Each month we answer one of your most frequently asked questions on buying or selling French property, moving to or living in France. This month, our French visas & residency experts at French Connections HCB address one of your most commonly asked questions regarding running a gite in France.
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Question: What Visa Do We Need to Run a French Gite?
My wife and I have bought a lovely house with a gite in the Charente region and will be signing for the keys in September. My wife, who is 57, has taken early retirement in the UK and will have a small monthly pension. I am 62, and we want to relocate to France and earn a small income from our gite once we have redecorated, etc.
I understand we need a long-stay visa, but we are not sure exactly how it works or which category of visa to apply for. We have lots of savings to fall back on, so as long as we can earn a little extra from the gite, we should be financially sound until I can claim my UK state pension in a few years.
Can you please advise which is the best way forward? Can we go to pick up the keys and sign etc., on the 90-day visa, then apply for a carte de séjour or long-stay visa once we are there? Or do we need to obtain visas before we go to France? We are confused, to say the least – help!
Wendell and Jean
Answer: There are a few important things to consider as you move forward with your project.
When you go over to sign for your house, make sure you are not in contravention of the 90/180-day rule for visa-free travel to France. (As a reminder for other readers, since Brexit, non-EU visitors are entitled to spend 90 out of every 180 days in France but must leave when 90 days is up and cannot return until another 90 days has passed. This rule is strict and non-negotiable.)
Assuming you have enough time left from your 90-day allocation to be able to go to France and sign for your property, you are correct in saying that the next step is to apply for a long-stay visa. However, you cannot do this from within France as a visitor. You will need to return home and apply from there through your nearest French Visa Centre or Consulate. At no point would you be allowed to skip the long-stay visa and apply directly for a carte de séjour (permanent residency). That step is further down the line! What you need right now is called a 12-month long stay VLS-TS visa. Remember that you will need proof of private health insurance valid in France to cover the entire duration of your visa.
Once you have the VLS-TS in hand, you can move to France and are allowed to apply for your carte de séjour (permanent residency) three months before your long-stay visa expires. The good news is that you do not need to leave France to do this.
Now let’s talk about your business. THE VLS-TS visa allows you to reside but does not allow you to work. If you want to use your first 12 months just to set everything up and get everything ready, that’s fine, but anyone who wishes to work or receive any type of income in France needs to have the right type of business visa. So if you intend to generate income from your gite right from the start, that would apply to you. To operate a gite you need an entrepreneur visa, but there are different types, and you should seek advice as it is extremely important that you select the right one. Richard, our business advisor at French Connections HCB, can help you. Simply click here for an initial consultation with him.
Before you apply to set up your gîte business, you will first need to create a viable business plan which must be approved by your local prefecture. Bear in mind that approval will be based purely on whether you will be able to support yourself financially. For example, if you live in a small village and there are already five gîtes operating in the area, the prefecture may decide that there is not enough business to support a sixth gîte, meaning you may not have enough income in their eyes (it is their job to ensure that you will not become a burden on the state). For that reason, it’s a good idea to secure the advice of a lawyer. We can recommend our trusted legal partner and visa expert, Louis Varaut at 186legal.com, who will be able to help you with both your residency and business visa.
In summary, here is a handy checklist in answer to your question:
- Check you have enough days left on your 90/180 day entitlement to visit France for the signing; otherwise, you may be denied entry.
- Once you return home, apply for a 12-month long-stay visa VLT-TS at your local French Visa Centre or Consulate.
- Take advice on which business visa is appropriate for your gite.
- Ask a lawyer to check your business plan to give it the best chance of success.
- Keep in mind that the whole process should take about three months until you get your visa.
Good luck with your project, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help along the way!
The team at French Connections HCB
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