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LIVING IN FRANCE

EXPLAINED: How to get a French spouse visa

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.

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

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.

Marriage

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.

Citizenship

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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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid rules: Travelling abroad from France this summer

There's been plenty written on travel rules for people coming to France - but what if you live in France and have plans for international travel over the coming months? We've got you covered.

Covid rules: Travelling abroad from France this summer

France isn’t currently on the Covid red list for any country, so there is nowhere that is barred to you as a French resident, but different countries still have different entry requirements.

EU/Schengen zone

If you’re travelling to a country that is within the EU or Schengen zone then it’s pretty straightforward.

If you’re fully vaccinated then all you need is proof of vaccination at the border – no need for Covid tests or extra paperwork. Bear in mind, however, that if your second dose was more than nine months ago you will need a booster shot in order to still be considered ‘fully vaccinated’. 

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel to France from within the EU

If you were vaccinated in France then you will have a QR code compatible with all EU/Schengen border systems. If you were vaccinated elsewhere, however, your home country’s vaccination certificate will still be accepted.

If you’re not fully vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test at the border, check the individual country for requirements on how recent the test needs to be.

Bear in mind also that several EU countries still have mask/health pass rules in place and some countries specify the type of mask required, for example an FFP2 mask rather than the surgical mask more common in France. Check the rules of the country that you are travelling to in advance.

If you’re travelling to a country covered by The Local, you can find all the latest Covid rules in English on the homepages for Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland.

UK

The UK has no Covid-related travel rules, so there is no requirement for tests even if you are not vaccinated. The passenger locator form has also been scrapped – full details HERE.

Once there, there are no Covid-related health rules in place. 

If you’re travelling between France and the UK, remember the extra restrictions in place since Brexit.

USA 

Unlike the EU, the USA still has a testing requirement in place, vaccinated or not. You would need to show this prior to departure.

It has, however, lifted the restrictions on non citizens entering, so travel to the USA for tourism and visiting friends/family is once again possible.

For full details on the rules, click HERE.

Once there, most places have lifted Covid-related rules such as mask requirements, but health rules are decided by each State, rather than on a national level, so check in advance with the area you are visiting.

Other non-EU countries

Most non-EU countries have also lifted the majority of their Covid related rules, but in certain countries restrictions remain, such as in New Zealand which is reopening its border in stages and at present only accepts certain groups.

Other countries also have domestic Covid restrictions in place, particularly in China which has recently imposed a strict local lockdown after a spike in cases.

Returning to France

Once your trip is completed you will need to re-enter France and the border rules are the same whether you live here or not.

If you’re fully vaccinated you simply need to show your vaccination certificate (plus obviously passport and residency card/visa if applicable) at the border.

If you’re not vaccinated you will need to get a Covid test before you return and present the negative result at the border – the test must be either a PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours or an antigen test taken within the previous 48 hours. Home-test kits are not accepted.

If you’re returning from an ‘orange list’ country and you’re not vaccinated you will need to provide proof of your ‘essential reasons’ to travel – simply being a resident is classed as an essential reason, so you can show your carte de séjour residency card, visa or EU passport at the border.

Even if the country that you are in is reclassified as red or orange while you are away, you will still be allowed back if you are a French resident. If you’re not a French passport-holder, it’s a good idea to take with you proof of your residency in France, just in case.

Fully vaccinated

France counts as ‘fully vaccinated’ those who:

  • Are vaccinated with an EMA-approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson)
  • Are 7 days after their final dose, or 28 days in the case of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines
  • Have had a booster shot if more than 9 months has passed since the final dose of your vaccine. If you have had a booster shot there is no need for a second one, even if more than 9 months has passed since your booster
  • Mixed dose vaccines (eg one Pfizer and one Moderna) are accepted 
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