If you’re applying for a long-stay visa in France, you’ll need to provide proof of health insurance, and it’s essential that your private health insurance (PHI) or travel insurance policy meets official requirements in order for your visa to be approved. We break down exactly what the rules say regarding health insurance requirements for French visas.
What kind of health insurance do you need for your French visa application?
The kind of health insurance that you will need depends on the kind of visa you are applying for:
- If you are applying for a Temporary Long-Stay Visa (visa de long séjour temporaire visiteuror VLS-T Visiteur), which allows you to stay in France for between four to six months, a travel insurance policy will suffice as long as it meets the requirements (see below). For UK travellers, a GHIC/EHIC card will also be accepted.
- If you are applying for a Long-Stay Visa Equivalent to a Residence Permit (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour or VLS-TS), which allows you to stay in France for up to a year and is renewable, you must have a private medical insurance policy that covers the one-year duration of your visa and meets the requirements laid out by the French authorities (we’ll go over that in a moment). A standard travel insurance policy, Schengen travel insurance policy, or GHIC/EHIC will not be sufficient and will likely lead to your visa application being rejected.
Accepted Travel Insurance Policies for a Temporary Long-Stay Visa
For a Temporary Long-Stay Visa (visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur or VLS-T Visiteur) application, the rules state that you must have:
“travel medical insurance covering emergency medical, hospitalisation and repatriation (including in case of death). The minimum cover should be €30.000. This insurance must be valid for the entire Schengen area and throughout the duration of the stay.”
Many insurers offer a ‘Schengen Insurance’ policy which is designed for this purpose.
Will a GHIC be accepted for British citizens?
For travellers from the UK, it has been confirmed by the French Embassy in the UK that a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will be accepted for temporary long-stay visas, despite the fact that it does not cover repatriation. If you don’t already have a card, you can apply here.
However, it remains the recommendation of the UK government that you take out separate travel insurance to cover these costs, and the NHS website states:
“Your EHIC or GHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. It may not cover all health costs and never covers repatriation costs. Make sure you have travel insurance as well as your card.”
While we recommend following the government advice and official guidelines and taking out a travel insurance policy, we have received positive reports of British applicants having their temporary long-stay visas approved with a GHIC only.
Accepted Travel Insurance Policies for a Long-Stay Visa/VLS-TS
For a Long-Stay Visa Equivalent to a Residence Permit (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour or VLS-TS), a standard travel insurance policy will not suffice. As this visa entitles you to live in France for up to a year and serves as the first step to seeking permanent residency, you must have full private healthcare insurance that covers all medical care (including emergency and ongoing treatment) and repatriation costs.
We have heard many reports of visa applications being refused due to insufficient medical policies, so it is essential to choose the right kind of insurance policy. We’ll go into more detail about exactly what it should cover in a moment, but here are a few general points to note:
- Health insurance policies for long-stay visas must meet national requirements, not Schengen requirements – therefore, a standard Schengen travel insurance policy or Schengen private medical insurance will not suffice.
- The rules for French visas are very specific and don’t always correspond with typical private health insurance policies, even those that may be accepted by other EU countries. Therefore, we advise you to choose an insurance company that has experience providing private health insurance for French residents and discuss your needs with them prior to purchase. Some companies that FrenchEntrée recommends include Cigna, ASTTRAL, and Fab.
- You should always opt for an insurance policy that allows for complete cancellation in the event that it does not meet the requirements for your visa.
- Opting for an insurance policy that can be cancelled at any time throughout the duration of the contract may also be a good idea if it’s an option. If you are living in France, you may register for the state healthcare system after three months and may then wish to cancel your private health insurance (more on this below). However, note that your policy must cover the entire 12-month duration of the visa, and many visa centres will require proof of the full payment of the policy. If these two factors are mutually exclusive, having a policy that meets the requirements should always take precedence.
Official Guidelines for Private Health Insurance Policies
While there are clearly very specific requirements for visa-compliant private health insurance policies, part of the problem is that the French authorities have not provided definitive official guidelines that set out exactly which policies will and will not be accepted.
The following list of guidelines has been compiled through official advice from the embassies and past experience of readers who have successfully applied for long-stay visas.
Your insurance policy:
- Should be an international Private Health Insurance Policy, NOT a travel insurance policy.
- Should cover the entire validity of the visa (i.e. one year), regardless of how long you intend to stay in France and/or should clearly mention that the policy will be automatically renewed.
- Should cover both medical expenses and hospitalisation.
- Should have a minimum medical coverage of €30,000
- Should not mention any medical exclusions (pre-existing conditions must be covered by your medical policy)
- Should cover repatriation.
All of these things should be clearly visible on the private health insurance policy certificate that you send off with your visa application.
UK Pensioners: Will An S1 Form Be Accepted for a French Long-Stay Visa?
If you are a pensioner from the UK retiring to France, an alternative to taking out a private health insurance policy is to provide a valid S1 certificate along with your visa application.
As stated on France Visas:
“For stays over 6 months : Private Health insurance covering the entire validity of the visa (up to 1 year), except for retirees receiving a British retirement pension who may provide the S1 Form delivered by the NHS.”
Note that if your S1 form cannot be processed before you apply for your visa, you will still need to take out a private health insurance policy that meets all of the above requirements – this can then be cancelled once you receive your S1.
Read our guide Retiring to France After Brexit: Can I Get an S1 Form?
Can’t I Just Join the French Healthcare System?
For most expats, it will be possible to register for France’s state healthcare system, but you must have been resident in France for a minimum of three months in order to do so.
However, once you have registered for the French social security system and begin receiving state healthcare, you may wish to cancel your private insurance policy and take out a French top-up healthcare insurance or mutuelle’ instead. Be sure that your private health insurance policy allows you to do this.
Everything You Need to Know About Healthcare in France
From understanding the French state healthcare system and visiting a doctor to choosing a mutuelle insurance and dealing with your and your family’s health concerns—FrenchEntrée is here to help. Follow our Essential Reading articles for everything you need to know about healthcare in France.
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