Complete Guide to French Visas: Live, Work, & Study in France

 

Essential Reading

Complete Guide to French Visas: Live, Work, & Study in France

Whether you’re looking to move to or retire to France, apply for a student visa, or enjoy an extended visit to your second home—use this guide to find out which French visa you need.

Do You Need a French Visa?

As with entrance to all countries, whether or not you need a visa (and the kind of visa you will need) to visit France depends on three main things:

  • Your Nationality
  • The purpose of your visit
  • The length of your stay

EU Citizens

Citizens of any of the 27 countries of the European Union (EU), as well as the three European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), and Switzerland benefit from freedom of movement, meaning they have a legal right to live, work, or study in France.

If you’re lucky enough to be an EU national (or hold dual Nationality), you do not need a visa to move to France, nor are you required to register for a residency permit (as is still required in some other EU countries). However, there are still certain things you must do when moving to France.

Non-EU Citizens

Citizens of all non-EU countries, which now includes the UK after Brexit, must have a valid visa or residency permit to visit or move to France. The kind of visa you will need, and the associated requirements and fees will depend on the purpose of your visit.

French Visas vs Schengen Area Visa

France is part of the Schengen Area, the zone of 26 European countries which operate an ‘open borders’ policy. As there are no internal border controls between these countries, this means that a ‘French’ visa is essentially a ‘Schengen Visa’ granting you entrance to the whole Schengen Area. So, for example, if you have a short-stay Schengen travel visa issued in France, you can travel in all Schengen countries for the duration of the visa (typically 90 days within a 180-day period – more about how that works in a moment)

However, it is important to note that while your Schengen Visa will allow you to travel freely between Schengen countries under the conditions of the visa, it does not grant you the right to live, work, study, or seek long-term residence in any of those countries.

If you have a long-stay French visa ( visa de long séjour) that allows you to work, study, or reside for a year or more in France, or a French permanent residency card (Carte de Séjour), you would also be able to travel (without needing a visa) to any other Schengen country. However, these visits are still subject to the terms of a short-stay visa (i.e. up to 90 days in a 180-day period), meaning you would not be able to live, work, or study there without seeking the relevant long-stay visa from that country.

Will my passport be stamped if I travel from France to another Schengen Area Country?

Generally speaking, there are no border controls when travelling between Schengen Area countries (only when entering and leaving the zone). Although you will need an ID (such as a passport or national identity card) to fly, passports are not typically checked on arrival, and you shouldn’t be stamped with a 90-day visa.

All of which leaves a bit of a grey area for those travelling to another EU country on a French long-stay visa. The reality is that, due to the lack of border checks, if you have a French residency card or long-stay visa and decide to visit another EU country, say by driving over the border into Spain, there’s technically nothing stopping you from overstaying this 90-day rule.

However, it is important to note that you would be illegally residing in Spain once your 90 days is up, and you wouldn’t be able to seek healthcare, employment, or any other benefits associated with being a legal resident. This decision might also invalidate any travel or health insurance policies and prevent you from being able to renew your visa if you were found to have overstayed.

Metropolitan France and French Territories

Nationals of French overseas territories typically do not need a visa to live, work, or travel in France (although you should check the specific requirements of your home country). However, it’s important to remember that a visa or residency permit for France does not provide the same rights in any of France’s overseas territories.

For the purposes of this article, all the visas referred to apply to mainland (Metropolitan) France only.

Which French Visa Do You Need?

Now that we’ve established whether or not you need a visa, the next thing to decide is the kind of visa you need. This guide is designed to give you a comprehensive overview of the different visas available, so you can decide on the right one for you.

Before you get started, ask yourself:

  • How long do you intend to stay in France, or how many times do you wish to visit France over the period of your visa?
  • What is the purpose of your visit? Do you only intend to travel, visit family or stay at your second home, or do you want to work, study or carry out business?

There are three main types of visas available in France: short-stay visas, long-stay visas, and residency permits. Let’s take a look at each.

French Short-Stay Visas

Short-stay visas (visa de court séjour) are intended for stays of up to three months (90 days) and allow you to travel within France and the Schengen Area.

* 90-Day Visa on Arrival (Schengen Visa)

Visitors to France from the UK, United States, Canada, and New Zealand, as well as many other countries, do not need to apply for a visa. Instead, you will be issued a 90-day ‘Visa on Arrival’, which is stamped in your passport on arrival. However, visitors of certain nationalities (see the full list here) will need to apply for a Schengen Visa in advance. If this applies to you, you can find out about the application process here.

Who this visa is for:

Anyone looking to visit, travel, or vacation in France or the Schengen Area. Note that you cannot work or study with this visa unless you have the appropriate permits (see our article Your Rights to Work in France or Studying in France).

Application process:

None. Your passport will be stamped each time you enter or leave the Schengen Area.

Eligibility Requirements:

A passport with an expiration date of more than six months. You may also be asked to present your return ticket, proof of accommodation for the duration of your trip, sufficient funds, and travel health insurance. See the full list of requirements here.

Length of Visa:

Up to 90 days in any 180-day period (this isn’t calculated as you might think, so read our article here for more details). You may enter or leave the Schengen Area as often as you like with this visa as long as you don’t overstay the 90-day limit.

Cost:

None (Note that there are fees for this visa if you are required to apply in advance).

Extensions/Renewals:

It is generally not possible to extend or renew this visa (an exception might be extenuating circumstances in which you are not able to leave before the expiration date). If you want to stay longer, you must apply for a long-stay visa.

French Long-Stay Visas: Work, Study, and Second-Home Owners

Long-stay visas (visa de long séjour) are intended for stays of three months up to one year and allow you to live in France for this period. Depending on the terms of the visa issued, it may also allow you to work, study, or conduct business in France. All non-EU expats wishing to seek residency must first acquire one of these visas. Let’s take a look at the different types.

* Long-Stay Temporary Visitor Visa (Visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur) (VLS-T)

Anyone from the UK, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as many other countries, can apply for a long-stay temporary visa to visit France.

Who this visa is for:

Anyone looking to travel or stay in France for more than three months, but less than six months (i.e. a long stay without living in France or becoming resident for tax purposes in France). This is ideal for second-home owners (including British owners after Brexit) who wish to enjoy longer ‘holidays’ in France while still maintaining permanent resident in their home country.

Application process:

Applications are made online via the France Visas website and can be made between three to six months before the date of departure (depending on the country you are applying from). After submitting digital copies of the required documents, you will make an appointment at your nearest French embassy or visa centre. During this interview, you will present any additional required documents, pay your visa fees, and have your biometric data (photo and fingerprints) taken. Your passport will be retained and either sent back to you by courier with your visa inside or be available for you to collect.

Eligibility Requirements:

A passport with an expiration date of more than six months, proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your trip, proof of healthcare insurance for the duration of your trip, and proof of your accommodation in France.

See our article: France Second-Home Owners: Here’s How to Apply for a Long-Stay Visa

Length of Visa:

Between four and six months.

Cost:

A long-stay visa costs €99, which is payable at your visa appointment. You can see the full list of French visa fees here.

There is also a non-refundable visa application processing fee payable at the time of your online application. This fee varies depending on your country of application, but for example, in the UK, it is around £26 payable to TLSContact, while in the US, it’s $38.20 through VLS Global. Additional credit card transaction fees may also apply.

Additional fees apply if you opt to have your passport and visa returned to you by courier (in the UK, expect this to cost around £16).

Extensions/Renewals:

Note that this visa must be validated on arrival in France, which you can do here. It’s possible to extend or renew this visa within two months of its expiry date by applying for a carte de séjour visiteur.

* Long-Stay Visa Equivalent to a Residence Permit (Visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour) (VLS-TS)

Citizens from the UK, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as many other countries, can apply for a long-stay visa to live in France.

Who this visa is for:

Anyone looking to work, study, or live in France for more than three months will need a long-stay visa (see our article on French long-stay visas to learn about the different categories of visas available). Anyone seeking residency in France, including those looking to retire to France or join a spouse or family member must hold a long-stay visa prior to applying for a residency card (carte de séjour).

Application process:

Applications are made online via the France Visas website and can be made between three to six months before the date of departure (depending on the country you are applying from). After submitting digital copies of the required documents, you will make an appointment at your nearest French embassy or visa centre. During this interview, you will present any additional required documents, pay your visa fees, and have your biometric data (photo and fingerprints) taken. Your passport will be retained and either sent back to you with your visa inside or be available for you to collect.

See our article Applying for Your French Long-Stay Visa: Step by Step.

Eligibility Requirements:

A passport with an expiration date of more than six months, proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your trip, proof of healthcare insurance for the duration of your trip, proof of your residence or accommodation in France, proof of your job or study program if relevant, and

French Long-Stay Visas: Categories, Eligibility, & Application Process

Length of Visa:

Up to one year.

Cost:

A long-stay visa costs €99, which is payable at your visa appointment. You can see the full list of French visa fees here.

There is also a non-refundable visa application processing fee payable at the time of your online application. This fee varies depending on your country of application, but for example, in the UK, it is around £26 payable to TLSContact, while in the US, it’s $38.20 through VLS Global. Additional credit card transaction fees may also apply.

Additional fees apply if you opt to have your passport and visa returned to you by courier (in the UK, expect this to cost around £16).

Extensions/Renewals:

Note that some types of long-stay visas must be validated on arrival in France, which you can do here. It’s possible to extend or renew this visa within two months of its expiry date by applying for a carte de séjour.

French Residency Permits

Residency permits in France are known as a Carte de Séjour or Titre de Séjour, and allows you to live in France for the duration of the permit.

* Residency Card (Carte de Séjour or Titre de Séjour)

Citizens from the UK, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as many other countries, can apply for a Carte de Séjour in order to live in France. Note that anyone seeking residency in France, including those looking to retire to France or join a spouse or family member, must hold a long-stay visa prior to applying for a residency card.

Who this visa is for:

Anyone looking to work, study, live in or retire to France who has already spent up to one year in the country on a long-stay visa. The type of Carte de Séjour will determine whether or not you may work in France during your stay. A carte de séjour visiteur, for example, will only allow you to stay and travel within France.

Application process:

Applications are made online here and can be made up to two months before your long-stay visa expires. After submitting digital copies of the required documents, you will make an appointment at your nearest French consulate. During this interview, you will present any additional required documents and passport-style photographs, pay your visa fees and have your biometric data (photo and fingerprints) taken. Your Carte de Séjour will be sent out to you by signed-for delivery, typically within three weeks. You may also ask for a Récipissé de Demande de Carte de Séjour, a certificate to prove the approval of your Carte de Séjour application while you are waiting for your card.

Eligibility Requirements:

You must hold a current long-stay visa that has been validated (if necessary). Expect to be asked to provide the same evidence of sufficient funds, healthcare insurance, and your job or study program (if applicable) as for your long-stay visa. There is a simplified procedure for those applying for a residency card to join a French/EU spouse or family members.

Length of Visa:

Various types available. Many are issued for one year and must be renewed each year; a study Carte de Séjour may be issued for the duration of your study program, while 5- and 10-year Carte de Séjours are also sometimes issued to permanent residents.

Cost:

A Carte de Séjour typically costs €225, which is payable at your visa appointment.

Extensions/Renewals:

A Carte de Séjour can be renewed from two months before its expiry using the same online process. Renewals typically do not require an appointment at your consulate (except if your circumstances have changed), and the whole process can be done online. After five years of residency, you also may have the option to apply for French Nationality.

Moving to France?

From applying for your visa and opening a French bank account, to integrating in your new community – FrenchEntrée is here to help! Let our Essential Reading and Visa & Residency articles guide you through the whole process, then visit our Owning Property, French Tax, Healthcare, and Life in France zones for everything else you need to know.

Disclaimer: Our Essential Reading articles are designed to give an overview of the visa requirements and procedures for moving to France. We always check our information against the official government information made available to the public, however, please remember that all visa applications are considered on an individual basis and the exact requirements, fees, or application procedure may vary. Unless you are an EU citizen, obtaining a French visa is not a right, and we cannot guarantee that your visa will be approved.

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