Moving to France For Members

Visas and residency permits: How to move to France (and stay here)

The Local France
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Visas and residency permits: How to move to France (and stay here)
Moving countries generally involves some paperwork. Photo: Kenzo Tribaullard/AFP

If you dream of moving to France, then you may need to start thinking about boring practicalities like visas, residency cards and health insurance. But none of these are insurmountable problems - here's our guide to moving to France and ensuring that you can (legally) stay here.


When looking at coming to France there are two main things that are important - your nationality and what you intend to do here - work, study, retire etc. And the rules on paperwork vary considerably depending on these factors.

Here's a guide to what you need to be thinking about, depending on your situation.

You hold the passport of an EU or Schengen zone country

Congratulations, because you have hit the passport jackpot in terms of moving. If you have the passport of any EU country, including Ireland, or a Schengen zone country then you are covered by EU Freedom of Movement and can move to France with minimal paperwork. This applies to dual nationals, but you will need to ensure that you use your EU passport for all official functions (travel, ID etc) in order to benefit from this.


France is unusual within the EU in that it does not require EU citizens to register for residency after they have lived there for a certain period. If you're moving long-term, however, you will need to register within the French health system, and remember that all residents of France need to file an annual tax declaration, even if all their income comes from outside France.

You are British, American, Australian, New Zealander or Canadian

If you don't benefit from EU freedom of movement you are likely to be looking at getting a visa for longer stays in France. People from the above counties do, however, benefit from the 90-day rule, which means you can travel to France visa-free for up to 90 days in every 180, which may be enough for second-home owners or frequent visitors.

READ ALSO How does the 90-day rule work?


If you want to stay longer than that, however, you face having to get a visa first and then, if you want to stay in the long term, a residency card. Visas must be applied for in your home country before you move.

And it's here that your reason for moving becomes important, as it determines the type of visa that you will apply for.

Below is an overview, but you can find more details on visa types HERE.

Working - if you're coming as an employee you will need your employer to sponsor your visa, while if you intend to be self-employed or freelance you apply for an entrepreneur visa, which requires proof of resources. Depending on your type of work, you may also qualify for a Passeport Talent, which gives extra benefits in terms of how long it lasts and whether you can bring family with you.   

READ ALSO Talent passport: The little-known visa that could make moving to France a lot easier


Studying - student visas are fairly straightforward to apply for, but you will need a confirmed place at a French university or further education centre in order to apply.

Not working - if you're retired or don't intend to work in France you will probably want a visitor visa. This visa type requires you to declare that you will not work in France, so it's not suitable for semi-retired people, and also has financial requirements demonstrating that you will be able to support yourself and will not become a drain on the French state. You are also likely to need to demonstrate that you have full health insurance cover for your first year in France.

Spouse visa - if you're lucky enough to be married or in a registered civil partnership with a French or other EU national, that does not exempt you from needing a visa. It does, however, mean you can get a spouse visa which has fewer requirements.

You're from another country

Not all non-EU countries benefit from the 90-days of visa-free travel so if you are coming from certain destinations, including India, you will need a visa to enter France for any length of stay - find a full list of the countries requiring visas HERE.

Also be aware that France applies different rules for Algerian citizens, for historical reasons.

The visa system itself is the same as detailed above and depends on why you're coming to France.

What next 

Once you've got the visa and made the move to France you might be tempted to think that you're finished with French bureaucracy. Unfortunately this is not the case.

At some point you will need to register for the residency card known as the carte de séjour and when you register depends on your visa type - some demand that you register within three months of arriving, so you need to be aware of this and make sure that you don't miss the deadline.

When registering you may also have to undergo a medical and commit to signing up to French classes if your language skills are a little rusty.

If you intend to stay you will also need to register within the French health system and remember that all residents of France need to file an annual tax declaration, even if all your income comes from outside France. 


If you intend to make France your home, you may wish to apply for French citizenship, which will remove all annoying requirements for visas and residency cards if your application is successful, as well as giving you the right to vote in French presidential elections (or even to stand for president, if you want).

If you have French parents or a French spouse you can get citizenship without having to be resident in France, but if you don't have any useful family members you will be looking at gaining citizenship through residency.

France is relatively generous in granting citizenship through residency, and you can apply after being a full-time resident of France for five years (or two years if you graduated from a French university or higher education establishment).

You do require B2 level French, however, plus a lot of paperwork and you will need to do some swotting up for the interview in which you are tested on your knowledge of French history, culture and value - find the full requirements HERE.

This is just an overview of the various requirements, you can find a lot more information in our visas, residency and moving to France sections.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Anonymous 2021/09/22 13:48
I thought it was B1 not B2 in French proficiency for citizenship?

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