The Louvre in Paris, France

Are you looking to immigrate to France but baffled by the extensive process or just don’t know where to start? Well you aren’t alone, the bureaucratic side of immigrating is always the most difficult. So, we have detailed all the steps you need to take care of in order to get the right visa for you to start your journey in France! We cover the nuts and bolts of all your Visa, Residence Permit and Citizenship options. Remember, if you do not have the time or energy to do the research yourself, you can also book a 30-minute call with our recommended lawyer in Paris. After understanding your situation, they will let you know which is the best visa for you and your family and the next steps you need to take in order to start the process!

Table of Contents

Short-Stay France Visa (Visits less than 90 days)

*This information relates to non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens only.

France SCHENGEN Visa / Short Stay Visa

The SCHENGEN area in Europe is one of the biggest visa free travel zones in the world. There are more than 60 countries which can visit the SCHENGEN Area without a visa – this list includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK among others. The visit can be for tourism or business, however there is a restriction of 90 days within any 180 day period. You also do not need a visa to visit any of France’s overseas regions (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion Island, and Mayotte).

All other citizens must apply for a SCHENGEN Visa before they visit France. The short-stay visa has a 90-day limit in a 6-month period, and you cannot work in France. It is issued as part of European Parliament’s Regulation (EU) Nº 2016/399, which was enacted in March 2016.

There is a slightly different process if you need a visa and plan to visit a French overseas region. For these visits, you are required to confirm the destination with the French consulate when you apply.

Very importantly, the SCHENGEN visa also lets you travel to any of the other 26 SCHENGEN member states throughout the period your visa is valid. This means that if you are looking to travel to multiple countries within the European SCHENGEN zone, you only need one Visa! A full list of the SCHENGEN countries can be found here.

How to apply for a French SCHENGEN Visa

In order to apply for a SCHENGEN visa, you must submit your application to the French Consulate in your home country. This means that you cannot apply for a SCHENGEN visa in any other country apart from your home country. This applies to both the ‘uniform stay visa’ or a ‘type C Schengen visa’. In order to apply, you must have:

  • A valid passport
  • Three passport photos
  • Proof of having sufficient funds:
    • €32.50 a day for foreigners with an accommodation certificate, if you’re staying in a home with family (Certificate costs €30).
    • €65 a day for foreigners with proof of a hotel room booking.
    • €120 a day for foreigners without proof of a hotel room booking.
  • Medical insurance
  • Reason for your stay
  • Proof of repatriation (basically a promise you’ll go back to your home country when your visa runs out)
  • Travel or business documentation

French SCHENGEN visa fees are €80 with options for a reduced rate for certain countries and students.

Need Immigration Assistance for France?

Get clear advice on the best visa, residency, or citizenship route from Annalee in a 40 minute consultation. She will also give you quote for further services should you want them.  This could be the full end-to-end visa service, residency cards, or help to settle in.

Long-stay France Visa (Visits more than 90 days)

If you decide that holidaying just isn’t enough and you plan on immigrating to France, you’ll need a long-term visa (visa de long séjour) or residence permit. There are several options depending on why you are moving to France.

Important: You should apply for your France visa in your home country at the French consulate before you travel to France. In most cases, you cannot apply for a long-stay visa once you are in France, even if you have a valid SCHENGEN visa.

Only non-EU/EEA nationals need a visa to migrate to France.

Long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (VLS-TS – visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour)

This is by far the most common long-stay visa for people looking to immigrate to France. It has many subcategories within it, depending on the purpose of your visit. The VLS-TS lets you live in France for up to a year without applying for a residence permit. Instead, you’ll get a special sticker on your passport indicating the permit function, but you’ll still have to get it validated upon arriving. If you want to stay longer than a year, you must apply for a residence permit two months before your VLS-TS visa expires.

Requirements for obtaining the residence permit may change depending on the prefecture you are closest to.

Who’s eligible:

There are a number of categories within the VLS-TS:

  • Employee (if you’ve been hired by a French company for a year or more)
  • Temporary worker (for secured jobs lasting 3 months to a year)
  • Entrepreneur/independent professional (the best choice for remote workers)
  • Research Scientist
  • Student
  • Marriage
  • Medical Reasons 
  • Working Holiday 
  • Tourism or private visits
  • ICT (intra-company transferees). If you worked for a company that has headquarters in the US and France and are transferred to France for 12 months or less.
  • Talent (for stays of 12 months or less – more on this below)

French VLS-TS visa application process

There are a number of steps that you need to complete in order to be successful with your VLS-TS application. To help you understand the process, we have detailed these steps below:

1 – All French visa requests must start online at  On this website, you’ll use the “Visa Wizard” tool to determine what kind of visa you need. After you complete this step, it will let you make an account. The entire visa tracking process is online, which makes it easy to monitor the progress of your application through the site.

2 – Book an appointment at the embassy in your home country.

You’ll need:

  • Valid passport
  • Three passport photos
  • Completed, printed, and signed application form.
  • Completed OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) form. You’ll take this to an OFII office for validation and have a health check within three months of arriving. This is all done online here.
  • French VLS-TS visa fee is €99

3- You must validate your long-stay visa within three months of arriving and it is now done fully online to make it as easy as possible. That said, you should really do it as soon as you can because it can be a long wait time to get an appointment. This validation lets you receive a French social security number and allows you to work and access medical care. It’s this step that adds the “TS” to your France visa and means you don’t have to apply for a residence permit when you immigrate to France. There is a fee to validate your visa ranging from €50 for students to €200 for employees and freelancers.

  1. You may have to do more depending on how long you’re staying. This could mean proving you speak enough French, taking French civics classes, or signing a pledge to integrate yourself into French society.
  2. If you want to extend your stay, you apply for a residence permit with the local prefecture two months before your VLS-TS expires.

What to Expect in the Medical Exam

Many people will need to get a medical exam as a part of their visa application. After you send in your documents for validation, you’ll be contacted via email with an appointment time and location. It’s recommended to show up at least 20 minutes early. 

First, they check your height and weight and do an eye exam. Then they take a chest x-ray to confirm you don’t have tuberculosis (note you’ll have to strip from the waist up for this). Lastly, someone takes your blood pressure, listens to your heart, and asks about vaccines.

  • What to Bring: vaccine records, eyeglasses, passport, visa, appointment letter, and any hospitalization/maternity records you have.

Working in France on the VLS-TS

If you have a VLS-TS, Talent, ICT, or residence permit saying you can work you don’t have to get a separate work permit. You might get a separate work permit if it was requested by your employer to help you obtain your visa.

Type-D visa or Long-Stay France Visa with request for residence permit (carte de séjour à solliciter)

If you know that you are going to France to move there permanently as opposed to just staying for a long time then this is the visa you are looking for! This visa is very similar to the VLS-TS, except that it comes with the extension of the residence permit. 

A very important step to note is that you must apply for a residence permit within two months of arriving in France. This is different from the VLS-TS because you’re applying for a residence permit; with the VLS-TS, you just validate your visa with the OFII.

You’ll typically use this visa if you’re moving to France to be with family. It can also be used for some employees and temporary workers, or for visits longer than 90 days when you don’t intend on working.

This is also the best visa to get if you are immigrating to France for retirement since there is no retirement-specific France visa. After retirees have lived in France for three years, they can apply for a permanent residence card.

Talent Passport / Skilled France Visa

Talent Visas (passeport talent) are for certain professionals from non-EU nations who wish to live in France and work for more than 3 months. Since its launch in 2017, this visa has only grown in popularity and scope and now there are a whole host of people and jobs who qualify. This visa lasts up to four years.

Your spouse and family can join you, but they will have to apply for a residence permit. The working spouse must prove they have adequate funds to support everyone and proper accommodation. This is determined by the local prefecture.

Who’s eligible: 

This visa is available for any persons who are set to add value to the French economy in a variety of industries. The explanations and requirements for these categories and this visa is all quite well documented on the government website here. However, we have broken it down nice and simply for you. You can qualify for the talent visa if:

  1. You are a highly qualified employee with a national or international company, an “innovative enterprise”, a higher education institution, or a research-based organization. 
  2. You are a self-employed individual looking to create or take control of a business in France, join a corporate French company, or make a direct economic investment.
  3. You can prove you are internationally recognised within the fields of science, literature, the arts, academia, education or sports.
  4. You are a performer, including of literary or artistic works. 

There are some slight differences in how to prove your status of the above in order to obtain the Talent Visa which are detailed quite clearly in the website above, however, generally speaking, if you can prove your worth, France are very willing to give this Visa out!

A street scene in Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Golden Visa:

It is important to note that France also does not offer a Golden Visa or Residency by Investment program like some other European or SCHENGEN zone countries!

French Student visa

Most students who wish to obtain a France study visa should get a VLS-TS visa. This student visa makes it easy to live, study, and work in France as a student. A VLS-TS student visa is €50 if you are coming from one of the “Studying in France” (EEF – Etudes en France) procedure countries. The application fee is €99 for other countries. International students are permitted to work while studying up to 60% of full-time and do not need to obtain an additional work permit.

For those wishing to stay in France after their program ends, they can apply for a France post-study visa. This is usually done with a temporary residence card that will allow you to look for work for up to a year after graduation.

French Au pair visa

Most au pairs can enter and work in France with a VLS-TS visa. There’s also a visa option known as the young au pair visa. For this, you must be between the ages of 18 and 30 and stay with a family to learn French. This visa is good for one year but can be renewed for a second year.

Helpful Tip: There is also an extensive FAQ’s page on the French Government Website for visa and visa application questions which should help with any other queries you have!

French Residence permit

Because the VLS-TS visa doubles as a residence permit, many people opt for this visa in lieu of pursuing an additional permit. If you’re on a VLS-TS France visa and wish to stay longer than a year, you can renew it fairly easily.

To begin living in France a second year you’ll need to get a residence permit called a carte de séjour. Note this is different from the titre de séjour, which is a more general term for a residence permit. You’ll get this by applying to your local prefecture. This is usually good for two years but may depend on your visa category. The cost is €225, which includes a €25 stamp fee.

If you want to stay for longer, you’ll get a carte de résident (residence card). This can be good for up to 10 years and the requirements depend on why you’re staying in France. Most cost €225.

Note that these additional residence permit fees are in addition to the €99 you paid for your visa.

The type of residence permit you get depends on your work and how long you’ll be in the country.

  • Multi-year residence permit for ICT: Lets you stay up to three years and is non-renewable
  • Temporary residence permit for temporary workers: Lets you stay up to 12 months
  • Talent Passport: Lets you stay up to 4 years and is renewable

For many of these, if your France visa doesn’t state specifically that you can work, you have to obtain a work permit as well. Work permit applications must be submitted by the employer, ideally, three months before the employee is supposed to start working.

Families immigrating to France

Many Expats can make use of the “accompanying families” simplified procedure. This is aimed to make it easier for certain business visa holders (like ICT and Talent visa holders) to move to France. They would apply for a Talent or ICT Visa for families (Passeport Talent – Famille) or (Salarié détaché ICT). The cost is €269 for the spouse’s residence permit plus €99 per visa for each member of the family.

If you do not qualify for the accompanying family procedure, you’ll need to apply through “family reunification.” To do this, your spouse must have been legally residing in France for at least 18 months to qualify. They also must show sufficient funds (for a family of 2-3, it’s at least €1,766 a month), and must have accommodations. After they have been accepted, they must apply for the VLS-TS.

Citizenship and Permanent Residency

In most cases if you’ve lived and worked in France for five years, and have kept your visa current, you can apply for French citizenship. Some may choose to pursue a renewable permanent resident card which is valid for ten years. By pursuing citizenship, you can vote and become a citizen of the EU. This brings with it freedom of movement between all EU member countries. Most long-stay visas can lead to this, and the France VLS-TS or Type D visa is a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship.

Many Expats who wish to become French citizens can hold dual citizenship.

Unless you were born in France or are marrying a French citizen, you’ll have to apply for citizenship through the naturalization process. This costs €55. For this, you need to prove you lived in France for five mostly contiguous years, and have embraced the French culture. You do this by proving your French language proficiency and cultural knowledge.

How to immigrate to France from the UK after BREXIT

UK nationals who arrived in France after Jan 1 2021 follow the same guidelines as non-European nationals for long-stay visa requirements.

If you were in France before this date, you can apply for a residence permit. Extensive information on specific circumstances for UK nationals who arrived before Jan 1 2021 can be found here.

How to immigrate to France from the USA

United States nationals don’t need a short-stay visa for visits under 90 days. For stays longer than 90 days, US citizens should follow the guidelines for non-EU/EEA/Swiss visa requirements detailed above.

Next steps for Immigrating to France

The easiest way to ensure you choose the right visa and apply successfully is to use a quality French Immigration Lawyer. We have assessed the French Immigration Market, talked to a number of lawyers, and have chosen a great law firm to help our clients with any French Immigration matter. You can book a 30-minute consultation here. They will understand your situation, recommend the best visa path, and outline the steps that you need to take to get your French Visa or Residence Permit.


  1. I want to move from USA to live in France in the next two years . I’m 66 years old Cambodian lady very good health. I grew up my Cambodian county was a French colony . I do know French language well enough read and write as well . I have a niece who lives in Paris with her family and two children. I want to be near her , financially I’m able to live on my own. Please advice what do I need to do ? My only issues is health care plan for myself. Currently I have US Medicare A , B and Tricare for life insurance for military dependents. My husband was in military for 30 years. Basically I want to retired and live in France

  2. Hi, I am currently living in the United states with a Green Card (permanent resident). But I would like to move to France for a couple of years, prefably on work permit. I am an Indian citizen, I have a Master’s degree in Supply chain Management and a bachelors degree in Engineering. I have 8 years of work experience. I am looking to immigrate with my wife, no kids. Please help.

  3. Thank you, this is very helpful info. We are dual UK and NZ citizens preparing to retire in France later this year. We easily meet the income threshold without working and can buy a property without a mortgage so not anticipating any issues… hopefully…… May chat to one of your French lawyer so cover all bases.

  4. Hello, I’m planning on moving to France in the next 3 years and have one child. I have no spouse and want to start somewhere new. I have educational experience in early childcare. I want to know how and where I can find work in this field so I can have an easier move to France

    1. Hi Elaise. I’d recommend joining some Expat in France groups on Facebook or checkout Reddit. These forums are excellent places to get employment advice. All the best, Alastair

  5. Should one even bother to try to get a visa if one is overweight? Will the medical exam exclude obese people? I am very active, but also overweight.

  6. Hello Alastair,

    I currently reside in Nigeria and would like to Migratre to France. Preferably I would like to seek employment. My skills are fashion designer, Hairdresser and make-up artist. I also have hospitality experience.

    Are you able to advise how I can go about this please.


    Kind regards

  7. I’m a semi-retired 79 year old woman in good health and an American citizen. I want to retire in France – Dijon to be specific. I’m a PhD psychotherapist working on Zoom, mainly with patients in California but hope to develop a practice that includes EU citizens. I don’t want to a job in Dijon or anywhere else in France. I need help with immigration and health care options as I age.

    I lived in Paris for two full years (1968 & 1969) at which time I married a French man (now divorced), learned French by ear and was fluent then, but I can’t write in French. Once settled in Dijon I’ll study French formally.

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