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Explainer: Common visa options for visiting and moving to France

We look at the main visas available and the formalites associated with them

There are different French visa options based on your personal situation Pic: Alexander Shutski / Shutterstock

Here we give a non-exhaustive list of some of the main types of visas our readers may be interested in applying for: 

VLS-T: The visa de long-séjour temporaire 

This is for a ‘temporary long-stay’ and is usually issued for four to six months and occasionally for up to one year. 

It is not renewable but once it has run out you may stay on in France under the ordinary 90 days rule (though bear in mind tax residency). 

There have been questions raised over this, with some people reporting being told by visa-processing staff that it was not permissible, however it was confirmed to The Connexion by the French police nationale, which includes the border police, whose job it is to check travellers ’ paperwork. 

See here and here.  

The police also stated it is not a problem to enter France under the 90 days rule shortly before a visa starts. 

For both these scenarios it is best to keep evidence to clarify your stay such as travel tickets etc. 

A European Commission source also confirmed that from the point of view of EU/Schengen area rules any time on a visa is totally separate from calculations for time under the 90-day rule. 

The VLS-T would be the visa required, for example, for a second-home owner who wants to be able to come to France for a six-month stay before returning to their country of main residence. 

No extra formalities are needed in France once the visa holder has arrived. 

Visitors cannot apply for another visa of the same type straight away; six months must pass between the end date of the first visa and the intended start date of a new one. 

There is no short-cut process for obtaining a second or third such visa and the process must be started all over again each time. 

Read also: What are moves to change 90-day visitor rule in France for Britons?

Read also: Visas to stay in France for six months: Q&As on appointment process

VLS-TS: The visa de long-séjour valant titre de séjour 

This visa gives a residency right for up to a year and it must be ‘validated’ in France within the first three months. 

To stay on longer, a person needs to apply for a residency card from their local French prefecture. 

This is the most common kind of visa for Connexion readers moving long-term to France and is used, for example, for: 

  • Students (visa étudiant) coming for courses at French universities and other higher education 

  • Employed workers with a work offer from a French firm for a permanent (CDI) job (visa salarié) or fixed-duration (CDD) job (visa travailleur temporaire). There is another status for those being sent over to a French subsidiary of a UK firm for less than a year, called salarié ICT (intra-corporate transfer)

  • Certain skilled workers coming for less than 12 months and eligible for the passeport talent visa. This includes wealthy investors, ‘highly-qualified’ people in certain sought-after sectors, people working for ‘innovative’ companies, researchers, people starting companies, and famous scientists, artists, writers and sportspeople

  • In certain cases, people coming to do self-employed work as a tradesperson or in sales etc (visa entrepreneur / profession libérale

  • Vie privée et familiale visa for spouses of French people 

  • Retirees / early-retirees coming to live in France and who will not be working

For this group the visa is, confusingly, called a ‘visitor’ (visiteur) visa, a catch-all for those without another motive for coming such as work or family links etc. 

Read also: Why the EU’s new Etias visa-waiver system has been delayed again

Visa mention ‘carte de séjour à solliciter dans les 2 mois suivant l’arrivée’: 

The holder must apply to their local French prefecture within two months of arrival for a residency card. 

This applies, notably, to: 

  • Family members of French people including children aged 16 to 21 or dependent on the French person, and parents/grandparents who are dependent on a French person or their spouse 

  • In certain cases, people coming to France for self-employed work 

  • People eligible for the ‘passeport talent’ coming for more than 12 months. There is a similar kind of visa called carte bleue européenne, which allows the person to obtain a status whereby it is relatively easy to move jobs within the EU

Immediate family members of people with these visa types can accompany them on a visa giving the spouse the right to work in France. 

Note: The following groups of non-EU foreigners do not need a visa and instead only need to apply for a residency card once in France: 

  • Spouses/partners, children under 21, dependent parents of EU (but not French) citizens, accompanying them to or joining them in France

  • Close family members of British people living in France with a ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ residency card unless of a nationality that usually requires a visa for a short-stay in France – if so they need a visa d’entrée. 

This is free of charge. 

Family members 

Accompanying spouses, partners and dependent children of non-EU citizens coming to France also need visas. 

If they are not coming under a specific category in their own right, and subject to the comments in the section above and evidence of sufficient means, it is normally possible to bring minor children and spouses with you when moving to France. 

Read also: Explainer: How to bring family to live with you in France post-Brexit

However, they will usually only obtain a ‘visitor’ visa and will not (unless they later obtain another status) be able to work. 

Related articles

How do you validate a VLS-TS visa when coming to France?

Explainer: Make sense of six-month visas for France

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