Different visa categories
The type of visa required to enter France depends on both the length of your stay and your reasons (except for special cases).
It is very important to have the right visa before you leave, because :
once you are in France, you cannot have your visa modified nor change your immigration status ;
in addition, exercising a salaried activity is subject to specific procedures that require securing a work permit before applying for a visa (ie for employees, including artists and sportspeople).
In the French overseas territories, the rules applicable may vary from those applied in Metropolitan France. When applying for a visa, you must carefully specify your destination.
This visa is required for a short stay (less than 90 days). When applying for France and Schengen as a destination, it will be delivered under the regulation of the schengen code. It is often known as a “Schengen visa”.
Schengen visas are short stay visas that allow the holder to move freely throughout the 26 countries in the Schengen Area for stays upto a maximum of 90 days in each period of 180 days. These visas may be issued for one entry or for multiple entries according to the reasons for your stay.
Schengen visa holders may also visit Monaco, Andorra, St Marin, Vatican and Liechtenstein.
This visa can be issued for tourism, business travel or family visits ; it is also issued so that you can come to France for a short training course, internship, conference, business meeting or be gainfully employed (in whatever way) for less than 3 months.
This type of visa is also required for simply transiting through France. Transit through a French airport without leaving the "international zone" is a special case of short stay visas, because the foreign national does not enter French territory and is not subject to entry visa requirements, except in certain cases. Certain foreign nationals are subject to visa requirements for airport transit in France : information on airport transit.
Other Short stay visas (less than 90 days), that are not Schengen visas, can be delivered for stays in French overseas territories or African represented countries.
- Please take good note that there is no way to extend a short stay visa once you are in France and have cumulated your 90 days in the Schengen area. If you plan to stay over 90 days, you should consider a long stay visa (information further down).
- Visa granted for overseas territories (New Caledonia, French Polynesia, la Réunion, Guyane, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Wallis et Futuna, Terres australes et antarctiques françaises) does not entitle his holder to visit the Schengen area nor MONACO. A separate Schengen visa is necessary.
- If you are gainfully employed during your stay, you must hold a Temporary Work Permit (to be anticipated before your visa application). Click here to know more about Temporary Work Permits.
This visa is required for long stay (more than 90 days) under the regulation of the French national law. It is known as a “National visa” or "visa D" and is issued according to the duration and the reasons of your stay.
The long stay visa is not a Schengen visa ; it is a national visa that entitles you, whatever the reason for your stay, to live in France for more than 90 days.
The visa also entitles you to transit through another country in the Schengen Area on your way to France and to move freely throughout the Schengen Area for its entire period of validity.
The main reasons for issuing this type of visa are study, work and family reunion. Specific documents, according to your reason, are required to support your visa application.
If you are issued with this type of visa, you are required, on arrival in France, to register with the Office Français d’Immigration et d’Intégration (OFII) or, in some cases, to apply to the relevant Prefecture for a residence permit.
Some categories of long stay visa are valid as residence permits for the first year of your stay in France: study visas, some work visas, visas for spouses of French nationals and visitors’ visas. If you are in one of these cases, when you arrive in France, you must send the OFII form to the relevant regional delegation of the Office Français d’Immigration et d’Intégration, which will give you an appointment for a medical examination and payment of residence fees. After the first year (in the two months before your long stay visa expires), you must apply to renew your residence permit at the relevant prefecture for your place of residence.
In all other cases, if you are a foreign national holding a long stay visa marked "carte de séjour à solliciter" (ie "residence permit to be applied for"), you must apply to the Prefecture for a residence permit.
Work visas, for whatever activity, are subject to specific preliminary procedures : as a foreign national arriving in France on a short-stay visa you are not allowed to seek work or obtain an employment contract.
If you intend to exercise a salaried activity in France, your future employer must have the contract approved in advance by the DIRECCTE (Regional directorate for enterprises, competition, consumption, work and employment) before you submit your visa application.
Artists on tour and sportspeople in championships must also get a work permit in advance via their contact in France.
For all people who wish to settle in France, they will find on the following link some information about a new booklet "Coming to live in France" which will provide many useful advices.