in France before you apply for a visa. You need to buy your plane tickets before your apply for a visa.

That’s what I mean by risky. You have to make decisions on travel dates and buy your plane tickets. You have to decide on a school, contact them, register the kids, and get a confirmation of registration back. You have to find a place to live and sign your rental contract, and pay your first months rent and deposit. And you have to do all of this without knowing if your visa will be approved!

Let’s talk a bit about working in another country. You may have noticed I mentioned a letter promising not to take a French job. This will depend on your situation. If you work for a company that is transferring you to France, your visa process will likely be totally different than ours. The company will probably have a department that helps with things like work visas and shipping all your stuff overseas.

But what if you don’t have a company moving you?

Then frankly, you might not be able to move to France. So much of it comes down to how you earn money. Before they grant you a long-stay visa, the French government wants to make sure you’re not trying to take a French job.

In our case, we both work online, so we can work from anywhere in the world, and our income sources stay the same. Which means, as part of our visa application, we just had to explain what our work is, prove that it would continue, and promise not to look for French jobs. If you have a U.S.-based job, are paid in U.S. dollars, and can work remotely (similar to our jobs), then getting approved for a visa should probably work out for you.

Beyond demonstrating how you earn money, you will also need to show bank statements that demonstrate you have some savings. The idea is: if something horrible happens, you have enough to bail yourself out, and get yourself back to the U.S. — and won’t be coming to the French government for help.

Along those lines, you’ll also need to show that you have health insurance. It could be insurance provided through work, or it could be insurance you pay for yourself. (I’ll write a separate post about how we handle insurance while in France.)

A couple things that were different for us this time around: 1) Because we own a house in France, we didn’t need to show a rental contract. We could just show that we owned a property. That was nice. To be clear, we weren’t planning to live there because it’s currently way too rustic. So we booked an Airbnb until we could find a rental. But having that permanent French address meant we didn’t have to find the rental before we moved. Which is what we had to do last time, when we rented La Cressonniere.

And 2), because the French visa application is now outsourced, they couldn’t process our family’s passports as a group. So each one had a completely separate application with completely separate paperwork. And we had to pay for six separate FedEx labels instead of one. That’s a significant extra expense we weren’t anticipating. (Last time, our passports were all sent back to us in one package.) So just something to be aware of. Oh! And if you’re local, you don’t have to have them shipped at all. You can just pick them up once they’re processed. But shipping is faster — and we were already worried about timing.

The last thing I want to talk about is the actual appointment in San Francisco. This time around it wasn’t at the French embassy. It was at some basic office space of the company who the visa applications are outsourced to. You couldn’t even enter the space until you showed printed copies of your appointment reservation, and your passport.

The people processing the visa applications did not speak French and couldn’t answer questions about how long things would take or if there was a way to speed things up. They had their process and knew information about that specific process, but couldn’t really talk about exceptions to that process.

They were very patient and professional, but also a bit detached from the process — compared to the actual French citizens we’d worked with at the embassy for previous applications. They were a bit overwhelmed that their were six of us (should I have told them that last time we applied we were eight?).

At the appointment, we went through each of the six applications, and stacked all the paperwork in a specific order for each one, double checking nothing was missing, and having each person sign their application. If you are missing a copy of something or other, they will make copies for you, and charge you. If you don’t have the correct size ID photos, they can take them for you, and they’ll charge you. So come prepared, and if you aren’t quite prepared, get ready to pay some extra fees.

Once all six applications were in order, we paid the application and shipping fees (if I remember, it ended up being about $130 per person). And lastly, they took our biometric data — fingerprints and digital ID photos.

Then we went home and tried not to worry that our passports wouldn’t make it back to us in time for our flight. And hooray! The passports — with approved visas inside — literally arrived the day before we flew out! I snapped that photo above after we’d opened the six different packages. It was such a relief! By that time our household goods had been shipped to France, so we had moved out were staying in a hotel for a couple of days before we flew out. Fedex gave us a four hour window for the delivery that day, and Ben Blair had gone back to the house and just sat there in our car for a few hours so that he didn’t miss it. Hah!

Okay. I think that’s it for visas. I know it’s a lot of information. If I missed something, or I wasn’t clear, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

I would definitely say applying for visas is the hardest part of moving to France, but that’s largely because you can’t apply until you’ve completed several other huge tasks — like getting passports, finding a rental house or apartment, registering the kids for school, buying plane tickets, etc..

But if you really want to move abroad, and your work allows you to do so, don’t let the visa process intimidate you. All those big tasks have to get done one way or another, and the visa appointment gives you a helpful due date so that you’re basically forced to complete those tasks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever moved abroad? On your own or through a company? What was the visa process like for you? Does any of this sound familiar? Or do you read this and think: not worth it!?

P.S. — On visas, there are lots of countries where Americans need to arrange for a visa before they go, even for short visits. So if you are making travel plans, be sure to do a quick search: “do I need a visa to travel to X”.

43 thoughts on “How Do You Get a Visa to Move to Another Country?”

  1. I’m Australian and moved to the UK in my early 20s. At that time Australians could work in the UK for two years on a Visa called a ‘working holiday’ Visa. Not sure if it’s still possible to do or not now. When my original visa was almost up I applied for a new Visa called a defacto ancestral Visa which I was eligible for as my boyfriend, now husband, had a longer term visa as his grandfather is British. Like you I remember having to gather so much information about myself and having to make copies of everything. I also had to prove my relationship with my boyfriend was true by getting witness statements etc. I then had to make my way to the British Home Office which is where all the visas are processed. I stood in a huge line with people from all over the world, all of us slightly nervous that we could be denied a visa and asked to leave the UK and our lives behind. It was so nerve wracking. Anyway the women processing my visa quickly flicked through my mountain of paper work, told me to come back in an hour and when I did my passport was ready with my new Visa allowing me to keep living and working in the Uk for another 4 years. What a terrifying process it was. Like you mentioned I can’t even imagine how terrible it must be for those people who are asylum seekers. At least the worse thing that could have happened to me was that I may have had to return to safe Australia.

  2. Oh man, this gives me flashbacks to getting my Titre de Sejour when my husband went to grad school in France. As the American spouse of an non-French EU national, they did not know WHAT to do with me. If I’d been married to a Frenchie, easy-peasy. If I’d been married to a fellow American, fine. But this through them for a loop and I was sent to many different offices before someone at the original office pulled a binder off the shelf called “Les Doights” (The Laws) and looked up what to do.

    The funniest part was that I often found myself wanting to look up information on the prefecture’s website late in the evening (after classes), but their website was always offline overnight. I think they turned off their servers when their office closed for the day! So French!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this all out – I found the process very interesting, and your step-by-step explanation makes it seem both more complex and more doable than if you’d just said, “Getting visas is a complicated, time-sensitive, and expensive process.” If I was going through this with my family, I would wonder if I was doing something wrong – and it would be comforting to hear that, in fact, this was the standard experience.

    And I love your point about not feeling sorry for ourselves and instead thinking about how much more stressful and scary this would be if we were trying to flee a life-threatening situation (with, perhaps, minimal resources in terms of money to pay fees, transportation back and forth to embassies, ability to make copies and get photos, etc.)

    One thing I’m wondering about your appointments with the visa company: even though you booked two appointments instead of six, it sounds like they processed the paperwork for all six visas together. Did you go to the first appointment and say, “We’re here to get visas for six family members,” and they were able to accomplish all of that in the single appointment (or in the time that you had booked for two back-to-back appointments)? Had you anticipated that they would treat each of the six as a separate case requiring a separate appointment?

    1. Yes, I wondered that too!
      My husband’s employer is in the initial stages of preparing to send us to France for 20 months, and there are four of us. I know they’re working with a relocation company that will do a lot of this work for us, but my understanding is that they’ll assemble all the paperwork for us and we’ll have to be the ones to submit it to the embassy. We’re within driving distance of Chicago, which won’t be too terrible, but if we have to go the embassy more than once, that’ll be challenging.

  4. We moved to Thailand three years ago to teacher abroad. Thankfully, we have a person in the office to help organize all the paperwork. However, there were a lot of things we needed to gather and send to them before we could apply for a visa. They also sent us a bunch of paperwork in Thai to be turned in (a letter from our employer and letters saying that our kids would be students in the school). I didn’t want to trust the mail to arrive on time and both our families live in the Washington, D.C. area so we went directly to the embassy to send everything. A week later they were ready to pick up. Now that we are here, we have to go to an immigration office, but we go with office staff and they do all the paperwork. We just have to sign everything, give away our money, then take a few pictures.

  5. My husband invested in a restaurant in Bilbao a few years ago and now that our oldest is off to college, we’ll be moving to Spain next year. We are at the beginning stages of planning and looking into the visa process. It appears that we need to hire a lawyer to assist us with all this. It is intimidating and tedious for sure.

    It was actually reading your blog and your experience in France years ago that gave me the idea that we could move to Spain when my husband invested in the restaurant.

  6. This brings back all the feelings! We just renewed our UK visas this summer & the biometrics and paperwork submission here have also been outsourced.

    It’s interesting to me that you must do certain things in advance (getting a lease, registering kids for school) as here you must have proof of the right to be in the country to get a lease and you need the address/lease to get kids registered for school. We also must pay an NHS surcharge at the time of the visa application, it’s refunded if the visa is denied and it’s a per person/per year fee. Some visas here can be expedited, but others don’t have that option. In general they try to do them within 2 months, but things are backed up and our form said it can take up to six months now to get an answer on a renewal – and during that time you cannot leave the country. It’s a practice in patience, and it gives you such perspective thinking of people trying to immigrate under much different circumstances.

    1. “…and it gives you such perspective thinking of people trying to immigrate under much different circumstances.” That is very true, Heidi, very true!

  7. I’ve never lived abroad, but have dreams of retiring to France and I love reading your posts about the process! It does sound like a huge ordeal, but I’m still hoping we can make it a reality some day!

  8. I will never complain about a cross country move again! I practically broke out in a cold sweat reading this. Clearly, I am not meant to do anything so challenging! ;).

  9. I’m American and due to work have moved to Brazil, Switzerland and Australia, and have had longer-term assignments in Turkey and Hungary. Even though my moves are work related, I’ve had to do the paperwork on my own and, while it is slightly different with every country, it is always complicated and more time consuming than you think. However, my colleagues from India and Brazil have it much harder than I do – they have to produce more paperwork and usually at higher expense. So as difficult as it is for Americans to go through this process, it is much worse for people from other countries.

  10. Just reading this made me feel overwhelmed. I’ve always dreamed of living in France for a time, but I’m not sure we’re cut out for the suspense, stress, or potential lost money. I’m impressed with the required tenacity and bravery a move like this entails!

  11. My husband and I moved to the US from Australia seven years ago. Initially we did so by starting our own company. The visa application and documentation was over 1000 pages long, and it took over a year to get everything organized. And that was with a lawyer. I wouldn’t even attempt it without one. After that we switched visas, as my husband is now employed by an American company in SF. After seven years here, we’re still considered ‘non-immigrants’. We’ve entered the green card lottery every year. A few years ago we ‘won’, but the current administration decided to drastically reduce the allotted diversity visas for Oceania and our number wasn’t called for an interview. We missed out by 15 places. I still consider the US home but I have to remind myself occasionally that it’s technically not. After six years of living abroad, we’re also not considered Australian residents anymore. It’s weird living in limbo like that.

    I really appreciated you mentioning the difficulty of gaining a US visa. Since we moved to Texas from the Bay area, a lot of people have assumed that our US-born child will somehow gain us citizenship. As you probably know, he can’t petition residency for us until he turns 18, and can show that he will be financially responsible for us.

    Although this process has been hard, I never ever take for granted at how ‘easy’ it actually is for us . We are very lucky to be able to live here, and have the choice to go home if we like. Some other migrants don’t have that choice.

  12. When we moved to the US I was on a NAFTA visa, which as a Canadian you apply for at the border with a letter from your employer. My letter was not detailed enough the first time, which lead to a frantic few hours and getting a new one faxed to my husbands grandmothers church.
    We concurrently applied for a spousal permanent resident visa, which took 18 months and several rounds of more documents and more fees, and we managed to have a baby just before, which really proved the whole its a real marriage thing.

  13. I’ve arranged visas to study abroad, move to (and work in) Spain and Madagascar, and gone through a 6+ year process of getting an Italian passport. The more you do it, the less overwhelming it feels but it never actually gets easier! There’s always points of unclarity – a few weeks ago when I could finally apply for the Italian passport, I went to the embassy and they insisted the fees had changed (though it wasn’t listed on the website). I ran around like mad trying to find an ATM, and then they needed exact change down to the penny. And when my passport arrived, all the extra money was mailed back with it, because the fee change hadn’t been official! When I sent in my application for my citizenship to be recognised, it was approved originally and then two years later the requirements changed and I was retroactively rejected. It is just such a rollercoaster that takes so much patience!

    I’m really curious about enrolling your kids in school from America – I guess it’s easier because you knew the exact school, but how did you decide originally?

  14. Wow. That’s super complicated. When I got to Cambodia, I entered on 30 day visa, went to a private visa agent and two weeks later had a one year retirement visa. Little harder in Bali. Extended visas almost impossible so you have to leave the country every 60-90 days and come back. That gets very expensive. But nothing as complicated as western countries.

    Congrats! Love reading these posts.

  15. Oh my gosh, I had a stomach ache reading this. No way could my nerves handle this. When I moved to Germany from the US in the ’90s, visas and work permits weren’t even on my radar, that’s how naive I was. And it didn’t seem that difficult to get permission to stay, even having no skills (!!) or language ability. It probably would be totally different now. I think I may have obtained a student visa after the original tourist visa ran out… I remember there was a catch-22 situation, like to become a student I needed to show I had health insurance, yet I couldn’t get health insurance unless I could prove I was a registered student. Yes, I was also wandering the world with no health insurance, either!

  16. Oof. We had a similar experience this summer applying for residency in Austria—except the birth certificates and marriage certificate all had to have an apostille. Two of the four documents had to be sent to other states, where they were given the apostille and mailed back to us. But the last two of those documents were from NY state, which additionally requires the signature of the county clerk BEFORE it can receive an apostille. We didn’t find this out until two business days before our appointment at the consulate, which meant 18 hours in the car driving from NH to Troy, NY for a clerk signature on our marriage certificate, then to Oswego, NY for a signature on a birth certificate, then a mad dash to Manhattan which contains the only walk-in office for apostilles in NY. We had the weekend to recover/worry before our appointment in Boston at the consulate. That was in July, and we still haven’t received our residency permits. We were told it could take up to 6 months, but the tourist visa is only 3 months. This seriously requires nerves of steel.

  17. Thanks for sharing this. Quite similar to applying for a visa to enter/visit the US. I’m in the Caribbean and have to travel to a completely different island to get ‘interviewed” for a US visa and pay the US$175 non-refundable fee in addition to DHL courier charges… But I’ve been doing it every 10 years since I first got it.

  18. We’re currently doing some extended travel, mostly just in the States, but the people who are renting our house came out on sabbatical from Germany. We took a leap of faith with them, promising to rent them the house before they had their visas! They’ve turned out to be great tenants (according to our neighbor/property manager), but I really empathized with their stress in trying to find housing for a family of five without being able to commit!

    We’re currently in Montréal, and we were examined carefully crossing the border: We were driving our minivan, with its Oregon license plate, from Vermont into Québec. The van was packed to the gills — we’ve been on the road for two months, with five more to go. Our kids are with us, which was suspicious in October (when most kids are in school). We are planning to stay the month. We definitely didn’t get the same level of inquiry we might have gotten if we were brown-skinned or more raggedly dressed or less obviously privileged, but they did run our background checks and question us about health insurance. It was intimidating! And it was a definite reminder to plan ahead better for future international travel — my American assumptions and white privilege got me really far.

  19. Thank you so much for sharing this – this is fascinating! My husband and I would love to expatriate even just for a few years, but we’re both so intimidated by the process that we haven’t even really done any research. I’m going to share this with him and see if we can start to do some real planning.

  20. Having lived in France and Belgium and gone through their visa processes, this seems emblematic of how the French just love bureaucracy and all its trappings (forms in triplicate, “official” stamps, fingerprints, etc.) I used to work for the State Department (I did more than 800 visas interviews a week in Mexico City, which is a story in and of itself), but I wanted to note that there is a concept of visa reciprocity–i.e., when a foreign government imposes fees on U.S. citizens for certain types of visas, the United States will impose the same fee on citizens of that country. The same often goes for length of stay–for example, if U.S. citizens can only get a 30 day tourist/visitor visa to country X, then citizens of country X can usually only get a 30 day tourist visa to the U.S. Sometimes they’ll also impose the same arcane requirements (health forms, forms from the local police department saying you’re a citizen in good standing, etc.) Not surprisingly, these requirements are often related to international politics. Just something to note when you’re wondering why the costs & requirements can vary so much.

  21. Hi, I moved to the US 20 years ago and had to get a visa. Lots of paperwork, some docs had to be re-issued etc. We even had to dig up high school transcripts. The company we were moving to work for provided a lot of help so we didn’t feel quite so frantic. However, we then were transferred to Europe…the assistance we got was for Americans to move to Europe, not us. What a hassle it is to be living in a country on one visa while attempting to apply for one for another country. Didn’t fit anywhere!

  22. My family are expats and while my husband’s company processes The visa applications, we have to compile everything (paperwork, background checks, etc) and give it to them. My biggest panic was during a move from London to Muscat, when the visa company wanted my husband’s diplomas (bachelors and masters) and I thought they were in storage in the US! Now all the diplomas are in a firesafe box with all the other paperwork we need so often.

  23. ” instead, take the opportunity to feel compassion for immigrants all over the world — especially those being forced out of their country or origin, and who still have to deal with all the paperwork and red-tape, even in extreme, life-threatening situations.”

    Thank you for that. Leaving your country is fun only when you’re rich and priviledged enough to know the concept of holiday…

  24. Great post! Thank you for writing about this.

    It’s worth noting that the process is different for every place and for all the many ways you could stay beyond a tourist visa.

    My husband and I are American and have been living in Australia for the past five years. We certainly have some war stories (as many other readers have shared!). We accidentally overstayed once and had to go to New Zealand for a time while we got it sorted. 🤦

    It’s a difficult system to navigate in any country. One thing I wish I’d realised before our move was that you really are at the mercy of lawmakers. Immigration can fall in to the quick win category for a lot of politicians since most of their voter base is really out of touch with the process of becoming a permanent resident (or just living on a temporary visa regardless of your long term plans). They can make decisions that may not seem like much to the citizens of the country but for you, it could be the difference between meeting all the requirements to qualify for your next visa or not. You’re always on a clock with a temporary visa and the path to staying permanently isn’t easy.
    I find living in another country similar to being self employed. Lots of regulations, lots of fees and you don’t know what you don’t know.
    For us, it’s been important for our kids to grow up in Australia, so it’s worth it in the end. I will say though that nothing will stress test a marriage like moving to another country!

  25. My sister has lived abroad in many countries (and plans to live in several others). She is quite the researcher in finding out how to get visas. So many Americans think it’s so easy to come to America or to move to another country, especially if the person is educated, but that’s not true at all. My sister’s boyfriend is from South Africa (but has an EU passport) and it has been quite the challenge to find countries they can both get visas for in order to live in the same country (for the last year, he has been living and working in England while my sister was living in Dublin- she could get a visa to work there, but not in England). It’s so much more complicated than many people think it is, especially if you’re trying to be in the same country as someone with a different passport (her boyfriend can’t get a visa to live in the United States, my sister can’t get a visa to live in South Africa, etc.).

  26. I cried when I got birth certificates instead of ”copie d’acte de naissance” by mistake at l’etat civil and had to miss work again to apply for my girls at the consulate – I can’t imagine more paperwork!

  27. Hoo boy, just reading this was stressful! Good on your family for getting it all taken care of! I recently got passports for my two young children in order to travel to Mexico (so, as you said, no visa needed). But, due to one thing and another, we ended up receiving my older daughter’s passport only a few days before our trip… eek!

    Ordering extra birth certificates, getting passport application appointments, having to recopy the forms at the appointment because I filled them in in blue ink (has to be black!) which led to my daughter’s ssn being wrong… it was a process. We had to pay to expedite hers which I was so happy to have initially avoided by having all the papers and forms prepared. We have the privilege of being able to throw money at the problem!

  28. This kind of post fascinates me. And thank you for all the comments! I guess I should be a bit more realistic about a potential move abroad. But you also make it sound doable. Bravo on conquering!

  29. I’ve always wondered, while watching House hunters International, how people do all the paperwork to move to another country and what happens when they don’t have health insurance or have no income because they are retired. I also wondered what is involved with purchasing a home in different countries. It all seems so overwhelming, so thanks for sharing!

  30. Thanks for writing all this down! I know it took awhile, but you are helping us inch closer and closer! I’ve spent the last few months, tag teaming with my husband, to get my son three short term visas (India, Ghana, and China) for a study abroad program. At the moment he is studying in Spain, so we had to start with a duplicate passport because he couldn’t give his up to send off for the visas. He had to do it himself at the consulate in Madrid and I will say that they were absolutely fabulous to work with, but it wasn’t without hiccups! (For instance, we had to prove that he was the same child that got the initial passport at age 16 as he is a ‘man’ now at 21 and looks different…we had to provide a yearly progression of pictures of him maturing!!!!) We also learned that tourist visas vary wildly, and one type of visa might leave you standing in lines at customs for literally days, while another will whisk you right through! Hello India! And they cost the same…it’s just a designation! As a gap year consultant, it’s all fodder for my business! Anyway, I’m oddly fascinated with the whole process now and see it as an intricate puzzle to be put together! Thank you for all your fun details!

  31. My husband and I are Americans who moved from the U.S. to Italy twelve years ago, and we have spent countless hours and days and weeks throughout those twelve years (plus the year preceding our move) taking care of the ever-changing bureaucracy required to live here as foreigners. The process is certainly not for the faint of heart. One particular visa appointment stands out… We had returned to the States to switch our visas from employee visas to self-employed, and one of the application requirements was proof that we had already earned a certain amount of money that year from self-employment. Basically, we had to be self-employed without permission long enough to make enough money to be given permission to be self-employed. It made our heads spin. As in the case of your French visa, we also had to show proof of housing, although we had to already have a valid visa and proof of income to sign a rental contract. It’s absolutely insane. We relied a lot on the kindness of friends to help us clear some of the impossible hurdles. I cannot imagine going through the visa process without having help or at least knowing the language!

  32. Such great info. Our family of 6 is planning a move to France next year so this is perfect. Last time we moved to Europe we did so without visas and moved in and out of the schengen to avoid needing one. But this time my kids are older and need to be in school. The part I am stressing about is choosing a school. Are your kids in a private or public school? Is it possible to attend a public school on a 1 year visa? And if so what do the schools require to register? Do they have an issue if you don’t have a visa already? Thanks for all your helpful advice. You’ve been an inspiration to us since your last move to France!

  33. Our process was much the same…Including that dingy office in SanFran. But we had to fly in from Seattle early in the morning, then fly back in the evening to be at work the next day. Fortunately for us, our seven kids are finally (albeit barely) adults, so we didn’t have to deal with your volume of bodies…this time. :-)

    We’re in France on autoentrepreneur visas (I’m a therapist and author, my husband is a tech writer.) Worth every nail-biting moment of waiting for those visas to come back. France is amazing.

  34. VFS Global, the 3rd party handling all France visas, seems to be specifically designed to thwart (larger) families from applying. They only allow 2 children per account, and no more than 5 applicants per appointment (we have 4 kids and 6 people total). So we need 2 accounts, 2 appointments, and there are ZERO appointments available at ANY of their 10 offices around the US within whatever undefined timeframe they allot for scheduling. Whoever designed this asinine system was a cruel functionary indeed. Reminds me of the classic movie “Brazil” about bureaucracy run utterly amok in the dystopian future.

  35. We literally did our visit to the San Francisco vsf office today. Luckily, some friends went through the process a month ago so they were able to check and recheck our applications before we flew to CA. The office is tiny, packed with people and understaffed, so the atmosphere is quite stressful, but if you have all of your stuff, you should be fine. It’s a little random when they release appointments so if you’re having trouble, just check back every day and something will pop up.

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