Getting started with your application for a French visa is fairly straightforward. With a little time and patience and providing you follow the correct procedure you should be able to obtain a French visa without difficulty. This guide on French visas provides information on all the main visas in France and how to apply for them.
French Tourist Visa
U.S. and Canadian citizens are automatically granted a 90-day tourist visa when entering the country for business or personal travel. In English this is referred to as a “short-stay” visa (type C), but is officially called a Visa de court séjour Schengen, a short-stay Schengen visa, as it allows you 90 days within the Schengen Zone at large, not just France.
Read more details about the allowances and limitations of this visa on France’s official government administration site.
It is nearly impossible to obtain or change visa status while in France, so if you intend to stay longer than 90 days, you’ll need to request permission to stay from the French consulate before leaving your home country.
You do not need a France visa to stay in France (only) for up to 90 days if you have a passport from the United States of America and you are a tourist, or are there for business or to visit family.
This exemption covers:
- Tourist and family travel (reunions or visiting French relatives)
- Business travel
- Business meetings and conferences
- Training courses and short internships
Schengen Zone Members
France is party to the Schengen agreement, which eliminates all internal border controls between the participating countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
To enter one Schengen country is to gain up to 90 days of continuous travel between the member states. That is, if you spend 90 days in France, you’ll need to leave the Schengen Zone entirely in order to be granted a new tourist visa to enter any other Schengen country.
Once you are in a Schengen country, you do not show your passport when you cross the borders. If you are coming for business or tourism, you don’t need to request a visa for the initial entry into the Schengen area, but you must have a passport valid for three months beyond the proposed stay (e.g., for a two-week trip, the passport must be valid for four months; for a two-month trip the passport must be valid for five months).
France does not let you change your visa status while in the country, so you must request permission to stay past the 90-day tourist visa before you leave your home country.
U.S. and certain other citizens can begin the application process online here. https://france-visas.gouv.fr/web/france-visas/ma-demande-en-ligne
Long-Stay Visas (Visas De Long Séjour)
To apply for a long-stay visa (type D), you must make an appointment at the French consulate nearest you in your home country—generally you are required to submit the application in person, but some accept applications via mail. These can be requested for stays of four months up to a year.
The approval process can take anywhere from a couple weeks to several months. You can track the visa processing progress here. https://france-visas.gouv.fr/web/france-visas/suivre-votre-demande
There are several types of long-stay visa:
- Visa De Long Séjour Temporaire: Valable 4 À 6 Mois (Temporary Long-Stay Visa: Valid For 4 To 6 Months) This visa allows for a stay of four to six months and you do not need to apply for a residency permit once in country under this visa.
- VLS-TS (Visa De Long Séjour Valant Titre De Séjour; Long-Stay Visa Valid As A Residence Permit) This visa allows you to enter and stay in the country for four months to a year, but you’ll need to register with the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) to validate it within three months of arrival. To do this you’ll have to fill out a form that was provided to you by the consulate before leaving home and mail it to the OFII office nearest you (find the office nearest you on their website. (http://www.ofii.fr/), along with copies of passport ID pages as well as any pages used to enter the country. Once received, your application will be registered and you’ll be given an appointment date to be given a medical checkup and be interviewed by OFII. At this appointment you must bring your passport, proof of domicile, a photo ID, tax stamps, and the medical certificate if done in advance. To renew the visa, you must apply for an extension with local authorities (préfecture) in the two months preceding expiry. Read more about this visa’s particulars here. https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F39
- Visa “Carte De Séjour À Solliciter Dans Les 2 Mois Suivant L’arrivée” (“Residency Permit To Be Requested Within 2 Months Of Arrival” Visa) This visa allows you to enter the country and request a residency permit at the préfecture within two months of arriving. This visa allows you to request a stay of one year, multiple years, or 10 years once you’re in country. These are typically granted to retirees, relations of French people, professionals (or independently employed), contractual workers, and artists.
- Visa “Vacances-Travail”: Valable 1 An (“Working Holiday” Visa: Valid For 1 Year) This is granted to those 18 to 30 years of age and is only available to citizens of countries who have a bilateral “working holiday” agreement with France. This visa allows you to stay in France for 12 months without seeking residency permit (unless you’re Russian or New Zealander).
Read more about the various visa options on France’s official government administration site. https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/N105
Regardless of which option you go for, when you apply at the consulate you’ll need the following documents:
- Passport valid for a minimum period of three months beyond the last day of stay intended in France, i.e., a year and three months minimum for a stay of one year. You have to make four copies of the identification page, and attach them.
- Long-stay application form clearly filled out in black and signed.
- Two photographs: They must be recent, identical, passport-size (1.4″x1.7″; 3.5cm x 4.5cm), on a white background, with the face taking up 70-80% of the photograph.
- An OFII form (only available in French) that you will have filled in all the upper part (above the middle section). If your visa is granted, the consulate will stamp this form and give it back to you. You will then fill in the last portion of it upon your arrival in France, and send it to the closest local branch of the OFII of your home in France.
- Financial guarantee such as:
- At the minimum, bank statement of all bank accounts (checking, savings, CDs, etc.) that you own or co-own, with detailed transactions for the past three months and the daily balance;
- Any relevant supplementary documentation concerning any funding or assets you have, for example justification of retirement or pensions, or a notarized declaration of your sponsor stating that you will be responsible for all your expenses, together with a proof of your complete assets.
- A written statement, dated and signed by the applicant, saying that you do not intend to have in France a paid professional activity which requires a work permit.
- Proof of medical insurance with full coverage, valid in France. The diplomatic mission only accepts letters from the insurance company; cards or full coverage contracts will be declined. The insurance should state that under your policy you are covered for medical expenses, emergencies, and hospitalization for a long stay in France, together with the limit amount of coverage, if there is one.
- Notarized deed of your house/apartment, or rent contract for the stay in France (for a whole year if a minimum stay of one year is intended), with the address of the rented place, tenant contact information, and the monthly rent amount. If the deed in France has been acquired more than a year prior to your application, you will be required to provide your local French tax return “Taxe Foncière”.
- Processing fee, paid in cash, by credit card (Visa, Mastercard), money-order, or certified checks. Personal checks are not accepted.
While these general documents will likely be required by all, it’s possible your personal situation will require additional documents. France immigration recommends always getting in touch with your consulate before applying to verify the list of documents you should provide. Find your consulate here. https://franceintheus.org/spip.php?article330
All documents must be translated by a certified translator and have to be presented in original, together with one copy.
The French Tech Visa
In January 2017, the French government announced the development of a new French Tech Visa for foreigners living outside the EU with exceptional tech expertise, entrepreneurs in the tech field and venture capitalists willing to invest in French tech firms. Technology companies are doing well in France and employers are finding it more and more difficult to hire qualified employees. The French Tech Visa is designed to foster tech growth and provide talented personnel for the French tech industry.
Permanent Residency Card (Carte De Séjour Or Carte De Résident)
After living in France for five years on a Long-Stay Residency Card, you may apply for a Permanent Residency Card; there are two types, known locally as a carte de séjour or carte de résident. Most foreigners will be given a carte de séjour. The Permanent Residency Card is valid for 10 years and is automatically renewable.
To apply you must submit your passport with your long-stay visa, plus a photocopy of the title page and the French visa page. You also need to submit three passport photos, proof of financial resources, proof of medical insurance, a medical certificate completed by a doctor approved by the French consulate, and proof of lodging in France. The medical certificate must be translated.
The Permanent Residency Card is issued only in France.
France recognizes dual citizenship.
French citizenship can be obtained after five years of permanent residency.
Naturalization will only be successful for those who are judged to have integrated into French society (i.e. by virtue of language skills and understanding of rights and responsibilities of a French citizen, to be demonstrated during an interview at the local préfecture), and who show loyalty to French institutions.
France recognizes both jus soli (with some additional requirements) and jus sanguinis.
Any child born to at least once French parent is automatically a French citizen, even if born abroad.
Children born in France to legal residents of France will be considered foreign until they reach the age of majority (18), but obtains French citizenship if the child has been resident in France for at least five years since age 11. The child can opt to take on French citizenship between 16 and 18 if they have been resident in France for at least five years since age 11—this is by request and application from the child only. A child can become a citizen between 13 and 16 if it’s requested by the parents and the child has been resident in France continuously since age 8.
How To Apply For A French Visa
To apply for a visa, use the term “Consulate General of France” to do an online search. Each Consulate manages a region, and you will need to determine which office is responsible for your state.
Applying for a visa takes two-to-four weeks. It is important to have a plan in place for your trip. Once issued, your visa cannot be modified.
French visa requirements are very specific. Here are some—not all—of them to give you an idea:
- You must travel to your Consulate General’s office to apply for your visa. For example, if you live in Denver CO, you and everyone traveling with you who needs a visa, must go to the Consulate General’s office in Los Angeles, CA to apply.
- Plan ahead! You must make an appointment on their website before visiting the Consulate office. You may arrive up to 30 days prior to your departure. The Consulate recommends giving the process at least 20 days. If there are no appointments available for the day you want to visit the office, check back frequently for cancellations. If you are unable to get an appointment in time, you will have to reschedule your trip. There are no exceptions and no way to expedite the process.
- Each person needing a French visa must make an appointment at the Consulate. In other words, if four people are traveling together, you must make four appointments.
- The Consulate General’s online appointment software does not work with Mac computers or Chrome browsers.
- To complete the process, you will need your passport. Your passport cannot be more than ten years old and must be good for at least three months after your visit.
Permanent Residency Vs Citizenship In France
It can be easier to gain permanent residency in France than you might imagine. Like many countries in Europe, France grants residency to foreigners who can prove they can take care of themselves (that is, pay their own bills and not be a burden on the state).
To be granted a permanent residency in France, you must live there for five continuous years. Certain situations, such as marriage to a French national or obtaining a degree from a French university, can shorten that time. After five years, you will be able to apply for a ten-year, renewable permanent residency.
You may also apply for citizenship in France after that five-year residency. France allows dual citizenship so you can continue to be a citizen of your current country. What are the differences between a residency in France and French citizenship?
Although both give you the right to healthcare, education, and the ability to work in France, only citizenship confers the right to vote and hold public office. In addition, French citizenship automatically includes citizenship in the European Union (EU).
What Are The Requirements?
Obtaining a citizenship in France will require you to complete the appropriate paperwork, pay the fee(s) and undergo an interview to determine:
- Proof of employment or the ability to support yourself (such as retirement income)
- Proficiency with the French language
- An understanding of French culture and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship
Spending an extended period of time in France is an incredible opportunity, but navigating French visa requirements can be a challenge. When you are ready, our best advice is to visit the Consulate General’s website for your state. That website will be able to answer your questions with the latest information and guide you through the process.
The truth is, becoming a resident of this country isn’t necessarily the challenge. The challenge is facing the tax liabilities that can ensue. However, you can plan for and mitigate your tax burden as a full-time foreign resident in France if you get the right help from the start.
Residency in France can lead to a second passport and dual citizenship in this country.