There are different types of Visas to apply for to enter France for a period of longer than 3 months. As Christian Missionaries, we needed to apply for the long-stay visitor visa. The French Consulate website will guide individuals as to which type of Visa they need and what is required to apply, but we want to draw your attention to some things that may be helpful. Our experience is limited to the Atlanta Consulate location and to applying for long-stay visitor visas for missionaries whose income will come solely from the US. (The most important thing for the Consulate to be assured of is that you won't be seeking a job in France.)
1) Each French Consulate website looks a little bit different! For example, the list of requirements for the long-stay visitor visa varies depending on which consulate's site you're looking at. The Washington DC Consulate, Miami Consulate, Atlanta and San Francisco all show differences on the requirements page. Be careful to review the requirements of the consulate location that you plan to apply at.
2) While they say appointments can only be made over the phone, if you are kind and gracious, and have an emergency, they can indeed schedule you an appointment on the phone. We were granted one at the Atlanta Consulate. Some basic French will be useful if you make the call, but they should be willing to switch to English.
3) The online appointment widget on the consulate website can be difficult. Because we needed a long-stay visitor visa appointment, there were much more limited appointment options. If we had been applying for student visas, there were a lot more spaces available. If you're having trouble getting an appointment online, this may be the reason why. We'd suggest calling the consulate. If you email them, be sure to email in French and let them know you have an urgent need.
4) The proof of insurance requirement- If you have insurance that is not yet in effect but WILL BE before you leave for France, it is not enough to have a letter from your employer declaring this. YOU MUST have a letter from the actual insurance provider.
5) The photo requirement. The Washington DC Consulate lists a specific size requirement for the ID photo. For Atlanta they don't list any size requirement. We took standard US passport size photos and had no problems.
6) The fee for the application. It was different than what the website stated! Another lady who applied before us also had the wrong amount of cash. Fortunately we were prepared with multiple $1 bills so we made it work. Our advice- come with extra $1's. They don't accept any currency except USDs.
7) The letter from Employer- the main thing they are looking for is to know how much money you'll be receiving while in France. The man who conducted our interview read the letter and highlighted the line which stated, "the Pilson family will be receiving $X,XXX per month for the entire duration of their residency in France".
7) The application itself- your employer or inviting organization should guide you through the process and give you the necessary information to complete your application. If you're a missionary and your organization has limited resources for getting a visa to France, contact us. We may be able to help.
8) The residency form- the form on the Atlanta Consulate website was outdated so they gave us new residency forms to complete at the appointment. They didn't seem to think it was a big deal.
Questions or comments? Feel free to add to what we've listed or let us know if we can help answer questions.