The question of how to bring close family members to France arises when, post-Brexit, Britons – and other non-EU citizens – start to look into visa and residency card formalities.
All non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals need a visa to come to France to live, apart from close family members of EU (but not French) citizens or of Brexit Withdrawal Agreement cardholders established in France.
The groups above can benefit from special cards linked to EU free movement and will have full rights to work in France, as will spouses and civil partners of French people who have moved to France on the appropriate (free) visa.
This is not the case for the close family members of British people or other third-country citizens coming on ordinary working visas or ‘visitor’ visas for retirees/early-retirees, unless the family member is coming on a working status visa in their own right.
It will often be possible for a person to bring over their family at the same time when coming for normal salaried or self-employed work, in which case they should indicate this intention on their application so everyone’s applications can be linked and relevant appointments can be arranged at the same time.
However, if their spouse is not coming to work in their own right, the spouse will typically obtain a visitor visa only, not allowing work – unless they later obtain a change of status, eg. due to a work offer, or if they obtain a carte de résident after five years.
The status of the couple’s children can also be something of a grey area in this case.
Family reunification process
As an alternative to this, many foreign people (typically when coming over to work) establish themselves in France first and then only later bring over close family under a process called regroupement familial.
This allows the person/people brought over to have the right to work in France. Regroupement happens in several steps, with the person in France applying for the right to regroupement from a body in France and the family members also then applying for visas from the French consulate of the country where they live.
The conditions for regroupement depend on the status of the foreign national living in France and the relationship with the person who wishes to move over to be with them.
There is further information (in English) at this link.
Minimum wage level income
Essentially, non-EU foreigners in France on ordinary residency cards – not the special passeport talent status – are able to bring over their spouse and/or minor children using the regroupement process under certain conditions, including having been living legally in France for at least 18 months, a means test, and having sufficient space at home to accommodate them.
The French minimum wage, known as the Smic (€1,353 net), is considered sufficient for a family of two to three members. Slightly more is required for larger families.
As a general rule, income from benefits is not counted towards this.
Bringing parents to France
Note that non-EU foreign residents in France do not have any specific right to bring over their parents to live with them.
Parents wanting to come to live with them would, therefore, have to, for example, apply for their own card under ‘visitor’ status if they have sufficient means of their own.
Applying for regroupement
The application for a regroupement familial is made by the person living in France to the local offices of Ofii, the French office for immigration and integration.
Once Ofii has checked that the application and supporting documents are all in order an attestation is issued confirming that the application has been lodged, and the dossier is studied further, with input from the prefecture and mairie.
In the meantime, the French resident should send copies of the attestation and supporting documents to the family members, who can then apply in the country where they live for a visa de long-séjour valant titre de séjour (long-stay visa equivalent to a residency card) to come to France.
Once in France a family member should apply for a carte de séjour vie privée et familiale if they are an adult, within two months of expiry of the visa, to prolong their residency rights.
This status allows for any kind of work and there is no requirement of an autorisation de travail work permit to accept a job.
Status of children who came via regroupement
Minor children who came via regroupement have a right to the same card at 18, or earlier, at 16, if they want to work, or in some cases will have the right to a resident’s card.
The situation of minor children who come to France at the same time as someone on an ordinary working status card (ie. not via regroupement) is less clear cut, apart from those who come before the age of 13 and thus have an automatic right to a vie privée et familiale card on this basis.
Others will also usually be able to obtain a card on the basis of their established family life and links in France, said an adviser from the La Cimade association which helps immigrants to France.
However, she warned there could be a grey area in the case of those who came over as older teenagers (eg. 16 or 17 years old), where some prefectures may consider that these links are too recent and not sufficiently established to issue them with this card.
Family of passeport talent visa holder
The main exception to the rule that close family members of non-EU citizens who come to France with them will not have the right to work (unless coming on work visas in their own right) is family members coming with a person on a passeport talent visa, which is for certain people with sought-after skills and qualifications or a lot of money to invest in setting a business up.
In this case, the visa/cardholder’s immediate family benefits from a status allowing them to work in any field.
- This is an edited extract from our new guide to Visas and residency cards for France.
The guide assumes you have no knowledge of the topic and explains rules to move to France long-term or for coming on a temporary long-stay visa if you want to spend more time at a French second home.
It is available in a digital book format (which is also downloadable as a PDF) priced €14.50.