French citizens, EU citizens, and permanent residents all have the right to bring their spouses and dependant family members with them to France, but it’s important to have the correct legal documentation. Here’s what you need to know about moving to France with your spouse or family member, and how to apply for a Carte de Séjour “vie privée et familiale”.
Can I Bring My Spouse or Family Member to France?
If you are an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen, you benefit from freedom of movement, allowing you to live and work in France without the need to apply for a visa or residency card (carte de séjour/titre de séjour). These rights also extend to your dependent family members, including:
- Your spouse or civil partner
- Children under 21 (of either partner)
- Children over 21 who are dependents of either partner
- Direct relatives in the ascending line who are dependants (of either partner)
(Note that in the case of family members or children over 21, proof of dependency is likely to be required.)
Your spouse and/or family members are permitted to join you in France, but they must apply for the relevant visa and/or residency card as outlined below.
Joining a French resident in France
If you are a non-EU citizen, but a permanent resident of France (i.e. in possession of a carte de résident), then your rights to residence also extend to your spouse and/or dependant family members (assuming that they apply for the appropriate visa and/or residency permit).
If you hold a French Carte de Séjour and have been legally resident in France for more than 18 months, you may also apply for your spouse or dependant family members to join you in France. Certain French long-stay visas also allow for accompanying spouses and family members. In all of these cases, the right to bring your spouse or family with you to France will depend upon the terms of your visa/carte de séjour. Depending on the terms of their visa/residency permit, your spouse or accompanying family members may or may not be permitted to work during their stay in France. Read more about family reunification in France here.
Joining a French/EU Spouse: Do I need a visa?
If you are not an EU citizen (which includes British citizens after Brexit) and you plan to move to France to join your French or EU spouse, you must apply for the relevant visa and/or carte de séjour. There are two different methods, depending on whether your spouse or family member is a French citizen or an EU citizen resident in France.
Joining Your French Spouse in France
If your spouse or family member is a French citizen, you must follow national immigration procedure. This dictates that you must apply for a long-stay visa in your country of residence prior to arrival in France.
The type of visa that you will need is a Visa de Long Séjour Valant Titre de Séjour (VLS-TS) « vie privée, vie familiale » (a long-stay family visa), and you can apply online here. You will need your ID, marriage certificate, your spouse’s ID and his/her proof of French nationality, and proof of living together for more than six months (such as a utility bill in both of your names, a rental contract, or a joint bank account). You will also need to sign an attestation of non-polygamy.
A spouse visa is free of charge and will automatically be issued with no further need to prove your income, work situation, or other requirements. However, a spouse visa can be declined if the marriage is suspected to be fraudulent.
Note that your marriage must be entered into the French civil registry if it did not take place in France.
The path to permanent residency with your French spouse
Your long-stay visa (VLS-TS) must be validated within two months of arrival in France. You may also be required to carry out a medical exam with the OFII. See our guide to applying for a French long-stay visa for the step-by-step process.
Your visa allows you to stay in France for up to one year, after which you will be entitled to apply for a Carte de séjour “vie privée et familiale” (a temporary residency card). Typically, you will be issued a 2-year card. See our guide to applying for a Carte de Séjour in France for the step-by-step process.
When it comes time to renew your Carte de séjour, you will have been resident in France for three years. At this point, you have the right to request a permanent residency card or Carte de Resident, which is valid for 10 years and renewable. You also have the right to seek French nationality if you wish to do so, but this is not a legal requirement.
Joining Your EU Spouse in France
If your spouse is an EU citizen but not a French national, the application process is slightly different. As the spouse of an EU citizen, you can enter France without a visa (or with the relevant short-stay visa if required – see our guide to French visas if you are unsure whether or not you need a visa).
However, you must apply for a Carte de Séjour “membre de la famille d’un citoyen de l’Union/EEE/Suisse” (a residency card marked “family member of a Union citizen”) within three months of arrival – find out more about that here then start the application process here.
You will need your ID, marriage certificate, your spouse’s ID and proof of French residency, and proof of living together for more than six months (such as a utility bill in both of your names, a rental contract, or a joint bank account). You will also need to sign an attestation of non-polygamy.
You will typically be issued with a 5-year residency card (this may be reduced in the instance of a temporary stay – for example, if your spouse has a 2-year work contract in France), but it is renewable. The Carte de Séjour is free of charge and will be issued with no further need to prove your income, work situation, or other requirements. Spouse residency cards may be declined if the marriage is suspected to be fraudulent.
Once you have been resident in France for five years, you have the right to request a permanent residency card or Carte de Resident, which is valid for 10 years and renewable. You also have the right to seek French nationality if you wish to do so, but this is not a legal requirement.
Joining an EU Spouse in France: FAQ
Some of the most commonly asked questions regarding joining your EU spouse in France.
Can I work in France with my spouse/family visa or Carte de Séjour?
Yes. A family visa grants you the same rights to live, work, or start a business as your spouse.
How Much Does a Spouse/Family visa or Carte de Séjour cost?
Family visas are free of charge, providing that you meet the application deadline. Renewals are also free of charge, providing that you apply within the required timeframe. If you allow your Carte de Séjour to expire, you may still apply for a renewal, but it will be subject to the full application fee of €200.
What happens if you don’t apply for a Carte de Sejour within three months?
As the spouse of an EU citizen, you must apply for a Carte de Séjour residency card marked “membre de la famille d’un citoyen de l’Union/EEE/Suisse” within three months of arrival. This application is free of charge. If you fail to apply within three months, you may still apply for a Carte de Séjour; however, it will be subject to the full application fee of €200.
Can I join a British spouse/family member resident in France under the Withdrawal Agreement?
British citizens who were resident in France prior to January 1st, 2021, have their residency status in France protected by the Withdrawal Agreement. As a permanent French resident, this includes the right to have their spouse and dependent family join them in France.
Is my non-EU spouse subject to the 90/180 day rule?
As an EU citizen you have the right to have your non-EU spouse travel with you, so in theory the 90/180 days does not apply. However, national immigration laws may require your non-EU spouse to have a visa if he/she is accompanying you for more than 90/180 days and your purpose is not to seek residency, and this is the case with France.
You can run a visa simulation of your situation here, which states that a non-EU spouse does need a visa for a stay of over 90 days for tourism purposes even if visiting with their EU spouse. It’s important to note that as this is a spouse visa, it is free of charge, fast-tracked and not subject to the many other requirements of other long-stay visas (such as minimum income, etc). It is also very unlikely that this visa would be refused except in the rare circumstances that the marriage was suspected to be fraudulent.
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.