If you’re a non-EU citizen and looking to live, work, study, or seek permanent residency in France – you’ll need a long-stay visa. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of visa available and the eligibility criteria.
Temporary or Residence Long-Stay Visas?
There are two principal types of long-stay visas: temporary or resident visas. If you are looking to travel to France for a period of up to six months, without becoming resident in France, you can apply for a Temporary Long-Stay Visa (visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur or VLS-T Visiteur). These visas are non-renewable and do not allow you to apply for a residency card or carte de séjour. You must leave the country when the visa expires; however, you may apply again for a temporary long-stay visa the following year making this a possible option for second-home owners.
For all other purposes, you will need to apply for a Long-Stay Visa Equivalent to a Residence Permit (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour or VLS-TS). These visas are valid for 12 months and can be renewed by applying for a residency card or carte de séjour within two months of expiry. If you hope to move to or retire to France, applying for the relevant long-stay visa will be the first step in your road to residency.
Which Long-Stay Visa Do You Need?
There are numerous different types of long-stay visa (VLS-TS) available in France, and which one you choose depends on your individual situation. Eligibility criteria vary depending on the visa and your work status in France.
Here’s a run-down of the different options available and the basic eligibility requirements.
Long-Stay Work Visas in France
There are various different long-stay visas available for those looking to work in France, the most common of which are listed below. The application process and functionality of these visas are all the same, and the only difference will be the kind of job your visa permits you to do, and the supporting documentation required.
Note that in addition to your work visa, a work permit is required in order to legally work in France – read more about this in our guide to Your Right to Work in France – Visas, Work Permits, & Brexit.
‘Employee’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS salarié)
This visa is intended for foreign workers being hired by a French company or by a foreign company to work in France. This position must be secured before coming to France, and a work contract and work permit will be required in order to submit your visa application.
In this instance, your employer will be responsible for applying for your work permit and, in order to do so, must prove that your job position meets the requirements for international recruitment. For this reason, French long-stay work visas are typically issued for highly skilled or specialist roles, job fields with known worker shortages, or positions that have failed to find suitable candidates in the French market.
This visa is dependent on your job contract and work permit – it does not give you the right to move to France and seek employment on arrival. However, if you were to stay in France and eventually seek permanent residency, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay in the same job or with the same company forever. Depending on your personal and employment circumstances, this visa may allow your spouse and family to accompany you, although they will need to apply for the relevant visas in order to do so.
‘Seasonal Worker’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS travailleur saisonnier) or ‘Temporary Worker’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS travailleur temporaire)
A seasonal or temporary worker visa is also conditional upon having a job contract and work permit in place. However, this visa is for those undertaking seasonal work in France, without moving permanently to France. The visa permits you to undertake work for more than three months and to stay in France for up to six months each year (the limit before you would become tax resident in France). This kind of visa doesn’t allow your spouse or family to accompany you.
‘Business/Liberal Profession’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS entrepreneur/profession libérale)
It’s also possible to move to France as a self-employed worker, business owner, or to set up a business by applying for a ‘business/liberal profession’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS). This option might be suitable for those who already run an international business or work remotely as a freelancer, but also for those looking to set up a business in France or run a gite or chambre d’hôte.
For this visa, you will need to apply for a work permit based on your self-employed status or business proposal (you can do that here). Expect to be asked to prove the viability of your professional activity, which might mean proving that you have the right qualifications if you work in a regulated profession, proving that you have sufficient financial resources or income, or demonstrating the ‘economic viability’ of your project.
You might also want to consider whether you are eligible for France’s talent passport (see below) before applying for this type of visa.
‘Talent Passport’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS Passeport Talent)
Those looking to move to France who don’t fit one of the above-listed long-stay visa options may find that they are eligible for a Talent Passport (passeport talent). This is a unique long-stay visa in that it grants recipients an immediate four-year visa or carte de séjour, and means you are free to live in France, seek employment, register as an auto-entrepeneur, or open a business in France. This visa also allows your spouse and family to accompany you, providing they apply for the relevant visas in order to do so.
There are various different situations that may qualify for a Talent Passport, but some include:
- Start-ups and innovative businesses
- Graduates of masters degree programmes
- Freelancers and self-employed people working in liberal professions (see the full list here)
- Those who can demonstrate a ‘provable reputation’ in their field, which includes but is not limited to creative, intellectual, scientific, or sporting endeavours.
‘Working Holiday’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS Vacances-Travail)
France’s working holiday visa scheme is open for citizens of 15 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (see the full list here). If you are between 18 and 35, and are looking to travel or take a gap year in France, this visa will allow you to work during your visit. Note, however, that these visas are valid for up to one year and are not renewable.
Study Visas in France
A ‘Student’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS étudiant) is available to students over the age of 18 who have been accepted by an approved study program, course, or training program in France. Short-stay and temporary long-stay study visas are also available for those undertaking studies or training courses up to six months long in France. Long-stay study visas sometimes allow students to seek part-term employment to supplement their studies, but you must check the terms of your visa.
Moving or Retiring to France Without Working
If you want to spend more than six months in France, or are hoping to move to France without working, you will need to apply for a ‘Visitor’ Long-Stay Visa (visa de long séjour visiteur or VLS-TS Visiteur). If you are a retired person hoping to move to France, this is also the visa you will need.
Visitor visas have strict requirements over sufficient income and healthcare – you must be able to prove that you can support yourself without any help from the French state. Expect to ask to show details of your accommodation (for example, proof of ownership of a French property), sufficient funds (more than €1,219 monthly net, or around €14,000 annually), and private health insurance for your first year in France. (See our French visas and residency FAQ for more on this).
Family Visas in France
Another category of long-stay visas applies to those joining a spouse or family member in France. There are two main possibilities:
- For a foreign national in receipt of a visa that allows for the family to join them (such as the Talent Passportintra-company transfer (ICT) residence permits), there is a simplified ‘accompanying family’ procedure which allows the spouse/civil partner and any children under 18 to also apply for a multi-year residence permit.
- The spouse/civil partner, children under 21, or dependant direct relatives of a French or EU national may apply for a ‘Private or Family’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS vie privée, vie familale). This visa has a simplified application process and allows the recipient to live, work, or undertake business within France.
How to Apply for Your Long-Stay Visa
You can apply for a French long-stay visa up to three months before your planned date of arrival in France. It’s a three-step process, which involves submitting your application and supporting documentation via the France Visas website, then attending an interview at your nearest French embassy or visa centre, during which your documentation will be approved and biometric data taken. Finally, you will arrange to collect your visa or have it sent to you by courier.
Arriving in France: Validating Your Long-Stay Visa
On arrival in France, you will need to validate your long-stay visa online. As a French resident, you will also need to undertake various legal obligations, such as registering for a social security number and filing an annual tax return.
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.