Many non-EU citizens wishing to visit France – including Britons since Brexit – can do so without special paperwork by sticking to the Schengen area’s 90/180-day rule.
Alternatively, people who wish to become full residents must apply for a long-stay visa with supporting paperwork and fees.
However, there is a halfway house called the temporary long-stay visa, which will suit, for example, retirees who own a French second home and wish to come to France for visits of more than three months without actually ‘moving to France’.
It is important to note that all visas should usually be applied for before leaving your home country as, following an initial application online, they require an in-person visit to a visa office in your country and handing over your passport to have the visa entered in it. You cannot, therefore, obtain one while already staying in France.
What is the 90-180-day rule?
This rule relates to entering and staying in the Schengen area, including France. It states that visitors who are nationals of countries exempt from short-stay visitor visas, such as Britons and Americans, must not spend more than 90 days in the area in any rolling 180-day period.
Passports of non-residents entering France from the UK will now be stamped, as for all non-EU visitors entering the Schengen area. They will also be stamped on exit from the area, and you should take care not to overstay.
If this is not enough for you, for example, because in the past you used to stay for four to six months a year, then a temporary long-stay visa is worth considering.
How long can I stay in France with a temporary long-stay visa?
A visa is a sticker in your passport formally permitting you to enter France during a defined period, and it is cumulative with rights under the 90/180-day rule.
This means, for example, if you obtain a temporary long-stay visa, you could, assuming you have not already used up your visitor rights in the last 180-days, arrive in France before the start of the visa period so as to extend your stay.
You could also stay on beyond it for up to another 90 days under the ordinary visitor rules.
You could also space out your stays during the year using the 90-day rule during part of the year and the visa during another part.
Bear in mind, though, that if you stay more than six months in France in a calendar year there is a risk you could be considered to have become a French tax resident.
This was already the case for British visitors prior to Brexit but now Britons’ comings and goings to France will be under closer scrutiny than before due to passport stamps.
What if I enter France via another Schengen country?
If you enter France via another Schengen area country, France will consider that you entered France within five days of the first border stamp (there is no internal stamping in the Schengen area) for purposes of your visa permission days.
Once in France, you can also visit other Schengen area countries though you should respect the 90/180-day rule for these visits.
What kind of temporary long-stay visa should I apply for?
The temporary long-stay visa is usually issued for no more than four to six months and it is the only kind of visa that does not allow any provisions for you to extend the stay beyond the period by applying for a residency card. For a future extended stay, you must start the process again.
The kind that second-home owners would apply for is a ‘visitor’ visa, meaning that you cannot do any form of work during the stay and must provide evidence of means to support yourself.
In French this is called visa de long-séjour temporaire – visiteur, or in official jargon VLS-T Visiteur.
Examining visa applications and deciding whether or not to issue a visa is the responsibility of the French consular services in your home country (eg. Consulate General in London or Washington).
Obtaining a visa is not a right. Factors taken into account include the risk of the person becoming a financial burden to the state or overstaying.
Once issued, visas allow the holder to come and go under the visa rights during the validity period.
Each person needs their own visa however family applications are linked and one person’s visa may be dependent on another’s.
How to apply for a temporary long-stay visitor visa
The site france-visas.gouv.fr is the starting point for applications, which should be made no more than three months before a trip.
After you have applied and paid relevant fees, you will have to visit a centre in your country to bring in supporting documents.
The application is then processed and you can return to collect the passport with the visa stamp, or, in most cases, pay extra to have it returned by courier.
Note that as of writing you will also need to bear in mind any Covid health restrictions on entry of people from your country of residence (ie. you will not be able to obtain a visa if you are banned from travel for health reasons).
Firstly you should use the ‘visa wizard’ on the visas site to put in basic details of your planned trip, to confirm you need a visa and obtain an indication of what documents you will need.
Note that the English-language version refers to ‘family or private settlement’ as one possible option for the reason for your stay – the French wording for this is ‘installation’ meaning moving to France, so choose instead ‘visitor’.
Applying for a temporary long-stay visa in different countries
Consular services process visa applications however within countries they may make use of third-party contractors for some of the administrative work.
In the UK, for example, a third-party contractor, TLSContact Royaume-Uni, collects applications and returns the passport to you with the visa stamp after processing.
It has three centres - in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. TLS Contact has its own website for extra information and there are also contact details for its offices, including advice helplines, at this link.
Applicants in the UK are advised to allow for at least 20 working days of processing, however, once applications are transferred to the consulate, they are usually dealt with in two to 15 working days, the visa service says.
There is a service fee from TLSContact of £31.
There is a service fee from VLS Global of $38.20.
For further country-specific information about visas click on your country here.
Making your application on the visas website
For most nationalities, you make the initial application on the website at this link.
Click on ‘Access the visa application’ at the bottom; you will then be invited to create an account on the site using your email address. You will be able to save a partially completed application to finish later if you wish.
You can opt to complete the online form in English. On the first page, you are asked to make a choice of visa centre for taking in your paperwork and give the type of visa (‘long-stay’), passport number and expiry date, and your plans (‘visitor’) and main purpose of stay (‘visitor adult’ or ‘visitor minor’). Further information on yourself, your planned stay and contact details are requested in additional sections.
What details will I be asked for on my website visa application?
At the bottom of the first page either click to ‘save’ – for completion later – or ‘verify’ to continue, in which case the website will confirm if you need a visa. Click ‘next’. On the following pages you are asked for:
- Personal details including full name, address and job, including contact details of an employer if appropriate.
- Details of previous stays in France for more than three consecutive months.
- Intended dates and your plans for your stay (ie. ‘visitor’). Put in the intended start day and under ‘number of months’ choose ‘between 3 and 6 months’. You are also asked if you plan to travel with other members of your family.
- Details of where you will stay (including names and addresses and contact details); how you will fund the trip (if ‘myself’ you will be asked to tick what funding sources you have such as ‘cash’, ‘credit cards’ etc; other options include funding by the host or another guarantor).
Once a first application has been submitted it is possible to add further applications from other members of your group, up to six people. If you do this you will be called in together to hand in your passport and supporting documents at a later stage.
Children of any age need a visa as well as adults if they do not have an EU nationality.
When you have created an account and completed your application, with payment of any processing fees, you must print the application form off as well as the application receipt that will be generated at the end of the process.
The website will then indicate what supporting documents you will need, and how to book an appointment to submit them.
You then have to book an appointment to visit to take in supporting documents, making sure you allow time for processing before your planned departure date. In the case of the UK and US, this is done via the websites of the third-party contractors listed above under ‘Country-specific factors’ and the appointments are at one of their offices.
When you visit you need to bring in originals of all supporting documents and your passport, plus photocopies of all of these including key pages of the passport, and pay a visa fee of €99 (around £86 or $121) plus the service fee.
The service will check the paperwork, scan in (or take) a photo of you and scan your fingerprints, and retain your passport and document copies for forwarding to the consulate. This takes about 20 minutes and there is no in-depth ‘interview’.
It is usually possible to track the progress of your application online once you have completed this step.
Usually, if there are queries or requests for extra documents, this will be by email.
When the visa is ready you will be invited to collect the passport or alternatively, you can opt for courier delivery (eg. an extra £16 in the UK). However, TLSContact in London told The Connexion it currently does not currently recommend the latter as there have been too many problems with the courier service recently.
It is also possible for another person to collect it for you if they bring your application print-outs, your passport, a copy of your passport and an authorisation letter you signed.
What supporting documents do I need for a temporary long-stay visa?
Documents for a VLS-T visiteur include :
Your passport, which should have been issued less than 10 years ago and be valid at least three months after the date on which the visa you are applying for would expire. It must have at least two blank pages in it
Two recent passport photographs
A written promise not to carry out any work in France; possibly also a letter explaining your plans
Evidence of your ‘socio-economic situation’ such as pension documents or work contract or certificate of study from an educational establishment
A British-issued Ehic or Ghic for healthcare cover if you live in the UK. For Americans, private insurance is required with a minimum cover of €30,000 for urgent medical care and medical repatriation costs.
Proof of your accommodation in France such as rental contract or deeds, or a signed statement by a host confirming that they live in France and are inviting you to stay at their address
Proof of funds: Last three bank statements of UK current or savings accounts, with evidence of enough funds for the duration of the stay. If your partner will support you, then you need to show a marriage or civil partnership certificate and bank statements from the partner.
As a general rule, the amount requested is income at least equivalent to the French minimum wage (€1,231 net) per month of the stay or equivalent savings to show you can support yourself. However, lower levels are accepted for second-home owners as they are assumed to have fewer expenses than those paying for accommodation.
Levels required for those applying as couples are slightly higher, but not double – around €1,500 – according to Allison Lounes of Franceformation, a specialist in helping non-EU citizens come to France.
Can I make an appeal if my visa application is rejected?
If your application is refused, either explicitly or tacitly (if you have no response in two months), one option is a recours gracieux – asking the consulate to reconsider its decision.
Otherwise, if you wish to contest it formally you apply to the Commission de recours contre les decisions de refus de visa d’entrée en France (CRRV), within two months of the refusal.
There is a final possibility of an appeal to a court, the tribunal administrative de Nantes.