Hi there my girlfriend is from France and I'm an Australian guy and was wondering if anybody had applied for a spouse visa to live in France or something similar and what the process is?
First, in France, you have to be married to ask for a spouse visa (or about to get married).
Then, the process could be long and painful. My first advice would be to ask/print for all official papers (in Australia, like birth certificate, etc.). Then contact an attorney in France which will handle the paperwork for you if you are already in France.
The legal documents from Australia have to be translated and certified, before you can apply for anything.
If you are still in Australia, you can apply to the French Consulate. The website for the Consulate-General in Sydney says this about the long stay visa:
This visa is convenient for the spouse of a French citizen who wishes to settle in France for more than 90 days. Evidence regarding the wedding (a French marriage certificate "Copie Intégrale de l’Acte de Mariage") and information about the French citizen (identity, French nationality, residence) will be required.
- This visa is not open to people who are in a french Civil Partnership (PACS) or any other civil union partnership as de facto. In this case, a long stay visa (visitor) should be applied for.
Been there, done that.
Short anwser: First get married, in France. Then apply. Relative inexpensive, no lawyer needed, but you will be doing paperwork.
After some years married you can apply for nationality. You'll have to get lots of papers together, and all at the same time. Things like....
- Birth certificates (yours, hers, both your parents'. If she was not born in France then they want all her grandparents' birth certifictes too)
- Rap sheet from your home country
- Marriage documents (good thing you got married in France, nudge nudge)
- Your bride's previous marriage(s) details. (ah, she's not used goods? Lucky you :-)
- Proof you've been living together since getting married. This means a telephone or electrical bills covering your entire marriage period and the bills have to have your name and her name on them. If you don't have something with both your names on it you can have it switched as long as you do it soon after getting married. Ask the phone company or EDF for details. If you don't do it right away they get really stuck up and you might have to cancel your contract and re-install the same contract with both your names, ($$$ plus lack of telephone/electricity for a while).
See? you don't need a lawyer for any of that. But... whatever of those documents is not in French has to be translated into French by a "traducteur assermenté" (i.e. an officially recognized translator). These guys are scum, they charge ~fifty euros per translated page. Someday the French government will just google-translate the documents but that day has not yet come. Still, in the big scheme of things that's still pretty cheap to get citizenship.
The fun part is that all these documents have to be dated no more than three months apart from each other. So you'll have to do a time-on-target strategy like they do for nuclear annhiliation and time your requests so that all these documents arrive in your mailbox at about the same time.
After that there are some character interviews: One by a government agent and one by a gendarme. Dress nice, smile, use complete sentences, bring some pics of you and the missus on vacation somewhere in France, and you'll be fine.
Do not go to the French Consulate/Embassy in your home country. Chances are they won't know sh1t, especially since there are slight variations on the procedure depending on where you live in France. That is not their field of expertise. Start with the website of whatever préfecture you will apply to (in Paris it's the police that handle these types of requests but that's the only exception). These web sites are 90% correct. For the other ten percent you'll have to show up in person.