Visas and Permits

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Visas and permits are Sam’s raison d’être. Were it not for her visa she wouldn’t be here (cue rim-shot)! Seriously though, discounting Europeans (aka Brenna), visas and their related work permits are essential to being able to stay, work and live in Paris. So, let’s get started!

Please know that if you want to learn more about the various visas that are open to you, you should go the French Embassy or local consulate in your home country. You will get the most up-to-date information necessary in beginning your dossier (file). If you are in France, then you need only go to your local police prefecture for more information.

Cartes de Séjour Temporaires

The Carte de Séjour is the identity card that is given to resident non-Europeans in France.  A Carte de séjour does not allow for permanent residency; it is renewable as often as once a year.  The following people will need a carte de séjour in order to live and work in France:

  • Non-French and Non-European spouses of French/European people
  • Students
  • Professionals (with a job contract that stipulates at least 1 year of employment)
  • Temporary Workers (with a job contract that stipulates less than 1 year of employment)
  • “Visitors” (people who agree to live in France without working)

SPOUSES—“VIE PRIVÉE”

If you are in France and wish to marry a French (or an EU) national, you will begin the bureaucratic formalities before the wedding day. Normally, if you plan on residing in France prior to the wedding, the foreigner is required to apply for a visa that goes for period longer than 3 months. Please note that marrying a French citizen does not give the spouse automatic citizenship—there is a minimum period of residency before you can apply for naturalization.

For more information, go here.

STUDENTS — “ETUDIANT” 

It is relatively easy to get a student visa in Paris.  If you are a non-European studying abroad, your French university or study abroad program will walk you through the necessary steps.  Usually, the process begins in your home country, where at the local French consulate you apply for a short term visa.  Once in France, the paperwork for the rest of the year continues and you are given a student visa.  Part of the paperwork involved in a student visa is proving that you have monthly resources that meet or exceed a certain sum of money (usually around 600€).  Be sure to hold on to monthly bank statements and to all wire transfer documents if you’ve been transferring in money from an account abroad.  A notarized and translated letter from a parent guaranteeing the minimum sums of money for every month you’re in France also helps.

For 27 nationalities, the French government has made the process more streamlined (or perhaps more ‘online’ as ease of use is rarely a hallmark of French bureaucracy) by virtue of a web portal called Campus France which, in addition to providing a complete list of French universities, also provides a list of necessary information pertaining to visas.  Check it out, here and here.

***CAVEAT FOR PHD STUDENTS: Reader Marc S, a professor at Paris-6/UPMC University wrote: “One thing we learned the hard way is that a PhD student should never ask for a student visa (visa étudiant) but for a scientific visa (visa scientifique).  The scientific visa procedure is more more favorable  — for instance getting a carte de séjour is pretty automatic — but (unsurprisingly?) French consulates abroad typically will not volunteer this information — you must insist and insist.” Thanks for the tip Marc!

For more information about studying in France, check out our education section.

SALARIED WORKERS — “SALARIÉ” (1 YEAR, RENEWABLE)

In order to get this titre de séjour, a company that wishes to hire you must agree to sponsor your papers. This process can be a bit complex for both the employee and the employer, as together, you will have to submit a permanent job contract, and letter of introduction with a detailed description of the job for which you are being hired; and go for a medical examination at the OFII. You will be expected to apply for a work permit, and your employer will have to justify their hiring a non-European. Please note that if a company sponsors your papers, you are not allowed to change jobs for the first year that you work for them. Do not let this information get you down! Companies, particularly large multinationals, will and do invest in foreign talent. Many corporations have human resources people who specialize in getting papers for their employees, so although long and full of red tape, it’s not impossible to get this visa.

For more information, go to the French Administration’s offical page on the matter.

CARTE DE SÉJOUR “COMPÉTENCES ET TALENTS” (3 YEARS, RENEWABLE)

This titre de séjour was created just a few years ago and it’s designed particularly for non-European professionals who have special skills. Sam has a friend who has a film production company and was able to obtain this visa by presenting a dossier of the various projects she would work on in France, thus helping the French film industry. This can be a viable way for seasoned professionals to get to work in Paris.

Please note that in order to get this visa, you need to show that you have projects that will implicate, and economically or culturally benefit France. For more information, go to the French Administration’s site.

CARTE DE RÉSIDENCE (10 YEAR, RENEWABLE)

This is the gold standard among foreigners. Once you have residency, you go a whole decade without yearly visits to the prefecture. For those familiar with the system in the US, this is a bit like a Green Card: you’re pretty much set for life, as usually renewal is pretty easy.  For more information on residency, go to the French Administration’s official page on the matter.

CARTE DE SÉJOUR « RETRAITÉ » (1 YEAR, RENEWABLE)

This is for retired foreigners who wish to live out their golden years in France. With this Visa, a 10 year residency period in France is necessary. For more information, see the French Administration’s page on this titre de séjour.

Renewing and Changing your Visa

RENEWING YOUR VISA

A titre de sejour lasts usually between 1 to 3 years.  If you wish to renew it, expect to provide information similar to what you provided when you obtained it. This process often takes anywhere between 3 and 6 months depending on the bureaucratic hiccups that may arise (for example, you may be asked to resubmit photos because you’re smiling too much). As always, hold on to pay stubs, bank statements, and electricity bills as you will be needing them.

CHANGING YOUR VISA

When Sam was on a student visa and newly graduated, she got hired full time at a communications agency. In order to work there, she needed to do what is called a changement de statut — in other words, she needed a different category of visa to be able to work.  Going from student to salaried worker involves a fair amount of hoops, most notably for the employer, who has to justify hiring a foreigner by paying a fee of 1500€ and by proving that said foreigner has skills that can’t be replicated by a European person.
If you need to change your visa status, we recommend either getting the necessary information at the prefecture, talking to human resources if possible, or even going to www.service-public.fr as required documents vary on a case-by-case basis.

REFUSALS

We hope that this never happens to you, but sometimes visa renewals and status changes are denied by the government.  Rumor has it that denials for typical procedures such as renewals and status changes increase during election years, when xenophobia runs unfortunately high, and politicians try to capitalize by expelling a record number of legal and illegal residents.  In any event, should this happen to you, we recommend getting an immigration attorney to fight your refusal, which you are legally entitled to do.  If an attorney might be a bit too costly, then check out GISTI, a group that provides free legal aid to migrants.

Naturalization

Naturalization, or French citizenship, can be a pretty sweet deal. We think of it as the final step in an expat arc that begins with experimentation and ends at becoming a part of the system. This can be wonderfully practical for those who wish to stick around for the long-run. For non-Europeans, French naturalization gives you the ability to work anywhere in the Schengen zone so it can be very beneficial.

However, naturalization is not for the faint of heart. In order to be eligible to request naturalization, you must have at least 5 years residency in France. What’s more, the process is notoriously long and bureaucratic. Generally speaking, it takes about 2 years to process the dossier and then of course, it’s up the prefecture to see if you’re worthy of French citizenship. For more information, please see the French Administration’s website.

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