visa franceFor the purpose of coming to France, a visa will allow you to enter the French territory. This document is issued by the French consular authorities in the foreign national’s country of residence in the form of a sticker affixed to a passport. It authorizes the holder to enter the French territory, travel within the Schengen Area and stay in France for a specified period. There are several categories of visas.

Helpful tip: Typically, a visa only authorizes its holder to enter France for stays of up to three months. To stay in France for a longer period and work in the country, you need a residence permit, unless you are exempt.

The formalities to be completed before entering French territory depend on a number of factors, such as the foreign national’s nationality, as well as the length of stay and its reasons.

EU nationals can move freely in France without any need for a visa.

Entry visas can be broken down into two main categories:

  • A short-stay visa authorizes foreign nationals to enter and stay in French territory for up to 3 months. Short-stay visas can be single-entry for one short stay or multiple-entry for several successive short stays.
  • A long-stay visa allows foreign nationals to stay in France for longer than three months, with the aim of enabling the holder to obtain a residence permit so they can live in France for a specified period.

Meanwhile, a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour – VLS-TS) allows the holder not only to enter France but also to live in the country for a duration between 3 and 12 months without applying for a separate residence permit.

As a general rule, staying in France, whether for a short term or a long term, is dependant on the legality of the entry into the territory. You cannot get a visa if you entered the country without valid legal grounds.

Legal entry is generally evidenced by the presentation of a visa. However, certain categories of foreigners do not have to produce a visa in order to be able to enter France regularly.

The issuance of a visa allows France to identify foreigners wishing to come to its territory and to control their arrival. For this reason, French consular authorities abroad have a wide discretion to issue or not the visa requested. Providing the right supporting documents is therefore crucial.

A visa has become so important that it is not only a condition to enter legally in France but also a condition to be allowed to stay in the territory to request a resident permit.

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Foreigners affected by a short-stay visa waiver

There are certain categories of foreigners who are exempt from the production of a visa if they come to France for a stay whose duration does not exceed 90 days. These are:

  • Nationals of the Member States of the European Union or of the European Economic Area,
  • Nationals of the following countries: Andorra, Monaco, San Marino
  • Foreigners exempted from having a visa because they carry a diplomatic passport.

Foreigners holding a residence permit and minors holding a movement document for foreign minors. Their residence permit gives them freedom of movement between France and their country of origin, so there is no need to apply for a visa to return to France. The same applies to receipts for renewing a residence permit accompanied by an expired residence permit.


Foreigners affected by a long-stay visa waiver

If they wish to settle in France, the following foreigners are exempt from applying for a long-stay visa before their departure.

  • Nationals of the Member States of the European Union or of the European Economic Area,
  • Nationals of the following countries: Andorra, Monaco, San Marino
  • Foreigners holding a “long-term EU” resident card.
  • Nationals of a residence permit issued by another EU 2 State and marked “ICT intern” or “ICT seconded employee” as well as their family members.


Documents generally required to apply for a visa

For the submission of a visa application, a foreigner must, as a general rule, present various documents:

  • A valid passport;
  • Supporting documents for the means of subsistence and accommodation;
  • Proof of travel and repatriation insurance, health insurance;
  • Documents necessary for professional practice (such as a work permit); 
  • Proof of family ties in France if the visa is requested for a family reason;
  • Any other document deemed useful for the examination of the file.


Authorities competent to issue a visa

Visas are issued or refused by the French consular authorities (consulates or embassies) of the foreigner’s country of residence.

In principle, the consular authorities are only competent to issue a visa to foreigners who usually are resident in their consular district. However, they may issue visas to foreigners who justify unforeseeable and compelling reasons which have not allowed them to file their application in the consular district where they usually reside.

Thus, if there are no more consular representations in the country in which he resides, a foreigner can address his visa request to the consular authorities of a neighboring country.

In a growing number of countries, consular authorities are using private providers for visa applications. Their services are chargeable. Additional fees to the cost of the visa are therefore to be expected. These providers are only responsible for receiving visa applications. The consular authorities remain solely responsible for processing files and making decisions regarding visa applications.


The Form of a visa

The issuance of the visa takes the form of a secure sticker affixed in the passport which follows an identical model in the event of a stay of fewer than three months for all the States of the Schengen Area. The are several categories of visa

  • Visa « A »: airport transit
  • Visa « B »: Schengen transit
  • Visa « C »: Short stay visa (up to 3 months)
  • Visa « D »: Long-stay visa (longer than 3 months)


The duration of a visa processing

The processing times for visa applications are often very long, at least for foreigners from countries considered to present a “migration risk”.

Pursuant to the European Visa Code adopted on July 13, 2009, by the European Union and entered into force on April 5, 2010, the maximum visa processing time is 15 days. That being said, in special cases, where a more detailed examination of the application is necessary, this period may be extended and reach a maximum of 30 calendar days. When additional documents are required for special cases, the period may be extended and reach a maximum of 60 calendar days.

The consular authorities have in principle a period of 2 months to process the request.
The consular authorities may extend this period for a period of 4 months in order to carry out the verification of civil status documents. If these checks do not succeed within this period, the administration may extend the period again for a period not exceeding 4 months.



The entry into French territory of a foreigner, whether for a short or long stay, must in principle be regular. This means that the foreigner must fulfill certain conditions in order to be authorized to enter the national territory. Generally, regular entry is justified by the presentation of a visa.

There are different types of visas depending on the reason for the trip (tourist, professional, family, etc.) and according to the length of stay (more or less than three months). Thus, they can be transit visas, short or long term. Some will not allow the establishment in France, others a temporary installation and still others a durable installation in France.

Visas can be grouped into three categories:

  • Transit or short stay visas which do not allow establishment in France;
  • Visas allowing temporary installation in France;
  • Visas allowing a durable installation in France.

The presentation of a long-stay visa has become compulsory for obtaining most residence permits.

A distinction is made between the transit visa which does not allow a prolonged entry into the Schengen area or even a very short entry, and the short-stay visa which allows staying in a Schengen area country for a maximum duration of 90 days. Some visas do not allow movement in the Schengen area but only in the country which issued the visa or in certain Schengen area states specifically mentioned: this is the visa with limited territorial validity.



This is the most common visa requested by travelers or vacationers.

This visa is intended for a foreigner wishing to stay in France for a short period for a tourist trip or a family visit, for example. This visa can be issued for one or more entries.

The stay may not exceed a maximum duration of 90 days per semester from the first entry into France. We must not confuse the length of stay and the visa validity period: for example, if the visa is for a period of 15 days from 1 st June to 31 August, the stranger who will come in France on August 20 does will actually only be able to stay there for 11 days since August 31st, his visa will no longer be valid.


The conditions to obtain a type C Schengen are as follows:

The foreigner must first fill out the short-stay visa application form.

He must also provide the following documents:

  • A valid passport;
  • Supporting documents relating to the reason for their stay in the “Schengen area”;
  • Evidence relating to the means of subsistence during the stay in France (cash, traveler’s checks, certified checks, payment cards for international use or letters of credit);
  • A proof of accommodation called a “reception certificate” which is issued by the mayor of the accommodation municipality, in the event of a private or family visit.

The reception certificate is proof of accommodation for foreigners who come for a private or family visit for a maximum of 3 months. It is signed by the person who will host the foreigner and who will undertake to take care of him for the duration of his stay in France.

The request is filed with the town hall of the place where the foreigner will be accommodated and a tax must be paid even if the request is ultimately refused by the mayor. If the mayor accepts the request, the signatory must send the certificate of reception abroad so that he attaches it to his visa request.

Once in France, a foreigner can obtain the extension of the duration of their C visa from the prefecture for 3 reasons: humanitarian, family (death, illness, accident in the family) or professional. These conditions are set out in regulation from December 23, 1999.

This procedure remains exceptional and a visa can only be extended for a maximum of 90 days. 



It allows a stay of one year with work authorization, for young foreigners aged 18 to 30, under agreements negotiated between France and their country.

This visa only concerns students from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico from Uruguay, Taiwan, Russia, and Brazil.

Applicants must not be accompanied by dependent children and must provide:

  • A valid passport;
  • A round trip ticket ;
  • Evidence of their financial resources for the duration of their stay.



A long-stay visa is generally required to obtain a first temporary residence permit in France. Since 2009, it has been gradually extended to an increasingly large number of categories of foreigners and now concerns most categories of foreigners who can apply for a long-stay visa.

To obtain a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit, the conditions for granting the residence permit to which it corresponds must be fulfilled. The foreigner must complete the long-stay visa application form on the France Visa site and file their application with the various supporting documents required with the French consular authorities.

This visa allows foreigners to enter France on a regular basis and will be worth a residence permit once it has been validated. This visa must be validated within 3 months of arrival in France.

If they wish to remain in France, the foreigner must submit their request for a residence permit 2 months before the expiration of their visa.

A decree of February 13, 2019, has changed the terms of validation of the long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit. This process is now carried out exclusively online.

Others articles on the subject here.