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Revealed: The biggest problems with France's visitor visa (and how to solve them)

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Revealed: The biggest problems with France's visitor visa (and how to solve them)

Most commonly used by second-home owners or people retiring to France, the various types of visitor visa provide a way to stay for longer periods in France without working - but getting them can be tricky. Here are some of the most common problems with visitor visas, and how to solve them.


If you're a citizen of a non-EU country and want to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France then you will need a visa, and the type of visa you need depends on your personal circumstances - for example if you're coming to study you will want a student visa and if you have a job lined up you'll want a working visa.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

One of the most popular visa types is what is commonly known as the 'visitor' visa - which is largely aimed at people who do not intend to work or study in France, such as pensioners.

While thousands of people successfully apply for these visas each year, there are certain recurring problems with them that readers of The Local have flagged up.

Here's a look at the most common problems, and how to solve them.

Different types of visitor visa 

There are in fact two different visas which are both commonly labelled 'visitor' - they are intended for totally different circumstances, and having the wrong one can cause you all sorts of problems down the line.

Unfortunately they have very similar names and the major differences between them are not clearly explained.

Short-stay visitor visa - visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur (known as VLS-T). This is a short-stay visa, typically six-months, 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.

Long-stay visitor visa - visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur (known as VLS-TS). This is for people coming to France to live who don't intend to work or study - it's most commonly used by retired people.

It's title is quite misleading as people on this visa are not really visitors, they live here. In other countries it's known as a 'non lucrative' visa - ie one for people who do not intend to work or earn money while in France. They key point about this one is that it makes you a full-time resident in France, which comes with responsibilities in areas including tax.

Find a full breakdown of the difference between the two here - VLS-T or VLS-TS: What are the key differences between France's visitor visas?



Whichever type of visitor visa you get, you will need to give an undertaking not to work in France (more on that below) and as you are not working, you need to prove that you can support yourself financially and won't become a burden on the French state. 

This is why the visitor visa, unlike some other visa types, requires proof of your finances.


The guideline amount is the French SMIC (minimum wage) - you will need to demonstrate that you have either a regular income such as a pension that is equivalent to or above French minimum wage, or savings that add up to 12 months of minimum wage.

The SMIC is regularly revised, but as present stands at €1,383 net per month, or €16,596 per year.

This is a guideline amount and other circumstances - such as having rent-free accommodation - can be taken into account in certain cases.

Health insurance 

As with all visa types, your application will need to be accompanied by a dossier of paperwork - find full details here

But the visitor visa will also require you to have full health cover. 

This tends to be more of a problem for Brits who usually don't have private health insurance because of the NHS care available in the UK - but although the French application process asks for 'assurance maladie' this doesn't have to mean full private health insurance.


In certain circumstances an EHIC or GHIC can be accepted, for pensioners S1 can be used and if you live in France and are renewing a visitor visa you can use your carte vitale for this purpose.

READ ALSO What's the deal with health insurance and French visas?

For Americans, keep in mind that Medicare coverage will not be accepted.

Appointment services 

Once you have made your application and provided all the documents necessary, the next step is an in-person appointment for stage two.

This appointment process is usually run by private contractors and many readers - particularly those dealing with the TLS Contact visa services which is used in the UK among other countries - have reported an extremely frustrating experience.


From a lack of appointment slots to constantly glitching websites and very slow processing times, many people reported that trying to secure the final appointment was the most difficult part of the whole process.

'We'll give up our French property' - Users speak of their frustration with the TLS visa website


You might think that getting the visa is the end of your problems - but no.

If you're moving to France to live, the next stage is contact with the Office française de l'immigration et de l'integation (OFII) to arrange extra paperwork, a medical examination and (for some) compulsory French classes.

These 'in country' steps are important to ensure that your visa remains valid.

If you are a second home owner who does not intend to live in France, being instructed to contact OFII could be a sign that you have the wrong type of visitor visa, so it's important to check this carefully. 

OFII: Your questions answered on France's immigration office

Combining with 90-day rule

If you're not living in France but are merely a frequent visitor here, such as a second-home owner, you should have the short-stay six-month visa.

This means that if you want to visit during the rest of the year, you fall back under the auspices of the 90-day rule.

Questions on how to 'combine' a visitor visa with the 90-day rule are the most commonly asked by second-home owners.

The short answer is that for the six months of the year that your visa is valid, you can ignore the rule and spend as long as you like in France. Once your visa expires, the 90-day 'clock' restarts, and every visit that you make to France counts towards your 90-day limit.


Visits to other EU or Schengen zone countries made while your French visa is valid will count towards your 90 days, as the visa only covers trips to France.

You also need to be aware of the rules on your home country on tax residency, as long periods spent out of the country can change your tax status.

READ ALSO How do I combine a French visa with the 90-day rule?

Working remotely 

One thing that both types of visitor visa require is an undertaking that you will not work while in France. Depending on your situation, that might include working remotely for a company back in your home country.

The rules as written are slightly vague on this - largely because remote working is a relatively new phenomenon and visa rules are yet to catch up - but coming to France to live on a visitor visa and doing regular remote work for a company in your home country could create problems in both the tax and the immigration system.

A grey area exists if you're working remotely for a company based in another country that has no connection to France - for example you're a copy-editor working for a UK-based company that operates only within the UK. 

It's not uncommon for second-home owners or other regular visitors to log on and do a few bits of work remotely, and this is less likely to create visa problems.

However it could create other problems in relation to tax, insurance or your contract with your employer.

READ MORE: Ask the experts: What's the deal with remote working and France's visitor visa?


Several readers also asked us about the legal situation if you want to volunteer while on a visitor visa.

In France there are two different types of volunteer - benevolat and volontariat. The majority of volunteer workers are counted as bénévoles.

These are non-contractual volunteers who assist an organisation based on their spare time and availability - maybe helping out at a soup kitchen or community garden. The French government does not give this type of volunteering any legal status or protection - the work is unpaid and it is not full-time. These activities are seen as part of one's vie privée (private life).

This type of volunteering is entirely compatible with a visitor visa.

Work done as a volontariat may not be - this type of work typically involves signing a contract, having set work hours and receiving some kind of compensation whether that is financial or in the form of tickets or reduced price access to events.

If you wish to volunteer during the 2024 Paris Olympics or Paralympics, this counts as benevolat, and so can be done by people on a visitor visa, or those who are using their 90-day allowance to visit France.

Volunteering in France: What are the rules and do I need a visa?

Do you have questions about the French visitor visa? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to answer them


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