France has been a significant international power throughout history and is also renowned as an attractive destination that offers various activities for tourists. It is a highly regarded destination among intellectuals and artists due to its rich cultural heritage that is reflected in its art, music, literature etc. and some of the most famous landmarks in the world, such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Arc de Triomphe. These landmarks are not only visually stunning but also have significant historical and cultural significance.

Visitors can indulge in a range of activities like retail therapy in cities like Paris, Cannes, and Nice or hiking in the Alps to skiing in the Pyrenees to swimming in the Mediterranean. 

However, obtaining a French Visa is necessary to fully experience all that the country has to offer.

What is a French visa? 

A French visa is an official document that allows a foreign national to enter the country and stay there for a specified period of time. The type of visa required is determined by the purpose and duration of the visit, such as tourism, professional purposes, studies, or family reasons. 

French visas are one of the most challenging visas to obtain in Europe with its 9.8% refusal rate, the required documents and eligibility criteria vary depending on the type of visa you are applying for and it is essential that you are extra cautious during your application process. 

French visas must be obtained before departure from the nearest French Embassy or French Consulate in the applicant’s country of residence. 

Types of French visas

If you plan to stay in France for 90 days or less: 

You will need to obtain a short-stay visa. 

The regulations and type of visa required depends on the specific French territory you plan to visit: 

  • If it’s the European territory, which covers mainland France, a short-stay Uniform Schengen visa will be issued. 
  • For non-European territories such as French overseas territories require a short-stay national visa. 
  • If you plan to transit through a French airport without leaving the “international zone”, you need to apply for an “A” airport transit Schengen visa.

If you plan to stay in France for more than 90 days: 

You will need to apply for a long-stay national visa. 

The regulations and types of visas required depend on both the duration and purpose of the stay: 

  • Whether it’s in France’s European or non-European territories.
  • The code governing the entry and stay of foreign nationals. 

This visa is further divided into two categories: 

  1. Temporary long-stay visa (Visa de Long Séjour Temporaire): This visa is intended for people who plan to stay in France for more than 90 days but less than a year, such as students, interns, or temporary workers.
  2. Long-stay visa for residence (Visa de Long Séjour pour Visiteurs): This visa is intended for people who plan to stay in France for more than a year and wish to establish residency in France, such as retirees, investors, or family members of French citizens.

Who needs a short-stay/Schengen visa? 

Individuals who will need to acquire a visa to enter France for short stays due to the Schengen zone’s common travel area include: 

  • Passport holders of third-world countries that have not reached a visa liberalization agreement with the Schengen states. 
  • Those who have signed such an agreement but were refused entry into France or any other Schengen country.

It’s also important to note that the visa policies for French overseas territories, departments or regions may differ from those of metropolitan France, and visitors may need to obtain a visa depending on their nationality. 

If a visa is necessary, visitors will need to apply for a French long-stay National Visa that corresponds to the purpose of their entry to the French DROM or CTOM.

Types of Schengen visas: 

To begin your application for a Schengen Visa in France, it is important to determine the specific type of visa you require based on your reason for entering the country and your intended length of stay. There are several Schengen visa options available for short-stays in France, including: 

  1. The French transit visa: this visa is intended for people who are traveling through France to reach their final destination in another country.
  2. The French tourist visa: allows non-European Union citizens to enter France for tourism purposes.
  3. The French visa for visiting family and friends: This visa is intended for family members of French citizens or legal residents who wish to visit their family members in France. 
  4. The France Business visa: for those who have to participate in a business gathering or any other work-related events in the country.
  5. The France visa for official visit: for those who are a member of a foreign official group invited to France for an official trip.
  6. The France medical visa: for those who require medical care at a hospital situated in France.
  7. The French study visa: this visa is intended for people who plan to study in France for a period longer than 90 days.
  8. The France visa for cultural, sports and film crew: for those who are planning to participate in a sports or cultural event in France.

As we see above, each visa type serves a unique purpose and requires a specific application process.

What are the necessary documents needed to apply for a Schengen visa in France? 

Required documents include: 

  • The French visa application form. 
  • Two passport photos that meet the specifications for the French Schengen visa application.
  • A valid passport that has at least three months of validity beyond the intended departure date.
  • Copies of previous visas.
  • Travel health insurance that covers medical emergencies in France and the Schengen zone with a minimum coverage of €30,000.
  • A cover letter explaining the purpose of the trip.
  • A round-trip flight itinerary. 
  • Proof of accommodation for the entire stay.
  • Proof of civil status. It could be in the form of a birth certificate, marriage certificate etc. 
  • Proof of financial means to support oneself during the stay. The required daily amount for financial means is €120 if accommodation is not prepaid, €65 if accommodation is already arranged and paid for, and €32.25 per day for cheaper forms of accommodation.

Documents required based on your employment status

Additional requirements for obtaining a French visa vary depending on your employment status.

 If you are employed, you will be required to submit certain documents such as: 

  •  Your employment contract. 
  •  A bank statement for the past six months. 
  •  A leave permission letter from your employer. 
  •  An Income Tax Return (ITR) form or a Certificate of Income Tax deducted from your salary.

 If you are self-employed then you must provide: 

  • A copy of your business license
  • A bank statement for the past six months
  • An ITR form.

For students, the requirements include: 

  •  Proof of enrollment.
  •  A no-objection certificate from your school or university, as well as advertisements.

 And lastly if you are retired, you need to provide: 

  • Your pension statement for the last six months. 

Documents required for minors

To apply for a short-stay visa to France for a minor, or for a parent applying for their child, there are additional requirements to be included in the application. These include: 

  • A birth certificate. 
  • A completed French visa application form signed by both parents.
  • A family court order if only one parent has full custody.
  • Certified copies of the ID or passport of both parents.
  • A notarized parental authorization if the minor is traveling alone.

It’s also important to note that when applying at the French embassy or consulate, the guardian or parent should accompany their child who is under the legal age of adulthood.

France entry requirements

The country’s entry requirements depend on the nationality of the individual, with the elimination of borders within EU members, EU citizens only need to show an identification document to travel throughout the Schengen area and on the other hand, foreign nationals who arrive at a French port of entry must provide several official documents, which are listed below:

  • A valid passport or travel document that has been issued within the last 10 years and will remain valid for at least three months after the departure date.
  • A visa, if required under the French visa regime.
  • Proof of sufficient funds for the intended stay in France, which should be at least 120€ per day without proof of prepaid accommodation and 65€ per day with proof of prepaid accommodation.
  • A round-trip ticket to and from France.
  • Proof of accommodation that covers the entire duration of the stay.

It’s also important to note that eventually the French border officer has the final decision on whether to allow you to enter the country. 

They will review the provided documents and may ask questions about your trip, such as your purpose of visiting, intended length of stay, and accommodation arrangements.

 If the officer is satisfied with the documents and purpose of entry, the individual will be granted entry to France and the Schengen area. 

Additional documents required for entry to France

You may be required to submit additional documents depending on the reason for your visit to France. Below are the necessary supplementary documents that you need to provide based on your purpose of travel to France.

Documents required for an airport transit visa: 

In case you are stopping at a French airport to catch a flight to a non-Schengen destination country, you must provide the subsequent supplementary documents:

  • A valid visa (if required) for the ultimate destination you intend to travel to.
  • The flight ticket for the country you are traveling to.

Documents required for a transit visa: 

If you are arriving in France via sea, and planning to board another vessel to travel to another country, you will need to submit the ensuing supplementary documents:

  • A valid visa (if necessary) for the ultimate destination you intend to travel to.
  • The original and a copy of your Seaman’s book (required exclusively for seafarers).
  • An employment contract with the navigation company/ship in order to board the ship (required exclusively for seafarers).
  • The ticket for the final destination you are traveling to.
  • A letter issued by the inviting Shipping Company in the Schengen country where the seafarer will disembark (required exclusively for seafarers).

Documents required for a tourist visa: 

When requesting a French Tourist visa, you are required to submit the supplementary documents:

  • Bank statement. It is preferable that the statement covers the last six months.
  • A comprehensive travel itinerary outlining the purpose of your visit, the duration of your stay, and the activities you plan to engage in, including evidence of hotel reservations or alternative forms of accommodation.
  • Evidence of the means through which you plan to finance your trip to France.

Documents required for a business visa: 

To apply for a French Business visa, you will need to submit additional documents, which include: 

  • An invitation letter from the company you plan to visit in France, including their complete address and the dates of your visit. 
  • A letter from your employer explaining why you are traveling to France.
  • A business bank statement for the past six months.
  • The original certified copy of the Memorandum and Article of Association registered with joint stock companies.
  • The Trade License, and proof of trip financing. 

It’s important to note that the letter or invitation from your employer or the partner company should also state the coverage of expenses during your stay in France.

Documents required for a study visa: 

When seeking a French student visa, you will need to furnish the following supplementary documents: 

  • Proof of enrollment in a course of study in France (such as a school, university, or language course).
  • A no-objection letter from your current educational institution (if applicable).
  • An internship agreement that has been signed by the company in France, your original establishment, and you as the trainee.

Documents required for a medical visa: 

If you are applying for a visa to receive medical treatment in France, you will be required to submit the following supplementary documents: 

  • A medical report issued by a doctor, clinic, or hospital in your home country, attesting to the need for medical treatment in France. 
  • A medical certificate from the French hospital or doctor confirming your appointment date and medical condition.
  • A receipt indicating payment of medical fees.
  • Official confirmation of the treatment or appointment from the receiving medical institution (hospital or clinic).
  • And lastly, evidence that you possess adequate financial resources to cover your medical expenses and related costs for the duration of your treatment.

Documents required for the spouse of a French citizen: 

To obtain a French visa as the spouse of a French citizen, you will need to provide the following supplementary documents:

  • Proof of your spouse’s French citizenship (such as an ID card, consular card, certification of French nationality, or naturalization order).
  • A French family record book. 
  • A French marriage certificate. 

Documents required for official visit visa: 

To apply for a French visa as a member of an official delegation, you will be required to submit the following supplementary document: 

  • A copy of the official invitation and documentation that establishes the purpose of your trip (such as negotiations, meetings, events sponsored by intergovernmental organizations, or consultations).

Documents required for visitor visa: 

To apply for a visa to visit friends or relatives in France, you need to submit additional documents, including: 

  • Evidence of your financial capability to support yourself during your stay in France. This may include a bank statement or an Affidavit of Support from someone who will be sponsoring your trip. 
  • A travel itinerary describing your purpose of travel, entry and exit dates, and your accommodation in France. 
  • A letter of invitation from your relative or friend residing in France, along with proof of your relationship with them. 
  • An Accommodation Certificate or Hospitality Certificate (Attestation d’accueil) issued by the relevant French authorities in the city where your host resides in France. 
  • Additionally, your host needs to submit several documents, such as proof of identity, proof of their status as the owner or occupant of the apartment, proof of their last residence, evidence of their financial resources, and their ability to accommodate you under French standard housing conditions. 
  • Lastly, the issuance of the certificate costs 30€, which must be paid with usual tax stamps.

Documents required for a cultural, sports and film crew visa: 

To apply for a French visa for the purpose of attending a cultural/sports/religious event in the country, you will need to submit additional documents, which include:

  • Information about the event, such as an invitation letter from the relevant organization in France, entry tickets to the event, enrollment conditions, and a detailed program of the event in France.
  • Other documents that contain the names of the applicants (crew members) and other relevant information about the event.
  • Evidence of previous performances, such as participation in previous festivals and ceremonies (cultural, religious), sports competitions, winners certificates, and proof of world/international ranking (sports).

France visa application 

To apply for a short-term visa to France, you need to undertake the following steps:

  1. Identify the appropriate French visa category based on your reason for entering the country.
  2. Look up the French visa-issuing authority in your nation.
  3. Fill out the French visa application form.
  4. Gather the necessary documents.
  5. Arrange a meeting for a visa interview.
  6. Appear for the interview at the appropriate French embassy, consulate, or visa application center.
  7. Wait for processing 

Identify the appropriate French visa category based on your reason for entering the country 

The type of visa you will need depends on the purpose of your trip to France. As we discussed above, there is a distinct difference of requirement criteria between the visas. It is important to identify the appropriate french visa category for your application as the application process varies across countries and the types of visas. 

Keep in mind, it is also essential to seek information and check whether a visa is even needed in the first place. 

Look up the French visa-issuing authority in your country

Visa admission and processing regulations by French authorities vary depending on your country of residence. Depending on the regulations in your country of residence, you may need to apply at one of the following locations: 

  • The French Embassy. 
  • A French consulate.
  • A visa application center contracted by France for visa submission.
  • An embassy/consulate of another Schengen country contracted by France for visa submission.

Fill out the French visa application form 

Once you have identified the type of visa you need, you will need to complete the online visa application form available on the official website of the French Consulate or Embassy in your country which will guide you through the process and provide explanations. 

You will be prompted to create a personal account with your email address to save your partially or fully completed form, and then you can receive the list of required supporting documents and book your appointment. 

These documents include: 

  • A travel document in good condition, issued less than 10 years ago, with at least two blank pages and a validity of at least three months. 
  • Two recent ID pictures in ISO/IEC format (pdf) and supporting documents that depend on your situation and travel plans. 
  • If your documents are not in French or English, you may need to provide translations. 
  • You also need to pay the application fees at the time of filing.

However, if your country is not eligible for an online visa application form, you should refer to your country of application page to check the appropriate procedure.

Gather the necessary documents

You will need to collect the required documents as per your visa category. You can refer to the information discussed above to check the required documents needed for your application. 

Arrange a meeting for visa interview 

The next step is to schedule an appointment to submit your application and documents. It’s also important to give yourself enough time to schedule an appointment and have your visa application reviewed before your departure date. 

You should check the average appointment waiting time to ensure that you submit your application within the appropriate time frame.

 For a long stay visa: you should apply three months to two weeks before your departure date. 

 For a short stay visa: you should apply six months to two weeks before your departure date.

Appear for the interview 

During your appointment, it’s essential to bring all the required documents, including a copy of your passport and its ID pages. 

The service provider or consulate will review your application, collect the visa fee, biometric data (photo and fingerprints), and keep your passport and copies of supporting documents to forward them to the consulate. 

The entire visa application process usually takes around 20 minutes at the visa center.

Also note that France issues biometric visas, which means that any visa applicant aged 12 or older must submit their visa application in person and provide their biometric data, including a photo and ten fingerprints. 

If you have held a biometric Schengen visa issued in the past 59 months, you may be able to reuse your previous biometric data.

Wait for processing 

Once your application is submitted, you will need to wait for the processing time. The processing time may vary depending on the type of visa you are applying for.

After the processing time, you can collect your passport with the visa attached. If your visa is approved, it will be affixed to your passport, and you can travel to France.

Some frequently asked questions (FAQs) 

What is the fee for submitting a French visa application?

The cost of a French Schengen Visa is: 

  •  €80 for adults.
  •  €40 for children below 12 years old.

However, it’s essential to review the list of fees for the French Schengen visa carefully because certain applicants are exempt from paying, while others may have to pay a reduced amount. This depends on various factors such as age, nationality, and the purpose of the trip.

How long does it take to get approved? 

The French Schengen visa may require up to 15 days for processing. However, the processing time may vary depending on the specifics of your visa application, and it could take up to 30 days or, in rare cases, up to 60 days.

I was denied my visa application. Do I have the right to receive an explanation or reason for the denial? 

Unfortunately, the Consulate is not obligated to provide a reason for the rejection. It is up to their discretion whether or not to disclose the information.

I cannot physically go to the appointment center. Is it possible for me to send my documents by mail instead?

Unfortunately no, it is recommended that you submit your documents in person. Although, if you have already provided biometric data, you may be able to use an authorized travel representative to send the documents.

Is it possible to extend my Schengen visa in France? 

Yes, you can extend your Schengen visa in France, but only under exceptional circumstances where new information or unique reasons arise after your entry to France. Depending on the type of visa you possess, you must submit the extension application to either the Prefectures or the visa policy section of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

  • If your visa is on an ordinary passport: the prefectures are the appropriate authorities for extending your short-stay visa’s validity or duration of stay. 
  • However, for visas affixed on diplomatic, official, service, or special passports: the visa policy section of the French MFA is the only competent authority for extending short-stay visas.