Visa Requirements in France
For visits of less than 90 days, North American citizens need a passport but not an entry visa to France. Staying longer, though, means applying for a long-stay visa—good for 12 months. Just before the 12-month mark, those wishing to continue staying in France will need to apply to renew their visa (which turns into a residency card) at a local government office in France.
You will need to apply for the long-stay visa from the U.S. or Canada. The authorities do not allow you to change your status from tourist to resident while you are vacationing in France. Unfortunately, failure to obey this law could result in you being expelled from France and a lengthy delay in your return.
Generally, it isn’t difficult for North American retirees to gain long-term residence in France. Individuals who wish to retire in the country should apply for a long-stay visa which will allow continuing residency and, after five years, the opportunity to apply for a 10-year residency, or French citizenship.
There is no French retirement visa, or Golden Visa, as in other European countries, though. Thus, the long-stay visa is your best route to settling in France.
Anyone wishing to reside long-term in France should avoid applying for a Long-Stay Visa used as a Residence Permit (VLS-TS.) This is catered to students, and requires that the visa holder leave France after the 12-month period, and then re-apply for another long stay visa from their home country if they wish to return.
You will need a certain amount of documentation, and you cannot apply for the long-stay visa earlier than three months before your scheduled departure date to France. We recommend gathering the required paperwork well in advance of the date you wish to submit your application.
Current requirements are as follows:
- A passport, signed and valid for three months after the last day of your stay. An original plus a photocopy.
- Non-U.S./Canadian citizens will also need evidence of current legal residence status.
- Two passport-size photos per individual.
- The visa application form filled out and submitted online, on the French government visa website: https://france-visas.gouv.fr/
Once submitted online, you will save and print a copy of the application to take to a visa processing center in the U.S. or Canada. The processing centers are run by a company called VFS Global: https://france-visas.gouv.fr/. The French Embassy makes the final decision on your visa.
Financial guarantees: three months of bank statements showing that you have sufficient income or means to live in France, or proof of a retirement pension if that is your means of support.
The current income requirements for the French long-stay visa are:
- Under 65 years of age: $696 per month, as an individual or $1,036, as a couple
- Over 65 years of age: $1,073 per month, as an individual or $1,666 as a couple
These figures correspond, approximately, to the French minimum wage.
Proof of international medical insurance that covers you for the entire 12-month period that you’re in France. The proof should take the form of two copies of a letter from the insurance company. Coverage should be for a minimum of $30,646 in medical expenses, hospitalization, and emergency services and cover the whole of the Schengen Zone.
Proof of accommodation in France for a minimum of three months which can take the form of confirmation of an Airbnb rental, hotel stay, or short-term lease. Or a letter from a legal resident of France stating that she/he will provide for your accommodation.
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 a long-stay visa per application is $101.
Once you have gathered together all the necessary documents, you must attend one in-person appointment at one of the VFS processing centers located in major U.S. cities, or in Canada. You can search their website to find the center closest to you: https://france-visas.gouv.fr/.
The French visa is biometric and requires an in-person appointment. At VFS, you will be fingerprinted and they will keep your passport until the visa is received. The passport will be mailed back to your U.S. or Canadian residence once the visa is approved—the usual turnaround time is around two weeks. The current VFS processing fee is $32.18.
If you hope to work in France or are intending to establish a business, other permits are required.
Being issued a long-stay visa is the start of your journey to long-term residency in France. Once in France, you then must apply for a residency card from the administrative offices of your local préfecture, the main administrative headquarters in the region where you have settled (known as a department).
For the first five years in France, you will be required to renew your carte de séjour (residence card). After five years of continuous residency in France, you can request the 10-year residence card, which is renewable. As with a long-stay visa, a great deal of documentation is needed before your card is issued—much of it overlapping with the initial visa documents. Your prefecture will let you know what paperwork is required.
Obtaining a work visa
Without the specialized skills that a French employer is looking for, North Americans will find it very difficult to find legal salaried employment in France.
You’ll find a well-paid job with legal status is 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 8%. Furthermore, citizens of the other EU member states have priority over you in the European job market.
Foreigners can work remotely for a U.S.-based company on a long-stay visa, but do not have the right to work legally for a French company, nor set up their own company in France.
For help or further details, you can contact the French Embassy in Washington, DC: https://franceintheus.org.