Whether you are American, Australian, or – since Brexit – British, if you want an extended stay in France, planning and paperwork are unavoidable.
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens can only benefit from visa-free travel for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
These rules are set to be even more tightly enforced from May when the EU’s Entry/Exit System comes into force, requiring registration in a database on entering the Schengen area.
This will automate the process of checking that the 90/180-day limit has been respected when people enter or leave the zone.
So, if you do not want to risk a fine and would like to stay longer – for example, at a second home – plan for a temporary long-stay visa (VLS-T).
This sticker in your passport allows a stay for a fixed, dated period, usually of four to six months, not counted as part of the 90 days and not renewable or extendable.
The visa costs €99, plus a processing fee of around £31 or $36, depending on the country you are applying from.
If applying again, six months must pass between the end date of the last visa and the intended start date of the next one.
‘No problem’ combining 90/180 days rule and time on visa
The border police say there is no problem with combining time under the 90/180 days rule and time on a visa – for example, by staying on a bit longer after the end of the visa period.
It is useful in this case to be able to explain this at the border if need be and to keep evidence such as travel tickets.
You can use this tool to check on your ‘90 day’ rights (time in France within your visa dates can be deducted from the count) here.
Bear in mind that you risk being seen as a French tax resident if you spend more than six months in a given year in France.
The Interior Ministry states that a visa is not required for a six-month stay for spouses and Pacs or civil partners of EU (but not French) citizens, who can apply in France for a residency card at a prefecture if the couple are planning to stay for more than three months in France.
Other long-term partners can also qualify but evidence of five years living together is needed.
There are also specific rules for spouses of French people, who can obtain a free long-stay visa to stay in France with them.
Otherwise, a standard VLS-T is required, and this starts with an application at france-visas. gouv.fr, which can be done in English if you wish.
Aim to complete it one to three months before planned travel, leaving as much time as possible in case of processing delays.
Scroll down to ‘Start your visa application’, where you will be invited to create an account.
On the first page, you are asked to choose a visa centre for taking in your paperwork and give the type of visa (‘long stay’), your passport number and expiry date, and your plans (eg. ‘visitor’) and the main purpose of your stay.
At the bottom of the first page, click ‘verify’ to continue. On further pages you are asked for personal details, previous stays in France for more than three consecutive months, intended dates and plans.
Put in the intended start day, and under ‘number of months’, choose ‘between three and six’.
You are asked if you plan to travel with others (note: non-EU children also need visas).
Details of where you will stay are needed, and of how you will fund the trip (eg. ‘cash’, ‘credit cards’, etc.).
Other options include funding by a host or a guarantor.
Add applications for up to six others
Once a first application has been submitted, it is possible to add further applications from up to six members of your group.
If you do, you will be called in together to hand in supporting documents. When you have completed your application, with payment of any processing fees, print the application form off, as well as the receipt that will be generated at the end of the process.
The website will indicate supporting documents needed.
You then book an appointment to take them in, allowing time for processing before the planned travel date.
In the case of the UK and US, this is done via websites of the contractors and the appointments are at one of their offices.
You will need to bring in originals of all documents and your passport, plus photocopies of these, including important passport pages, and pay the visa fee.
Documents include recent passport photos, a written promise not to work in France and explanation of your plans, and evidence of your ‘socioeconomic situation’, such as pension documents, a work contract or study certificate.
A UK-issued Ehic or Ghic suffices for health cover. For other nationalities, private health insurance is required for urgent medical care and repatriation.
You also need proof of your accommodation in France, such as a rental contract or deeds, or a statement by a host, as well as proof of funds, such as your last three bank statements.
If your partner will support you, you need a marriage or civil partnership certificate. As a general rule, the amount requested is income equivalent to the French minimum wage (€1,329.05 net) per month of the stay, or equivalent savings.
Slightly lower levels are accepted for second-home owners.
Levels for those applying as couples are usually slightly higher in total, but not double.
The service will check the papers, scan or take a photo, scan your fingerprints, and retain your passport and document copies for forwarding to the consulate.
You can track the application’s progress online.
Any queries or requests for more documents will usually be by email.
When the visa is ready, you can collect your passport or pay for courier delivery.
Another person can do it if they bring application printouts, a copy of your passport and an authorisation letter.
- This article is an edited extract from our new Visas and residency cards help guide, available at tinyurl.com/visas-cards
Our main image was drawn for The Connexion by artist Perry Taylor. For more of his work see www.perrytaylor.fr