Are you wondering whether you need a visa to visit France? Before you embark on a trip abroad, it's very important to know what the current requirements are and to make sure you have all the necessary documents based on your nationality and length of stay.
This is especially crucial since France has tightened security procedures in recent years as part of efforts to prevent terrorist attacks. This means that if you don’t have your papers in order, it’s possible you may be sent home at the French border. Keep reading for all the info you'll need to get ready for your trip.
Citizens from the United States and Canada: Short Stays
France has relaxed entry requirements for U.S. and Canadian citizens or residents who plan to visit for fewer than 90 days. For those making a short trip, you only need to bring a passport that is valid for three months beyond your departure date. You do not need a visa to enter the country.
There are, however, exceptions to that rule for the following categories of visitors:
- Journalists traveling to France on assignment (a special work visa is required)
- Crew members or workers traveling for short-term professional assignments (e.g. members of film crews)
- Individuals holding diplomatic or official passports
If you belong to one of the above categories, you'll need to submit a short-stay visa application to the embassy or consulate closest to you. U.S. citizens can consult the French Embassy in the United States for more details. Canadian citizens can locate their nearest French consulate on the official website for the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.
Visa Requirements for Visiting Other European Countries
Because France is one of 26 European countries belonging to the Schengen territory, U.S. and Canadian passport holders may enter France through any of the countries below without a visa or passport. Please note that the United Kingdom is not on the list; you will need to pass through immigration inspections at the UK border by showing officials your valid passport and responding to any queries they may have about the nature and/or duration of your stay.
- The Netherlands
- Czech Republic
You should also be aware that U.S. and Canadian citizens do not need visas to travel through French airports to non-Schengen territory countries. However, it would be prudent to verify the visa requirements for your final destination, despite any layovers you may have in France.
European Union Passport Holders
Travelers with European Union passports are not required to have a visa to enter France, and may stay, live, and work in France without limitation. You may, however, wish to register with the local police in France and with your country's embassy as a safety precaution. This is also recommended for all foreign nationals residing in France, including EU member-state citizens.
Note that if you are a British national/passport holder, your status is likely to change after the UK fully leaves the EU (currently scheduled for January 2021). Check with the French Consulate in London for any changes in residency requirements and laws after that date.
Short Stays in France For Other Nationalities
If you are neither a Canadian or American citizen, nor a member of the European Union, the visa rules are particular for each country. You can find visa information corresponding to your situation and country of origin by filling out this quick form on the French government website. You can also consult this helpful list of French embassies and consulates around the world.
What if I Want to Stay in France for More Than 90 Days?
If you wish to stay in France for more than 90 days, you will likely need to apply for a visa. This is true whether you're a student leaving for a study abroad program in France, are joining a spouse or other family member for an extended stay, or are taking up a job in France.
Students planning to study abroad in France will generally be issued visas commensurate to the length of their program of study (typically valid for six months to a year). These are usually obtained with the help of your university or school's study abroad program. It's generally not advised to attempt to obtain a student visa for France without the aid of your institution. They will know how to expedite the process and avoid any unwelcome delays or misunderstandings.
Similarly, most people who successfully obtain a work-related visa for France secure their permit with the assistance of an employer (either a domestic company with offices abroad or a French company willing to sponsor an employee). Note that employers often must prove the necessity of hiring a non-French national. Unless they have strong familial ties in France, it is quite difficult for American nationals to obtain visa sponsorship from a French company if you do not already have an established relationship with one.
Some programs help young people obtain work placements in France for short-term or seasonal work. Positions for au pairs, language (teaching) assistants within French schools and universities, and service workers in certain industries are sometimes accessible through special programs. The Cultural Services French Embassy in the United States shares more information about the teaching assistant scheme for American citizens on their website, while the Canadian government shares information about work placements in France open to young Canadians on theirs.
- American citizens can find all the details on obtaining visas for study, work, volunteering, or extended family visits in France on the website for the French consulate in New York.
- Canadian citizens can find information on obtaining visas for France on the website for the French consulate in Montreal. Note that France offers Canadian nationals a number of programs for longer-term work placements, including for young people, through schemes such as the France-Canada Youth Mobility Agreement.
- For all other nationalities, fill in a quick application using the French government's official "visa wizard" to determine what sort of visa you will need to apply for. You'll be given detailed instructions on the process and documents you'll be required to assemble.