What type of visa to apply for?
You must tell the visa official the precise reasons for your journey to France.
This is because the type of visa required to enter France depends on both the length of your stay and your reasons ; except for special cases :
- for stays equal to or shorter than 90 days, the visa to be issued is a short-stay visa, often known as a “Schengen visa”;
- for stays longer than 90 days, the visa to be issued is a long-stay visa appropriate to the duration of and reasons for your stay.
This information must be accurate, because :
- once you are in France, you cannot have your visa modified or change your immigration status ;
- in addition, exercising a salaried activity is subject to specific procedures that require getting a work permit before getting a visa. This applies to all employees, including artists and sportspeople.
In the French overseas territories, the rules applicable may vary from those applied in Metropolitan France.
When applying for a visa, you must carefully specify the destination and details of your flight.
1. Short-stay visas
Short-stay visas are Schengen visas that allow the holder to move freely throughout the 25 countries in the Schengen Area for stays totalling a maximum of 90 days in each period of six months.
These visas may be issued for one entry or for multiple entries according to the reasons for your stay.
This is the type of visa issued for tourism, business travel or family visits ; it is also issued so that you can come to France for a short training course, internship, conference, business meeting or be gainfully employed (in whatever way) for less than 3 months.
2. Long-stay visas
The long-stay visa is not a Schengen visa ; it is a national visa that entitles you, whatever the reason for your stay, to live in France for more than three months.
The visa also entitles you to transit through another country in the Schengen Area on your way to France and to move freely throughout the Schengen Area for its entire period of validity.
The main reasons for issuing this type of visa are study, work and family reunion. Specific documents, according to your reason, are required to support your visa application.
If you are issued with this type of visa, you are required, on arrival in France, to register with the Office Français d’Immigration et d’Intégration (OFII) or, in some cases, to apply to the relevant prefecture for a residence permit.
Some categories of long-stay visa are valid as residence permits for the first year of your stay in France: study visas, some work visas, visas for spouses of French nationals and visitors’ visas.
If you are in one of these cases, when you arrive in France, you must send the OFII form to the relevant regional delegation of the Office Français d’Immigration et d’Intégration, which will give you an appointment for a medical examination and payment of residence fees.
After the first year (in the two months before your long-stay visa expires), you must apply to renew your residence permit at the relevant prefecture for your place of residence.
In all other cases, if you are a foreign national holding a long-stay visa marked "carte de séjour à solliciter" (residence permit to be applied for), you must apply to the prefecture for a residence permit.
Work visas, for whatever activity, are subject to specific preliminary procedures : as a foreign national arriving in France on a short-stay visa you are not allowed to seek work or obtain an employment contract.
If you intend to exercise a salaried activity in France, your future employer must have the contract approved in advance by the DIRECCTE (Regional directorate for enterprises, competition, consumption, work and employment) before you submit your visa application.
Artists on tour and sportspeople in championships must also get a work permit in advance via their contact in France.