Visas & Immigration

How to apply for a spouse visa in France

Do you need a family visa to join your spouse or partner in France? Discover everything about the types of permits, application process, and costs.

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Updated 15-5-2024

Whether you are a massive francophile or you can’t get enough of pain au chocolat, moving to France may be a dream come true. Still, there are many things to consider. First, you may need to apply for a visa. Perhaps, you also need to look for a job and find a school for your children.

Of course, if you have family already living in the country, relocating may be easier. France has a family reunification visa category allowing spouses and other close relatives to join their family.

As the process can be overwhelming, this article will help you navigate the French immigration system by exploring the following topics:

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Family visas in France

France has a two-tier immigration system that allows free movement between the member states, similar to other countries in the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA). EFTA-member countries, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, are not part of the EU Customs Union but have separate trade agreements.

A little girl runs through fountain in Bordeaux, France
Photo: Ryan Ancill/Unsplash

Non-EU/EFTA nationals typically need a visa to live in France. Relatives, such as spouses or dependent (step)children and grandchildren, can apply for a French visa on the grounds of regroupement familial (family reunification).

You can apply for the family reunification visa (Demande de regroupement familial – Formulaire 11436*05) online at the French Office for Immigration and Integration (L’office Français de l’immigration et de l’intégration – OFII). This office issues all visas other than for refugees, asylum seekers, and their families.

In 2021, the OFII issued an estimated 88,225 family permits (in French), 32% of the total, making it the most popular type of long-stay French visa.

The procedure varies depending on:

  • The nature of the relationship between the applicant and the French resident
  • Nationality of the applicant
  • Resident status of the family member living in France
  • Duration of intended stay

Who needs a family visa to join their relatives in France?

If you want to join your family in France but are a non-EU and EFTA national, you’ll need to apply for a family reunification visa. You can first relocate to the country on a long-stay visa, after which you’ll have to apply for a residence permit (carte de séjour). Check the government’s visa wizard for more information.

Who can move to France without a family visa?

Because France is an EU member state, citizens of the EU and EFTA do not need a visa. You can relocate to live, work, or study in the country without immigration restrictions. Applying for a residence permit is not mandatory, but you can if you want.

Family of new immigrants taking a selfie at the Arc de Triomph
Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile in Paris (Photo: Mika Baumeister/Unsplash)

Overseas nationals that qualify for French citizenship can also move to France without a visa. For example, if you have at least one French parent, you don’t need to apply. You would, however, need to obtain a Certificate of French nationality (certificat de nationalité française – CNF).

Requirements for UK citizens after Brexit

Since 2021, UK citizens are treated as third-country nationals in EU countries, including France. This means that they are subject to the same visa and immigration restrictions as other non-EU and EFTA nationals, due to Brexit.

UK citizens already living in France can invite certain family members depending on their residence status:

  • If they applied for a withdrawal agreement residence permit before 1 January 2021, they have the same family reunion rights as EU/EFTA citizens
  • If they have not applied for a resident permit, they will be treated as non-EU and EFTA nationals. That means they must reside in France for at least 18 months before their relatives can join them.

Types of family reunification visas

The country has four different categories when it comes to family reunification visas:

  • Relatives of French nationals – spouses, (step)children under 21, dependent older children, dependent (grand)parents, parents of adopted children, and parents of minors can join relatives who are French nationals
  • Family of EU/EFTA nationals – spouses, (step)children/grandchildren under 21, and dependent (grand)parents can join family members who are EU/EFTA nationals living in France
  • Family of non-EU/EFTA nationals – spouses and dependent children under 18 can join non-EU/EFTA family members who have been living in France for at least 18 months
  • Family of refugees – spouses aged 18 or older, (step)children under 18, or a child of a married couple who was younger than 19 when they filed the asylum application

Of course, you must meet specific criteria to be eligible. You can check the French government’s visa wizard to see what requirements apply to your situation.

Visas for family members of French nationals

Anyone with French citizenship can invite their spouse or relatives to come to France on a family reunification visa. The person should be a direct family member.

Who can apply?

The following relatives can apply for this visa:

  • Spouses
  • (Step)children and grandchildren under 18
  • Dependent (step)children and grandchildren over 21
  • Dependent (grand)parents, including those of the spouse
  • Parents of a child younger than 18

Visa length

The documentation will usually be a temporary long-stay visa and residence permit (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour – VLS-TS). It is valid for up to 12 months, which you’ll need to validate within three months of arriving in France.

The visa expires after five years. You can then apply for permanent residence or French citizenship.

Visas for family relations of EU/EFTA nationals

If your relative in France is an EU/EFTA national (not French), but you are not, you might also be eligible to move to France.

Who can apply?

The following family members can apply for this visa:

  • Spouses
  • (Step)children and grandchildren younger than 18
  • Dependent (step)children and grandchildren over 21
  • Dependent (grand)parents, including those of the spouse
  • Other dependent relatives who are part of the same household (e.g., siblings, aunts, or uncles)

However, if a resident studies in France, only a spouse or a dependent child can join them.

Visa length

The length of your family visa equals the residence permit of your family member. For family members of EU/EFTA nationals, their visa is typically valid for five years.

Visas for family members of non-EU/EFTA nationals

Whether you can join your relatives depends on their situation, nationality, and your family relationship. For example, if the French resident from Algeria, their family can apply for a visa after they have lived 12 months in the country, instead of 18 months.

Man looking through airport window at planes at sunset
Photo: Alex Monaco/ Pexels

In contrast, a spouse or dependent child of a highly-skilled worker on a Talent Passport (Passeport Talent) or a long-stay visa for ICT employees can join them immediately and for the duration of their stay. ICT stands for intra-corporate transferees and refers to someone employed by a non-EU company with a branch in France.

Who can apply?

The following relatives can apply for the family visa:

  • Spouses
  • (Step)children under 18

Please note that seasonal workers (travailleur saisonnier) and retirees (retraité) cannot invite family members to join them on a family visa. Be sure to check the visa wizard for all requirements.

Visa length

If your application is successful, you will receive a temporary long-stay visa and a subsequent residence permit. Its validity period will be the same as your spouse’s or parents’ visa. You’ll need to validate your residence permit within three months of your arrival.

Short-term stays with family members in France

France also has the Schengen short-stay visa for a maximum of 90 days. Visitors from outside the EU/EFTA, including the UK, must apply for this visa.

Joining relatives who have a temporary visa

You can only join non-EU/EFTA spouses or relatives if they have been in France for 18 months (or 12 months if they are Algerian). After this period, you can join them on a short-stay visa. Of course, if they have a Talent Passport or ICT employee visa, you can join them immediately.

If your relative in France does have a temporary visa, you can only join them if you are their spouse or (dependent) child under 18. Spouses must use the Passeport Talent – Famille visa, while children need the Movement Document for Minor foreigner permit (Document de circulation pour étranger mineur – CMEC). These visas are valid for five years and are renewable.

How to apply for a spouse and relative visa in France?

You can use the same online portal via OFII to apply for any of the family reunification visas; the process is the same. Before requesting a family visa, you’ll need an entry permit and a long-stay visa. This visa needs to be marked carte de séjour à solliciter dans les trois mois suivant l’arrivée (a residence permit to be applied for within three months of arriving in France). There are some exceptions to this rule (for example, if you are an ICT worker). Be sure to check the specific requirements in your situation.

Same-sex couple applying for a visa online
Photo: Jessie Casson/Getty Images

You can apply for this visa online or at a worldwide visa application center. You will usually need to provide copies of:

Note that all documents should be in French or English. Other languages need to be translated into French with a service like lingoking.

You may need to provide additional documentation. For example, you need to prove that your home is big enough to accommodate your family members safely.

Once in France, you can apply for reunification using Formulaire 11436*05. This applies to all cases (except refugees), whether your relatives are from France or elsewhere. Refugees can only submit their request for a family visa with the French consulate in their home country.

The OFII will typically inform you of the decision within three months. Still, it does have a deadline of six months from the submission date.

What costs are involved?

If you apply for a short-term visa in France, the fee varies from €9 to 99, depending on your nationality.

The standard fee for long-stay visas is €99, but you can get a reduced rate when you are a student.

The Passeport Talent – Famille visa will cost a spouse €269 and the CMEC for children €99.

You can check the visa wizard for details.

When you apply, you should pay the fee with tax stamps. A tax stamp indicates that the tax has been paid (for example, the stamps you see on a bottle of wine).

Visas for relatives of refugees or asylum-seekers

Refugees, stateless persons, and asylum-seekers fall under the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Office Français de Protection des Réfugiés et Apatrides – OFPRA) and not the OFII.

Children in a refugee camp
Photo: Julie Ricard/Unsplash

Once the refugee has obtained this protective status, their relatives can apply for a family visa.

Who can apply?

The following relatives can apply for the family reunification visa:

  • Spouses and civil partners 18 and over – The marriage or civil union must have taken place before the partner submits their refugee application. If not, the applicant can only join their partner after they have lived in France for 18 months.
  • Unmarried partners 18 and over – They must be able to prove a prior, stable, and sufficiently long cohabiting life
  • Dependent children younger than 19 – It covers all children except those conceived after the parents submitted the visa application. Parents must apply for a family reunification visa via the OFII for these children.
  • Parents and unmarried minor siblings – You can only request a family visa for your siblings, if they are minors or unmarried. However, if both parents already live in France, you cannot apply for this visa.

Spouses and relatives of asylum-seekers need to make their own visa asylum applications if they want to join their families in France. However, if they travel and seek asylum together, they can make a joint application as a family.

Visa length

In most cases, when you have refugee status, your family is entitled to a 10-year residence permit. After that, they can apply for renewal or French citizenship.

How to apply

Only the French consulate in the country where the family has submitted their visa application can issue a family visa. Therefore, as the relative or spouse, you also need to apply in the same country for a family visa.

When family members arrive in France

If all has gone well (i.e., a visa obtained, flights booked, no delays), you can join your spouse or relative in France. Once here, if you are a non-EU/EFTA national, you will need to either validate your visa or apply for a resident permit (see above). The OFII may also contact you to sign the Republican Integration Contract (contrat d’intégration républicaine). This involves attending an interview and taking a French language test. Depending on your nationality, you may need to undergo a health examination.

Other things that will help you settle, when arriving in France are to:

In the event of divorce or death

Your family’s right to residence depends on your visa or permit. However, sometimes your family can continue living in France without you. For example, if the relationship status changes due to a divorce or death, your family may be allowed to stay in France. It all depends on the conditions of your permit.

Family visa complaints and appeals in France

You can appeal if the immigration authority declines your French visa application. First, you can approach the French embassy or consulate or the Visa Appeals Commission (Commission de recours contre les décisions de refus de visa d’entrée en France – CRRV). You need to file your claim within two months of the decision. The appeal must be written in French when sent to the CRRV. When you have been refused a French residence permit, you can file an appeal with your local préfecture.

If you are unhappy with the outcome, the next step is to contact the Interior Ministry (Ministère de l’Intérieur).

The final option to challenge the immigration decision is by taking it to an administrative court (Conseil d’Etat). This involves getting specialist legal help and can be costly. Therefore, be sure you have a strong case before taking this action.

Useful resources

  • Service-Public – Government public services portal with information on family visa and residence permit requirements
  • France-Visas – French government visas website
  • OFII – French government department in charge of migration
  • OFPRA – French government department supporting refugees and stateless persons
  • lingoking – Translation agency for private customers