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‘Not too complicated but quite expensive’ – getting a French visa as a Brit

Following Brexit, UK nationals enter the world of visas and residency permits if they want to move to France. We asked British journalist and recent successful visa applicant Joseph Keen to talk us through the process.

'Not too complicated but quite expensive' - getting a French visa as a Brit
Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

I have wanted to move to Paris for a while now, to work here as a freelance journalist and to improve my French language skills. I also have a strong interest in the history and the culture of France.

I knew that since Brexit I would need a visa, and this process turned out to be more straightforward but significantly more expensive than I though.

As I intend to work as a freelancer, I decided to apply for a one year-long self employed visa – visa de long séjour entrepreneur/libérale.


The application had to be done from the UK, and within three months of my arrival date in France.

First, I had to apply through the website of the French embassy in London – here.

I was then referred to TLS contact’s website (visa and consular services) here where I had to book an appointment at the visa application centre for an in-person appointment (there are centres in London, Manchester and Edinburgh).

There was of course paperwork required and I had to provide

  • Passport
  • Passport photographs
  • Bank statements for the past three months. It wasn’t specified how much money you needed in the accounts, I had saved up enough for four months on French minimum wage (€1,231 per month) and that seemed to be enough
  • Proof of three months accommodation in France. I used a three-month Airbnb booking for this, but there was an option to stay with friends or relatives
  • A criminal record check

None of my documents needed to be translated into French.

For the criminal record check, I had to go through the ACRO Criminal Records Office in the UK. The check costs £55 (€64) for the standard service, which takes around two weeks to be completed, or £95 (€111) for an express service which takes four working days to be processed.

READ ALSO Ask the expert: What Brits need to know about post-Brexit visa requirements

At my interview, I had to explain my specific situation of being a freelance journalist and what this entails (which did prove to be difficult) and then give the details of an employer in France (which of courser I don’t have, being freelance).

After finally managing to explain my situation, I had to pay a fee of €99 and my application along with my passport was sent off.

To my surprise, within five days I was able to pick up my passport and I was granted the visa.

Since arriving in France, I have had to apply for a carte de séjour residence permit. This has to be done within three months of arriving and although the process was simple and quick I had to pay another 200 for that.

I’m not sure if I was lucky or perhaps with it being so soon after the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, there was a desire for some level of continuity, but the process itself went fairly smoothly.

However, despite being relatively straightforward in my experience, it’s significantly more expensive (with the visa application fee, criminal record check and residence permit) than the process would have been had I moved before Brexit, when UK nationals did not need visas or residency permits.

In the short time I have been in France, I’m really enjoying myself and so far, I’m very happy I decided to apply.

Joseph Keen is a freelance journalist based in Paris, you can follow him on Twitter @Koekeen95

For more on the details of visas and residence permits, head to our Residency section.

Member comments

  1. Is it standard to have a criminal record check as part of your application – we are going as inactiv not working? I’ve not seen that anywhere else when researching.

  2. I am a British Citizen and have a French carte de sejour, do the 90 day restrictions limit my visits to other European countries

    1. The article at is a useful source
      of links to visa policy in specific situations.

      Holders of a long-stay visa or residence permit issued by a Schengen state or Monaco may also travel to other Schengen states, without an additional visa, for a stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

      My own inerpretation of this is that Frances should be able to stay without limit in France but will
      need to restrict time in *other* Schengen states to comply with 90/180 rule.

      However this poses the question of how to demonstrate such compliance – given that there will be
      no record of her passage to/from such other states if from/to France.

      Any informed comment on the latter point would be appreciated.

      To give an example:
      A UK national with WA rights in Spain drives there via France. The passport is stamped
      as entered at Calais and the driver reaches Spain two days later. Eight months later the
      same person drives back to UK having reained all that time in Spain. On exit at Calais,
      the systems report an “over-stay” as *apparently* the 90/180 rule has been breached.

      What does such person need to do to refute over-stay charge?
      It is quite *possible* that several months have been spent in France – although it is
      more likely that the time was spent in Spain.
      Is a personal declaration sufficient? If not, what evidence is needed?

  3. when applying for a long stay visa for France ( intention to retire to our 2nd home) what type of health insurance is needed and is it correct that its only needed for the 3 months after entry because one can enter the PUMA system?
    Thanks in advance for help

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British PM Boris Johnson’s dad becomes French

The Brexit-supporting father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acquired French citizenship, a French justice ministry source told AFP.

British PM Boris Johnson's dad becomes French

A Conservative who once worked for the European Commission in Brussels, Stanley Johnson opposed Brexit at first but swung behind the EU departure project following 2016’s narrow referendum vote that was championed by his son.

The elder Johnson’s ties to France are through his French mother, and he speaks the language.

The 81-year-old filed his citizenship application at the French consulate in London in November last year, with a six-month deadline for the justice ministry to object elapsing on Wednesday.

“Based on the facts in his application, and without a refusal by the justice minister, Mr Stanley Johnson acquired French nationality on May 18 2022,” the ministry told AFP.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

“This decision concerns only Mr Stanley Johnson and does not extend to his descendants,” it added.

The most common ways of acquiring French nationality are through residency in the country or marriage to a French citizen.

However it is possible to become French through family connections, although France accepts only a French parent – not a grandparent like Ireland or a great-grandparent like Italy – in these types of application.

READ ALSO How to obtain French citizenship through ancestry

French law normally prevents children of its citizens from claiming nationality if their family has been abroad for more than 50 years without making use of their rights.

But their applications can still be considered if they can prove “concrete ties of a cultural, professional, economic or family nature” with France — a clause Stanley invoked in his application.

“I’ll always be European, that’s for sure,” Stanley Johnson told RTL radio in French in a December 2020 interview.

He had come under fire at home for his plans, announced at the same time most Britons were losing the right to travel freely across the European Union as a post-Brexit “transition period” ended.

“It’s not a question of becoming French. If I understand correctly I am French! My mother was born in France, her mother was completely French as was her grandfather,” Stanley said.

“For me it’s a question of obtaining what I already have and I am very happy about that,” he added.

Around 3,100 British people acquired French nationality in 2020, according to the latest figures available from EU statistics agency Eurostat, making France the second most popular choice for acquiring European citizenship, after Germany.

Stanley Johnson has become a public figure in Britain following his son’s political rise, appearing on a celebrity reality TV show in 2017 and appearing regularly in the media.

His ex-wife Charlotte Fawcett — Boris’s mother — told a biographer recently that Stanley had beaten her many times, breaking her nose on one occasion.

Last year two women, a Conservative MP and a journalist, accused him of groping or touching them inappropriately.