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long stay visa France (Montpellier)

My husband and I are applying for our long stay visas so we can stay in France Protected content west of Nimes) for 12 months. We plan to extend that visa when the year is up. We are told we should apply for the extension 2 to 3 months prior to the last day of the visa. I need to understand a little more about the extension process.

We understand we must apply first for our long stay Protected content visa and then, while in France, ask to extend it each year.

We will arrive in France in February or March Protected content we will want to leave in November for Protected content , returning in March of Protected content .

My questions:
Do you know if this extension called the "carte de sejour"?
Most important:
How soon can we apply for the extension (or carte de sejour). If it must be less than 2 months prior to the end of our visa we could have a problem if our visa starts in February because we will not be in France in December. If, however, we can apply 3 months ahead, I will start our visa, say February 1 and apply for the extension the preceding November (before we leave France).
Do we need to be at the local mayor's office (I assume this is the Marie?) on the date our VISA expires?

The reason I need to know these things ahead is because I need to know the day we should start the original 12 month long stay visa.

Also.. someone told me that we need to actually be in France on the last day of the visa to get a stamp. This sounds unlikely but if it is true it adds another complication.

Any help will be appreciated! Merci!

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