Whether you’re thinking about moving to France or you already live here but your visa is about to expire (or perhaps you’d just like to explore your options), this article will attempt to cover as many scenarios for your visas as possible.
Do you need a Visa to enter Mainland France?
Where are you coming from?
How long do you want to stay?
Will you be working?
We can organise visas into 2 broad categories:
For stays equal to, or shorter than, 90 days (le visa de court séjour). Do note that with this visa, you will not be allowed to work during your stay in France or bring family with you.
For stays longer than 90 days. (le visa de long séjour)
To check your own specific requirements, we recommend that you do so through the official government website. They have a ‘visa wizard’ feature to input all details of your situation. This is the place to find accurate, up-to-date information.
The short stay visa (le visa de court séjour) allows foreign nationals to enter French territory and stay there for up to 90 days out of every 180 days. It can also be referred to as the “visa uniforme pour le séjour” or “visa Schengen type C”.
Foreign nationals are all people outside the EU/EFTA area (EFTA = European Free Trade Area and includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
France is in the Schengen zone, and this visa will allow you to travel freely within the Schengen zone (through all 27 members of the Schengen agreement).
This type of visa will not allow you to:
settle long-term in the French territory
bring your family with you
exercise a professional activity (but you can come for a business trip, conference etc).
A short-stay visa can consist of a single entry visa, or you can enter multiple times for several successive short stays. When this happens, it is called a “visa de circulation”.
To apply for this type of visa, you must apply in advance of your trip (between 6 months & 2 weeks before).
Long stay Visas
The long stay visa (le visa de long séjour) allows foreign nationals to stay in France for more than 3 months, up to 1 year.
This type of visa can be for private/family or for professional reasons, and will allow you to:
Obtain a residence permit, allowing you to reside on French territory for a certain time
Exercise a professional activity (create a company, work for a salary etc).
Long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (VLS-TS)
The long stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (le visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour or VLS-TS) authorises your entry into France AND authorises your residence.
This means that you can stay and work in France without applying for a residence permit.
At the end of the first year, you have to apply for a residence permit depending on your situation.
All non-EU nationals will need to apply for a long-stay visa if they want to stay in France for more than 90 days, including British nationals.
If you’re planning to live in France for more than 3 months and you’re planning to find work while living in France, you’ll need a visa that permits you to earn a living so let’s start with the most straightforward scenario - if you already have a job offer in France. Here are the different types of work visas that are available for you to apply for.
If you want to work in France, there are a number of options available to you. However, in most situations, you should:
already have an offer of employment
your future employer will make the request for a work permit from DREETS.
Then you will need to apply for your working visa.
Some of the more common working visas include the following:
Working holiday visa for young people (Programme Vacances-Travail PVT)
If you are between 18 - 30, you can apply for a one year visa to work in France. You don’t need an offer of work to apply for this. There are a few conditions, notably:
This can only be applied for one time
You shouldn’t have any dependent children with you
You need to have enough money to support yourself for the start of your year
You need a return ticket
Temporary working visa (travailleur temporaire)
You must have an offer of temporary work (Contrat à Durée Déterminée CDD) and your future employer will need to obtain a work permit for you. This kind of visa is valid for up to a year & includes a temporary residence permit (VLS-TS).
Employee visa (visa salarié)
You must have an offer of permanent work (Contrat à Durée Indéterminée CDI) and your future employer will need to obtain a work permit for you. This kind of visa includes a 4 year residence permit after the initial year.
Seasonal Worker (Travailleur Saisonnier)
If you want to come to France for seasonal work, for example agriculture or tourism, then you can be hired as a seasonal worker for 3 to 6 months every year. This is specially for people who want to keep their main residence outside of France, and only come for short periods.
The talent passport (passeport talent)
This is suitable for you if you are a highly skilled worker, and you will help to enrich the economy of France. You can bring your family with you, and this kind of visa is valid for 4 years.
There are several different types of talent passports: you can be an employee, self-employed, have an international reputation or be a performer or artist. Full details are available on France Visas.
Working in a French subsidiary of your company (Salarié en Mission)
If you want to be posted to France, you can apply for this visa which allows you to stay for up to 4 years.
If you haven’t been lucky enough to secure a job already but would still like to make it in France on your own, you may want to either start a business or move your existing business over. Here are the visas that will allow you to do that.
The Entrepreneur Visa (visa entrepreneur profession libérale)
If you want to start a business in France, then this visa will allow you to. You will need to:
register your company in France
prove that it is economically viable (i.e. you need to take home a wage of at least the minimum wage).
This kind of visa includes a 4 year residence permit after the initial year.
If you’re not looking to start a business and you’re planning to look for work in France (as is the case with many spouses whose partners are French or have a job offer), there are a couple of ways you can come into the country as a family member (if you are married or in a civil union). Check out your visa options below.
Family Visa (Vie Privée et Familiale)
You can apply for this visa for the following scenarios with your family:
Married or in a civil union (PACS) to a French citizen or to someone residing in France who has a valid visa
Parent of a French child
A family member of a foreigner living in France
Young adults returning to France to be reunited with family
A minor who entered France who is turning into an adult
A foreigner who is usually residing in France but is unable to receive medical aid from your country of origin, without which, would send you to a critical state. You must not be deemed as a threat to public order.
A victim of a crime (marital violence, human trafficking, prostitution)
Performing Community-based solidarity activities in a hosting organization
Humanity and Exceptional cases
Don’t fit any of the above family situations and you’re not ready to lock it down with your partner yet? You could apply for a visitor visa if you have income from another country but this will not permit you to work in France.
Visitor Visa (VLS-TS mention “visiteur”)
If you want to come to France for tourism or other personal reasons for longer than 90 days. This type of visa does not allow you to work & you will need to prove you have certain resources to support yourself. In 2023 the minimum amount you need is €1353.07 per month.
A common entry point is to enter as a student as the criteria is not difficult (you could get a visa if you are enrolled with a university to study French for example). Here are the student visas you could apply for.
Student Visas (VLS-TS mention “étudiant”)
If you want to come and study in France, you’ll need to apply for a student visa. This type of visa allows you to stay in France from four months to one year to study at a university or in higher education. You can also work part-time during your stay.
After the first year you can ask for “une carte de séjour temporaire étudiant” which is a student residency valid for 1 year, or “une carte de séjour pluriannuelle étudiant” which is valid for 2 to 4 years.
Student in competition (étudiant concours):
This is a special kind of visa if you want to come to France to sit an exam or take an admission interview, with the plan to become a student afterwards.
You can stay up to 3 months (until the results are known) and you can request student residency from the prefecture without having to return to your country of origin.
Job seeker/new business creator (recherche d'emploi/création d'entreprise)
Once you have finished your studies, if you want to stay in France you can apply to stay for another 12 months. During this time, you can look for work or set up a company related to your studies.
Steps to apply for a visa
Step 1: Gather information on your situation.
We recommend that you use the official French visa application website which will allow you to test your situation. Here you will be able to find out:
what the visa requirement are
what documents you need
how much it will cost
Step 2: Apply online
You will need a travel document (passport). It must be:
less than 10 years old
have at least 2 blank pages
be valid for at least 3 months after you plan to leave the Schengen zone (or for a long-stay visa it must be valid for at least 3 months after the requested visa expires)
You will also require 2 recent passport pictures and the supporting documents (they vary depending on your situation. Expect to pay the visa fee at this stage too.
Step 3: Book an appointment with the nearest visa application centre
You will find all details to make an appointment on your country of application page. Make sure you are well organised (check the average waiting time for an appointment). Be prepared to make this appointment up to 6 months in advance of your travel dates.
Step 4: Go to your appointment & submit your application
All French visas are biometric visas. This means you should expect to have your fingerprints taken & your face/photo scanned.
Step 5: Track your application & collect your passport
You will be able to follow the progress of your application online & receive notification when your passport is ready to collect. Normally this is within 15 days.
British nationals living in France before 1st January 2021
You retained your rights as a European citizen & these rights also applied to your family members. You should have applied for a specific residence permit before October 4, 2021 (accord de retrait du Royaume-Uni de l'UE). If you did not do this, at this stage you will need a very good reason to apply late (i.e. you were in a coma for the last 2 years…)
If you arrived before this date & are a minor, you must apply for a residence permit within the year following your 18th birthday.
It is local prefectures that will process your claim.
British nationals who arrived in France after 1st January 2021
In this case, you will not have an automatic right to reside in France, and you will need to apply for a visa as a 3rd country foreign national.
If you want to stay for up to 90 days you will be able to enter France without a visa. You must not stay in the Schengen zone for more than 90 days out of every 180.
If you want to stay longer than 90 days out of 180, you will need to apply for one of the long-stay visas (same as non-EU nationals).
Some useful links:
France-visas: the official government website will allow you to test your situation, see what kind of visa you need & what documents you need
Service Public: the official government website for the French administration, this section gives information about foreigners entering France
Campus France: gives information for people wanting to study in higher education in France
Big thank you to Kay Donaghy who did the research and translations of this article! If you need a copywriter, reach out to Kay at email@example.com