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Is the French visa process set up to put people off?

A French lawyer gives us his opinion on why the visa process remains frustrating unless you can pay

Expert says it has become harder to make an appointment, so there are fewer applications Pic: GagoDesign / Shutterstock

Article published 31 May, 2023

The visa process might be set up partly to put people off and reduce immigration, says a lawyer specialising in visa help.

Post-Brexit, a visa is needed for Britons to stay more than three months.

Alexandre Gil­lioen, from Gillioen Avocats in Lyon, spoke to The Connexion about difficulties that UK readers report with using the website of TLScontact, the third-party contractor used by the consulate to book visa appointments for bringing in paperwork.

Photo: Alexandre Gil­lioen is a lawyer specialising in visa help; Credit: Alexandre Gil­lioen

‘Government contractors are not good’

Appointments can only be booked following an online application. 

Readers report bugs with the site and problems ob­taining appointments, leading some to put off stays at second homes.

Mr Gillioen said there has been an increasing trend for the French government worldwide to contract out the appointments process, either to TLS or VFS.

“Neither is good, and it’s hard to reach out to them if you are unable to use their site, which usually works badly,” he said.

Read more: French visa hassles: An expert gives tips on how to get appointments

‘Officials know people give up on applications’

He believes the reason for the contracting out is “it costs less”, and perhaps because officials know the complex online process will put some people off.

“Before, consulates had to employ a lot of desk agents to take in the applications. Now they’ve just kept the ones who process applications. 

“It seems it’s now also become harder to make an appointment, so there are fewer applications.

“They know these companies don’t work well and some people will get discouraged when they see how complicated it is.

“Part of French public opinion is against immigration. For the public service in charge, the fewer the applications, the less work for them.”

‘No one planned for Britons after Brexit’

Mr Gillioen said the process is easier for the highly-qualified and well-off as they, or French employers, can use a specialist such as himself to apply.

“It’s easier when you have financial means because you don’t have to do it, but for everyone else, it’s quite complicated.”

He added: “France and the UK have many ties, with a lot of people going back and forth. 

“They should have asked themselves ‘OK, once Brexit is done, what are we doing to do with all those Brits that want to live here or stay for more than 90 days?’.  

“I don’t think they planned enough or looked into issues like hiring people at the consulate.”

Read more: Britons face long wait for French visas as appointments dry up

Easier if you can pay extra

TLScontact in the UK offers extras for those willing to pay, ranging from an affordable £15 for assistance with filling out the France-Visas application to £50 for a Saturday or early morning appointment, or an ‘apply anywhere’ service where staff come to your home for £700 – plus £150 for extra people.

The France-Visas.gouv.fr platform was due to shut from May 26-29 for maintenance. 

TLScontact offices were unable to receive people during this period, so anyone set to go for an appointment on May 30 was being advised to file and print off their application before the closure period.

Expert tips for smoother process

Mr Gillioen’s main advice to Britons is to ensure you apply for the right kind of visa as a first step –  for example, a temporary long-stay visa if you are not moving to France.

The Connexion also recently spoke to visa consultant Ilya Zlokazov, of Zlokazov & Com­pany in Valbonne, Alpes-Mari­times. He advises starting the France-Visas application six months in advance – but saving it and not filing it yet – to obtain a visa number that can be used to monitor and book appointments at TLS. 

It is always hard to get an appointment if you are trying from May to September, he said. 

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