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Obtaining your visa for France

Information sheets

The holidays are approaching and France is a dream destination for many. What with visa applications, documents to show, etc. it's not always easy to find your way through the maze of officialdom. Here you'll find some handy tips on completing the necessary procedures to enter French territory. After that you'll be free to enjoy your stay!

Obtaining your visa for France

Do I need a visa?

  • Some travellers don't need a visa to stay in France. This is the case for nationals of European Union and European Economic Area member states, as well as Switzerland, or if your family are EU, EEA or Swiss nationals. This visa exemption is valid regardless of how long you are staying.
  • Some people don't need permits to enter France under certain conditions: if they have a French residence permit, if they're a national of the EU, EEA, Switzerland, Andorra or Monaco. This exemption also applies to people with the following statement on their visa: “FRENCH FAMILY”, “EU FAMILY”, “CIRCULATION VISA” or “RESIDENCE PERMIT TO BE APPLIED FOR IN FRANCE”.
  • In other cases, you will need to apply for a visa if you want to visit France. This application must be made to the embassy or French consulate in the country of origin.

Completing the formalities

  • Some formalities regarding the visa application, for example submitting your dossier, can be entrusted to local service providers or a travel agency. Ask the relevant services for more information as it often incurs extra costs.
  • For stays less than or equal to 90 days, you have to apply for a short stay visa, also known as a Schengen visa. The latter will give you access to the whole Schengen area for a maximum duration of 90 days, over a period of 180 days. These visas are generally supplied for tourist trips or family visits. You can also apply for a Schengen visa to pass through France.
  • For stays of over 90 days, you must apply for a long stay visa. The appropriate visa will be awarded according to the length or reasons for your stay in France. These visas are generally provided for family gatherings, studies or work. Bear in mind that this type of visa requires foreign nationals to register with the French Office of Immigration and Integration, or at a prefecture, as soon as they arrive on French soil.
  • Once on French soil, it is absolutely impossible to make any changes to the visa or change your status. If you wish to stay for longer, you must make a new visa application.
  • For trips to the French overseas territories, the terms may be different. Ask the French consulate for information and clearly state your destination, along with details of the trip when applying for the visa.
  • Remember to have photos taken in accordance with international standards. The application dossier must contain one or more photos no older than six months. Other rules must also be observed in order for the French State to approve your application: close-up of the head and neck (i.e. 70 or 80% of the photograph), width and length of the photograph between 4 and 5 cm, look at the camera head-on, use a light, plain background, don't wear a hat or other head covering, be the only subject in the photo, pose with a neutral expression and with your mouth closed, and don't wear any accessories that hide your face.

Arriving in French territory

  • The rules on arrival checks apply to all passengers entering French territory. These conditions are totally unrelated to the type of visa obtained.
  • A visa alone is not enough if you want to get past the arrivals checkpoint in France or the Schengen area in general. Remember to bring all the documents you need for your stay to run smoothly. As well as the visa, you need a passport recognised by the French authorities, less than 10 years old and valid for longer than 3 months following the expiry date of the Schengen visa awarded.
  • Even with a visa issued by France, you may have to provide the border police with documents relating to your stay. Thus, it is important to always carry papers justifying the reason for your stay, as well as proof of resources such as cash (preferably in Euros), travellers' cheques, a credit card for international use, etc. These documents may be requested in all cases, regardless of the type of visa.
  • Repatriation guarantees may also be requested by the border police. These must prove that the cost of returning to the country of origin will be reimbursed in case of problems.
  • During a holiday, it is also necessary to bring documents to establish the purpose, but also the conditions of your stay. In the case of a family or private visit, it is important to be in possession of proof of accommodation, such as an accommodation certificate or a hotel reservation.
  • When you are simply passing through a French airport, you may be asked for proof of the conditions of entry into the final destination country.
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