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Getting a visa

General information for foreign nationals with ordinary passeports

All foreign nationals wanting to come to France must be able to submit statutory documentary evidence at the border for the reasons for their stay, their means of support and accommodation arrangements.

As a rule, unless you are exempt, you are required to have a visa. It must be applied for from the relevant French embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of residence.

The type of visa required to enter France depends on the duration of and reasons for the planned stay, except in the following special cases:
-  for stays of less than or not exceeding 90 days (3 months), you need to apply for a short-stay "Schengen" visa;
-  for stays exceeding 90 days (3 months) you need to apply for a long-stay visa suited to the duration of and reasons for your stay.

Once the visa holder has entered the French territory, no visa modification or change of status may be obtained. In addition, exercising a salaried occupation is subject to specific procedures that require getting a work permit prior to applying for a visa.

As regards French overseas territories, the rules applicable may differ from those applying to the territory of metropolitan France. Applicants are required to specify their destination and flight details very accurately.

1. General information on procedures for submitting and processing visa applications

Regulations on entry to and staying in the French territory differ whether you hold a regular passport, a diplomatic passport or an official duty passport.

Your passport must be valid long enough to cover your stay in the Schengen Area.

Application or “visa” fees are payable on submitting your application; these application fees are not refunded if the visa is refused.

When the visa application is being processed, certain formalities such as the making of appointments or submission of the application may be entrusted to service providers. You should allow additional costs for this. Information is available from the relevant French consulate.]

2. There are several categories of visa:

Short-stay visas (“Schengen visas”)

Short-stay or “Schengen” visas allow holders to move freely in countries in the Schengen Area for stays not exceeding 90 days per period of 6 months from your first entry to the Schengen Area. Schengen visas may be issued for one or several entries.

This type of visa is generally issued for tourism, business travel or family visits; it also allows holders to come to France for short training courses, internships or to exercise a salaried occupation, subject to getting a temporary work permit (e.g. for artists on tour, sportspeople playing in championships, employees seconded for the provision of services, etc.).

You can also apply for a Schengen visa to simply transit through France.

Special case:

-  Family members of a Community national:

In accordance with Directive 2004/38/EC of 29 April 2004, third-country family members of an EU citizen accompanying or joining their spouse in France are only subject to the entry visa requirement in accordance with Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 of 15 March 2001, provided they produce documentary evidence establishing the nationality of the Community national and their family relationship and, where relevant, the status of dependent for a child over 21 or his parents. The entry visa is issued rapidly and free of charge.

Transit by a foreign national through a French airport, not leaving the “international area” of the airport, is a special case, because you do not enter French territory and do not require an entry visa, with some exceptions: certain foreigners are subject to visa requirements for airport transit in France: information on airport transit.

Long-stay visas

Long-stay visas are issued for stays exceeding 3 months. The main reasons for issuing this type of visa are study, work and family reunion.

Where a long-stay visa is issued, you must, on arriving in France, register with the French Immigration and Integration Office (OFII) or, in some cases, apply to the relevant prefecture for a residence permit.

3. Certain foreigners are exempt from the visa requirement

Under Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 of 15 March 2001, a certain number of nationalities are exempt from the short-stay visa requirement to enter the Schengen Area. (Foreigners holding ordinary passports exempt from visa requirements).

If you are a national of a European Union (EU) Member State other than France, of the European Economic Area (EEA) or of Switzerland [lien à créer: Map of the European Union], or a family member of a national of an EU Member State other than France, the EEA or Switzerland, specific provisions of EU law apply:
-  Nationals of EU Member States, the EEA or Switzerland are not subject to the entry and stay visa requirement, whatever the duration of their stay;
-  members of the family of a national of Member States of the EU, EEA or Switzerland (spouse, children under 18 or dependent children, dependent parents) are subject to the same regulations governing the movement of persons as other foreigners of their nationality. Family members of a Union national who does not require a short-stay visa, or holding a residence permit for family members of Union citizens, do not require an entry and stay visa, whatever the duration of their stay.

4. Entry controls on arrival in the Schengen Area

Holding a visa is not a sufficient condition to enter the Schengen Area Map of the Schengen Area (PDF 93,7 Ko) : Information on arrival border controls.

Controls on arrival apply to all foreigners, whether they are subject to the entry and stay visa requirement or exempt from it.

5. Applying for a French residence permit

Holders of an entry and long-stay visa marked “carte de séjour à solliciter” (residence permit to be applied for) are required to contact the French prefectural authority in their place of residence, in order to apply for a residence permit within two months of entering the French territory.

Holders of a long-stay visa marked “CESEDA R.311-3” are required to contact the French Immigration and Integration Office (OFII) immediately on arrival in France.

6. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Go to visa FAQ section Visa FAQ

7. Information from French diplomatic and consular offices

For further information, you should consult the relevant consular authority for your place of residence.

List of websites of French diplomatic and consular offices authorized to issue visas.

Updated : 28.11.13

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