A French long-stay visa is generally issued by the French consular authorities of the country where the foreigner who intends to go to France is located. This is always the case for a long-stay visa. The applicant must produce a valid passport or other “travel document” as well as the required supporting documents. He attaches a Cerfa form either for a short-stay Schengen visa application or for a long-stay visa request which summarizes the content of the file. The request must be made no earlier than three months before the trip.
When submitting the request, the fingerprints of the ten fingers (from the age of six) and a photograph can be taken and stored, then be processed automatically in the Visabio file.
These statements are mandatory at the latest when the visa is issued. This feeds into a European file called VIS (Visa Information System), which must centralize the biometric data of visa applicants for the purposes of control and surveillance (art. L. 611-6, L. 611-7 and R . 611-8 of Ceseda).
The investigation by the consular authority involves obviously the examination of the various conditions presented above.
In addition, consular authorities often raise doubts about the authenticity of the passport or civil status documents required to establish a marriage or the parentage of the persons concerned, which leads them to require documents that are impossible or very long to produce.
1 / The obligation to justify refusals
France-Visa must be informed of the reasons for the unfavorable administrative decisions which concern them and this motivation must be written (art. L. 211-3 and L. 211-5 of the code of relations between the public and the administration).
Since April 2011, the French code already provided for an obligation to give succinct reasons for any refusal of a short-stay “Schengen” visa by means of a standard form (annex VI to the Visa code) with a choice of reasons from nine checkboxes.
But Ceseda restricted the obligation to justify a refusal of a long-stay visa to a few situations. Since November 1, 2016, this general principle applies to all visa refusals.
2 / Deadlines and possible decisions taken
A positive decision is materialized by the affixing of a stamp on the passport.
An explicit refusal must always be written, dated, signed and reasoned.
An implicit refusal decision stems from the silence kept by the administration for two months. However, this period is increased to four months if the consular authority informs the person concerned that the examination of his request requires an additional examination of civil status. In addition, this four-month period may be further extended to eight months under the same condition.
The time taken to obtain visas is often very long – at least for foreigners coming from countries which are considered to present a “migration risk” – and their issuance is subject to rules whose transparency is not the main characteristic . Refusals, implicit or express, are frequent. This situation favors the arbitrary practices of consulates but should not dissuade them from appealing against visa refusals.
3 / Appeal against a visa refusal
3.1 A compulsory prior appeal
Foreigners who intend to contest a decision to reject a quote must obligatorily appeal to the Visa Refusal Appeal Committee (CRRV) before any contentious appeal.
- Appeals to this commission must be made within two months of notification of the refusal decision.
In the case of an implicit refusal, the period runs in principle from the expiration of these two months but on condition that the administration has given the person concerned an acknowledgment of receipt of the visa application comprising an indication of time limits and remedies. Otherwise, no time limit can be set against him and his appeal is admissible even though a period of more than two months would have elapsed since the birth of the implied decision.
In this case, it is also advisable to ask the consular authority for the reasons for the implicit refusal by letter, which must respond within one month. In this case, the time limit for entering the CRRV does not start until the response from the consulate or, if there is no response, at the end of the one month period.
Not only is referral to the commission a prerequisite for filing a contentious appeal with an administrative court, but the contentious appeal is only admissible if the commission has been seized within the time limit: consequently, the fact of not seizing the commission within the time limits deprives the possibility of contesting the visa refusal before the administrative judge.
- The commission is composed of a member of the administrative jurisdiction and representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Social Affairs, and the Interior. The appeal must be drafted in French, either by the foreigner himself or by a duly authorized person or a lawyer.
- The committee may:
– either dismiss the appeal (the dismissal may be pronounced by the president of the committee without convening the committee if he considers the appeal inadmissible or ill-founded). Rejection is implicit after two months;
– or, if it welcomes the applicant’s appeal, recommend to the competent minister (Minister of Foreign Affairs or Minister of the Interior) to grant the visa requested. It will then be up to the latter to make the decision, without being obliged to follow the opinion issued by the committee.
3.2 / Actions for annulment before the administrative court
If the appeal to the commission is rejected, or if the Minister confirms the visa refusal despite the favorable opinion of the commission, it is up to the person concerned to file a contentious appeal before the Nantes administrative court.
The judge recognizes that the administration in this area has wide discretion, considering that it can legitimately base its refusal on any consideration of general interest (including control of migratory flows), and not only on grounds relating to public order. However, it will censor a refusal based on reasons which are inaccurate or foreign to the interests which the administration is responsible for, or which unduly affect the private and family life of the person concerned.
3.3 / Referral-suspension or interim release
The above may dissuade from taking the litigation route due to the slowness of this procedure.
However, upon the refusal (most often implicit) of the CRRV, it is possible to accompany the request for cancellation by an interim relief requesting the suspension of the visa refusal. It is not uncommon for the consular authority to prefer to issue the visa rather than having to justify a possibly abusive refusal before the judge.
In the event of an emergency, the action for annulment accompanied by an interim suspension may be initiated upon receipt of an acknowledgment of receipt of the referral to the CRRV.