Visas for France

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France is a Schengen member-state, which means that citizens from a number of countries can enter for short stays without applying for a visa. That said, when it comes to long-term or permanent stays, securing a long-stay visa and residency permit (carte de séjour) is considerably more of an uphill battle for non-EU or non-EEA nationals.


Tourist visa (visit visa or short-stay visa) for France

Because France falls within the Schengen Area, nationals of appointed countries don't need to apply for a tourist visa or visit visa prior to arrival if they're only planning to stay for 90 days or less. This includes citizens of European Union (EU) countries, the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many others.

Nationals of countries not listed, including Indians, South Africans and nationals of most of the Middle Eastern countries, will need to apply for a Schengen Visa prior to arrival in order to be granted entry to France. 


Schengen visa for France

Schengen visas entitle their holders to 90 days of travel within a six-month period to any country within the Schengen Area. If travelling to multiple destinations, expats must be sure to submit the Schengen visa application to the consulate of the country in which they will spend the most time.

It’s necessary to apply for and secure a Schengen visa prior to arrival, a process that requires nationals to submit a completed visa application and appointed documents to the French consulate or embassy in their home country. Processing time can vary, so applications should be submitted well before the date of departure (date of submission cannot be more than three months prior to the date of departure).

Long-stay visa for France

Expats planning on living in France for more than 90 days will need to apply for a long-stay visa. This visa is primarily granted to those going to France to work, study or reunite with family. The application requires a number of supporting documents, the specifics of which vary according to the reason for moving to France.

EU citizens don't need to apply for long-stay visas to live in France for more than 90 days. 

Certain long-stay visas act as residence permits and allow expats to live in France for a 12-month period. If granted one of these visas, expats must register with the Office Français d’Immigration et d’Intégration (OFII) within the first three months of arrival.

Expats planning on living in France for more than a year must apply for a formal residence permit (carte de séjour) in addition to the long-stay visa.

Long-stay visas exempt from carte de séjour application:

  • Long-stay non-working visa (visiteur)
  • Long-stay visa to work in France (assistants, lecturers, full time and temporary workers)
  • Long-stay visa to study in France (students, au pairs, interns)
  • Long-stay visa for spouses of French nationals

Residence permit (carte de séjour) for France

The elusive and bureaucracy-enshrouded French residency permit is required of all expats, except EU citizens, who are planning to live in France for more than a year. Expats have two months to apply for this card from their initial entry into France, but it's best to start the process no later than one month into their stay.

To get a residence permit, expats must have entered France on a long-stay visa (Category D). They can apply for their residence permit at the Service des Étrangers section of their local authorities (préfecture). Foreigners have reported that the required documents for application varies depending on the préfecture, as do the appointment policies; some allow scheduling online, while others require scheduling via telephone or in person, if at all. Again, it’s best to make the appointment as early as possible to avoid complication.

Once all documents have been submitted, expats will be given a receipt (récipissé de demande) and a date for the required French medical check-up, which includes an x-ray. Applicants must take the medical confirmation certificate back to the préfecture to complete the last step in the application process.

Applicants will be notified when their residency permit is ready for collection. Some expats report receiving their permit within days, while others have had to wait a number of nail-biting months. Expats shouldn't be afraid to contact their local préfecture to check on the status of the permit application.

The carte de séjour is valid for one year and the renewal process can be started two months prior to expiration.

Dealing with this process repeatedly is an unfortunate reality for exapts living in France.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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