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France is the most popular tourist destination in the world, with more than 80 million visitors per year. France has also welcomed many expats in recent years, especially those from other European countries, the Maghreb and other areas of former French Africa.
France is of the countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA includes all the European Union countries – currently excepting new member Croatia – and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. In most respects, the fourth EFTA member, Switzerland, has similar agreements in place.
Free movement and labour are permitted within the EEA and Switzerland. EEA and Swiss citizens can enter France with minimal restrictions, only needing a valid passport. Moreover, Dutch, Belgian, Italian and Luxembourger citizens do not even need a passport to enter France; they may use their national ID card instead.
To enter France from any other country, you must have a valid passport, or an equivalent travel document if you are a refugee or stateless person. If you are applying for a long-stay visa, passports and other travel documents must be valid for the entire period of your stay. Note that, whatever country you are from, it is advisable to carry your passport with you at all times for identification purposes.
No Visa Required
As mentioned above, you do not need a visa to enter France if you are an EEA or Swiss citizen. Nor do you need a visa if you are from Andorra or Monaco, two tiny states that border France. In addition, citizens of countries that have made agreements with the EU, such as the USA and Japan, may enter France without a visa, but they may only stay in France for 90 days. If you are from one of these countries and want to stay in France long-term, you must apply for a long-stay visa before leaving your home country, and then start your application for a residence permit on arrival in France.
If you are travelling from any other country, you will need a visa to be allowed entry into France. There are two main categories of French visa: short-stay and long-stay. The former is a Schengen visa, that is, it permits you to stay in France and other Schengen agreement countries for up to 90 days. It is, however, not suitable for longer periods of residence.
If you want to stay in France indefinitely, you will need both a long-stay visa and a residence permit (see the ‘Settlement, Residence and Citizenship’ page for details on the latter.) Long-stay visas are chiefly granted to foreign nationals who intend to work, study, retire or re-join their family in France. These visas grant you permission to reside and work in France, and to visit other EU countries.
You must obtain a long-stay visa before leaving your home country. As visa applications can take up to two months to process, it is advisable to apply at least three months before you intend to travel. The English version of the long-stay visa application form can be found on this webpage:
In addition to a complete, signed visa application form, you need to complete the first section of an OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) form. You should take both forms to your local embassy or consulate. They will then stamp and return the OFII form to you. After arriving in France, you need to fill in the second section of the OFII form and send it to your local OFII branch.
If you want to do any kind of work in France, paid or voluntary, you will also need to obtain a work permit before leaving your home country. For more details on work permits, see the ‘Working in France’ page.
As a minimum, you will require the following to apply for a long-stay French visa:
You will need to provide both originals and photocopies of all documents. More documents will be required depending on the purpose of your stay in France, such as evidence you can financially support yourself. Note that visa rules for French overseas territories may differ from the ones stated above.
Sections in IMMIGRATION IN FRANCE:
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If you are considering moving to France or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated French section including; details of immigration and visas, French forums, French event listings and service providers in France.
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Working in France can be rewarding as well as stressful, if you don't plan ahead and fulfill any legal requirements. Find out about visas and passports, owning and operating a company in France, and general French culture of the labour market.
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