It goes without saying that France is one of the world’s top holiday destinations, with millions coming every year to wander the iconic boulevards of Paris, feast at the foodie hotspots of Lyon, and stroll the scenic coastline in Nice. But what if you’re looking to settle and work in the country?

There’ll be a number of things to consider, like where to live and which French bank to join. If you’re not a citizen of the European Union/European Economic Area/Switzerland, obtaining the right visa should be at the top of your to-do list.

Short-stay visa

The first category of visa is the short-stay visa, which will let you reside in France for up to 90 days. Not every non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen will necessarily have to obtain one, however. If you’re from Australia, Canada, Malaysia and certain other countries, and you’re looking to stay for this timeframe, you’re exempt from this requirement. The full list of exempt countries can be found here.

It’s important to note that whether you need a short-stay visa or not, you’ll need a work permit unless your job is connected to:

  • Sporting, cultural, artistic or scientific events
  • Conferences, seminars or trade shows
  • The production/distribution of cinematic or audiovisual shows and recordings
  • Teaching activities alongside French teachers
  • Modelling and artistic posing
  • An audit/expert assessment in IT, management, finance, insurance, architecture and engineering

In all other cases, your employer (or prospective employer) will need to apply for a work permit before you commence your visa application. They will do this by submitting an official form to the French authorities. If that’s successful, the work permit should then be attached to your visa application.

It’s important to note that you cannot extend a short-stay visa. Once it runs out, you’ll have to leave France. If you decide you’d like to settle in France beyond the 90 days, an application for a long-stay visa needs to be made back in your home country.

Long-stay visa

A long-stay visa will entitle you to reside in France for more than 90 days, as you’ll be able to apply for a longer-term residence permit after you’ve arrived in the country. Unlike the short-stay visa, all foreign nationals outside the EU/EAA/Switzerland are required  to apply for this type of visa. Again, your employer (or prospective employer) will typically have to apply for a work permit on your behalf before you begin the application process.

If you’ve been issued with a long-stay visa which bears the words “carte de séjour à solliciter”, or request residence permit, you must apply for a residence permit within your first two months in France. In Paris, this involves going to police headquarters. If you’ve settled anywhere else, the application must be made through the relevant prefecture. You should contact the prefecture beforehand to check what documents are required

If you’ve been issued with a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit, also known as a VLS-TS, you don’t have to apply for a residence permit during your first year in France. However, it’s important to remember that, with a VLS-TS, you must register with the French Immigration and Citizenship Office (OFII) within three months of arrival. You’ll be given the relevant registration form with your visa, though you may find it easier to do it online here.

Talent passport

It may also be possible to apply for a talent passport, or “passeport talent”. This pathway to entry has been put in place to attract highly skilled individuals who can have a lasting impact on French enterprise, and will allow you to stay for a maximum of four years.

You may be eligible for a talent passport if a number of scenarios apply. Here are some of them:

  • You have a contract to work in a research and development role at what has been officially designated a “new innovative” company, and your salary is at least twice the current minimum wage in France
  • You’re being posted to work for a French company in the same group as the company you currently work for, and have a salary at least 1.8 times the current minimum wage in France
  • You’re qualified to at least Master’s level and are being hosted at a public or private research or higher education institution
  • You’re a “highly qualified employee” with a minimum three-year educational qualification and your salary will be at least 1.5 times the current reference salary decreed by the Minister of Immigration
  • You intend to create a business in France, have at least a Master’s degree or five years of experience at a comparable level, and can invest at least €30,000
  • You’re a performer who can prove you’ll be undertaking a literary or artistic work that will last at least three months on French territory

How to apply for a visa

You can start the visa application process online by creating an account here and providing the requested details. You’ll then have to make an appointment to complete your application at the French embassy, consulate or designated visa application centre in your home country.

During the appointment, you’ll have to pay the admin fee (€80 for short-stay, €99 for long-stay) and provide the required documents. Along with a valid passport issued within the last 10 years, birth certificate and passport photos, the required documents may include:

  • Proof of health insurance that covers your entire stay
  • Proof of accommodation, such as a tenancy agreement or a special certificate completed by the person hosting you in their home
  • Proof that you can afford living costs (equivalent to the basic monthly maintenance allowance paid to foreign scholarship holders in France)
  • Your employment contract and details of your job role
  • Evidence of diplomas, degrees and other relevant qualifications
  • Work permit obtained by your employer in France (which may be sent directly to the embassy/consulate/application centre by French authorities)

You’ll have to provide copies of each document – including the ID pages of your passport – as well as showing the originals. During your appointment, your biometric data (in other words, photographs and fingerprints) will be taken.

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