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Explainer: visits to family in France and rules for hosting forms

Attestations d’accueil must – in theory – be obtained and presented by most non-EU visitors to the country if they are staying with friends or family

We look at the rules surrounding attestations d’accueil hosting forms for foreign visitors Pic: fizkes / Shutterstock

Most non-EU nationals visiting France are theoretically required to obtain an attestation d’accueil document proving that they have accommodation for their stay, although in practice this is usually necessary for citizens of countries with visa-free travel.

We look at the rules surrounding attestations d’accueil and how to go about getting one.

What is an attestation d’accueil? 

This document is a French form completed and signed by the person who will be hosting a non-EU national in their home during their stay in France. 

It contains information including: 

  • The host’s name
  • The passport number, name and nationality of the visitor (plus any accompanying spouse and children)
  • The address and details of the accommodation 

It must be validated at the host’s local mairie before the visitor applies for their short-stay Schengen visa – if necessary – or before they begin their journey to France if not.

The host must then send the completed form to their visitor for it to be presented to travel authorities.

However, if the guest requires a short-stay Schengen visa, the attestation will be included in their application and so French border control will assume that it has been granted if the person has a valid visa in their passport.

Read more: Attestation d’accueil for UK visitors to France: Is it needed or not?

One form must be filled in for each visitor, although spouses and children can be covered on the same document.

Who is required to present this form? 

The French Interior Ministry states that: “The attestation d’accueil [requirement] concerns any foreigner wishing to spend up to three months in France, as part of a private or family visit.” However, in practice, the document is often not requested. 

Under the official French government rules, EU, Andorran and Monegasque citizens do not need to provide one, and nor do people holding a Schengen circulation visa allowing various trips to the bloc over the course of a year. 

However people coming for a single short-term trip who are of nationalities requiring a visa for this will typically have to obtain one as part of their visa application if the intention is to stay with friends or family.

You can find a list of these nationalities here. It does not include British, American or Australian citizens but does concern South African, Indian and Chinese nationals, for example.

People who have obtained a visa requiring them to apply for a carte de séjour in the two months after their arrival in France because they are moving to France are among groups who are exempt.

People travelling to France for humanitarian reasons, cultural exchanges, emergency medical treatment, visits to a sick relative and funerals are also allowed to enter without an attestation d’accueil.

Do British or American people need this document? 

In practice, attestations d’accueil are not normally required from British citizens, Americans and other nationalities which do not need to obtain a short-stay visa.

In May 2021 the UK’s foreign office updated its France Travel Advice page to say that British citizens visiting France may provide proof of sufficient funds instead of an attestation d’accueil

It added that ‘sufficient funds’ equates to €120 per day per traveller (without accommodation proof). 

The French government website currently states that €65 per day is sufficient if you have secured accommodation in a hotel or similar, or if you have an attestation d’accueil showing that you are staying with family or friends the daily requirement would be €32.50 per traveller.

The EU’s Schengen Borders Code advises bringing an ‘invitation from your host’ as evidence of your accommodation plans – in the absence of a hotel booking, for example – if you are asked to prove that you fulfil the conditions of entry into France. 

This was previously also recommended to The Connexion, by the French Interior Ministry, though it is not listed on official French sites among the mandatory documents to be shown at the border. It is not however considered equivalent to an attestation, in terms of exemption from the €120 per day.

The Connexion has however found that in practice, Americans, Australians and other non-EU visitors who do not require a short-term Schengen visa are not usually asked for an attestation d’accueil, or for a letter from the host.

Cannes-based lawyer Sarah Sahnoun has previously told us that: “If I want to bring over a family member who lives in England but who has a different nationality and needs a visa, I can get an attestation d’accueil to help them come, but Europeans and those dispensed from tourist visas do not need one.”

Ms Sahnoun stated that for example, if an American visits France, the border guard may sometimes ask the purpose of the visit, but usually stating “I’m staying with my friend”, will suffice.

However she said that, to be careful, hosts could send their UK visitor a signed document attesting that they will be staying with them at their address from such a date to such a date, accompanied by a photocopy of their passport to identify themselves.

Read more: Lawyers: Attestation d'accueil not needed for Britons visiting France

How do you go about obtaining the attestation? 

The attestation must be submitted to the local mairie by the person wishing to host the visitor.

Mairies can provide the form – CERFA n०10798 – which can be completed and signed there and then. 

The host must normally go to the mairie with an identity card or passport, document proving that they own, rent or occupy the property in question (title deeds and utility bills, for example), proof of funds and of their ability to support the visitor financially if needs be, proof that their property can accommodate the visitor(s) and the passport number of the foreigner.

Some mairies may ask for copies as well as the original documents, so it is advisable to ask your local authority before going to fill in the form.

If the mairie approves the attestation application, they will not necessarily return the completed document immediately, and the host may have to return to collect it. 

They must then send it to their guest. If they need to obtain a Schengen visa, they should attach the document to their application, and if they do not they should simply present it to border control when arriving in France.

Does the application come at a cost? 

The application costs €30 to be paid in timbres fiscaux which can be bought here or in certain tabacs. 

This fee is non-refundable including if the application is rejected.

Why might an attestation application be refused? 

A mairie may refuse to validate an attestation d’accueil if the host fails to present all the required documents or is incapable of properly accommodating the guest, the circumstances surrounding the visit are suspicious or the information on the form is incorrect.

Hosts can appeal refusals by contacting their prefecture within two months.

How long does it take for the application to be validated? 

The application should be processed and a decision returned in less than a month. After one month has passed, the Interior Ministry states that the applicant should infer that the attestation has been rejected. 

However, it is worth checking with the mairie as some may have longer processing times.

You can read more about France’s entry requirements for British citizens on the UK government website, and for US citizens on the American government website.

Related articles 

Proof of funds can replace visitor attestation d’accueil, UK confirms

Attestation d'accueil and d’hébergement: what is the difference?

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