France has multiple agreements with other countries. Most of the time it automatically grants you a short-term visa of 90 days if you are coming on holiday for a shot of the French “art-de-vivre”.
As you might have seen it before, cabin crew usually handles it to you when you are getting close to landing.
But if you would like to enjoy Paris for more than three months, to even work or study there, you will then need a visa and a residence permit (and potentially a work authorization). Actually the first step of being an expatriate in Paris is to find your way in the many different visa options!
Here is an overview of the different types of visas and/or residence permits you might want to apply for.
If you are a foreign student
Things will depend on where you are coming from and what you want to do:
European / Non-European
First case-scenario -which is also the easiest one- is if you are European or citizen of a country member of the EEE. Nationals of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland have the right to move freely within the European Union. You then don’t need a visa but a simple ID or passport to enter France.
What is the difference between a« visa » and a « titre de séjour »?
A visa will allow you to enter France. A “titre de séjour” (residence permit in French) will allow you to stay in France. If you are staying less than three months, you probably won’t need a “titre de séjour” as most countries have agreements with France. Some long-stay visa also include a residence permit so you won’t need to go to the city Hall once you settle in France. Some don’t so then you will need to go and get your residence permit within three months after your arrival with extra documents. Make sure you know which case you are dealing with.
Applications are a bit different whether you come from a country which has agreements with France regarding their students or not.
So check out first if your country falls into the “Etudes En France” category and if you need to apply there as well. https://pastel.diplomatie.gouv.fr/etudesenfrance/dyn/public/authentification/login.html?codeLangue=EN
Then as far as visa, it’s pretty much the same procedures for all on top of the usual obligations (you must be 18, you must have been accepted in a school, you must have financial means, etc.)
Non-European student staying less than three months
- If you are staying for a course that will last less than 3 months, you must apply for a short-stay visa. There is not a specific one for students.
- If you are coming to France to take an exam, you must apply for a short-stay visa “Etudiant- concours” (French for “student examination”). If you pass it, this visa will allow you to go and ask directly for a residence permit without having to go back to your country.
Non –European student staying more than 3 months
- If you are a student in your country and you are coming to France for holidays but would like to work there a bit to finance your trip, you must ask for a visa “vacances travail” (in French “work holiday). You must be between 18 to 30 and willing to stay for a year max.
Be careful though, only 14 countries have an agreement with France for this specific visa and it does not include the USA for instance.
- If you are coming to pursue your education and to study in a French establishment for more than 3 months, then you will need a specific visa that will also serve as a residence permit. You must have found an institute (university, “grandes écoles”, etc.) and be accepted and apply for one of those 2 visas: VLS-T or VLS-TS.
- VLS-T “étudiant” is a long-stay visa that will allow you to stay from 4 months to a year. It’s not renewable, it won’t allow you to work neither to benefit from certain financial housing support from France as a student (VISALE or CAF) but you will be covered by the French social security (public healthcare system).
You won’t need to get it validated once you are in France and it will allow you to travel in the Schengen area.
What’s the Schengen area?
“The Schengen Area is an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. The area mostly functions as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. Which means you can travel in most of them with a French visa.
The Schengen Area is not the same as the European Union. Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia are EU member states that are not yet formally participating in the Schengen scheme. However, holders of a valid Schengen visa may be able to enter those states without applying for a separate visa. The microstates Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City are not part of the Schengen Area but they all have open borders with neighboring Schengen countries and can be legally entered with a Schengen visa.
- VLS-TS “étudiant” is also a long-stay visa that will allow you to stay from 4 month to a year. But at the end of it, you will be allowed to ask for a renewal of your residence permit if you are planning on studying longer.
You will need though to get it validated and bring some documents to the OFII (French office for immigration and integration) within the first 3 months. You usually have to a see a doctor for a routine check-up.
If you are a worker/expatriate
Here again there are different visas for different case-scenarios. As for a student, being European will grant you the authorization to stay and work in France without a visa.
If you are hesitant you can take the visa wizard made especially to help you figure out in which category you fall into.
If you are currently not working
- You are done with whatever you were studying but would like some time to prospect for a possible job in France. You need to ask for an APS (“autorisation provisoire de séjour”, in French temporary authorization to stay) that will allow you to look for a job or to put together your own company for a year. It’s supposedly not renewable but some students have more flexible outcomes (Tunisia, India, and Senegal among others). During this year you will be allowed to work 20 hours a week as when you had a VTL-TS visa.
- You are just coming to France to enjoy a really long holiday or for a medical treatment or because you fell in love with a French man/woman or for a gap year or to retire there but without engaging in any professional activity during your stay, you need to apply for a long –stay visa “visiteur”.
If you are working in France
You will have to apply to different types of visa depending on your exact situation with of course the usual batch of official documents, declarations, proofs, etc.:
- If you are working for a French company, you might either request a passeport talent or a temporary residence permit (that should also grant you the right to work). You company should help you all the way with the process.
- If you are working in France for a foreign company, you are considered as a “posted employee” (travailleur détaché in French) and you should apply for a specific residence permit called “Salarié détaché ICT” (intra company transfer). You can stay up to three years.
- If you are coming in France to work as a highly qualified employee, as a professor, as an artist, as an investor, as a CEO and so on, you can apply to a specific type of visa/residence permit called “passeport talent” which is a facilitated, more flexible way to work and live in France as a foreign worker. You can find all the interesting facts and info about it in one of your previous articles:
- If you are coming in France to work and stay there for quite some time, there is a fair chance that you will already be married with kids. Obviously you don’t want to leave them behind. It’s been proved that the difficult adjustment for a whole family to move in a foreign country is not quite as difficult as it would be if the family were separated with a parent working abroad.
- France has a tradition of being supportive of gathering families together so each residence permit/visa you might get has a specific process to make it easier (of course “easier” as easy as a long and demanding administrative procedure can be!) for the whole family to travel and stay with you, including a work permit for your spouse and school access for your kids.
What about sending a minor child alone to study in France?
If you want your minor child (i.e. aged under 18 on the date the visa becomes valid) to stay in France to study for less than 3 months to learn French for instance or to do a sport camp, you must apply for a short-stay visa called an «études» (studies) visa on his/her behalf.
If you want your minor child to stay in France to study for more than 3 months in a public or private primary, secondary or higher education establishment, you must apply for a long-stay visa called a “mineur scolarisé” (school-going minor) visa on his/her behalf.