Visa Requirements in France
For visits of less than 90 days, North American citizens need a passport but not an entry visa. Staying longer, though, means applying for a visa de séjour temporaire (a residence visa) from your nearest French consulate in the U.S. or Canada.
This isn’t something you can apply for while you’re vacationing in France. The authorities do not allow you to change your status from tourist to resident without jumping through the right hoops. And note that failure to obey this law could result in you being expelled from France and lengthily delay your return.
Generally, it isn’t difficult for North American retirees to gain long-term residence in France, but you should check out your particular situation before making plans.
Plenty of documentation will be needed. Current requirements are as follows:
- A passport, signed and valid for three months after the last day of stay. Original plus a photocopy.
- Eight separate application forms (three for each child), signed and legibly filled out. You are asked to print in black ink.
- Two passport-size photos per individual.
- Non-U.S./Canadian citizens will also need evidence of current legal residence status.
- One long-term application annex, which must be completed, dated, signed, and notarized.
- Financial guarantees, such as a letter from your bank manager stating that you have sufficient income or means to live in France, or proof of a retirement pension.
- Proof of medical insurance that covers you for the entire time that you’re in France. The proof should take the form of two copies of a letter from your insurance company. Coverage should be for a minimum of $40,000 in medical expenses, hospitalization, and emergency services.
- Proof of lodging in France, such as lease, promise of a lease, or the title to a property in France. Or a letter from a legal resident of France stating that he will provide for your accommodation.
- For the spouse of a French citizen, a livret de famille or a copy of the French marriage license, or the official French transcript of the marriage license if the marriage took place outside France. The French citizen must prove his nationality.
- A written statement from you, signed and dated, that you will neither seek nor accept any paid work or commercial activity during your stay.
- Visa fee: The current fee for an extended-stay visa per application is $114, but it can vary. The exact fee will depend on the prevailing currency exchange rate on the date that the visa is issued.
Once you have gathered together all the necessary documents, you must submit your application to the nearest French Consulate in your jurisdiction. Be sure to understand how you must submit your application. Many consulates require you to apply in person, but some accept applications by mail or by courier. It generally takes one to two months to process your application, but it depends on the consulate. If you hope to work in France or are intending to establish a business, other permits are required.
For help or further details, contact: Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Road N.W., Washington, D.C., 20007; tel.(202)944-6195; fax (202)944-6148; email:
[email protected]; website: www.info-france usa.org.
Being issued with a residence visa is only the start of the bureaucratic fun. Once in France, you then must apply for a residency card from the administrative offices of your local préfecture, the département’s main town. Depending on status, two types are issued to foreigners: the carte de séjour and the carte de résident. Most foreigners (unless married to a French citizen or the parent of a French-born child) are issued a carte de séjour.
For the first three years in France, you will be required to renew your carte de séjour temporaire. After three years, you can request the 10-year carte de résident, which is renewable. This allows holders to work as salaried employees in France. Note, though, that a 10-year card isn’t granted as a right. As with a residency visa, a great deal of documentation is needed before your carte is issued. Documentation varies depending on the préfecture, but generally you will need:
- Valid passport with the long-stay visa plus photocopy of passport title page and French visa page.
- One recent passport photo.
- Proof of financial resources.
- Proof of medical insurance or a medical certificate issued by a doctor approved by the French Consulate. (Full translation of details of foreign medical insurance is required, also.).
- Proof of domicile in France.
Obtaining a work visa
Without the specialized skills that a French employer is crying out for, North Americans will find it very difficult to find legal salaried employment in France.
Unless you’ve been a legal resident in France for at least the past three years—and have thus acquired a carte de resident—you’ll find a well-paid job with legal status hard to come by. A prospective employer must obtain authorization from the Ministry of Labor. It’s unlikely this will be given if there are French citizens who could do the same job.
The unemployment rate in France right now is 9%. Furthermore, citizens of the other EU member states have priority over you in the European job market.
According to the French Consulate:
“Foreigners must hold valid French work documents before arriving in France. These papers consist of a work contract prepared by the Office des Migrations Internationales and a visa. They are required in all instances, including employment with foreign companies in France. (Foreign government employees and international civil servants who are assigned to a diplomatic mission or to an international organization are not subject to this regulation.)”
The foreign worker must obtain a draft contract from an employer in France. The employer in France files an application with the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII), 44 rue Bargue, 75732 Paris; tel. +33 (1) 5369-5370; website: www.ofii.fr.
If the application is accepted, the OFII sends the file to the French Consulate in the area where the foreign worker resides and a letter to the applicant. Under no circumstances are working documents issued to the applicant in France, even if the foreign worker is temporarily in France when authorization is granted. At this point, the applicant contacts the consulate and goes for a medical checkup by an accredited doctor. The visa is normally issued after the examination.
Upon arrival in France, the applicant must, within eight days, apply for a carte de séjour at the town hall of the nearest préfecture (regional capital) of his/ her residence. Passport and medical certificate must be presented at this time.
Incidentally, if you’re entitled to citizenship of an EU country (perhaps because you have an Irish grandparent, for example), it would be worth claiming your second passport. This would cut through a lot of red tape and give you an automatic right to work in France.
For further details, see the Official Site of the French Civil Service.