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VISAS

Second-home owners and retirees: French visitor visa explained

Within the complex world of French visas there exists two types of visa labelled 'visitor' but these are in fact very different documents, and have implications for your residency, tax liabilities and visits to France.

Second-home owners and retirees: French visitor visa explained
Those in France on visitor visas are not allowed to work and are frequently either retirees or second-home owners. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

If you’re a non-EU citizen and you want to spend longer than 90 days out of every 180 in France then you will need a visa – and there are many different types of visa depending on your personal circumstances.

We take a look at the different visa types and how to apply for them HERE.

But a frequent cause of confusion is that there are two visas commonly known as a ‘visitor’ visa – but are in fact completely different documents giving you vastly different rights in France.

It would be much easier if one of them could be rechristened, but here we are;

Short-stay visitor visa

Technically known as the visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur – or VLS-T – this visa is perhaps the better named one as it is for visitors – by which we mean people who don’t live in France.

This is a six-month visa and it’s most commonly used by second-home owners who don’t want to be constrained by the 90-day rule, although it is also used by others who want to make longer trips to France without working.

The crucial point about this visa is that you are not a resident of France, you keep your residency in another country, most usually your home country.

Not being a resident in France is important because it imposes certain limits – for example if the borders were closed again for whatever reason you would not be allowed entry to France as a visitor (unless you had an essential reason) – but it also exempts you from certain duties that are imposed on residents, such as making the annual tax declaration.

You can obtain one six-month visitor visa in every 12 months – because by the government’s reckoning if you spend more than six months of the year in France then you are a resident.

We’ll let them explain: “If you are spending between three and six months a year in France in total, you are not considered as a resident in France. You will have to apply for a temporary visitor visa – visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur.

“If you spend more than six months a year in France, you are then considered as a French resident and must apply for a long stay visitor visa (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur).”

You can apply for multiple short-stay visas, but only with a six month gap in between them – so far example you can have a visa from January-June 2021, then another from January-June 2022, then January-June 2023 and so on. But you can’t have a visa from January-June 2022 and then September 2022 to February 2023.

During its validity period, you are exempt from the 90-day rule in France (and only in France, the rule still applies if you travel to another EU/Schengen zone country) and your passport doesn’t need to be stamped when entering or exiting France.

Once the visa expires, you revert to being constrained by the 90-day rule, with passport-stamping.

READ ALSO How does getting a visa affect the 90-day rule?

You can find full details of the requirements for a short-stay visitor visa HERE, but one important thing to note is that you must give an undertaking that you will not work in France. 

Your visitor visa does not entitle you to register in the French health system, or to obtain a carte de séjour residency card.

READ ALSO Can second-home owners get a carte de séjour?

Long-stay visitor visa 

This visa – formally known as the visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur or VLS-TSis, in our humble opinion, quite misleadingly named, as people who have this visa aren’t visitors at all, they live here.

The long-stay visitor visa is for people coming to France to live who don’t intend to work or study – it’s most commonly used by retired people.

With this visa you are a resident of France, so have extra rights such as being allowed back in to the country if the borders close and being able to register in the French health system. But with rights come responsibilities, including having to file the annual French tax declaration (even if all your income comes from outside France, such as a pension from your home country).

Like the short-stay visitor visa you need to give an undertaking that you won’t work in France in order to get this visa, and you will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means to support yourself while you’re here without becoming a burden on the French state.

Just like the other types of visas for residents, after obtaining the long-stay visitor visa you are then able to get a carte de séjour residency card.

Time spent in France on a long-stay visitor visa counts towards the minimum residency period if you intend to apply for French citizenship.

You can find full details on how to apply for the long-stay visitor visa HERE

Member comments

  1. A rider to the above.
    We have a VLS-T, multi entry 6 month Visa. Despite showing this to border control our passports are duly stamped each time. Pointing out the Visa is merely acknowledged with a shrug. Pursuing a discussion would only irritate others in the queue I suspect.

  2. Well, it’s not strictly true that a holder of a 1-year visitor visa (or titre de sejour) is automatically a resident for tax purposes. One can spend less than six months a year in France but still need (and hold) a 1-yr. visitor titre de sejour if the six months are spread throughout the year (e.g., January, May-July, September, December) and not within a consecutive six-month period.

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For members

BRITS IN FRANCE

Exchange rate: What are your options if you live in France but have income in pound sterling?

The value of the British pound has fallen steeply against the dollar in recent days and also against the Euro, so what should you do if you live in France but have income - such as a pension, rental income or a salary - in pound sterling?

Exchange rate: What are your options if you live in France but have income in pound sterling?

Exchange rates might sound like a spectacularly dull topic, but if you live in France (where, naturally, your day-to-day living expenses are paid in Euros) but have income from the UK in pounds, then the movement of the international currency markets will have a major impact on the money that ends up in your pocket.

And this is far from an uncommon situation – France is a popular retirement destination for Brits, who will usually be receiving a British pension paid in pounds.

Non-retirees might be still working for companies in the UK, with a salary in pounds, while others have income from rental properties or investments.

So a big loss in the value of the pound against the Euro has a major impact on Brits in France, many of whom – particularly pensioners – are already living on low incomes. 

The most recent fall in the value of the pound was sparked by the UK government’s new mini budget (we’re far from experts on economics, but the reaction from most economists seems to be that the budget is deranged) and has already seen a recovery. 

The pound-euro exchange rate over the last month. Chart: xe.com

But while this one-time fall is spectacular, it’s also part of a longer term trend in the fall of the value of the pound, especially since Brexit, that has seen some pensioners lose a big chunk of their income.

The pound-euro exchange rate over the last 10 years. Graph: xe.com

So if you have income in pounds, what are your options?

Euro income – obviously this isn’t an option for everyone, especially pensioners, but the best way to protect against currency exchange shocks is to make sure that you’re paid in the same currency that you spend in.

The advantage of the euro is that you’re not limited to finding work only in France, but could work in any EU country – including the anglophone ones like Ireland – and get your salary in euros.

What are the rules for foreigners working remotely from France?

Depending on your employer, it might also be possible for you to ask to bill in euros. 

Work in France – if you’re currently not working, then an obvious option is to take up some work in France – although if you are in France on a visa, you need to check whether your visa allows you to work.

Exchange rate – if your income can only be paid in pounds, it’s crucial to ensure that you get the best exchange rate possible and that you don’t waste money on international transfer fees.

The best options here are online banks or money transfer services, which compete on the rates that they offer, so usually have the most advantageous rate.

Some online banks also have the option to set up accounts in both pounds and Euros, so that you can receive money in pounds and spend it in Euros without having to make bank transfers, which can attract fees.

We spoke to a financial expert who explains the best options HERE.

Financial help – the French state offers fairly significant financial aid to people on low incomes, but while this generally comes automatically to French families, sometimes newcomers can slip through the net, especially pensioners who have never worked in France.

This autumn, for example, is a new €100-€200 chèque energie (financial grant) to help low-income households deal with the rising cost of energy bills.

In addition to one-off payments like this, you may also be entitled to top-up benefits or aid with making your home more energy efficient.

You can find out more HERE, and if you think you are eligible you can visit your local CAF office to ask how to apply.  

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