U.S. citizens are entitled to a residence visa for France if they can prove their friendship with a French citizen. This article will guide you through the visa status of France, once granted. The guide will address various questions: What are the residence conditions? How long can I stay in France? What is the application procedure? Please note that this guide is not intended to explain every detail of all aspects of the visa, nor is it intended to replace professional legal advice.
The long-awaited visa known as the ‘carte de séjour’ or residence card can be obtained in France by those who have taken steps to legally reside in the country.
As of September 1st 2014, it is possible to apply for a residence permit in France. Applying for a residence permit in France has been simplified with the creation of an official online procedure that allows those eligible to file from anywhere in the world.
The French government does not allow foreign nationals to live in France without a valid residence visa. A residence visa is an authorisation that allows the holder to stay in France for a certain period of time, giving him/her the opportunity to ask for permanent residency later.
Residence Visa For France
Most foreign citizens who wish to stay in France for more than 90 days are required to have a long-stay visa, which is also called a «visa de long séjour». Foreigners can enter a French territory without being in possession of this stamp. However, if they wish to remain in France, they then must visit an Office of the Prefecture in their place of residence within 7 days after arrival and request this visa.
Find out what paperwork you need to live, work, and play the French way with our guide to visas and immigration in France.
There’s a lot to love about France. When visiting this rich, diverse country, it’s easy to see why so many from around the world decide to make the move to what the locals call l’Hexagone. But, if you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the French lifestyle, be sure to know all the immigration requirements well ahead of time.
For example, do you need a visa or permit to live or work in France? You may need to apply for a French visa even if you simply want to visit this great country. To help you understand what you need, this essential guide gives an overview of which French visa you need depending on your circumstances.
This guide to French visas and permits includes:
- Immigration in France
- Who needs a French visa?
- Types of French visa
- Short-stay French visas
- Temporary long-stay French visas
- Long-stay French visas
- Asylum-seekers and refugees in France
- Residence and citizenship in France
- Arriving in France
- Appeals and complaints
- Useful resources
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Immigration in France
France is the most visited country in the world. It is also a popular place to relocate to, with a strong economy and many popular, vibrant cities. As an EU country that is part of the Schengen Area, France has a two-tier immigration system. EU/EFTA citizens can travel passport-free with the same rights to look for work and study as French nationals. Non-EU/EFTA nationals usually need a visa.
Just over 13% of the French population is classified as immigrants, according to 2020 figures. Around one-third of these have taken French citizenship. The largest migrant communities are from North Africa, with nearly 25% from Algeria and Morocco. In 2020, the French government announced plans to introduce quotas on non-EU economic migrants.
The French Office for Immigration and Integration (L’office Francais de l’immigration et de l’intégration – OFII) is the government agency in charge of immigration in France.
Who needs a French visa?
You don’t need to apply for a French visa if you are an EU/EFTA citizen. You no longer have to apply for a residence permit (carte de séjour) or register at your local town hall (mairie) if you’re an EU/EFTA citizen. However, you can apply for a residence card if you wish.
Spouses and dependent relatives of EU/EFTA nationals have the same entry rights. However, they must apply for a residence permit within three months of arriving in France.
Some nationalities need a visa to enter France, even if just staying for a short period of time. You can check the France-Visas website for the requirements of your own country and own situation.
All non-EU/EFTA nationals must apply for a long-term French visa (visa long de séjour) and residence permit if they want to stay in France longer than 90 days.
UK nationals after Brexit
Since 1 January 2021, the UK is no longer a member of the EU and its citizens can no longer benefit from free movement to EU countries including France. As of September 2021, UK nationals can travel to France without a visa for short stay visits or if staying overnight at a French airport. However, as ever with Brexit, this is liable to change, so be sure to check travel requirements before traveling.
If you travel to France on a UK passport and plan to stay longer than three months, you’ll need one of the French long-stay visas. The correct visa for you will depend on your individual circumstances. You will also need to apply for a residence permit (carte de séjour). For more information, see our guide to moving to France after Brexit.
Types of French visa
There are essentially three types of French visa:
- Short-stay visa (uniform Schengen visa), which is for visits to France lasting three months or less.
- Temporary long-stay visa (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour – VLS-TS), which is for stays of up to a year.
- Long-stay visa (visa de long séjour), which is for stays in France of over one year.
See below for information on individual types of short-stay and long-stay visas in France.
Short-stay French visas
France uses the Uniform Schengen category C visa as its short-stay visa. This is valid for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period. It can be granted for tourism, business trips, short-term study, family visits, medical care, and short-term work-related purposes. The Schengen visa allows you to travel around the Schengen Area for its duration.
You will also need the Schengen visa if you travel outside the international zone at any French airport.
You can apply for this French visa at a French embassy or consulate in your home country. Alternatively, you can apply online. Before applying, you should check the French visa wizard to see what your individual requirements are.
You should make your application between six months and two weeks prior to your trip. Documents you will need are:
- Travel ID such as a passport which is valid for at least three months after your travel dates.
- Two recent passport photos
- Supporting documents, which will depend on the purposes of your stay. These usually include proof of reason for traveling (e.g., study invitation letter), proof of finances and health insurance. You can check your requirements on the visa wizard.
You will then need to attend an appointment at the French embassy or consulate in your home country to submit your biometric data and pay your visa fees. The fee for this visa is €80 (€40 for children aged 6–12, free for children under six). See the full list of fees here.
When you arrive in France, you will need to present your passport, visa, and supporting documents to enter the country.
Short-stay visa for non-European French territories
If you plan to travel to any of the French overseas territories and are subject to visa restrictions, you will need a separate visa as these territories are not within the Schengen Area. This means that you will need two separate visas if you plan to travel to France and the overseas territories. Application guidelines, processes, and fees for this visa are similar to the standard short-stay visa.
Airport transit visa
You will need an airport transit visa, also called a category A visa, if you are changing flights in France and staying in the international zone of a French airport. This applies if you are flying from and to countries that are outside the Schengen Area. Check requirements for your country using the visa wizard.
There are three types of airport transit visas: one-way, return, and multiple entry. Fees are the same as for the standard Schengen visa.
You cannot leave the international zone of the airport on this visa. If you need to travel beyond the zone and into the Schengen Area for any reason, you will need a short-stay Schengen visa.
Temporary long-stay French visas
Temporary long-stay French visas (VLS-TS) are valid for up to one year and are non-renewable. If you come to France on a VLS-TS and want to stay longer than a year, you will need to apply for a French residence permit and meet the criteria for extending your stay.
The VLS-TS acts as a temporary residence permit in France. You need to validate this permit within three months of arriving in France. Once you complete the validation process, you can travel freely around the Schengen Area for the duration of your permit.