How to get a residence permit in France for non-EU citizens

France is one of the most favoured countries in the world by tourists, expats and immigrants alike. In fact, more than ten percent of the French population are immigrants, and many of them have got the citizen status too. As a result, the French government has imposed quotas on passports issued to immigrants from non-EU countries and is no longer keen on providing citizenship freely and easily.

It is a completely different story with residence permits, though. The French government welcomes legal aliens very much and has introduced so many different categories of temporary and permanent residence permits that only an experienced professional in the field can make sense of them all.

Our intention in this article is to clarify the matter a bit so that you can understand which category will best suit your circumstances. To begin with, if you are a citizen of one of the member states of the European Union, you do not need any additional permits to reside or seek employment in France freely, nor to have free access to the country's public medical and educational services.

In other words, this article is written specifically for non-EU citizens. We will describe different types of French residence permits and explain the general application procedures, including the documents required for the purpose. 

Preliminary Comment for UK Citizens

Many UK citizens ask whether there are still any special privileges for them in France after Brexit. There are also lots of articles on the internet that explain what these special terms and conditions are. Part of it is just plain misinformation, deliberate or unintended. Some articles tell the truth, though, but you should check what year they were published.

In actual fact, the answer to the question concerning special terms and conditions for UK citizens is short and simple: there are none. Since Brexit, the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union, period. That is:

1. Forget about the application and immigration procedures that existed before January, 31, 2020.

2. Consider yourself a non-European, as it had always been before the country entered the EU.

3. All the terms, conditions and application procedures described in the following sections apply to you as well. 

General Terms

Basically, there are four broad categories of entry/residence permits in France, depending on the duration of stay as well as your purpose of entering the country, namely: 

1. Type D Visa

This is a short-term visa that will be valid for the maximum of three months. In most cases, it is equivalent to the standard Schengen visa, and all the corresponding documentation and application requirements will apply.

You can get it online or at the nearest French Consulate, not necessarily in your home country. The only exception is if the French and your governments have an agreement not to issue visas in a third country, in which case you will only be able to apply for the visa back home.

You will most likely have to:

  • State the purpose of entry, such as tourism, medical treatment, transit, business, study, et cetera.

  • Confirm sufficient funds to support yourself for the entire duration of the visa.

  • Have medical insurance that operates in the EU (the standard coverage required by European countries is currently 30K euros).

  • In some cases, show an onward or return ticket. 

2. Long-Stay Visa Equivalent to a Residence Permit

If you intend to be in France for longer than three months, you will have to apply for the so-called VLS-TS. This is basically the same as a multi-entry long-term visa, which allows you to stay in the country for up to one year.

The visa is renewable indefinitely, and you do not need to apply for a residence permit as such, so it effectively becomes a temporary residence permit. In most cases when they refuse to renew VLS-TS, it has something to do with a violation of criminal law or consular regulations.

The application procedure is very much the same as in the case of the Schengen visa, except that you will receive a different type of VLS-TS, depending on your purpose of entering the country, namely:

  • Studies,

  • Training,

  • Scientific work,

  • Artistic or cultural professional activity,

  • Temporary employment,

  • Trading,

  • Family visits.

The VLS-TS visa costs up to 100 euros in most cases. 

Note: when you arrive in France on your VLS-TS, you will need to visit the French Office for Immigration and Integration as soon as possible, in order to complete certain formalities required for validating the visa.

3. Temporary Residence Permit

Beyond one year, you will need to obtain a residence permit, and its duration will depend on your purpose of application. It breaks down as follows: 

Type of Permit

Maximum Duration

Passeport Talent

Four years

Seasonal workers

Information and Communications Technology Employees

Three years

Financially independent

Remote workers

Digital nomads


Ten years

Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and their family members

Four years

Stateless personae and their family members



Whichever type of temporary residence permit you decide to apply for, you will have to do it within 60 days from the date of arrival in the country. You can do it at the nearest prefecture office, online or, if you are in Paris, any police station. You will most likely be asked to present:

  • Your identity document and birth certificate,

  • Confirmation of sufficient income,

  • Medical insurance,

  • Proof of family ties, if applicable,

  • In some cases, a certificate of basic proficiency in French language. 

4. Permanent Residence Permit

Once you have lived in France permanently for at least five years, or when your temporary residence card expires the first time, you will be eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit. By living permanently, they mean that you spend at least 183 days per year in the country. And when you have lived in France permanently for at least ten years, you will be able to apply for French citizenship.

Permanent residence permits are generally issued for ten years, during which you and your family members will be able to reside, travel and seek employment freely anywhere in the European Union. In addition, all of you will be allowed to use the public medical and educational facilities anywhere in the EU. 

Note: a digital print of each applicant's fingerprints will be required for this purpose.

General Documentation Requirements

The precise package of documents required for application purposes will depend on the type of residence permit as well as your particular circumstances. However, in line with the general requirements in the European Union, you will most likely have to submit the following:

  • Your identity document and passport (the latter must be valid for at least three more months).

  • Marriage and other certificates to prove your relationship with your family members.

  • Any utility bill, purchase or rental contract or a bank statement to confirm your residential address in France.

  • In case you own real estate in the country, the property transfer certificate and proof that you have paid property tax up to date.

  • Police certificate from the EU, your country of origin as well as the country of your actual permanent residence up to date.

  • Medical insurance for at least 30K euros.

  • Medical certificates that you do not suffer from AIDS and tuberculosis.

  • Local tax number.

  • Proof of having an account in a French bank.

  • Language certificate of basic proficiency in French (in some cases).

  • Confirmation of sufficient funds and/or income outside the European Union, which may be passive or active, such as employment, self-employment, private company, rental income, pension fund, benefits from capital investments or brokerage contracts.

  • CERFA 14571-05 application form completed in French.

  • Three passport-size color photos. 

General Application Procedure

Again, the exact procedure might differ slightly in each individual case, depending on the type of permit and the applicant's specific circumstances. Still, the general application process will involve the following steps: 

1. Apply for a Type D visa.

In any case, you will need to go to France at least once in order to open a bank account and get a tax number, although it is, technically, not impossible to do it online or via a legal representative. 

2. Submit your application.

Fill out the relevant application form in French and submit it together with the required package of documents. You can do it:

  • At the nearest French Consulate overseas,

  • At the local prefecture inside the country,

  • Online on the official website of the Department of Foreign Affairs,

  • Through your lawyer or some legal agency.

Whichever way you do it, remember that all documents written in a foreign language will have to be:

  1. Translated into French.

  2. Certified by a notary.

  3. Apostilled.

3. Pay for the application.

In most cases, you can expect to pay between 100 and 150 euros altogether. Typically, applications are processed within a few weeks, but it can take up to half a year in exceptional cases. 

4. Complete registration formalities in France.

When your application has been approved, it will be time to go to France in order to complete all the required registration and validation procedures with the bank, government offices, Police Department, et cetera. You can try to do it via legal representatives, but most immigrants agree that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get it right that way.

It is much quicker, safer and cheaper to go through this step in person, with or without an attorney. In addition, you will make life a lot easier for yourself if you visit all the relevant offices with an interpreter, unless you are fluent in French. And double-check how many days you will have for doing all of that; otherwise, you risk losing your residence card and going back to square one. 

Application Rejection

In case your application has been rejected, you will have 60 days to appeal, which you or your legal representative will have to do either at the French Consulate overseas, the Commission de Recours contre les Décisions de Refus de Visa inside the country. Alternatively, you can register your appeal at the local prefecture in France and, if it fails there, proceed at the Department of Home Affairs.

Either way, you will need to:

  • Complete an appeal form in French.

  • Write a statement that specifies your grounds for the appeal.

  • Attach all the relevant documentation of your case (you might need a lawyer to help you with this one).

Permit Renewal Procedure

If you would like to stay in France longer than the duration of your VLS-TS, you can either apply for a multi-year residence permit, which is called Carte de Séjour Pluriannuelle, or for a visa renewal. But you will have to stay in France on a VLS-TS for at least one year before you can apply for any change in your residence status at all.

In the case of a visa renewal, your application will be evaluated on an individual basis. The Séjour Pluriannuelle can be applied for on this official government website in French.

Note: either way, you will have to submit your application no less than 90 days before your residence permit expires.

The renewal fee is currently 106 euros per applicant for all types of VLS-TS except the Study Permit, in which case the fee is 49 euros. In addition, in the case of renewing some types of residence permits, you will have to pay a tax for the benefit of the French Office for Immigration and Integration.

You can double-check in advance whether your case is on the list, but you will definitely have to pay the tax if you receive a permit for employment or family visit purposes. Exempt for this tax are the following categories:

  • Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and theirs family members,

  • Stateless personae and their family members,

  • Refugees and their family members,

  • Temporary workers and their family members,

  • Residents involved in a scientific, artistic or cultural professional activity and their family members,

  • Applicants who became family members of an EU citizen before May, 01, 2004,

  • Family members of a citizen of the Republic of Malta, Turkey or the Republic of Cyprus. 

Final Comment

Currently, France does not issue residence permits on the basis of investments in the country's real estate sector. However, if you own a private or commercial property there, you will be entitled to certain administrative privileges, such as faster and more convenient application procedures, quicker application processing and almost automatic visa/permit renewals.

To benefit from this option, you will only need to prove that you indeed own the real estate in question and pay the property tax. And if you rent it out, you will also have to prove that you pay rental tax.

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