10 Tips for a Successful Visa Application in France


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10 Tips for a Successful Visa Application in France

Applying for a long-term visa in France can seem challenging, but we’ve helped thousands to secure the ‘holy grail’ that is the VLS-TS! Here are our (failsafe) Top Tips.

1. Prepare your passport

Be aware that the original of your passport will be retained during the application process, so make sure you keep a few copies with you in case you need to do anyadmin-typee stuff until it is returned. This is usually a couple of weeks later.

2. Plan ahead

Timing is key; you can’t apply earlier than three months ahead of the desired arrival date and no later than one month prior to entry into France. Make sure you have booked everything taking these dates/constraints into consideration, especially plane tickets or suchlike.

3. Choose the right type of visa

Do you need a visitor’s visa, a business visa or another type of visa? The ‘visitor’ and ‘business’ visas are the most popular ones. The visitor’s visa is generally aimed at people moving to France to retire or perhaps coming for a sabbatical or an extended holiday. The business visa is for those planning to start a business in France and includes those planning to run gîtes as well as businesses such as consultancies, hospitality and catering services and so on.

4. Get your paperwork prepared

Make sure you have all the proper documentation. You will need two approved format ID photos, proof of accommodation, proof of income or savings, your passport and one copy of it, the reason for your stay and, of course, proof of medical insurance.

5. Choose your travel dates carefully

Ensure that you have proof of travel documents (tickets or flight details), and make sure the dates fit nicely within the expected timeframe.

6. Organise your living arrangements

Don’t overlook the ‘proof of accommodation’ element. This could be a copy of a lease agreement or a copy of the “acte de vente”, which proves ownership of a property in France. If you are being put up by a family member or friend, you will need what is known as an “attestation d’hébergement”. This states that the person in question is letting you stay with them, and you can download a standard template easily online.

7. Make sure you have ‘sufficient funds’

You will need to provide proof of income that is equivalent to the minimum wage in France. Known as the SMIC (le salaire minimum de croissance), this is currently around 1300€ per month (in 2023). Couples are given a slight ‘reduction’, so if you are applying together, you are required to show an income of around 2000€ per month rather than 2600€. Many applicants don’t have a monthly salary as such but, instead, have various sources of revenue. All of these, whether pensions, dividends, rental income or interest from savings, for example, can be taken into consideration.

Any available ‘savings’ will also help you to qualify. However, these must be ‘available’ in terms of liquidity, and you need to be able to show savings that could allow you monthly withdrawals that are at least equivalent to the SMIC.

8. Sort out your health insurance before you apply

Proof of medical insurance is often a sticking point with visa applications, and most types of visa require a policy that provides cover equivalent to that of the French national healthcare system (la sécu). The France-visa official website clearly states this requirement, but the policy specifics aren’t clearly defined, and many applicants only discover that their policies are non-compliant during the interview process. This means that you will be required to undertake another interview, as the application will be turned down. Some policies are systematically declined, and these include travel insurance, Schengen insurance, repatriation plans, policies with any type of excess (such as deductible elements, co-pay or co-insurance) and emergency-only plans. Make sure you show up at the interview with both the certificate of insurance AND the proof of payment. You should stick with insurance companies or brokers such as Fab French Insurance that are used for French visa applications.

9. Don’t forget to activate your visa

You will need to activate your long-term visa once you are in France. This is an essential step in the process and must be done within three months of arrival in France. Failure to do so means you are no longer legally present in France and will be unable to re-enter the Schengen Area. The process is completed online on the visa & residency official website.

10. Take the next steps toward French residency

And last but not least – after three months in France, you can begin the process of making your situation a bit more permanent. There are two things here to consider, and they need to be tackled separately; unfortunately, getting one doesn’t mean that you automatically get the other. The first is applying to the CPAM (caisse primaire d’assurance maladie), which, once completed, gives you access to the French social security system. The second is a residency permit application (carte de séjour); this is basically a ten-year visa and is much easier to renew than a standard visa.

One final pro tip!

You need to obtain your insurance documents BEFORE the interview at the visa centre. They’ll expect to see both the certificate of insurance AND the proof of payment. This shows that your policy has been issued and, thus, can’t be cancelled, meaning you’ll be covered from the moment you arrive in France.

Then the only thing left to do is raise a glass to celebrate your successful visa application!

Fabien is the founder of Fab Insurance, an independent insurance broker dedicated to helping the English-speaking community in France, Spain and Portugal since 2015.
Tel: +33 (0)5 33 06 29 78

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  •  Emily Jonas
    2023-07-13 01:48:12
    Emily Jonas
    Thanks for the wonderful guide. I will surely consider these tips for applying for visa application.


  •  Hilary St John
    2023-04-14 02:03:27
    Hilary St John
    I have owned a second home in France since 2008. Please can you tell me what progress if any has been made on visas for second home owners?


    • Fabien
      2023-04-18 10:37:58
      Hi Hilary, the process is the same, if you want to stay more than 90 days every 180 days you'll need a visa but you can apply for the visitor visa either the 6 months visa (VLS-T non renewable in France) or the 1 year visa (VLS-TS - renewable).


  •  Cindie Kennedy
    2023-04-11 11:05:53
    Cindie Kennedy
    I have HealthCare International out of London . Do you know if this is acceptable for the Visa- long stay. retiring to France ? Cindie


    • Fabien
      2023-04-14 01:53:00
      GHIC is only acceptable for the "VLS-T", it's not possible with a VLS-TS (12 months visa).


  •  John Marsden
    2023-04-11 08:56:56
    John Marsden
    You don’t need insurance for a 6 month visa. The U.K. health card is sufficient.


    • Fabien
      2023-04-14 01:53:39
      Indeed, but the GHIC is only valid for the VLS-T not the VLS-TS ;-)


    • Zoë Smith
      2023-04-13 05:00:52
      Zoë Smith
      Hi John, While a GHIC may be accepted in some cases for British applicants only (all other nationalities will, of course, still need to take out the relevant insurance) for a temporary long-stay visa (6-month visa), all other long-stay visas require a full private health insurance policy as outlined above. Best regards, Zoe