The following were notes of my experiences in April 2018 of applying for the French Working Holiday Visa as an Australian citizen. Even if you are not Australia, some of the points here may be relevant for you. Enjoy!
Do I really have to go to Sydney to apply in-person?
Yes, yes you do. I’ve called and email many times and you really do need to go to Sydney. If you are actually residing in a country (as in, registered resident, not travelling) then you may be able to apply for the French Consulate in that country. But keep in mind – in Europe, WHVs for France in a European country is not really that much of a norm considering free movement for EU citizens/residents. You may also run into an issue where the Consulate may not speak your country language that well. You may also find that the paperwork being provided is provided in the recognized official languages – and by that, where English is not the official language you’ll have a hard time deciphering the paperwork yourself.
And there is also additional staff and security requirements needed to be there in-person where you speak to staff processing your visa, or where you need to provide bio-identification such as fingerprints.
Collate the official resources
Go to the official pages (ie linked to from the Consulate) and collate all the resources that you need for the application.
Look for a type of document that acts as a paperwork checklist that you need to apply. Keep in mind that these checklists are different to a requirements list. For example, a requirements list may tell you important information like “You need to be x age” but a paperwork checklist document is what you give to the Consulate when you actually apply. They will go through the checklist and tick off the paperwork that you provide.
One of the issues that I had is that I may come across official information that lists out one thing, and in another document, will list out the same information + some new detail. It’s better to be more prepared and accommodate all details.
Keep to the letter of what documents and other requirements are needed
A common question people have is if they can replace one rule with another. A common one is around the issue with return tickets, which for Australians, can be easily upward of $2000 or more. “Do I really need to buy a return ticket? Why don’t I just buy a ticket out of France, like Germany? Or can I just show the amount equivalent of a return ticket?”.
This is not acceptable and you do have to show a return ticket. Even if you tell the Consulate that you intend to apply for another visa, or intend to continue travelling, promising this is not going to work. So, if it says on the document that you need a return ticket then you need to go ahead and buy one.
The same applies for everything else. If there is a note about the type of coverage that is required for insurance, thinking “I will be covered anyway by my existing insurer” may not be accepted. It’s your responsibility to ensure that any services you have is acceptable.
What health insurance provider can I go with?
Please note, this is NOT an advertisement. If you are already happy with your insurer, skip this part. If you are open to new options, continue to read on.
For many years since 2012, I’ve gone with World Nomads as my insurer. There has only been one time where I’ve made a claim and it was given to me without any fuss. So, I was happy with the service.
When it was time to look for my health insurance, I decided to take a look around. World Nomads had increased their premium by $120 even though my length of travel, regions to cover, and age still remain the same.
I decided then to use the time to look for a new insurance provider.
The requirement was that the insurance must cover any costs of repatriation for medical reasons and any medical emergency treatment with a validity for France and for one year once you enter France.
After some research, I decided to change to another travel insurance provider (which had been accepted) and was about $170 cheaper than my World Nomads quote including their discount of 5%. When I looked at the paperwork for the repatriation and medical emergency treatments, it was actually similar wording.
How far in advance can I apply?
Once you receive your visa, you have up to 12 months to enter France. Now a lot of people see this part and think “So I’ll just get my visa first and then decide when to go between now and 12 months”.
While you do have some flexibility, this is only on the event of any unplanned events to happen. Meaning, if you have an emergency before leaving, then you may want to put off travel plans. This flexibility is not really aimed at people who want flexible travel plans because they want to leave whenever they feel like it. This is because a) you need to have an insurance start date, since you need to provide proof of insurance anyway, and b) you need to have actually bought a return ticket.
When I arranged for my appointment, it turns out that you can only apply at the maximum of three months before your departure date OR three months before your start of insurance date. The reason why I say OR is because when I applied for my visa, I only had my insurance with me and no tickets. When they looked at my insurance start date they mentioned that they will only start processing it a few days after my appointment which would have been 3 months before my proposed visa start date.
How long did it take to process the visa?
Some people have reported four weeks, other two weeks. My visa would have been processed within 4 business days (!!) including the fact that I provided a self-addressed Express Mail post to receive my passport in the mail. I was really surprised by how quickly this was processed since I also expected four weeks. It could have also been due to other factors involved, or that there were less paperwork to process on that day.
What happens if I find out that I am missing paperwork and that I have a visa appointment the following day?
This happened to me, so I decided to cancel my flights (since I had to fly to Sydney) and hotel stay. It turned out that you can still go to the appointment and that you can also have other documents mailed to the Consulate.
But keep in mind that this advice was given to me by the Consulate….one day after cancelling.
Also I was missing another piece of paperwork (a return ticket) and it also turned out that you can send it to the Consulate and they will start processing it after they receive it. But, this was after I paid for the visa fee so I don’t know if they’ll have a different response if they realized this before the application. There was another person at the appointment and it also turned out that she had missing/incorrect paperwork and they asked her to actually make another appointment and return.
This entry is not meant to provide some ‘insight’ into how Consulates work by the way. This is the reason my top advice is to look at the official requirements and to be prepared with your requirements.
Other tips for the Consulate appointment
- Arrive on time.
- This is easy to overlook but you need to also provide photocopies of all your documentation. Even all my passport pages with stamps needed to be photocopied.
- You cannot arrange your appointment more than three months before your proposed arrival date.
- A detailed itinerary of what you are doing in France is not required.
- Evidence of French languages learning courses is not required (although, you definitely would want to learn the French language to make your life better/easier…topic for another post).
- If you have no other options, you can book a hostel for the week (with free cancellation) and then add that address as the initial address of your stay.
If you are looking for advice relevant to your nationality, please consult your Consulate/Embassy pages.