Applying for a visa to stay in France for a period of time is a relatively simple process with visa types initially sorted into clear categories: short stay and long stay. A long stay is a visit exceeding 90 days, and you can apply for a long stay visa for a number of different purposes, such as work or study in France.

If you want to work in France you may need a work permit, which is a separate entity to the visa you may need for your stay.

All advice in this guide applies to visas for entry to French territory in Europe and not islands or other French territories outside Europe, unless specifically stated.

France falls within the Schengen Area, and nationals of countries participating the Schengen Agreement do not need to apply for a visa if they plan to stay in France for 90 days or less. Countries in the Schengen Area are listed below – the area includes EU and EEA territories as well as Switzerland, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The following passport-holders are exempt from needing a short-stay (Schengen) visa for France:

Nationals of countries not listed, such as nationals from India, South Africa and the Middle East will need to apply for a Schengen (or short stay) Visa before they arrive in order to be granted entry to France.

Short stay visas

If you hold one of these documents (or are exempt from needing one at all – see above) you can travel freely between the countries in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days in a six month period, with day one triggered on entry to the Schengen Area.

The Schengen Area itself covers 26 territories in Europe that have done away with border control at their internal borders and shares a common policy on tourist visas.

Schengen visas are usually issued for family visits, transits through France, business travel and general tourism. It also means that people can come to France several times over a six month period for business purposes, though sometimes a temporary work permit needs to be applied for in tandem – more on this later.

  1. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.
  2. Nationals of Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Malaysia, Mauritius, Monaco, Nicaragua , New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Holy See, Seychelles, Taiwan (passport bearing identity card number), Uruguay, Montenegro, FYROM and Serbia – regardless of reason for stay.
  3. Nationals of the following countries: Australia, Brazil, USA, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea and Venezuela – if employed in France or otherwise holding a work permit for France.
  4. Holders of a valid residence permit for France, of a British National (Overseas) passport or a residence permit issued by a Schengen Area state.
  5. Journalists on specific news assignments from the USA.
Czech RepublicDenmark
Iceland (not a EU Member State)Italy
LatviaLiechtenstein (not a EU Member State)
Norway (not a EU Member State)Poland
SwedenSwitzerland (not a EU Member State)

Working in France

No matter whether you’re staying short term or settling for a while, you may need a work permit alongside your short or long term visa when you come to France. If you’re from an EU or EEA territory, you’re exempt from needing a work permit to work in France if you carry the right visa for your stay.

For everyone else, your employer is responsible for getting you your work permit. In the spirit of keeping things minimalistic, work permits falls into two categories: temporary secondments and full work permits.

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Temporary secondment

This is for a non-French company wanting to second an employee to a French branch of its branch, store or office. The foreign company can apply for this permit, with cooperation from the French branch of the company where the employee is intended to work.

The seconded persons must stay in employment, be paid and managed by the foreign body, not the French branch. These permits are issued for up to 18 month periods and can be extended by another 9 months in some cases.

Full work permit

French companies are responsible for applying for these permits when they want to directly employ a non-EEA national. The employee must be employed full time and paid in France. These permits carry no time limit.

It is worth being aware that the French authorities have historically been quite protective of their local workforce, and can make it difficult for French organisations to employ foreigners. Things are changing as the need for certain skilled professionals becomes more apparent, but France still remains a much protected labour market overall.

Long stay visas

For stays in France over three months, you’ll most likely need a long stay visa, or a visa de long séjour. You may be working here, coming to France to study or travelling to be with family. With a long stay visa you can enjoy multiple entry to France, Monaco, Andorra and even French islands like Martinique and Reunion.

For study

For a long term study visa you must either be enrolled in a French university or language school, or you must be training under a company based in France or au pairing in France.

For work

To work in France long term your employer must get in touch with Office Français de l’immigration et de l’intégration.

For family reasons

If you wish to retire in France or otherwise settle in France without working you should apply for a long term visa. If you are married to a French citizen and want to settle in France with them, this is also the visa you’ll need.

Staying in France without working

You can also apply for a long stay visa if you simply wish to live in France without working, studying or necessarily retiring, though this is always subject to having a visa granted. One US expat blogger was required to show the following documents to secure his visa to live in France for a year with his wife:

  • Passport and three photocopies, valid for at least three months after the last day or your stay. Passport also needs a spare page for your visa
  • Four copies of the long stay visa application form, filled out in black ink and signed
  • Five mug shot photographs – one glued to each application form plus one spare
  • Three copies of your financial guarantee. The general consensus is that applicants should be able to guarantee an income or savings of 2000 euros per person per month. Guarantees can come in the form of a letter from the bank, a bank statement showing savings, or proof of income
  • Three copies of medical insurance coverage, with cover over $37,000
  • Three copies of police clearance form your local station which proves you have no criminal record
  • A letter claiming you will not seek or undertake any paid activity in France. This must be handwritten, signed and dated
  • Your visa fee