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 USA.gov 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!
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.
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!