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Guide to visas and immigration in France

Updated: Sep 9, 2022


Using our guide to visas and immigration in France, you can determine what kind of documentation you need to live, work, and enjoy the French way.


France is a wonderful country in many respects. It is simple to see why people from all over the globe want to relocate to what the natives refer to as l'Hexagone after spending time in this nation, which is filled with so many wonderful opportunities and experiences. If, on the other hand, you are considering immersing yourself in the French way of life, you should familiarise yourself with all of the immigration criteria well in advance of making the move.


For instance, if you want to live and work in France, do you need a visa or a permit? Even if your only intention is to travel to France for vacation, you may be required to apply for a visa. This crucial reference provides an overview of the many visas for France that you may need, based on your circumstances, to assist you to understand what you require.


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Immigration in France


France is the nation that receives the most tourists each year. Because of its robust economy and numerous flourishing, well-known cities, it is also a popular location for people to move to. France, being a member state of the European Union and the Schengen Area, operates under a two-tiered immigration system. EU and EFTA citizens do not need a passport to enter France, and they have the same rights to work and study there as French nationals have. Those who are not EU or EFTA citizens often need a visa.


According to the numbers from 2020, little over one-third of the people living in France are considered to be immigrants. About one-third of these individuals have applied for and been granted citizenship in France. The North African countries of Algeria and Morocco account for almost 25 percent of the total migrant population in the United States. The French government has stated its intention to begin imposing quotas on economic migrants from outside of the EU beginning in the year 2020.


The government agency in charge of immigration in France is known as the French Office for Immigration and Integration (L'office Francais de l'immigration et de l'intégration - OFII).


Who is required to have a visa for France?


EU/EFTA nationals


If you are a citizen of the European Union or the European Free Trade Association, you do not need a visa to enter France. If you are a citizen of the EU or EFTA, you are exempt from the need that you apply for a residence permit (carte de séjour) or register at the town hall (mairie) in your neighborhood. Nevertheless, if you so want, you are free to apply for a residency card.


The immigration rights of spouses and dependant relatives of EU/EFTA citizens are the same as those of the nationals themselves. However, they have just three months from the time they arrive in France to apply for a residence visa.


Non-EU/EFTA nationals


Even if they only intend to remain in the country for a short while, citizens of certain nations are required to get a visa before entering France. You can examine the website France-Visas for the criteria that are specific to your nation and circumstances.


If you intend to remain in France for more than ninety days, you need to apply for a long-term visa (visa long de séjour) and a residence permit. This applies to anybody whose country of origin is not in the EU or EFTA.


UK nationals after Brexit


Because the United Kingdom ceased to be a member of the European Union on January 1, 2021, its inhabitants are no longer eligible for the privilege of free movement within the EU, which includes travel to France. When traveling to France for a short trip or staying overnight at a French airport, citizens of the United Kingdom will no longer need a visa beginning in September 2021. Be cautious to verify the criteria for travel before going on your trip, though, since this is subject to change due to the ongoing effects of Brexit.


If you have a passport from the United Kingdom and want to remain in France for more than three months, you are required to get a long-stay visa from the French government. The visa that is suitable for you will be determined by the specifics of your situation. You will also be required to submit an application for a residency permit, often known as a carte de séjour. See our guide for migrating to France after Brexit for more details on the process.


Types of French visa


The following are the three main categories of French visas:


● A short-stay visa, often known as a uniform Schengen visa, is required for trips to France that are less than three months long.

● This kind of visa is known as a temporary long-stay visa (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour – VLS-TS), and it is valid for stays of up to one year.

● Long-stay visa, also known as a visa de long séjour, is required for stays in France that are longer than 365 days.

● Please see the following for information on the many kinds of visas available in France for stays of both short and long durations.


Short-stay French visas


As a short-stay visa option, France offers the Schengen category C visa that is uniform across the Schengen area. This is good for a maximum of ninety days out of every one hundred and eighty days. It is possible to get one for tourism, business travel, short-term studies, family visits, medical treatment, and work-related travel of a shorter duration. During the time that your Schengen visa is valid, you are permitted to move freely throughout the Schengen Area.


If you want to go beyond the international zone from any airport in France, you will also be required to have a Schengen visa.


You may submit your application for this French visa at an embassy or consulate of France in the country in which you now reside. You also have the option of submitting your application online. Before submitting your application, you should examine the criteria that are specific to your situation using the French visa wizard.


You should submit your application anywhere from two months up to six months before your departure date. The following documents will be required of you:


Identifying documentation for travel, such as a passport that is still valid for at least three months after your departure date.


Two recent passport photos


papers in support of your application, the kind of which will be determined by the reason(s) for your stay. These often contain evidence of the cause for travel (such as a letter inviting someone to study), proof of financial capability, and proof of medical insurance. The visa wizard allows you to confirm that you meet all of the criteria.


After that, you will be required to make an appointment at the French embassy or consulate located in your home country to hand over your biometric information and pay the associated expenses for your visa. The cost of obtaining this visa is €80 (€40 for children between the ages of 6 and 12, and €0 for youngsters less than 6). You may see the whole list of fees here.


To enter France, you will be required to submit your passport, visa, and any other papers that support your application at the time of your arrival.


Short-stay visa for non-European French territories


You will need to get a separate visa to go to any of the French overseas territories if you choose to do so and are subject to visa limitations. This is because the French overseas territories are not part of the Schengen Area. If you want to go to France as well as any of its overseas territories, then you will be required to get not one but two different visas. The requirements, procedures, and costs associated with applying for this visa are very comparable to those associated with the ordinary short-stay visa.


Airport transit visa


If you are changing planes in France and remaining in the international zone of a French airport during the transfer, you are required to have an airport transit visa, which is also referred to as a category A visa. This rule applies if you are departing from or arriving in a country that is not part of the Schengen Area during your flight. Use the visa wizard to find out what the criteria are for your country.


There are three distinct varieties of airport transit visas: single entrance, double entry, and multiple entries. The fees are the same as those required for a basic Schengen visa.


Under the terms of this visa, you are not permitted to exit the airport's international terminal. If for whatever reason you need to go outside of the zone and into the Schengen Area, you will be required to get a Schengen visa valid for short stays.


Temporary long-stay French visas


Temporary long-stay Visas for France (VLS-TS) are good for a maximum of one year but are not renewed beyond that time. If you come to France on a VLS-TS and wish to remain for more than a year, you will need to apply for a French residence visa and satisfy the conditions for extending your stay. If you arrive in France on a VLS-TS, you may stay for up to a year.


The VLS-TS may be used in France in place of a temporary residency permit. You have three months from the time you first enter France to validate this permission when you get here. After you have finished the validation procedure, you will be able to move throughout the Schengen Area without any restrictions for the period of your permission.


The application procedure for this visa is very similar to the one for the short-stay visa. You may submit your application by going in person to a French embassy or consulate in the country where you currently reside, or you can do it online. Standard documentation requirements are:


Identifying documentation for travel, such as a passport that is still valid for at least three months after your departure date.


Two recent passport photos


Papers in support of your application, the kind of which will be determined by the reason(s) for your stay. These often contain evidence of the cause for travel (such as a letter inviting someone to study), proof of financial capability, and proof of medical insurance. The visa wizard allows you to confirm that you meet all of the criteria.


After that, you will be required to make an appointment at the French embassy or consulate located in your home country to hand over your biometric information and pay the associated expenses for your visa. The standard cost of obtaining this visa is €99. When you enter France, you will be required to provide not only your passport but also your French visa, in addition to any other papers that justify your entry.


The following are the three main classifications that may be applied to VLS-TS visas.


Temporary worker visas


Anyone planning to work in France for a length of time that is less than one year is eligible to apply for a VLS-TS visa. The visa will be labeled "travailleur temporaire," which translates to "temporary worker," and it will be valid for several different reasons, including the following:


● Transfers to an international corporation's operations in France

● Temporary seasonal work

● Foreign language teaching jobs

● Employment in the medical field is for less than a year

● After receiving a certificate equivalent to a master's degree in France, to look for a job that requires a high level of ability.

● Young professionals aged 18 to 30 are eligible to participate in this work exchange program.


To apply for the majority of these different types of French visas, you will first need a work offer or contract. Additionally, your company could be required to get authorization from the French authorities, in addition to a possible work permit.


Study and training visas


For educational or training programs that span between three and six months, you may apply for a VLS-TS visa. If your studies are going to run longer than this, you will likely be required to get a normal long-stay visa. To qualify for this visa, you will first need to have been accepted into a higher education program in a French educational establishment that has been given official recognition.


If you are between the ages of 18 and 30, you may be eligible for a temporary training visa, which would allow you to enter France and serve as an au pair. To guarantee that you will be able to learn the language, you will need to have a placement agreement for an au pair position as well as lodging with a French family. There is a possibility that the au pair visa might be extended for a total of two years.


Special purpose visas


Other temporary French visas fall under the category of "special purpose visas," often known as visas that are tailored to a particular set of conditions. These are the following:

● Performing community service via short-term volunteer assignments, such as those offered by the European Voluntary Service (EVS).

● The Work Holiday Program is available to young people from 15 different nations between the ages of 18 and 30. (extended to the age of 35 in Argentina, Australia, and Canada)

● Extended private visits range between three and six months, during which the guest agrees not to engage in any kind of professional or work-related activities and can demonstrate their capacity to support themselves financially.


Long-term French visas


General long-stay Visas are required for any stays in France that are going to be longer than a year. In most cases, the first visa is issued for one year. Following this, you will be required to visit the préfecture in your area to get a residence permit valid for a longer time. If there is a possibility that your stay may be less than a year, you can initially be given the temporary VLS-TS. If you end up remaining longer than a year, you may then apply for a residence visa, provided that you satisfy all of the relevant requirements.


The application procedure for long-stay visas in France is, for the most part, the same as that for other types of French visas. This covers both the choice to submit your application online and the need that you physically appear at the French embassy or consulate in your home country to make the required payments and provide your biometric information. The standard charge for obtaining a visa for an extended stay is €99. In addition to this, you will be required to supply the requisite supporting paperwork, which should include anything pertinent to the reasons for your stay.


Because you have a long-stay visa, you will be able to travel across the Schengen Area for up to 90 days in any period of 180 days thanks to this visa. To stay in France legally, you will need to apply for a residence visa within the first two months after your arrival.


The French government offers a wide range of long-stay visas, which may be broken down into four primary types.


Work visas

To work legally in France or engage in commercial operations on your own, you will need to get a work visa valid for an extended time. You will often need to have a job offer to find employment. If you plan on going into a company for yourself or working as a freelancer, you will need to demonstrate that the idea is economically viable and that you have adequate cash to get it going.


The majority of work visas for France are reserved for professionals with advanced degrees. Current visa categories include:


● The multi-year talent passport, also known as the passport talent, is designed for highly talented professionals and business owners. It is valid for up to four years and enables the applicant's spouse and dependent children to travel with them.

● Internal relocation of top management and staff members with highly specialized skills to a French division of a multinational information and communications technology corporation. The visa is stamped “salarié détaché ICT” (ICT posted employee) (ICT posted employee).

● Long-term labor that is repeated throughout the year (travailleur saisonnier).

● Internships and/or training programs that last for a significant amount of time. Your visa has the title "stagiaire" (trainee).


Study visas

Students from other countries who have received an offer of enrollment in a higher education program from a French university or educational institution are eligible to apply for study visas. Your visa will be valid for the duration of your current educational program. On this French visa, you are allowed to work for up to 964 hours a year, which is roughly equivalent to sixty percent of a typical workweek.


You are eligible to apply for a visa designated for school-going minors (mineur scolarisé) if you have a kid who is under the age of 18 and who wishes to attend a primary or secondary school in France. You will be required to supply information on the enrollment of your kid.


Family visas

To spend extended time with particular family members in France, you may apply for a family visa. The terms and conditions are determined by the location of the family member you are joining. If the following apply to your family member who lives in France:


If you are a citizen of an EU/EFTA country (other than France), you are eligible to join if you are a spouse, a child less than 21 years old, or a direct relative who is dependent on you. Within the first three months of your arrival, you will need to apply for a residence permit. To enter the nation, you may be required to have a visa good for a short stay.


You are eligible to join if you are a spouse of a French citizen, a kid or adopted child who has reached the age of 21, or an elder dependent relative. To enter France, you will often need to have a visa that is good for a lengthy stay. Check this page for the necessary criteria.


You are eligible to join if you are a non-EU or EFTA national and either your spouse or a kid under the age of 18 as long as the relative you are joining has been a resident of France for at least 18 months.


When applying for one of these French visas, you will often be required to provide evidence of your familial ties to France. If you are seeking to join a family member who is not a member of the EU or EFTA, you will need to provide proof that they have enough money to support you.


In addition, parents already residing in France who desire to adopt a child from a country that is not a member of the EU or EFTA may apply for an adoption visa.


Extended private stay visas

If you want to retire in France and wish to move there permanently, you may apply for this visa. You will need to provide evidence that you can sustain yourself in France without relying on public funding, such as enough coverage from a pension plan, to be granted residency there. If you do not have a hotel reservation, the minimum required daily income is now 120 Euros.


You will be required to provide proof that you have enough health insurance coverage if you want to travel to France for medical treatment that would require a lengthy stay.


Asylum seekers and refugees in France


Countries like Germany and the United Kingdom have asylum procedures that are quite comparable to France's. In France, asylum may be requested by anybody. In the year 2020, there were 81,800 asylum requests submitted in the nation, making it the third-highest amount in the EU after Germany and Spain.


The procedure for requesting asylum in France might be somewhat different from one location to the next, depending on where the request is submitted. If you want to apply for a visa at one of France's borders, you must do it via the border police. If you are applying from inside France, you need to go to the prefecture that is closest to you. After that, you will be required to attend a reception facility where your fingerprints will be taken, and the OFII will begin processing your application within three business days, on average.


After this, you should be given a certificate stating that you are eligible for asylum, and your case file will be filed with the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Office Francais de Protection des Réfugiés et Apatrides - OFPRA). You have until this date (which is in 21 days) to submit your complete asylum application.


The processing of applications usually takes a few weeks, but it might take as long as six months on rare occasions. They typically consist of an interview with a member of the OFPRA staff. You will be permitted to remain in an asylum receiving center or any other appropriate lodging throughout the process of submitting your claim for asylum. A monthly stipend will also be made available to you, the amount of which is contingent on the number of persons applying jointly with you. At this time, the daily rate for a lone applicant is €6.80 (or €14.80 if lodging is not supplied).


Asylum seekers in France also have the right to obtain emergency medical treatment, legal counsel, and educational opportunities for their children between the ages of 3 and 16. Six months after they submitted their application, they are free to look for work.

Asylum application outcomes

The OFPRA will issue one of the following three verdicts:

● The provision of complete refugee status together with a residence permit is renewed every ten years.

● You will be granted subsidiary protection and given a residence visa that is valid for a maximum of four years. After that time, your case will be reviewed again.

● If your application is denied, you will either be required to leave France voluntarily or you will face deportation. You have the opportunity to file an appeal with the National Court of Asylum (also known as the Cour Nationale du Droit d'Asile or CNDA).

Residence and citizenship in France

You are required to get a residency permit, also known as a carte de séjour if you want to remain in France for more than three months. You need to verify your temporary VLS-TS visa with the OFII within three months of arriving in the country so that it may function as a residence permit for the subsequent year.


If you hold a regular long-stay visa, you have two months from the time you arrive in the country to apply for a residence permit. You may do this via your local prefecture, or you can do it online (in Paris, you need to do it through the police station).


The majority of basic residence permits in France have a validity period of one year and may be renewed for up to five additional years. You are eligible to apply for a 10-year renewable long-term permit after residing continuously in France for five years (carte de resident). Depending on the specifics of your situation, there are several criteria that you must complete. Documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and French language proficiency tests could fall within this category.


You also have the option of applying for French citizenship once you have been a resident of France for five years. A citizen of France has extra privileges, including the ability to vote and the right to a French passport; nevertheless, becoming a citizen comes with stricter qualifications as well as higher expenses.

UK citizens right to live in France before Brexit


If they apply for a Withdrawal Agreement Residence Permit (WARP) before October 1, 2021, people of the United Kingdom who were already residing in France before January 1, 2021, would be able to continue living there under conditions that are comparable to those of EU and EFTA citizens. Those who have lived in France for less than five years will be eligible for a temporary visa valid for five years that may be renewed. Those who have been living in France for more than five years will be eligible for either a permit valid for 10 years that is renewable or the opportunity to apply for French citizenship.


Members of the family of British nationals currently residing in France are entitled to some residence privileges as well. For more information, please refer to our relocating to France after Brexit page.

Arriving in France


After you have settled in France and submitted your request for a residence permit or had it verified, the OFII will get in touch with you to schedule an interview about how to integrate into French society. You will also be required to take an exam in the French language and complete a civics training course that will last for two days. You should also think about the following things to help you adjust to your new surroundings:

● Getting registered for healthcare in France

● Establishing a financial presence in France

● Organizing France's public services and telecommunications networks

Check out our article on what to do during your first week in France for a more comprehensive rundown of the things that you should think about.


Appeals and complaints


If your request for a visa to enter France was denied and you want to challenge the decision, you must file an appeal with either the French embassy or consulate in the country where you currently reside or with the Visa Appeals Board in France (also known as the Commission de Recours contre les Décisions de Refus de Visa). You have until the end of the second month from the date of the choice to do this. When submitted to the Visa Appeals Board, the appeal must be written in French.

If you have had your request for a residence permit in France turned down, you have the right to file an appeal with the prefecture that oversees your region (recours gracieux). If you are dissatisfied with the decision, the next step is to file a formal appeal with the Ministry of the Interior (recours hierarchique).

In France, appealing a judgment on immigration to an administrative court is the very last resort for those who disagree with the outcome (recours contentieux). However, this requires obtaining the assistance of a specialized attorney, which may be expensive. Because of this, before you forward with this plan of action, you need to ensure that you have a compelling argument on your side.


Useful resources


● France-Visas – the webpage that is officially associated with French visas.

● French Office for Immigration and Integration (L’office Francais de l’immigration et de l’intégration - OFII) – The French government agency in charge of immigration matters.

● Ministry of the Interior (Le ministère de l’Intérieur) – The French ministry in charge of immigration, integration, and the rights of citizens (website in French).

● Service-Public – This website is for the public services provided by the French government (in French).


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