Tourist Visa to France

Please refer to my page about tourist visas.

The EU and the EEA

Because I use the terms EU and EEA on this page, I shall briefly define them here.

The European Union has 28 Member States:

  1. Belgium - founding member since 23 July 1952
  2. France - founding member since 23 July 1952
  3. Germany - founding member since 23 July 1952
  4. Italy - founding member since 23 July 1952
  5. Luxembourg - founding member since 23 July 1952
  6. the Netherlands - founding member since 23 July 1952
  7. Denmark since 1 January 1973
  8. Ireland since 1 January 1973
  9. United Kingdom since 1 January 1973
  10. Greece since 1 January 1981
  11. Portugal since 1 January 1986
  12. Spain since 1 January 1986
    (Former Eastern Germany after German reunification 3 October 1990)
  13. Austria since 1 January 1995
  14. Finland since 1 January 1995
  15. Sweden since 1 January 1995
  16. Czech Republic since 1 May 2004
  17. Cyprus (Greek part) since 1 May 2004
  18. Estonia since 1 May 2004
  19. Hungary since 1 May 2004
  20. Latvia since 1 May 2004
  21. Lithuania since 1 May 2004
  22. Malta since 1 May 2004
  23. Poland since 1 May 2004
  24. Slovakia since 1 May 2004
  25. Slovenia since 1 May 2004
  26. Bulgaria since 1 January 2007
  27. Romania since 1 January 2007
  28. Croatia since 1 July 2013
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The European Economic Area was created by a treaty that extended EU Single Market legislation to:

  • the EU Member States
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway.

Schengen: Free Movement of Persons

The Schengen Agreement lays down the conditions for free movement of persons in most of the EU and three more countries. The Schengen zone covers:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland (not EU member)
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • the Netherlands
  • Norway (not EU member)
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland (only land borders are concerned by the absence of control)

The Service Public site has a good explanation of the rules. There is no border control within the zone, but personal identification must be carried. EEA nationals must carry either a national ID card or a passport not expired more than five years ago. As what concerns nationals of other countries, visas issued by Schengen Members are valid for the entire zone. Non-EEA nationals who are legally resident in a Schengen Member State may travel for up to three months throughout the zone without visa, but they must carry a current residence permit issued by a Schengen Member and a current travel document (passport or similar). The family of an EEA national has the right to follow the EEA national upon who they depend throughout the EEA, regardless of their nationality. If a visa is required, it must be issued free of charge.

Schengen is the name of a village in the south east corner of Luxembourg where the borders of Luxembourg, Germany and France meet. The agreement was signed aboard a boat on the Moselle river that is also the natural border between Luxembourg and Germany.

ID Photos

Please note that you are not allowed to print your own ID photos in France. Read about alternatives on the government and administration page.

Long Term Visa to France

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals do not need long term visas for moving to France. The notes about long term visa only apply to other nationals.

If you want to visit France for more than 3 months, you nearly always need a visa, issued by the French consultate upon which you depend in the country of your residence., a French government site, provides good guidance in English about the type of visa needed and how to get it. The site is interactive and takes your particular circumstances into account. In case of doubt, please contact the French consulate nearest to you. Note: The list of Schengen countries appearing on that site is not up to date.

The delivery time for a visa is typically 2-3 months.

A non-EU/EEA/Swiss national following his or her EU/EEA/Swiss spouse when moving to France does not need a visa if he or she does not need a visa for short term visits to France. The non-EU/EEA/Swiss national applies for a residence permit (carte de séjour) directly at the prefecture once in France.

The notes on this site are of general nature. It is important to understand that immigration law is complex and regularly changes. Before travelling to France to remain more than three months, it is absolutely necessary that you have full understanding of the requirements on your particular situation.

Don't expect any help from the French consulates. I have reason to believe that France posts its most useless, lazy, ignorant, incompetent, disorganised, counterproductive, and sulky civil servants in the consulates. Many of these people have been promoted way beyond their intellectual capacities that seem limited to handling one type of form only. They don't know anything if it's more complicated than a basic visa. You'd be better served in a French consulate if they replaced the staff with a well-programmed computer. They can even lose immigration files sent from immigration authorities in Paris to a consulate in Boston in the diplomatic bag. Advisory site by a former civil servant specialised in immigration law in France.

Residence and Work Permit for Immigrants

Work Permit

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals and their families do not need work permits to work in the EU and the EEA. As a temporary exception to this rule, during the transition period as new members of the EU, nationals of Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia must obtain work permits before taking up paid employment.

Residence Permit (Carte de séjour)

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals are not required to hold a residence permit (carte de séjour) in France, except for citizens of Bulgaria, Romania, or Croatia - during the transition period as new members of the EU - IF any form of economic activity is to be exercised.

Note for EEA nationals and their families: The residence permit is free of charge for family members of EEA nationals, regardless of the nationality of the family members. 

Cross-border workers working in France and living in another EEA Member State are no longer required to demand a residence permit if they return home regularly.


In cases where no residence permit is required, it is an obligation to register with the town hall (mairie) if you take up residence in France for more than 3 months. This requirement applies regardless of nationality, even for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss Nationals: Important!

While awaiting the residence permit, you will be equipped with a récépissé, a temporary permit valid for 3 months. You must ask for a renewal if your residence permit has not been delivered before it expires. From the time you get the récépissé and until you get the residence permit, you are not allowed to travel outside France, or at least the Schengen zone. If you do and they find out, you may have to start all over from scratch. Only for emergency purposes, important business travel or humanitarian purposes (death or illness in family) will you be allowed to get a return visa at the préfecture. This is to facilitate work for the préfecture if they need to contact you with questions or demands for more documents. While they spend 6 months or more to provide your paperwork, you are more or less imprisoned in France.

Switzerland and the EU

Switzerland and the EU have an agreement of free movement of workers of any of their nationalities and their families within their respective territories.

How to get a work permit for employment

It is the employer who is responsible for obtaining a work permit if they intend to hire a non-EU/EEA/Swiss national. The employer has to contact the OFII (Office français de l'immigration et de l'intégration). In most cases, the employer will have to document that it is impossible to find a qualified employee of EU/EEA/Swiss nationality.

However, there are several different procedures corresponding to different job situations. Highly skilled workers will often go through a fast-path procedure.

For the jobs in the following list, the employer is not required to prove that no qualified EU/EEA/Swiss national is available. The list will be revised latest August 1, 2013. I have chosen to leave the list in French to avoid translation errors, since the list is very precise and correspond to French job terms that may not always translate unambiguously to English:

  • Cadre de l'audit et du contrôle comptable.
  • Conduite d'équipement de fabrication de l'ameublement et du bois.
  • Conception et dessin produits mécaniques.
  • Inspection de conformité.
  • Dessin BTP.
  • Marchandisage.
  • Ingénieur production et exploitation des systèmes d'information.
  • Conduite d'équipement de transformation du verre.
  • Téléconseil et télévente.
  • Pilotage d'unité élémentaire de production mécanique.
  • Conception et dessin de produits électriques et électroniques.
  • Intervention technique en méthodes et industrialisation.
  • Conduite d'équipement de production chimique et pharmaceutique.
  • Intervention technique en ameublement et bois.

Réference: Arrêté du 11 août 2011 relatif à la délivrance, sans opposition de la situation de l'emploi, des autorisations de travail aux étrangers non ressortissants d'un Etat membre de l'Union européenne, d'un autre Etat partie à l'Espace économique européen ou de la Confédération suisse NOR: ETSD1120263A

How to get a permit for self-employment or starting a business

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who want to start a business or become self-employed in France must contact the French consulate upon which they depend. The consulate will provide an application form in addition to the visa application form. You must provide a business plan that will be evaluated before any permit or visa can be issued. You must also fulfil the requirements for a long-term visitor's visa, including the requirement to prove that you have funds available to pay for one year's living costs. This is by far the easiest way to obtain a permission to work in France, given that the work permit for employment can be extremely complex or impossible.

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