FAQ - Visas

Who needs a visa to enter France ?

All foreign nationals need a visa to enter France except for those cases laid down by the law.

I do not want to enter France, but simply transit through an airport there. Do I need a visa?

Nationals of some countries require an airport transit visa. See the information sheet. [lien vers le document n°5 relatif au visa de transit aéroportuaire]

I hold a French residence permit (carte de séjour). Do I need a visa?

If you hold a valid residence permit (carte de séjour) allowing you to reside in France, you do not need an entry visa. However, if you have been away from France for more than three consecutive years, your residence permit has expired. Similarly, members of your family who do not hold a residence permit must have a visa, except if they are exempt.

I hold a French residence permit (carte de séjour) but have lost it. Do I need a visa?

Foreign nationals who hold a French residence permit (carte de séjour) and have lost it must request a return visa from the consulate to be allowed to return to France.

Because of the risk of fraud, the consulate will have to carry out checks together with the prefectural authorities who issued the residence permit. This may take a long time. Foreign nationals who hold this permit are therefore advised to keep it secure when they travel outside of France.

I hold a valid Schengen visa issued by another Schengen State. Do I need a visa?

A Schengen visa (issued by a consulate or embassy of a Schengen State) is valid for all 26 States of the Schengen Area (including the European territory of France), unless it is marked otherwise on the visa sticker.

So you do not need another visa to enter or stay in the European territory of France. However, you must be in possession of documentary evidence for the reasons for your stay and your means of support. But please note that a Schengen visa is not valid for entry to France’s overseas territories (Outre-Mer).

I hold a valid Schengen visa and want to visit a French overseas department or territory. Can I go there with a Schengen visa?

A Schengen visa issued by France or another Schengen State does not allow entry to the French overseas departments and territories. You must hold a valid visa for the territory of destination, unless you are exempt. You must apply for this visa to the consular representation in your country of departure or, if you are already in France, to the Prefecture.

I hold a temporary long-stay visa “with residence permit exemption”. Am I allowed to travel in the Schengen Area?

The type D long-stay visa issued by France or by another Schengen Area country allows travel in the Schengen Area during the validity of the visa for stays not exceeding 3 months per period of 6 months, subject to submitting documentary evidence for the reasons of your stay and your means of support.

This applies to all long-stay visas marked “D” during their period of validity, namely: temporary long-stay visa, visa for minors attending school, long-stay visa constituting a residence permit, etc.

I hold a long-stay visa constituting a residence permit, but it has not yet been validated by the French Immigration and Integration Office (OFII).May I travel without having to apply for a new visa?

The long-stay visa constituting a residence permit allows travel under the following conditions:

  • within 3 months of your arrival in France, you may travel with this visa without further formalities (inside and outside the Schengen Area).
  • beyond the period of 3 months, you may only travel if the OFII sticker is affixed to your visa, failing which you must be in possession of the OFII certificate of application to travel outside France.

If you fail to carry out the OFII formalities within the prescribed time limit of 3 months, you must re-apply for a long-stay visa to the relevant French consulate in your country of residence.

I usually live in Mali but am in Togo at present. Can I apply for a visa in Lomé? Can I send my visa application by mail to Bamako?

No. You must submit your visa application in person to the French consular office in your usual country of residence; you cannot apply by post.

I am present in France and my visa has expired. Can I send my passport to the consulate in my usual country of residence to extend my stay in France?

No. You must return to your usual country of residence to submit a new visa application.

I am going on a holiday tour for 6 days in France and 7 days in Italy. Can I submit my visa application to the French consulate?

No. You must submit your visa application to the consular authority of the Schengen State where you will be spending the most time, the country which is in fact your main destination, so, in the present case, to the Italian consulate.

I want to spend some time in France, but my plane lands in Brussels. Which country must I apply to for a visa?

Although you are entering the Schengen Area via Belgium, your main destination is France. You must therefore apply for a visa from the French consulate. This visa is valid for entry into the Schegen Area via Belgium, unless it is marked otherwise on the visa sticker.

I am planning to attend a week-long seminar in Brussels and then spend the weekend with friends in France. Which consulate should I apply to for a visa?

The relevant consular authority is that of the country of main destination; even if you enter the Schengen Area at a French airport, you must apply for a visa from the Belgian embassy.

Is my passport valid for France ?

Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date of expiry of your short-stay visa. To apply for a long-stay visa of definite duration (long-stay visa constituting a residence permit), your passport must be valid for as long as the visa. For a long-stay visa marked “carte de séjour à solliciter” (“residence permit to be applied for”), your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date of expiry of the visa. If your passport expires earlier, you must ask your own national authorities to extend or renew it.

Your passport must contain at least two blank pages to take the visa and the French entry and exit stamps.

No visa will be affixed to a passport:

  • whose plastic film cover (transparent security film which must cover the photograph) has not been stuck or has been unstuck (you must ask the passport issuing authority to secure the passport again);
  • that was coated with plastic in a store, which renders the passport invalid;
  • that was defaced by scraping, erasure or alterations;
  • that was damaged (torn page, binding not matching the original, etc.).

How can I get a visa application form ?

Visa applications will only be accepted on an official form (or legible photocopy of a form). There are two types of form, depending on how long you intend to stay:

  • short-stay form (one or more stays totalling to less than 3 months per period of 6 months in the Schengen Area);

Must I complete the form at the consulate or must it be completed before I go to the consulate ?

You will only be allowed into the visa department if you can present a properly completed and signed visa application form.

How do I enter the visa department to submit an application?

An increasing number of visa departments only accept applications by appointment.

The reason for this is that in some countries the people waiting in line in the street outside the visa department were subject to extortion, threats, pickpocketing, etc., and were not sure to be admitted. Appointments avoid these problems.

How long before coming to France can I apply for a visa?

When you submit a visa application, you may ask for its validity to start either on the date of issuance or on some other date no later than three months after the date of issuance.
You may therefore submit a visa application 3 months before your planned date of departure for France.

What must I enclose with my application?

You must comply with the information sheet relating to the category of visa that corresponds to the reasons for your stay in France and include the documents in the order given on the list.

Information sheets

The "information sheets" (notices d’information) list the documents and other material that must be enclosed with the application. The consulate reserves the right to request any further documents that may be necessary to process your visa application.

These sheets are available on consulate websites and are sometimes also posted outside the consulate.

Application form

One form must be completed for each visa applicant, including children under 18 :

The form must be completed and signed by adult applicants (over 18). Visa applications for those under age must be completed on a form signed by the parents or a legal guardian, who must attach their contact details and a photocopy of their identity document.

The form must also contain your contact details (address, telephone number) and the name of a contact in France or the address and telephone number of your accommodation (hotel or other).

The form must already be completed when you enter the consulate.

Identity photographs

These must be 3.5 cm wide by 4.5 cm high, in colour with a white background (coloured backgrounds are not acceptable), recent, a true likeness, showing the face looking straight at the camera.

Too few or non-compliant photographs are grounds for refusing a visa (because the photographs enclosed cannot be used to physically produce the visa).

Letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation should not be sent directly to the consulate. However, recommendations of a professional nature, for example, may be given to the visa applicant who should enclose them with the application they submit to the visa department.

Supporting documents

Both the originals and photocopies of each document must be submitted to the visa department.

The documents listed in the information sheet are evidence to show the consular authorities that :

  • the reason for your visit to the Schengen Area is indeed the one you have given ;
  • you have sufficient resources to pay for your stay ;
  • you do intend to leave the Schengen Area when the visa expires.

The visa department will keep the copies of your documents and return the originals to you.

Airline ticket

An airline ticket must be shown for an airport transit visa ("Transit A").

For other visas, the airline ticket need not be enclosed with the visa application. However, you must submit a detailed flight booking (dates, times, flight numbers).

How must I submit the application?

The form must already be completed and signed when you arrive at the consulate and the documents must be in the order specified on the information sheet.

What happens if a document is missing? An incomplete application is grounds for refusing a visa. In any event, if you do not have the supporting documents required to enter France, you are likely to be stopped on entry by the French border police.

To ensure that your application is complete, place a tick on the information sheet against the documents your are submitting. If your application does not contain the photocopies indicated on the information sheet, it is incomplete: missing photocopy = incomplete application = visa refused (because it is therefore not possible to physically process the application).

Can I send my application or part of it by courier or fax ?

No. You must submit all the application documents in person. You must not send the application to the visa department or any other department in the consulate or embassy, except if the visa department asks you to do so in writing .

Visa application agencies

Any visa applicant is free to ask a legal or other advisory agency to help them complete the form and collect the supporting documents. The consulate has no say in the tariffs charged by these agencies.

Conversely, no legal or other advisory agency can claim that the applications they help to submit receive any special treatment from the consulate.

How much does a visa cost ?

Application fees are :

  • 60 euros for a short-stay visa (one or more stays totalling to less than 3 months per period of 6 months in the Schengen Area) except for nationals of certain countries who benefit from a special rate agreed with the European Union (Bosnia, Moldavia, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia).
  • 99 euros for a long-stay visa.

These application fees are not refunded if the visa is refused.

Processing time

Processing time varies according to the nationality of the applicant and local conditions of the issuing department. Please consult the consular website.

For certain types of visa that require verification or consultation with the French authorities (visas for a stay of more than 3 months in France, adoption visas, for example), response times may be much longer.

Which countries is my visa valid for?

Unless marked otherwise on the visa sticker, short-stay visas are valid for travel throughout the Schengen Area which comprises the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

There is no immigration control at the borders between countries in the Schengen Area, except in exceptional circumstances.

The United Kingdom and Ireland are not members of the Schengen Area.

What does the visa sticker mean?

The visa sticker includes a number of details and dates.

What are the border controls going to ask for when I arrive in France ?

If you have been granted a short-stay visa, or if you do not require a short-stay visa, on your arrival in France you must be able to show the following to the border police on request :

  • your passport (with the appropriate visa if required)
  • documentary evidence for the reason for your stay in France, your means of support during your stay and your resources for returning to your country of origin.

Having a visa in your passport does not therefore automatically mean that you will be allowed to enter the Schengen Area. The border police may refuse entry.

If you have been granted a long-stay visa, the border police will only ask to see your passport and visa sticker. They will stamp your date of entry into France. Immediately on arrival in France, you must send the OFII form to the relevant regional delegation or, if your long-stay visa specifies “carte de séjour à solliciter” (residence permit to be applied for), within 2 months of your arrival you must submit an application for a residence permit at the prefecture of your place of residence, unless you are under age (under 18).

May I know why I have been refused a visa ?

As from 5 April 2011, the reasons for refusing a short-stay visa must be given.

In the case of long-stay visas, Reasons for refusal are not given, except for certain categories of applicants, including:

  • the spouse of a French national,
  • a child under 21 or dependent child of a French national;
  • the father or mother of a French national ;
  • a child under age having been granted full adoption abroad, by persons deemed eligible and suitable to adopt a child by the French authorities;
  • the holder of a family reunion permit (following authorisation of family reunion granted by a prefectural authority) ;
  • a worker authorized to exercise a salaried occupation in France by a labour contract approved by a Regional directorate of enterprises, competition, consumption, labour and employment (DIRECCTE), or by a temporary work permit (autorisation provisoire de travail – APT) issued by a DIRECCTE following an employer’s application to the OFII to introduce a seasonal, temporary or permanent worker (including interns).

Can I appeal ?

You may appeal against a decision to refuse you a visa by applying to the Commission de recours contre les décisions de refus de visa d’entrée en France (Board of Appeals against decisions to refuse an entry visa to France) within 2 months of the date of notification of the refusal.

If your visa is refused, you may also submit a new visa application immediately and at any time.

May I extend my stay in France after the visa has expired ?

If you remain on French territory after your visa has expired, you run the risk of having to pay a fine and/or having an alert recorded against you when you leave the French territory. In such a case, the consulate would process any further visa applications you may submit in the light of your overstaying the visa.

Consequently, if you consider that you are obliged to extend your stay in France after your visa has expired for reasons of force majeure, you must, before the date of expiry of your visa:

  • submit an application for “prolongation de visa” (visa extension) with documentary evidence to the prefectural authority in your location;
  • comply with the decision taken by the prefectural authority.

I am living in France and want my family to join me

Family members of a French national

The third-country spouse of a French national must apply for a long-stay visa from the relevant consular office. He/she will be required to provide documentary evidence of the French nationality of his/her spouse, of his/her marital status, and proof of an adequate knowledge of French or of having followed the required French language training, in countries where the OFII has put in place the procedure for assessing knowledge of French and the values of the Republic.

Family members of a Community national

Third-country family members of a national of an EU country do not come under the family reunion procedure. They come under the provisions of Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the rights of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

Nationals subject to the short-stay visa requirement under Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 of 15 March 2001 must submit a short-stay visa application if they wish to settle in France. They will be required to submit proof of nationality of the Community national, of their family relationship and, where relevant, of the status of dependent for a child over 21 or his ascendants. The short-stay visa is issued rapidly and free of charge.

Nationals exempt from the short-stay visa requirement under Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 of 15 March 2001 and holders of a residence permit for family members of Union citizens may travel to France without a visa and apply for a residence permit within 2 months of their arrival.

Family reunion procedure

This procedure solely concerns the spouse and children under 18 (“les bénéficiaires”/the beneficiaries) of a foreign national already residing legally in France for at least 18 months (“le demandeur”/the applicant).

The applicant must submit the application in person to the OFII offices. To process the application, checks are carried out by the prefectural and consular authorities. These checks generally take several months.

The certificate of application for family reunion must be transmitted to the benefiting family members. They are required to submit a visa application together, in particular, with the originals of civil status records.

If the prefectural authority approves the application, it informs:

  • the applicant;
  • the French consular authority in the beneficiaries’ place of residence.

The Consulate General will then send the beneficiaries an appointment letter to the postal or e-mail address submitted by the applicant to the prefectural authority. It is therefore essential that these details are accurate and reliable, including a telephone number in case of difficulties, because many appointment letters are returned “address unknown” and, in the absence of a telephone contact number, the consulate must return the application to France.

I want to work in France

The “worker” procedure

If as a foreign national (i.e. not a national of France or of any other European Union country) you wish to work in France, you must first find a prospective employer.

Your prospective employer will contact the foreign labour department of the local unit of the DIRECCTE (regional directorate of enterprises, competition, consumption, labour and employment). Once the application is approved, the relevant office of the OFII will forward it to the French consulate in your country of residence, in order to process the visa application.

After receiving the visa application, the consulate will send you an application letter specifying the documents to bring with you.

Any other questions ?

Each consular office has a VISA section on its website, where you will most likely find the answer to your question.

Updated : 27.02.17