Home Moving to France Visas & Immigration A guide to French visas and permits
Last update on October 27, 2020

Find out which French visa or permit you need to visit, live, work, or study in France.

Do you need a visa to go to France? You may need to apply for a French visa or permit if you want to visit, live, work, or study in France. This essential guide helps you find out which French visa you need depending on your circumstances.

This guide to French visas and permits includes:

Do you need a French visa?

EU/EEA/Swiss citizens

French visa requirements depend on your current citizenship. You don’t need to apply for a French visa or residence permit if you’re an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen. Although not necessary, you may apply for an EU-citizen residence card if you wish.

For more information about EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, read our guide for EU/EEA/Swiss nationals moving to France.

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens

Some nationalities need a visa just to enter France, regardless of the length of stay. Check here for French visa requirements to see if you need a visa to enter France.

French visa

All non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals must apply for a long-term French visa (visa long de séjour) and residence permit if they want to stay in France longer than 90 days.

Short-stay/entry visas

There are many types of French visas, the first being the short-term visa. France is one of 26 countries making up the Schengen Area: Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. They have one common visa and no border controls between them.

If you have a layover at a French airport, you may need a French airport visa. It only allows you into the international zone of a French airport. If you are leaving the airport, even for a day, you may need to get a short-stay – Schengen – visa.

Schengen visas allow you to enter France for up to three months within a six-month period. However, you cannot look for or start work if you come to France on a Schengen visa. You can’t renew this type of visa from within the Schengen area.

Applicants must apply for a French Schengen visa unless you are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland and some other countries, including Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, and the United States.

You don’t need a short-stay visa if you hold a French residence permit or a residence permit from another Schengen country, certain travel documents from other EU states, or are from one of countries on this list.

If you had a residence permit in the past but haven’t been in France for more than three consecutive years, your permit is expired. If you lose your visa, then you must apply at a French embassy abroad for a return visa. Because the French consulate performs background checks with prefectural authorities, keep your permit in a safe place. The replacement process can take a long time.

Relatives and partners of EU/EEA/Swiss nationals

Spouses and dependant relatives of EU/EEA/Swiss nationals have the same entry rights. However, they must apply for a residence permit (carte de sejour) within two months of arriving in France. See our guide to joining relatives or partners in France for more information.

Applying for a French short-stay visa

If you need a Schengen visa, you must apply at the French embassy or consulate in your country of residence. You need a passport or national ID issued within the last 10 years and valid for at least three months after you intend to leave France. Also, you must show you have adequate funds to support yourself during your visit, somewhere to stay, and have medical insurance with cover of at least €30,000.

You can fill out this application form for a Schengen visa. The non-refundable fee for processing a Schengen application is €60.

France visa

You may receive a Schengen visa for a single entry, double-entry, or for multiple entries. The last one is valid for up to five years.

For a list of French consulates and embassies able to issue visas, see here.

Long-term /extended stay visas (visa de long séjour)

Curious about how to live and work in France? If you want to stay longer in France, you must apply for a long-stay visa (visa de long séjour) before you can enter France.

You can submit a French visa application for a long-stay if you are:

  • employed (with at least a year-long contract).
  • a temporary worker (with a contract between three months and one year).
  • a scientific researcher.
  • a student or intern.
  • the spouse of a French citizen.
  • the spouse of foreign national legally living in France and wish to be reunited.
  • coming to France as a visitor and have accommodation, travel insurance, and sufficient funds.

Visas in France are valid for different purposes: a holiday (visa long séjour visiteur), employment (salerié), study (étudiant), or if you’re coming to join a relative (vie privée et familiale).

If you intend to work while you’re in France, you must have a contract with an employer before you can be granted a visa.

You need a French long-stay visa in order to get a residence permit. You can’t get one on a short-stay visa. Some long-stay visas (VLS-TS), valid for stays between three months and one year, also act as a temporary residence permit as long as the visa is validated by the L’Office Francais de l’Immigration et de I’Integration (OFII).

You can apply for a long-stay visa using this application form (in English). For a list of French consulates and embassies able to issue visas, see here.

Residence permit (carte de séjour)

Within two months of your visa’s expiry date, if you want to stay on longer in France, you have to go to the local préfecture (local authority) and apply for a renewable residence permit. You may have to provide details of your family situation, financial resources, health insurance, proof of your address in France, and an employment contract.

The duration of the permit will depend on your employment/study status and family situation. Usually, residence permits are one-year renewable. There are also three-year compétences et talents (skills and talents) permits and permanent residence permits for up to 10 years.

If you are joining a family member in France

EU/EEA/Swiss nationals do not need a visa to join a family member living in France but others will.

If your spouse is French, you must apply for a long-stay visa from an embassy abroad. You’ll need to provide evidence of your partner’s nationality, your marital status and may have to prove that you have an adequate knowledge of French or have taken a French language course.

If you are accompanying a relative who is an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen, then you will have to apply for a free-of-charge visa with proof of your relative’s nationality and your family relationship to enter the country – and then apply for a residence permit from your local préfecture within two months of your arrival in France. Family members include spouse and dependent children under 21 and dependent parents. It’s a good idea to contact the préfecture ahead of time to find out what documents you’ll need.

Relatives of other nationalities may be able to apply for a visa for family reunification depending on certain factors, like why your relative is in France and how long they will be there.

For more information about family reunification permits in France, read more about moving to France to join a relative or partner.

Studying in France

Nationals from the EU/EEA and Switzerland don’t need a visa to come and study in French higher education; they can apply directly to educational institutions. If you are entering the first year of higher education, like French students, you must follow the online post-baccalaureate admission (Admission post-bac or APB).

If you’re from elsewhere, apply for a French student visa at the French embassy where you live. In some countries, you must follow a CEF procedure to apply for an academic course and to get a student visa.

Permanent residency in France

After living for five continuous years in France, you may be able to apply for a 10-year, renewable long-term EC card or French citizenship through nationalization. You need to fulfill certain requirements, depending on your individual circumstances. These could include proof of marriage, birth certificates, and evidence that you can speak French.

Apply for a French visa

When you arrive in France

If you have a long-stay visa that also acts as residence permit, you should contact the OFII with a completed OFII residence form (in French), make a French visa appointment for an interview and medical examination, and pay your residence taxes. You may be tested on your French language skills.

The OFII will put a sticker put into your passport to prove that you are living legally in France. If your visa bears the words ‘carte de séjour à soliciter’, you must go to the préfecture to apply for a residence permit within two months.

When your visa expires

If you want to extend your visa, apply at your local préfecture for an extension (prolongation de visa) within two months of expiry. Bring your supporting documents, such as proof of continuing employment.

However, if the purpose of your stay changes, contact the préfecture to apply for a new residence permit.

If you stay on beyond the duration of your visa, you run the risk of being fined or having an alert recorded against you, when you leave France, which may be detrimental when you make future visa applications.

Working in France

If you’re a national from a country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you are free to work in France without restriction.

Most other people who want to take on paid work in France will need to find a prospective employer before they arrive, who will then contact the foreign labor section of the DIRECCTE (Regional directorate for enterprises, competition, consumption, work, and employment) for authorization of a French work visa. If your contract is approved, it’s forwarded on to the OFII and then to the embassy/consulate in your home country. Then you can proceed with your visa/residence application.

Some people may be eligible for a compétences et talents card, which allows them to work without employment authorization. It may be granted if you’ll be working on any type of project (e.g., business, cultural, humanitarian, sporting) that French authorities deem significant. Some highly-skilled workers may be eligible for an EU Blue Card. This enables them to travel and work across the EU without the need for a French work permit.

For more information

  • DIRECCTE – French Labour Ministry Directions régionales des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi. Go the main website and you can be redirected to the French region you need.
  • OFII -– L’office Francais de l’immigration et de l’intégration, the French agency in charge of migration. (Click the “EN” in the top right corner for English). There are offices all over France; look on the website for contact details of your nearest one.
  • France Diplomatie – French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for more information on visas and migration to France.
  • ARS Agence Régionale de Santé and where you can find your local regional health department Direction départementale des affaires sanitaires et sociales, or (DDASS).
  • Service-Public – this website is for the French government’s public services (in French). To find the contact details of your local mairie (town hall) see here, and for other local departments and public services, see here.