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Admission and Residence Conditions for Foreigners In France

Vincent Gautier's picture

France has set up a legislation framework for international mobility. These rules apply to all foreigners, except EU, EEA and Swiss nationals. These latter are free to travel and work in France without a visa, residence permit or work permit.

On the contrary non-EU citizens wishing to enter the French territory need a visa. For a stay of more than 3 months, they must also hold a residence permit.

The Visa Requirement

Unless visitors are exempted due to their nationality, business and personal visits require a visa.

The category of the required visa depends on the duration of the residence.

  • Short Stay

For less than 90-day stays, a short-stay visa ‘or “Schengen visa” may be issued.

This visa enables its holder to travel throughout the 26 countries of the Schengen area.

The visa holder may not remain in France for more than 90 days per 180-day period. The visas are issued for a total period of 1 to 5 years.

In order to obtain the short-stay visa, foreign nationals must file a request with the French embassy or consulate in their country of residence.

On March 14th 2018, the European Commission submitted proposals to reform EU visa policy, to simplify the formalities for the obtaining of Schengen visas. The proposals include the shortening of the visa processing time from 15 to 10 days, the possibility to apply for a visa up to 6 months before the schedule trip (currently up to 3 months), the issuance of multiple-entry visas with longer period of validity, including 5-year visas, for regular trusted travelers.

Foreigners traveling to France shall keep in mind that a short-stay visa does not authorize them to engage in paid employment. A temporary work permit must be obtained case when a foreign employee comes to France for a short-term assignment.

This requirement does not apply to an employee simply traveling to France on a business trip, without providing a service or without effectively participating in the host company.

French law also provides for a list of exemption of the temporary work permit in specific cases (sporting, cultural events, occasional teaching activities by invited lecturers, etc…).

  • Long Stay

Foreigners wishing to stay in France for more than 90 days must request a long-stay visa in their country of residence.

This visa authorizes them to stay in France for 3 months. During that time, the holder must personally apply in France (at the “Préfecture”) for a residence permit.

Residence Permits                                      

Same as for the visa, the type of residence permit depends on the duration of the stay and what the holder of the permit will be doing in France.

  • Stays up to 12 months

The consular authorities issue a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit, indicating the reason for the stay in France.

The so called “VLS-TS visa” authorizes its holder to enter the French territory and to reside there up to 12 months. This visa allows foreign nationals to work in France as a paid employee or as a self-employee.

To obtain the VLS-TS visa, the host company in France requests from the “DIRECCTE” a work permit for the foreign national. The issued work permit is forwarded by the “DIRECCTE” to the consular authorities who issue the visa. Once arrived in France, the applicant undergoes a medical examination by the French Immigration and Citizenship Office (OFII) that will approve the visa for 1 year.

The visa holder is eligible for a residence card after 5 years of regular and uninterrupted residence in France. The residence card is valid for 10 years, renewable.

  • Stays longer than 12 months

A French law on the rights of foreigners in France dated March 6th, 2016 has created multi-year residence permits, aiming at facilitating the arrival of foreign talents to France.

  • “Talent passports” residence permits

The talent passports are intended for certain foreign investors, entrepreneurs, company directors and employees. In order to obtain one, they have to meet criteria specific to the reason for their stay in France.

Accompanying family members benefit from the “talent passport” residence permit.

A “talent passport” residence permit is valid for 4 years, renewable. The applicant must submit a request for a long-stay visa to the consular authorities in its country of residence. The request cannot be submitted more than 3 months before the schedule trip.

Upon arrival in France, the applicant must apply at the “Préfecture” for a talent passport.

The “Préfecture” is also competent for receiving renewal applications.

A residence card may be delivered to the holder of a talent passport after 5 years residence in France.

Different categories of talent passport may apply according to the activity undertaken by the foreigner moving to France.

  • Investing and undertaking a commercial or industrial activity:
    • Company director: for a foreign national wishing to serve as a company’s legal representative in France;
    • Business investor: for a foreign national making a direct business investment in France (at least € 300,000 ) and wishing to settle in France to monitor the progress of their investment;
    • New business: for a foreign national wishing to set up a new business, required that they invest at least € 30,000 into the planned business;
    • Innovative business project: for a foreign national wishing to develop in France an innovative business project, which has been recognized by a public-sector organism.

The talent passports marked “Business investor” and “Innovative business project” may also be obtained through the fast-track residence permit application procedure called “French Tech Visa”. This procedure is aimed at foreign tech talents (startup founders and employees, investors).

  • Paid employment:
    • Highly skilled employees: this permit replaces the “European Union blue card”;
    • Skilled employees: for employees holding a qualification at least equivalent to a Master’s degree issued by a higher education institution.

This talent passport also applies to employees of an innovative new company. Evidence of this specific status must be attached to the application.

As mentioned here above, these two passports can also be obtained through the “French Tech Visa” procedure.

  • Employees on assignment: this permit authorizes employees on intra-company transfer (only recruited under a French employment contract) to undertake an assignment in France to the benefit of a company belonging to the same group as the company employing them in their own country of residence.

On July 26th 2018, the French National Assembly finally adopted the law for a managed immigration and the right to asylum. This law extends the “talent passport” residence permit to foreigners acting in France in the scientific, literary, artistic, intellectual, educational or sporting field and who are “likely to participate in a significant and sustainable way to the economic development, to the territory planning development or to France’s influence”.

The talent passport is also extended to researcher under a European Union program, a multilateral program involving mobility in one or more EU Member States or under a hosting agreement signed with a public or private organism having a research or higher education mission previously approved.

The date of entry into force of this new provisions is not known to this day, but shall not be later than March 1st 2019.

  • Intra-company transfer permits

This specific residence permit concerns employees posted to France by their employer located outside of France (intra-company transfer - ICT). The employee is entrusted with a specific assignment to be achieved on the French territory. He achieves his mission under his original employment contract that has been maintained.

Posted employees may not request a “talent passport” residence permit.

The ICT permit is valid for the duration of the posted employee’s mission in France, up to 3 years, non-renewable.

The visa request cannot be submitted more than 3 months before the date of arrival in France. This formalities have to be fulfilled with the consular authorities in the country of residence.

Upon arrival in France, the visa holder must apply at the “Préfecture” for the ICT residence permit.

  • Other cases

Foreign nationals wishing to work in France but who do not meet the eligibility criteria for the different types of « talent passport » residence permits or ICT permits may only request a VLS-TS visa.

Social protection in France

France has concluded reciprocal social security agreements with several countries all over the world. Foreign nationals coming from those countries may opt for continued coverage by the health and social security system from their home country.

Foreign nationals coming from countries that did not conclude such an agreement with France, whether they are employed or self-employed, must register with social security in France.

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