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Getting a French visa – what paperwork comes next?

Citizens of non-EU countries will need a visa if they want to move to France or spend long periods of time here. But people fondly imagining that the paperwork is all finished once they get their visa may be in for a disappointment.

Getting a French visa - what paperwork comes next?
Photo: Raymond Roig / AFP

Welcome to French bureaucracy, you’ll never leave . . .


First things first, if you are a citizen of a non-EU country (including the UK) and you want to either move to France or spend more than 90 days out of every 180 here you will need a visa. CLICK HERE to find out how to get your visa.

However getting a visa is usually only the first step in your French paperwork journey, what happens next depends on the type of visa you have and how long you intend to stay in France.

READ ALSO Organise your documents and dress smartly’: Readers’ top tips for getting a French visa

Here’s a look at the most common visa types and what happens next:

Moving to France

If you’re moving to France you will need a visa, but the type will depend on the purpose of your move – work, study, joining family members or retirement

Once you get your visa, in between celebrating, it’s important to read carefully the accompanying instructions, because these will tell you what to do next.

There are two main types of long-stay visa:

Visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour  (VLS-TS) allows its holder to stay in France for up to one year. With this visa, there’s no need to apply for a residence permit because, to all intents and purposes, it is one. 

Holders of this type of visa will, however, have to register with the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII) within three months of arrival.

This involves a fee of around €200, while the OFii can also request an in-person appointment and a medical examination. To register with the OFii, log on to this government online portal.

The second type, the visa long séjour temporaire (VLS-T) visa includes the wording “residence permit to be requested within two months of arrival”, which is self explanatory.

The holder of this type of visa must report to their local préfecture within two months of arrival in France in order to obtain a carte de séjour (residency permit).

In order to get the carte de séjour, you will require various documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, a medical certificate and you will have to pay a fee on top of the one you paid to get your visa in the first place.

Some also require signing an ‘integration’ contract, agreeing to support French values and pledging to take French lessons if necessary.

They are issued for periods from one to 10 years – depending on your circumstances – and then you will need to apply for renewal.

In certain cases, in particular for visas issued under the Talent Passport scheme – for highly qualified employees or highly-qualified and/or experienced people with a ‘real and serious’ project for setting up a company – a multi-year residence permit may be issued.

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

Just visiting

If you don’t intend to live in France, but you do want to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 here then you also need a visa. This is particularly relevant to second-home owners, who will usually get a visitor visa if they want to enjoy long stays at their French property.

Britons with second homes in France are not considered resident, so cannot apply for a carte de séjour under the Brexit withdrawal agreement

The visitor visa requires a guarantee that you will not work while in France and in addition to the usual paperwork you will need to prove that you have the financial means to support yourselves for the period of your stay in France.

READ ALSO How to get a visitor visa 

Once you have the visa, there is no need for extra registration in France.

However the visa itself only lasts for a year.

As your visa approaches its expiry date you have the option to renew the visa, or to apply for a carte de séjour visiteur. The carte de séjour visiteur is not the same type of card as that given to British residents in France under the Brexit deal, and can only be obtained by people who have already had a visa.

Like the visa, the application process for the carte de séjour requires proof that you are financially able to support yourself and there is also a fee.

CLICK HERE for full details of a carte de séjour visiteur.


Once you have been living in France for five years (or two years if you completed higher education at a French university) then you have the option of applying for citizenship, which will do away once and for all with any requirement for visas and residency cards.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

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French schools, renting property and vocabulary: 6 essential articles for life in France

From how to quit your job in France to choosing the best French school for your kids and learning all the vocabulary of France's cost of living crisis - here are six essential articles for life in France.

French schools, renting property and vocabulary: 6 essential articles for life in France

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The Local spoke with some anglophone parents, and compared the advantages and disadvantages of the various options in order to help you make the best decision for your family. 

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The two options differ in terms of price, convenience, and sometimes availability. You can read The Local’s guide to renting property in France.

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The 2024 Olympic Games are already on the horizon, even though they might seem far away. The city of Paris and its surrounding suburbs have already begun extensive preparations to host athletes, their families, and the thousands of fans who will come to enjoy the Games.

If you live in France and you are considering attending the games, The Local has put together what you need to know in order to secure your tickets.

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