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How to get a French long-stay visa

Do you want to relocate to France? Your very first step is figuring out the immigration process. Read this guide to get a basic understanding of which French long-stay visa you can get and learn how to proceed to apply for your visa.

Is your U.S. passport valid?

No matter which French long-stay visa you apply for, you need a valid U.S. passport that is no older than ten years.

When you apply for a VLS visa Carte de Séjour à Solliciter à l’Arrivée en France (residence permit to be applied for upon arrival in France), your U.S. passport must be valid at least 3 months after the end of your visa. It should also contain at least 2 empty pages.

When you apply for a VLS-TS visa, your U.S. passport must be valid at least one year after the end of your visa.

Go to for information on how to renew/apply for a U.S passport. Processing times change throughout the year but at this time, the turnaround time for U.S. passport renewals by mail is around five weeks. Plan ahead!

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French long-stay visa Basics

Let’s start with the most basic questions and answers.

What is a French visa?

A French visa is a legal authorization to enter France for a certain duration. A visa takes the form of a stamp in your passport delivered by French administration.

Do Americans need a visa to go to France?

Americans who want to live in France for longer than 90 days need a type D visa, also called a French long-stay visa.

Can you apply for a French long-stay visa from France?

No, you cannot apply from France. You always apply for a French long-stay visa from your home country. Entering France without a visa and trying to get a long-stay visa in France is not an option.

When should you apply for a French long-stay visa?

You can apply for a French long-stay visa no earlier than 3 months before your scheduled move to France.

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How to apply for a French long-stay visa?

Whether you are studying, moving for retirement, for work or you are following a loved one, your journey starts at France-Visas, the official website to apply for a French visa.

All the information you need, such as the required documents or checking your application status is on France-Visas.

Are you allowed to work on a French long-stay visa?

Some long-stay visas allow you to work in France while others do not. Working in France means performing any work while being physically in France. Whether you work for clients outside France doesn’t change the fact that you are indeed working in France.

Are you allowed to work remotely on a visitor visa?

When your Visa does not allow you to work in France, it prevents you from remotely working for a non-French company. Performing any work while being physically present on French soil is considered working in France. The location of the company or the client you work for does not matter. The country in which you receive payment does not matter either.

Is there a digital nomad visa for France?

No, there is no digital nomad visa for France. Remote workers have to go through the process of getting a French long-stay visa that gives them a right to work.

What is the maximum duration of a long-stay visa?

A long-stay visa or type D visa goes up to a year. After one year, you need to apply for a TS or titre de séjour (residence permit) to extend your stay in France.

How long does it take to get a French long-stay visa?

Processing times to get a French Long-Stay visa vary but the process can be as fast as taking only 2 weeks.

Can I travel within Europe with a French visa?

During its period of validity, a French long-stay visa allows you to travel within the Schengen Area outside France for periods not exceeding 90 days.

How much does a long-stay visa cost?

Droit de dossier (application fees) for a French long-stay visa are €99. Processing fees are €31.50. Some visas exempt you from paying application fees (spouse of a French national for instance).

French visa and residence permit

A French long-stay visa gives you the right to enter France. In order to live in France for longer than ninety days, you also need a residence permit.

A residence permit can either be part of your long-stay visa or you need to apply for a residence permit once you arrive in France.

Which type of visa you get depends on:

  • your reasons for going to France (family, personal, work…)
  • the duration of your stay
  • your intention to relocate permanently to France

Make sure you know the specifics of the visa you apply for.

VLS long-stay visa with the obligation to apply for a residence permit

A VLS visa with Carte de Séjour à Solliciter à l’Arrivée en France (residence permit to be applied for upon arrival in France) gives you a right to enter France.

You have to apply for a residence permit within 2 months of your arrival in France. Contact your local préfecture to know how to apply for your residence permit. If you live in Paris, contact the police headquarters instead.

VLS visas with Carte de Séjour à Solliciter à l’Arrivée en France apply to family visas other than spouse visas as well as multi-year work visas.

VLS-TS visa equivalent to a residence permit

A VLS-TS or visa long séjour valant titre de séjour (long-stay visa equivalent to a resident permit) means that you do not have to apply for a residence permit when you arrive in France. You still need to register with OFII (Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration) to validate your VLS-TS within 3 months of your arrival. The validation process is now exclusively accessible on-line on the Foreign Nationals in France website.

VLS-TS visas apply to many different categories from employees on a single year contract to students, interns, researchers, visitors, spouse of a French national and more.

To extend your stay in France at the end of your visa, you need to apply for a titre de séjour (residence permit). Contact your local préfecture no less than 2 months before your visa expires or apply on-line.

You can only extend your stay in France past your visa expiration if your visa is renewable (non temporary visa).

Get a long-stay visa suited to your situation

Which visa you apply for depends on your specific situation. I will discuss the most common situations but make sure you read all the details on France-Visas.

French long-stay visa for students

To study in France, you need to be enrolled in a higher education institution before applying for your VLS-TS visa mention étudiant. You can access all the information you need on Campus France, the official French website for students.

A VLS-TS student visa or student residence permit gives you the right to work in France for no more than 964 hours a year (twenty hours a week). You cannot work in France if you are on a VLS-T mention étudiant visa.

French long-stay visa for visitors

A long-stay visitor visa is a specific type of VLS-TS visa called VLS-TS mention visiteur. You cannot engage in any type of professional activity and you have to prove that you can support yourself.

The minimum amount of resource for a single person is €1,269 a month over a 12-month period.

Another requirement is to get a private insurance for the whole length of your visa. Read French VLS-TS visitor visa to learn about the type of insurance you need.

French long-stay visa for employees

You can qualify for a VLS-TS visa when you have a Contrat à Durée Déterminée or CDI (unlimited long term employment contract) with a French company.

Passeport talent visa

In a nutshell, Passeport Talent is a work visa for skilled workers and professionals who can prove valuable to France’s economics. This visa can open the path to a multi-year residence permit (up to 4 years). Employees as well as self-employed people can apply for Passeport Talent visas. Performing artists are also eligible.

There are multiple conditions under which you qualify for a Passeport Talent visa.

Passeport Talent can either be a VLS-TS visa mention passeport talent or a VLS visa with Carte de Séjour à Solliciter à l’Arrivée en France if the workload extends over multiple years. The spouse and children of a Passeport Talent visa holder are eligible for a Passeport Talent (famille) visa.

French long-stay visa for family reunification

If you have family ties in France other than a French spouse, apply for a VLS visa with Carte de Séjour à Solliciter à l’Arrivée en France.

If you are a spouse of a French national, you qualify for a VLT-TS visa. At the time of your visa renewal, you can get a Carte de Séjour Vie Privée et Familiale (private life and family residence card).

Carte de Séjour Vie Privée et Familiale gives you the right to work in France. You are eligible if you are married or PACSed (and living in France with your PACSed partner for over a year) to a French national.

If you have been PACSed to a French national for less than a year, apply for a VLS-TS visa mention visiteur instead.

French long-stay visa for retirees

If you wish to retire in France, you should apply for a VLS-TS visa mention visiteur (VLS-TS visitor visa).

Join a cover letter to your visa application and make it clear that you want to relocate to France and stay longer than a year. This is a good idea to avoid obtaining a temporary visa that you cannot renew from France.


VLS-T temporary long-stay visa

A VLS-T (temporary visa) or visa de long séjour temporaire does not require a residence permit. It is non-renewable, meaning that you need to go back home when it expires. There is no possibility to extend your stay in France unless you leave and apply for another visa from the United States.

A temporary visa does not allow you to work.

How do you apply for a French long-stay visa?

Use France-Visas wizard to determine which visa fits your situation the best.

Follow the instructions on France-Visas to start your visa application. You will receive the list of documents required for your visa along with the visa fees.

One of the mandatory requirements is to get a Travel Insurance for France.

Once your visa application is done, schedule an appointment with  the VFS Global center closest to you. Book an appointment at a date no later than one month before departure.

Print your visa application and bring it to your VFS Global appointment along with the required documents.

France-Visas guidelines detail the entire process.

During the application process, you will be redirected to VFS Global, a company that facilitates visa applications. The French embassy in the United States has an official partnership with VFS Global.

Once your visa has been accepted

Once you get your passport back, read carefully the data written on your visa sticker. It shows:

  • visa validity period. This is the period during which you can enter France.
  • duration of stay in number of days. This duration starts on the date of your entry in France.
  • type of your visa. Long-stay visas are type D.
  • number of entries. This is the number of times you can enter France.
  • remarks. This section indicates the specifics of your visa and it can be visiteur (visitor), vie privée et familiale (family), étudiant (student)…

You are now ready to start your relocation journey. Make sure to read my Moving to France checklist and start checking things off your list today!

Nathalie Nahmani

About Nathalie Nahmani

Nathalie is the creator of ma French Life. She moved back to France after living in Los Angeles for 20 years. She writes practical articles to help expats in France. Nathalie lives with her family in the French Alps near Grenoble.

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9 thoughts on “How to get a French long-stay visa”

  1. Hi …I have a LOng Stay Visa dated 31st December for one year. I plan on going to France on the 8th December as I have only used 50 days of my current 90 days …is this OK?

  2. Thank you for your work here.

    How rigid is the timeframe of having to arrive in France within 90 days of receiving your LTS visa?

    We had planned to visit England for 4 months after getting our French LTS visas.

    • Hi Jeff,
      I think you are referring to the timeframe of validating your visa within 3 months of arriving in France.
      I don’t know how that would work in your case if you don’t actually live in France.
      I believe this would be safer to ask an immigration expert as I’m not sure.
      Please let us know the answer when you find out!

  3. Hi Nathalie,
    Thanks so much for responding. If I understand correctly we have to wait 90 days to go back, because our 90 days were up and the 180 is sort of irrelevant. We had hoped that a new period would start when the original 180 were up. So basically you have to leave for 90 after your 90 are up?
    Great about visa start date! Hope we get one!
    Many thanks-Lloyd

    • Hi Lloyd! You misunderstood, the 180-day window is not irrelevant at all but the window is a moving one.
      Let’s say you were in the Schengen zone from August 5 to November 3 (90 days).
      Today is November 12, 2023. As of today, your 180-day window goes from May 16 to November 12. During that 180-day window, you’ve been in the Schengen area for 90 days already so you’re not allowed any more time.
      On February 10, 2024 (90 days from today), your 180-day window will be from August 14, 2023 to February 10, 2024. In that window, you’ve spent 80 days in the Schengen area so you have 10 days left. We don’t count the days between August 5 and August 13 as they’re outside the 180-day window.
      As you move on, the 180-day window is moving with you. Ten days later, on February 20, 2024, you’ll have spent only 70 days in the Schengen area during the 180-day window.
      This is the reason why I said that you can go back after 90 days. If you’ve been in the Schengen area on multiple occasions instead of one chunk of 90 days, the calculation is still the same.
      You calculate 180-days from the date you want to go back and you count (within this window), how many days you’ve already spent in the Schengen area.
      Is my explanation clearer? Let me know!

  4. HI again!
    Also do we have to go to France the day our visa starts? We are asked to put a date of arrival. But life may shift our schedule and we may want to go after that date.
    Also are proof of plane tickets part of visa?

  5. Bonjour Nathalie,
    It’s great that you created this blog. Thank you!
    We are applying for our long stay visas which will be visitor not working visas.
    My question is about my option to go there before my long stay visa is approved. We have spent our 90 days (got back Nov. 3) within 180 days (which was May through November). We might want to return before our visa is issued. Would we be allowed to go on the short stay 90 period starting a new 180 day period? We are not clear how long you have to wait to go back. Or would that conflict with our long stay visa somehow??
    Thanks so much for your time!

    • Hi Lloyd and thanks for reaching out!
      You have to be extremely careful with the 90/180-day rule.
      The 180 day window is not static, meaning you can’t say that you’ve just finished a period and you can start another one. This is actually a moving window. You have to look backward at the past 180 days and count the number of days spent in the Schengen zone.
      If you’ve just been back from a 90 day stay, you do have to wait 90 days before you can go back. The reason for this is that looking back at the past 180 days, you’ve already spent 90 days in the Schengen zone.
      Don’t take my word for it though and try out this short stay visa calculator.

      Regarding your long stay visa, no worries, you don’t have to go to France on the day your visa starts and plane tickets are not part of the visa process.
      Hope this helps!


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