France Visa Requirements

France Visa Requirements for Long Stays in France

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One of the first major steps - and brushes with French red tape - people encounter when planning to relocate to France is applying for the France visa. Find out whether you need a visa to stay in France, which one is best, and how to improve your chances of being well-received at the consulate.

If you are an American and plan to visit for 90 days or more for any reason, you need a visa. If you plan to work, even if it's just for a month, you need one. If you are a journalist on assignment in France or hold a diplomatic passport, no matter the length of your visit, you need one. If you are from a member country of the European Union, or a citizen of Andorra, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Holly See or San Marino, you do not need a visa to visit or work. If you plan to visit Monaco or one of the French territories, consult the French Embassy or your local French consulate for more details.

These visas have slightly different rules.

Determine the type of visa you need at the France for Minister's site. These are the basic visa types. Click on the link or click "next" for requirements.:

  • A student visa
  • A long-stay visa
  • A work permit visa

Allow at least two months for the application to be processed. We received ours in a month, but I have heard of others waiting several months. It is best to apply as soon as you have the required documents, which you should start gathering the moment you even decide to apply.

Be absolutely sure you apply to the right consulate. It might not be the one closest to you. If you are in the U.S., locate your local office with the French Embassy map of French Consulates in the U.S.A.

I highly recommend AGAINST using a company to apply. My husband and I used Zierer Visa Services, which had been established for many years. We thought it would be helpful to pay someone who knows the ins and outs of the system. A month after the company "applied" for us, we called the consulate to check on the status. We learned then that a personal appearance is always required for long-stay visas, and that our application wasn't even in the system. Had we taken the exact same documents to the consulate instead of sending them to the company, we probably already would have had our visas.

Instead, we had to start from the very beginning and reapply.

If they ask for a document, always try to have more than the minimum requirements. For instance, if you need two bank statements to prove your financial position, gather four. The French government officials love it when you have too many documents, and are not happy when you have too few.

As soon as you decide you want to apply, visit your nearest consulate just as recon work. Get the applications and ask any relevant questions you have at the desk. This can be tremendously helpful. This is also useful because reaching the consulates by phone can be next to impossible. Also, pay close attention (indeed, eavesdrop) to how the consulate's clerks handle other requests. Are they repeatedly scolding people for forgetting a certain document? Do they often ask for a document not on the list?

Avoid getting on their bad side by learning from other people's mistakes.

The French government is very hush-hush on the minimum requirements for establishing you can support yourself, but the word on the street is that you must at least have 1,000 euros monthly for each adult. Do everything you can to beat this threshold and you will improve your chances.

WHATEVER you do, be sure you save a copy of all documents needed for the visa. Those documents (and probably even more) will be required yet again when you arrive in France and apply for your carte de sejour, or residence card. Leave one copy of all documents with a family member or friend back home, and keep another copy on you. It is very easy to think the worst is over once you've applied for that visa. In truth, you will go through almost an identical procedure once you arrive and apply for your residence card.

The day you apply, visit early as there may be a very long line. Some consulates require an appointment, so check first. They can also have unusual hours. For instance, the Washington, D.C. consulate is open for walk-ins from morning until early afternoon. Then, it closes and accepts calls in the afternoon (if you can get through). You can't get in during the afternoon or reach a person in the morning.

The French government workers have a horrible reputation for being nasty. This couldn't be further from the truth in my experience, both with the officials in the U.S. and in France. What I have found is that they take any required documents very seriously. They are quite thorough. If you simply make the effort to follow the regulations, follow them closely and, indeed, exceed them, these bureaucrats are endlessly helpful. The worst French civil workers I have encountered are simply sticklers for the rules.

The best have provided extremely helpful advice on getting approvals and spent a long time answering endless questions.

Useful Information about France 

If you are thinking of staying for a long time, or working in France, it might be useful to know something of the customs of the country. Here are a few useful articles on France.

List of French Departments

Below are the standard requirements when applying for a French student visa. Please note that different consulates have variations of these rules, so be sure to check first.

There are three kinds of student visas available, depending upon the length of studies in France as indicated in the letter of enrollment:

  • A Schengen visa , multiple entries, for a stay up to 3 months: the student should use the short stay visa application form.
  • The temporary long stay visa (from 3 to 6 months), multiple entries, is valid for the whole stay. The student does not need a residency card. The student use the long term visa application form.
  • One year-visa (stay over 6 months): the visa is valid 3 months, 1 entry. The student should use the long term visa application form. Within this delay, and after the arrival in France, the students must complete the proper documentation with the French school or university, have to go for a medical check-up to a doctor from the Office des Migrations Internationales. Then they should contact the "Prefecture de police" in order to obtain the student residency card (carte de sejour) and present there the visa, the original documents previously required for the visa, a birth certificate and the medical results.

    Requirements for a student visa

    • Passport signed and valid for a period of three months beyond the applicant's last day of their stay in France.
    • The visa application forms signed and legibly filled out (consult your consulate for the number of copies received, and do note that you cannot make a copy of your application. Each application received must be filled out individually). Please print in black. Indicate your phone numbers and e-mail. Indicate the dates of stay.
    • A passport size photograph glued on each form. (Always have extra photos on hand just in case).
    • A proof of resident status in the US for non US citizens.
    • Prepaid self-adressed envelope if you apply by mail. Only Express mail, Priority mail, certified mail (a registered mail) will be accepted, if not the personal appearance will be required. Note that the personal appearance is the basic rule. (Assume you will need to make a personal appearance!)
    • "Student" visa fee: payment by credit card (Visa, Mastercard) (especially for files sent by mail) or money-order made out to "Consulate general of France" or certified checks. Cash is accepted only if you apply in person. Do not assume you can pay by check.

      You will need to furnish the original and one copy of:

      • A proof of studies in the USA (letter from the school or university)
      • A letter of admission from the school which the applicant plans to attend to in France
      • Financial guarantee such as a notarized statement certifying that the applicant will be provided with a monthly allowance of $600.00 for the duration of his/her stay in France, or a proof of personal income along with a letter from school stating that room, board, and tuition are fully prepaid (+ 1 copy). If the host provides the student with a letter attesting that the lodging will be free of charges, and a copy of his/her pictured I.D., an allowance of $400.00 will be accepted. (Be sure to check on these money minimums, as they can change)
      • Proof of medical insurance. For a stay up to 6 months, the students should present a letter from their insurance company stating that the coverage is valid in France. For a stay over 6 months, students under 28 years old and enrolled in a French school which is affilieted to the French Social Security must join this social security. Students over 28 years old, or enrolled in a French school which is not affiliated to the French Social Security, cannot join and must show proof of insurance valid in France when they apply for the residency card.
      • If you will be under 18 at the date of arrival or within three months of arrival in France, you should have a notarized parental authorization, signed by both parents and indicating the name and occupation of the person appointed as guardian of the minor for the duration of the stay.

      There are special situations with slightly different rules:

      • A scholarship recipient only needs to present the first four items on the requirements list, plus a letter granting and indicating the amount of the scholarship and the length of stay in France. The applicant will also have to go for a medical check-up to a doctor accredited to this Consulate. The medical check up is paid by the scholarship recipient, but the visa is free of charge. To print the medical certificate form, click here.
      • If you will be under 18 up to three months after you arrive in France, there is a whole string of different rules. You must check with your local consulate for details.

        The general long-stay visa requirements can have a variety of different extra requirements, depending on whether you plan to open a business in France or certain other situations. This is a basic guideline, and you can be sure these requirements at the least will be needed. Be sure to check with your local consulate for any extra documents that might be needed.

        It is very important to note that applicants absolutely must apply for the visa in his or her country of residence before traveling. The French government does not allow an application within France. If you try, you will just be sent back home to apply and wait the minimum two months. The personal appearance is required for long-stay visas.

        To apply, be sure you have the following:

        • Passport signed and valid 3 months after the last day of stay.
        • Four long stay visa application forms by applicant signed and legibly filled out. Print in black. Indicate your phone numbers and e-mail.
        • At least five recent passport size photographs (4 glued on the forms).
        • A proof of resident status in the country where you are applying.
        • A proof of employment in the country where you are applying
        • Financial guarantee such as:
          • Letter from your bank showing that you have sufficient means of support to live in France.
          • Justification of retirement pensions or regular incomes
          • A notarized declaration of your sponsor stating that he/she will be responsible for all your expenses and a proof of his/her financial means. (+ 3 copies).
        • Proof of medical insurance with coverage valid in France (+ 3 copies). Letter from the insurance compagny only.
        • A non-criminal record certificate to be obtained at the police's office of the city of residence (+ 3 copies). I would recommend obtaining this record as early as possible, since some police stations take a few weeks to issue the record.
        • A note, dated and signed by the applicant, stating that he/she does not intend to have in France a paid professional activity which requires a work permit.
        • For the spouse of a French citizen, the "livret de famille" or a copy of the French marriage license, or the official French transcript of the marriage license when the marriage took place out of France. The French citizen must prove his/her nationality. Note that an American citizen spouse of a French citizen wishing to live in France does not need a visa. He or she must apply directly for a residency card once in France (with the "livret de famille").
        • Processing fee: payment by credit card (Visa, Mastercard) (especially for files sent by mail) or money-order made out to "Consulate general of France" or certified checks. Cash is accepted only if you apply in person. No personal checks.

          Probably the toughest visa to obtain, here are the requirements for a work permit:

          Please note that the citizens of the European Union, Andorra, Liechstenstein, Monaco are exempt of this procedure, as are foreign government employees and international civil servants who are assigned to a diplomatic mission or to an international organization, and their employees, traders, scientists, artists, sailors working on a ship stationed at a port in France or US crewmembers. That does NOT mean you are exempt from the visa requirements. Another procedure applies.

          The foreign worker must obtain a contract draft from a French or a foreign company in France. The employer in France files an application with the appropriate administration for approval, then a visa can be issued by a consulate of France.

          Computer engineers: they should present the documents required for a short stay visa, even in the case of a long stay visa.

          For a short-stay work visa (up to three months), the employer in France should provide the future employee with a contract which has been countersigned by the DDTEFP (Direction départementale du travail, de l'emploi et de la formation professionnelle). Then the future employee should apply for a short stay visa (Schengen visa) if needed. This visa is valid up to 3 months, and the residency card is not required. The applicant must provide:

          • A passport valid for a period of three months beyond the applicant's last day of stay in the Schengen states. Please make sure your passport has a blank page to affix the visa.
          • Two short-stay visa application forms completely and legibly filled out. Print in black. Indicate also your phone numbers and e-mail.
          • Passport size photographs glued on each form.
          • If you are an immigrant, proof of resident status in the country where applying, with a copy.
          • contract countersigned by the DDTEFP (+ 1 copy)
          • A proof of travel health/accident insurance with worldwide coverage (+ 1 copy).
          • Prepaid self-adressed envelope if you apply by mail. Only Express mail, Priority mail, certified mail (registered mail) will be accepted, if not the personal appearance will be required. Note that the personal appearance is the basic rule.
          • Processing fee: payment by credit card (Visa, Mastercard) (especially for files sent by mail) or money-order made out to "Consulate general of France" or certified checks. Cash is accepted only if you apply in person. Checks are rarely accepted at consulates.

          For the long-stay visa, in order to obtain a work permit for his/her future employee, the employer should contact the OFII or the Office Francais de l'Immigration et L'Integration (this  version of the website is in English).

          In order to avoid complications, the names of the accompanying spouse and children under 18 year old must be included on the worker file.

          When the application is accepted, OFII sends the file to the French Consulate depending on the residence of the foreign worker and a mail to the latter. The worker should apply in person at the appropriate consulate.

          You must supply the following documents when you apply

          • A passport valid for a period of three months beyond the applicant's last day of stay in the Schengen states. Please make sure your passport has a blank page to affix the visa.
          • Two long stay visa application forms completely and legibly filled out. Please print in black. Indicate also your phone numbers and e-mail.
          • Passport size photographs glued on the forms.
          • A proof of resident status in country where you are applying, if you are an immigrant
          • The visa fee: payment by credit card (Visa, Mastercard) (especially for files sent by mail) or money-order made out to "Consulate general of France" or certified checks. Cash is accepted only if you apply in person. No personal checks.