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EXPLAINED: How to get a French spouse visa

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EXPLAINED: How to get a French spouse visa
Photo: Andreas Rønningen / Unsplash

Being married to a French person doesn't exempt you from visa requirements, but it does give you the option of getting a spouse visa. Here's how they work, and the advantages and disadvantages of going down this route.


Who doesn’t need a visa

First things first, you do not need a visa to join your French spouse in France if you are:

  • A foreign national who holds a French residence permit;
  • A citizen of a European Union or Schengen zone country
  • A foreign national who holds a long-term resident permit from an EU country
  • A national of Andorra, Monaco or Saint Marino

Who does need a visa

Otherwise, you will need a visa before you enter France. Usually, you would need a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (VLS-TS), which allows you to stay legally in France for its duration, generally less than or equal to a year.


After one year of residence, you can apply, as the spouse of a French citizen, for a multi-year residence permit for private and family life. This is valid for a further two years. 

Once you have been married and living in France for three years, you have the option of applying for a 10-year residency card. These are usually issued on condition that you and your French spouse are living in the same home.

When deciding on the type of visa, you also need to bear in mind what you intend to do once in France (work, study, retire etc) - see below.


In order to get a spouse visa you need to be married, being pacsé (in a civil partnership) will not do.

If you were married outside France, you will need to have it listed on the French register of marriages at the registres français du service central d'état civil in Nantes. Any non-French documents, such as the marriage certificate will need to be translated.

If you married in France, the commune in which you married deals with the proper registry of the marriage.

Be aware that, legally, any French citizen who marries abroad should first contact the Embassy or consulate in the country in which they plan to marry. The publication of the banns is compulsory for the marriage of a French national abroad.

Supporting documents

The usual paperwork applies. You will need;

  • A travel document, issued less than 10 years ago, containing at least two blank pages, with a period of validity at least 3 months longer than the date on which you intend to leave the Schengen Area or, in the case of a long stay, at least three months longer than the expiry date of the visa requested. 
  • ID photograph.
  • Marriage certificate
  • If you are not a national of your country of residence: proof that you are legally resident in that country (e.g. residence permit).


Please note this list may not be exhaustive and further documents may be requested. The standard visa fee is €99 and you may also need to pay to have supporting documents translated into French. For an accurate simulation of the requirements for your personal situation, log on to the French government’s Visa Wizard

Visa issues

Being married to a French person means that you are entitled to a spouse visa, but depending on your plans for your life in France, it may not be the best visa type for you. 

The spouse visa demands that the holder has the financial means to be able to live in France, but does not allow them to work.

So if you intend to get a job while in France, you may be better off applying for a working visa. It's possible to study in France while on a spouse visa, but the student visa has certain advantages if you want to convert it into a work visa at the end of your studies.

There's also the issues that no-one wants to think about - divorce and death. Individual circumstances are taken into account here, but the general rule is that if you are widowed while in France on a spouse visa you can stay, but if you divorce you may not be entitled to stay, unless you have dependent children living in France.

As with all visa issues, if you are uncertain it is better to get legal advice in advance.

What if you came to France without a long-stay visa?

The good news is that the French are generally quite romantic. If you entered France on a short-stay visa and are married to a French national, you can request exceptional admission to stay in France during the first year of your stay.

You can apply for a private and family life card if the following three conditions are met:

  • You have entered France with a short-stay visa (or are of a nationality exempt from tourist visas);
  • You are married in France to a French citizen;
  • You have been living in France for more than six months with your spouse.

After that, you will still have to apply for a multi-year visa and then a 10-year residency card - which, as the name suggests, needs to be renewed after a decade.


It's also possible to get French citizenship through marriage, although conditions do apply.

You need to have been married for four years before you can apply, although you don't have to be living in France.

You then need to go through the usual application process of providing a lot of documents, proving that you speak French, and taking part in the citizenship interview - full details here.


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Anonymous 2022/08/23 00:07
I feel like this article has left me a bit more confused. Specifically the part saying if you come on a Spouse visa you can't work... Also the suggestion to start on a Student visa and switch to a Work visa...Why switch from Student to a Work visa, instead of from a Student visa to a Family visa? Aren't you limited to a contractual timeline with a Student/Work visa? Not to mention how incredibly difficult it is to get a work sponsorship in France. Wouldn't it be easier to switch to the Family visa instead after a year? As far as the not being allowed to work part - can you post your reference for that? Is it new? I see that this article is from 2022. On the official "Welcome to France/République Française" website, the most recent post I see on this subject is from 2019 and says : "If the family members of the French citizen are third-country nationals, and unless they are exempted, they should apply for a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (VLS-TS), to the consular authorities of their country of residence. For a marriage to be recognized in France, it must be transcribed on the French Civil Registry. If the application is accepted, a VLS-TS marked “Vie privée, vie familiale” valid for 12 months will be issued. Furthermore, family members do not have to pay the visa fee. This residence permit allows the exercise of salaried or self-employed professional activity, without any particular procedure. "

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