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Told to overstay my visa - chance of getting caught leaving France?

Hi All,

Sorry for the short essay but I’m in a sticky situation and was hoping for any advice you might be able to offer!

I came to France in September 2013 on a Visa Concours because I had to sit an audition before starting my studies. Not sure if anyone is familiar with the Visa Concours but it's actually a 3-month Type C visa (which is usually a tourist visa), rather than the usual Type D student visa - just for those interested in the technicalities.

My problem is that, while I did pass my audition, I've been unable to get my carte de sejour and I'll be returning to Australia in March, just shy of 3 months after my visa has expired, and I'm concerned about having problems when leaving the country, e.g. getting a fine or worse. I've read on various blogs that there can be a certain grace period after a visa expiry where the immigration officers at the airport won't give you a second glance...but not sure if it would extend for 3 months...especially as, at first glance anyway, I was not on a student visa but a "tourist" visa.

The reason I couldn't get my carte sejour is crazy - the prefecture would not accept my justification domicile. They advised me to overstay my visa during all the to-and-fro that went on, and most recently said to return to them with a lease and said if I didn't secure a proper lease I would need to leave France. I haven’t been able to do this yet (although I will keep trying until March) and due to a number of related and unrelated factors, I’m happy to leave in March and not return if need be – I’m just worried about having problems leaving.

I often see advice along the lines of "go in to the prefecture and talk to someone else and you'll receive a different answer" but there is only one prefecture office I can go to due to my visa type (I have tried all the other ones) and the staff know me now since I've been in so many times - I'm even at the stage where I can walk in and get seen to immediately because they know me!

Even though I was told to overstay my visa, I can see how an immigration officer at the airport would not care about that. I just didn’t think about this at the time. I'm just wondering if anyone has any stories of being told to overstay their visa, and what ended up happening? Or anyone who overstayed their visa for another reason - any problems leaving France? The prefecture said I wouldn't have problems leaving France but I think they are just being lazy and not accepting responsibility for telling me to overstay. I would assume they could provide a letter for me or something...? But they won't do it (although I will of course ask again).

I've seen that, upon the expiration of a visa, one can leave the EU and return to activate the "visa-free period" that some people can get (and which I can get, being Australian). I wonder if that will go down as a legitimate excuse for staying so long past my visa? Could I claim that I had a visa, then used my “visa-free period”, then left the country after that? When I leave France should I hope they don’t notice me, or should I admit what happened and explain why I overstayed?

Any advice anyone has would be so greatly appreciated!

Posted by
2081 posts

al.fyffe,

If it was me, i would get a document stating what i was told by the prefecture. In know you said that they wouldnt give you one, but try. Also, i would ask them, IF you do get heldup, would they be willing to talk to the immigration officers. I would also have a list of names of office people to call if you have any issues. If you have any paperwork showing you tried, that may help too.

Also, i would take a wild guess, youre not the only one that had this issue since the
prefecture seems to know what they told to you isnt right.

when it comes to travel and telling a lie or truth, choose the truth.

i was almost deported from Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) when my work sent me there. I was using it as a airport and then proceed to the ship where i was to spend a few weeks. Everyplace ive been to before i answered the "business or pleasure" question as "business". Who would have known that the T&T immigration would actually write "business" in my passport. So once i got to the port, they wouldn't let me leave with the ship. I could board it and do my "business" but i couldnt leave with it as it was all planned. It took sometime to get myself out of that hole, but i did.

one last comment. Get ahold of you consular. Or at least their phone numbers and someone to contact 24/7.

another comment. If they do throw you in the klink, at least youre in France. I could think of worst places to be held.

happy trails.

Posted by
8289 posts

Ray, What does this phrase mean? "I was using it as a airport and then proceed to the ship.. " You lost me.

Posted by
833 posts

When I studied abroad in Italy and had a student visa for that, it covered 120 days but I still was able to use my tourist visa-free 90-day period at the beginning and end of that to travel before and after my program started. I do not know if that is the same deal, however, since you are on a tourist visa. I think the advice of getting documentation and talking to your consulate is a good idea.

Posted by
8289 posts

Since al.fyffe (hate avatars!!!!!!) can't contact their embassy until Monday, he/she is trying to get helpful advice here in the meantime.

Posted by
8401 posts

I can't give you legal advice but from my own experience I didn't have any problems. About fourteen years ago I went with my French citizen husband to France for 8 months. My visa said I had to get a Carte de Sejour before the end of three months. When I went to the Prefecture, they were so backed up with appointments that they couldn't see me for another six months, long after I'd be gone. I kept the appointment slip in my passport, but I don't remember it even being looked at when I left the country. By the way, during this time I was stopped by traffic police and others who didn't concern themselves with my legal status.

Have you tried getting a room at the Cite Universitaire so that you have a lease? At least you'd have your Carte and feel better.

Posted by
11613 posts

With a potential three-month overstay, waiting a day to go to the Australian Consulate shouldn't be an obstacle. The PP needs definitive legal advice and this is not the place to get it.

I overstayed a tourist visa in Turkey (by a few days) and was asked why, but it was not a problem. But that was 20 yesrs ago. Now that data is electronically processed, it's much easier to impose fines, put a ban on travel, etc.

The embassy or consulate is the best chance to get help.