You are planning to spend an extended period in France? You may need to apply for a France long-term visa. Depending on the purpose of your travel, the France long-term visa, also called the France long-stay visitor visa, might be your best option. Let’s see why, for who, and how!
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What is a France long-term visa?
The first thing to consider is the duration of your stay in France since the 90-day rule applies in all the Schengen Area.
If you are from a non-EU country and want to come to France (or any other Schengen country) for more than 90 days during a period of 180 days (6 months), you will need to apply for a France long-term visa (visa D). You’ll be able to figure out the exact number of days in the Schengen zone by using the official EU commission online calculator.
If you want to come for a shorter duration, then the short-stay visitor visa (also called Schengen visa) will apply, if your nationality doesn’t have a visa exemption for stays under 90 days.
Note that the short-stay visa cannot be extended and you will have to leave France when it expires. If you plan to come back to France under a tourist short-stay visa you will need to wait until the end of the 180 days duration (that started when you first entered France) to be able to come back.
There are several long-stay visa categories and the purpose of your travel to France will determine which visa to apply for.
The following specific motives will match the specific visas to apply for; it could be for work, to start a business, for studies, for spouses of French national or EU national, for au pair but also for a family reunion (regroupement familial for spouses of non-EU citizens) or visit.
Here, we are focusing on the France long-term visitor visa (also called the long-stay visitor visa or long-stay tourist visa).
Who does the France long-term visa apply to?
Every non-EU citizen (including British nationals that didn’t move to France before December 31, 2020) must have a France long-term visa for stays over 90 days.
If your situation does not match one of the specific motives detailed above, you may still be wondering if the long-stay visitor visa is for you. Let me explain further and give you some examples.
If you do not intend to work in France (in the sense of having an employment contract in France or creating a company in France) and do not match the other motives detailed before, there is no doubt to have: a long-term visitor visa is what you need. You could be, for instance, an annuitant, a long-term tourist or coming to France to visit family or for other personal reasons.
Retirees that have contributed in France in the past will apply for a specific Retiree visa.
If you come regularly for an extended period in France (longer than 3 months) and are a second home-owner in France, you will also need to apply for this visa.
Also, the France long-term visa could be the first step before transitioning to another status. However you need to make sure your initial long-stay visitor visa is genuine since the Prefecture will investigate the reason why you initially opted for this visa. And may decline a change of status if there is a discrepancy.
The main situation that is often approved by the Prefecture (but not recommended) is if you are planning to marry your French partner in France and do not wish to return to your country after the marriage to request a French spouse visa (Visa Vie Privée et Familiale). You could request a France long-term visa. (Also check the requirements explained below before deciding it is your best option).
Your first step should be to fill in the visa wizard to confirm the visa matching for your situation.
What are the long-stay visitor visa requirements?
The two requirements to apply for a France long-term visa are:
- Not to work in France (either as salaried of a France-based company or having a French company),
- Have sufficient income to stay in France (the French minimum wage).
This can be your own resources (pensions, property income, etc.) or those of a family member. You can present bank statements or guarantees or proof of income from creditworthy people.
Housing conditions are also taken into account in the evaluation of resources (owner, tenant, free accommodation) and possibly guarantees provided by creditworthy people (your family in particular).
You can obtain this guarantee as :
- a dependent parent of your children who are legally resident in France,
- or as a partner in a PACS (having lived together for less than 1 year),
- or as a religious person (priest, imam, etc.) if you come to France to perform your duties.
Family allowances are not taken into account (since they are paid for the maintenance of children).
How to apply for a France long-term visa
Your first step should be to connect to the French administration’s visa wizard. It will confirm the visa type matches your situation. You will need to create an account, then complete the form and print out the result with the list of supporting documentation to submit with your visa application.
The list of documents will vary from one situation to another depending on your nationality, your country of residence when applying for the visa and the motive and duration of your stay in France.
The common list will be (provide the original + 2 copies of each):
- The filled-in application form
- Passport photos respecting the Prefecture rules
- Copy of the passport and all pages with stamps
- Proofs of income
- A certificate of honour attesting not to work in France
- Proof of address in France matching the duration of the visa request (it can be for example a rental lease agreement, or a letter attesting you will be hosted with the dates, together with your host ID copy and their latest energy bill, and also Airbnb reservation (or equivalent).
- Medical insurance attestation
- If you are not a national of your country of residence: proof that you are legally residing in that country (residence permit).
Note that the amount of the visa fee varies depending on the country where you apply from, but 99 euros is a common fee for this visa type. To know the amount, you must consult the Tariffs section of the country pages of the France-Visas Wizard.
One important element to watch out for!
When applying for your visa you will have to choose between the 2 following duration options:
- between 4 and 6 months. In that case, you will receive a temporary long-stay visa that CANNOT be extended;
- between 4 and 12 months. In that case, you will receive a France long-term visa equivalent to a residence permit (a VLS-TS). This visa must be validated in France and can be extended.
So if your original plan is to come for five months, for example, and there is a chance of extension, tick the 4 and 12 months option to have the possibility to extend your permit. Otherwise, you will need to go back home to request a new visa.
Where to apply for a France long-term visa?
Which French consulate
Whatever the type of visa you are applying for, you should always request it at the French Consulate of your country of residence. So, for example, if you are British residing in the USA, you should request your French visa at the French consulate for your US state of residence.
The residency is determined by a valid residence permit (if you do not live in your country of origin).
Also, some French consulates have outsourced their visa application process to external service providers such as VFS Global or TLS. You will find the appropriate application process on the French Consulate website of your State of residence.
However, if you are a tourist, you should return to your country of legal residence or origin to request a France long-term visa from the appropriate French Consulate.
What to expect at the visa application appointment?
Depending on the Consulate, you may need to make an appointment to submit your visa application. Also, a different procedure may be in place during the covid pandemic depending on the country.
First, make sure you arrive on time, they usually let you in about 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment.
It is always a good idea to come overly prepared with all the documents requested when submitting the visa application request with 2 copies of each document.
I also recommend having other important documents with you (original + 2 copies) in case they ask you for extra information. It could be for example translated birth certificate, a marriage certificate, a letter explaining your project in France, or any invitation letter or justification of your stay in France.
The main purpose of the interview is to collect your visa application documents and ask you questions about these documents if needed.
What happens after the visa application submission?
Your France visa has been approved
Depending on the consulate the visa processing time could be somewhere between a few days to usually 2 weeks to either receive your visa by postal mail or to come in person to the consulate to retrieve your passport with your French visa.
You will also be provided with an OFII form with your visa. You should keep this document as you will need it to validate your visa once arrived in France. The validation process is also explained in this document.
What to do if your French visa has been denied?
If unfortunately your visa has been denied, the cost of a long-stay visa will not be refunded.
If you plan to appeal the French visa rejection, it is essential to ask for the motive of visa rejection in writing as this document will be needed to make an official appeal. Not every consulate provides it as default and it will be hard to get if not impossible later on.
There are two ways to receive a French visa refusal:
- an express refusal notified in writing
- or an implicit visa refusal after two months without information after the submission date
You may contest this refusal within two months by filing an appeal with the French Visa Application Appeals Commission – a mandatory prior administrative appeal against a visa refusal.
This appeal which must be motivated and written in French can be filled with or without the help of a lawyer with this Commission in order to be able to refer the matter to the competent administrative judge, which is the Administrative Court of Nantes. This appeal is called “contentious”.
In parallel to the referral to the Commission, you can also choose to file a hierarchical appeal with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or an ex gratia appeal with the Consulate to obtain the issuance of the visa.
However, neither the hierarchical appeal nor the informal appeal against a visa refusal will exempt the foreigner from referring the matter to the Commission at the same time, within two months of the notification of the decision to refuse the visa by the Consulate.
How to validate your France long-term visa?
Within 3 months after arriving
When you finally make it to France, within 3 months of your arrival you MUST validate your France long-term visa (VLS-TS: visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour – Initial France entry visa valid as a residence permit for the first year). The validation can be done online on this official website.
This visa validation is done with OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration).
You will need to provide the following information:
- your visa information
- your date of entry in France
- your address of residence in France
- your credit/debit card to pay the residence permit delivery tax (€250 for long-stay visa holders)
The OFII will then send you :
- a ” certificate of receipt of the OFII certificate application form “.
- convocation for the validation of the visa.
Your OFII appointment
On the day of the appointment, you must present the following documents:
- Your passport with the appropriate visa;
- The printout of the stamps purchased online on timbresofii.fr or the stamped letter with tax stamps, worth 250 euros;
- Your proof of address;
- Passport photo.
CAUTION: If you do not validate your visa within the 3-month time frame, you will no longer be staying legally in France and, as a result, you will not be able to cross the border into the Schengen area again!
How to renew your long-stay French visa?
The renewal process
It has now been almost one year since you live in France and your France long-term visa (VLS-TS – Initial France entry visa valid as a residence permit) will expire in the next 2 months.
To remain in France, you need to request a residence permit “Visiteur” at the local Prefecture.
There is no need to return to your home country to request a new entry visa.
Once you submit your residence permit request at the Prefecture, and only if your file is complete, you will be provided with a receipt (called récépissé). The récépissé authorises you to remain in France until you receive your permit, but only for the dates indicated on the document, usually 4 months, sometimes 6 for the initial request.
CAUTION: The recépissé for a first residence permit request (opposed to a residence permit renewal récepissé), doesn’t authorise to travel outside France. If you leave the country, this document will not allow you to get back in and depending on your nationality you will need to request a visa.
Once your residence permit is ready, you will be notified by the Prefecture by text message to come to pick it up in person.
List of documents to request your Residence Permit “Visiteur”:
- Personal records:
- passport (pages with the personal data and the entry stamp);
- birth certificate with filiation (original documents + French translations by a sworn translator by a French court of Appeal).
- if you are married: a marriage certificate (original documents + French translations by a sworn translator by a French court of Appeal) and your spouse valid residence permit or visa (VLS-TS) or national ID card for European citizens.
- if you have children: birth certificate with filiation of your children (original documents + French translations by a sworn translator by a French court of Appeal)
- Your VLS-TS (copy of your initial France Visitor entry visa)
- Proof of residence (less than 3 months old) stating your name:
- If you are a tenant:
– an energy bill such as electricity, gas, water, landline phone, and Internet in your name. CAREFUL: the mobile phone bill is usually not accepted.
– Lease or rental contract (less than 3 months old), successive rental payment receipts,
- If you are staying at a hotel or a residence: proof of residence + a receipt for the previous month’s rent.
- If you are being hosted (in the case that your name is not on the rental contract or bills): a hand-written letter attesting to your residence signed by your host + your host’s last energy bill + a copy of your host’s proof of identity.
- If you are a tenant:
- 3 ID photos respecting the Prefecture requirements, format 35 mm x 45 mm
- Proof of the residence permit tax payment of 225 euros (200 euros for the tax + 25 euros for the physical card) is to be given when collecting the permit. See more information below.
Other documents may be required depending on your situation, so it is important to go over-prepared as explained previously.
It may not seem like it but the France long-term visitor visa is the easiest long-term visa to get to come to France for more than 3 months.
The main reason is that this visa does not authorise to work. However, it is essential to prove sufficient funds to make a decent living in France and you will have open doors to live the life of your dreams in France.
I hope this France long-term visa guide will help you to navigate this visa request.