Expat Essentials

Molli Sébrier in Paris: ​​How to get the APS (Autorisation Provisioire de Séjour) visa in France

(Editor’s note: This post explaining how to get the APS visa originally appeared on The American in Paris website. It’s reposted here with permission.)

When I first came to live in France in 2014, I originally planned on staying for one year as an au pair. One year quickly turned into 2.5 years with the same family, which turned into three more years at a French university. The first was an intensive 20-hour per week program to learn French, and the last two years were to complete my master’s degree. 

At that point, I knew that I wanted to stay in France for the long haul, but I was at a loss as to how to do so legally. I didn’t want to be a student anymore, but I also didn’t have any major job opportunities lined up yet, at least, not with a company willing to sponsor a work visa for me.

Enter: the Autorisation Provisioire de Séjour (APS) visa. This type of visa is basically an extension of a student visa after obtaining a higher education diploma. In other words, the perfect visa for someone like me! 

Requirements for the APS visa

The APS visa allows foreign students in France to stay in the country for one year after they graduate for a variety of different reasons. If you’re granted the visa, you have all of the rights that you had as a student, which means you can keep that student job of yours in the meantime as well!

Here are the requirements to obtain an APS visa:

  • Graduated with a licence professionelle (an undergraduate degree)
  • Graduated with a master’s degree, or equivalent. This can include an engineering, political science, or accounting degree
  • Graduated with an undergraduate or master’s degree with the desire to open your own company in France

How to apply for an APS visa

There are two situations in which you can apply for an APS visa:

  • You need an extension on your student visa to finish your final exams
  • You need an extension on your student visa after you have already passed your final exams

You can apply for an APS visa with your local prefecture. As usual, you’ll have to come prepared with a pile of paperwork. 

If you need an extension to finish your final exams, get in touch with the prefecture at least 15 days before your visa expires. This type of extension is free. You’ll need to physically go to the prefecture with the following documents (don’t forget to make copies, too):

  • Official letter from your university stating the date of your final exams
  • Your passport
  • Your residence permit (carte de séjour – étudiant)
  • Proof of address less than three months old

If all goes well you’ll receive a récépissé de prolongation de droit au séjour en qualité d’étudiant, which will give you the right to stay in France until you’ve finished your exams. As a note, if you want to stay even longer once you’ve obtained your degree, you’ll have to follow the procedure below.

If you need an extension to look for a job after you’ve obtained your degree OR you want to open your own company in France, you also need to physically go to the prefecture before your visa expires. This type of extension costs 75 euros in “timbres fiscaux.” You know what that is if you already have a visa to be in France. Bring the following documents (and those copies!):

  • Your passport 
  • Your residence permit (carte de séjour – étudiant)
  • Proof of address less than three months old
  • 3 photos
  • Your diploma
  • Proof of health insurance
  • If you hope to open a company in France, a business plan

If you have all of the correct documents, you’ll receive a récépissé while the prefecture goes over your application. If you’re approved, you’ll be called back to the prefecture to pick up your new APS visa!

What to do when your APS visa expires

When your APS visa expires and you’ve either obtained a job or created a French company, you’ll have to change your status and ask for a new residence permit. Here is what you’ll need to have accomplished in order to change your status and stay in France for even longer:

  • If you’ve landed a CDD (a contract for a set amount of time, for example, six months or one year) or CDI (a contract for an indefinite amount of time, also known as the Holy Grail in France), it must be validated by the DIRECCTE (Direction régionale des Entreprises, de la Concurrence, de la Consommation, du Travail et de l’Emploi – Regional Department of Competition, Consumption, Work and Employment). You also must earn 1.5 times the minimum wage per month. If you meet these requirements you can apply for a “temporary employee” resident permit.
  • If you’ve created your company and can prove its viability, you can apply for a “temporary freelance entrepreneur” residence permit or a multi-year “freelance entrepreneur – talent passport” resident permit.
  • If you are a researcher and have landed a research gig, you can apply for a multi-year “researcher – talent passport” resident permit.

It’s important to note that if you do land a job or your company takes off that you change your status as soon as possible. Don’t wait until your APS visa expires! And, of course, if you haven’t obtained a job or opened your would-be company, you must leave France. 

As for me, I was lucky in that I met my now-husband by the time my APS visa ran out and I was able to change my status thanks to my relationship with a French person. I didn’t find a job with the requirements above, but I did open my own small business in France and officially became an auto-entrepreneur.

I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t met my husband in the meantime, but believe me, I’m glad I did. The moral of the story is that if you have a desire to stay in France legally do some serious digging well before your current visa expires. There is usually a way to do so if you go through the correct processes and have a passion for paperwork.

Molli offers private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

About the author:

Molli Sébrier has lived in Paris since 2014 when she decided to leave her American life behind and pursue her dream of becoming a writer. Since living abroad, Molli has earned her master’s degree in English Studies with a concentration in literature and is now working towards making that becoming a writer thing happen.

If you’re interested in following your own dreams of moving to France, she also offers consulting. 

You can follow her journey on Instagram @mollim, and if you like to read, Molli runs a female-focused book review website called The Mistress of Books. You can also follow her website on Instagram @themistressofbooks.

See more of her work here.

See more from Dispatches’ France archive here.

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