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Visas and Permits for France

For many expats, moving to France conjures up images of excellent cuisine and wine. But of course, that’s only half the truth! The InterNations expat guide on moving to France provides you with useful info beyond this stereotype: on the French language, popular expat destinations, and more.
Will you be staying in France for less than three months? Apply for a Schengen visa.

Visa Regulations

EU and EEA nationals (including Swiss) do not require a visa to enter France, be it for long- or short-term stays. Everyone else needs to apply for a visa, though there are exceptions for nationals of selected countries who'd like to stay in France for fewer than 90 days. You can find a comprehensive list of the nationality-dependent visa exemptions here, but it is also worth checking with your nearest French embassy or consulate. Please note that the following information refers to mainland France and that different rules may apply for its overseas territories.

Schengen Visas

If you require a visa but you are staying in France for fewer than 90 days, apply for a Schengen visa. This type of visa is valid for all Schengen-area member states, i.e. the majority of EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Detailed, country-specific information on obtaining a Schengen visa is available on local French diplomatic websites or on the official European Commission website.

In general, applicants need a valid passport for the intended period of their stay. They should also be able to prove their intention and ability to return to their home country after their visa expires. This proof should include:

  • documentation describing the purpose of their stay
  • the means to support themselves financially
  • a return ticket or sufficient means to purchase one
  • repatriation insurance, e.g. for emergencies
  • specific documents for any accompanying children under the age of 18

The website of the Ministère des Affaires Étrangères et Européennes (Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs) provides a guide on completing a Schengen visa application form. It is processed within about two months and costs 60 EUR.

Work Visas for Short-Term Stays

If you are going to France on a brief work assignment and are not originally from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, then you will still require a Schengen visa. Your employer first needs to get your contract approved by the relevant Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration. Only once your work permit has been granted and sent to your respective embassy or consulate can you go ahead with your visa application.

Long-Term Visas

If your intended period of stay exceeds 90 days, you need a long-stay visa. This visa de long séjour will be adapted to your specific reasons and duration of stay. Mostly, these visas are issued for academic, professional, or family reasons. It is recommended that you contact your local French consulate for a list of required documents appropriate to your situation. If you come to France for work, your employer needs to apply for a separate work and residence permit (carte de séjour) on your behalf.

Your visa will be issued on the basis of this work permit. A visa available to family members also depends on your work permit. A routine medical examination and a police clearance may be required upon arrival in France. (To learn more about different work permits, please consult our article on working in France). Please remember that the fees for a long-term visa are higher than those for a Schengen visa.

Residence Permits

Known as the carte de séjour, a residence permit reflects the purpose of your stay and gives details on your specific work permit. If you have a visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour (VLS-TS), this already includes a residence permit valid for up to one year. Remember to register at the French Office of Immigration and Integration within the first three months of your stay, though.

Holders of other types of long-term visas will need to apply for their residence permit within the first two months of their stay. As this needs to be done at the prefecture of the city where you live, there is no need to worry about this before arrival. Residence permits need renewing every year, unless you have a special carte compétences et talents, which is valid for three years and acts as a combined visa, work and residence permit.

After you have been legally living in France for five consecutive years  (or less for spouses of French citizens), you are eligible to apply for a carte de resident (valid for ten years).

CIR — Contrat d'intégration républicaine

From July 2016, any non-Europeans wishing to settle in France must sign the CIR, or Contrat d’Intégration Républicaine. This is a mutual contract to ensure the best-possible integration of foreigners into French society. During an interview, their professional, social, and language needs are assessed to see if any assistance is required. Knowledge of French up to the A1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is desired, and language lessons can be given if this standard if not met. Newcomers must also attend two information sessions about France and French culture and history.

Failure to comply with this compulsory contract can result in the revocation of one’s residence permit.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 


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