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VISAS

Second-home owners and retirees: French visitor visa explained

Within the complex world of French visas there exists two types of visa labelled 'visitor' but these are in fact very different documents, and have implications for your residency, tax liabilities and visits to France.

Second-home owners and retirees: French visitor visa explained
Those in France on visitor visas are not allowed to work and are frequently either retirees or second-home owners. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

If you’re a non-EU citizen and you want to spend longer than 90 days out of every 180 in France then you will need a visa – and there are many different types of visa depending on your personal circumstances.

We take a look at the different visa types and how to apply for them HERE.

But a frequent cause of confusion is that there are two visas commonly known as a ‘visitor’ visa – but are in fact completely different documents giving you vastly different rights in France.

It would be much easier if one of them could be rechristened, but here we are;

Short-stay visitor visa

Technically known as the visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur – or VLS-T – this visa is perhaps the better named one as it is for visitors – by which we mean people who don’t live in France.

This is a six-month visa and it’s most commonly used by second-home owners who don’t want to be constrained by the 90-day rule, although it is also used by others who want to make longer trips to France without working.

The crucial point about this visa is that you are not a resident of France, you keep your residency in another country, most usually your home country.

Not being a resident in France is important because it imposes certain limits – for example if the borders were closed again for whatever reason you would not be allowed entry to France as a visitor (unless you had an essential reason) – but it also exempts you from certain duties that are imposed on residents, such as making the annual tax declaration.

You can obtain one six-month visitor visa in every 12 months – because by the government’s reckoning if you spend more than six months of the year in France then you are a resident.

We’ll let them explain: “If you are spending between three and six months a year in France in total, you are not considered as a resident in France. You will have to apply for a temporary visitor visa – visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur.

“If you spend more than six months a year in France, you are then considered as a French resident and must apply for a long stay visitor visa (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur).”

You can apply for multiple short-stay visas, but only with a six month gap in between them – so far example you can have a visa from January-June 2021, then another from January-June 2022, then January-June 2023 and so on. But you can’t have a visa from January-June 2022 and then September 2022 to February 2023.

During its validity period, you are exempt from the 90-day rule in France (and only in France, the rule still applies if you travel to another EU/Schengen zone country) and your passport doesn’t need to be stamped when entering or exiting France.

Once the visa expires, you revert to being constrained by the 90-day rule, with passport-stamping.

READ ALSO How does getting a visa affect the 90-day rule?

You can find full details of the requirements for a short-stay visitor visa HERE, but one important thing to note is that you must give an undertaking that you will not work in France. 

Your visitor visa does not entitle you to register in the French health system, or to obtain a carte de séjour residency card.

READ ALSO Can second-home owners get a carte de séjour?

Long-stay visitor visa 

This visa – formally known as the visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur or VLS-TSis, in our humble opinion, quite misleadingly named, as people who have this visa aren’t visitors at all, they live here.

The long-stay visitor visa is for people coming to France to live who don’t intend to work or study – it’s most commonly used by retired people.

With this visa you are a resident of France, so have extra rights such as being allowed back in to the country if the borders close and being able to register in the French health system. But with rights come responsibilities, including having to file the annual French tax declaration (even if all your income comes from outside France, such as a pension from your home country).

Like the short-stay visitor visa you need to give an undertaking that you won’t work in France in order to get this visa, and you will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means to support yourself while you’re here without becoming a burden on the French state.

Just like the other types of visas for residents, after obtaining the long-stay visitor visa you are then able to get a carte de séjour residency card.

Time spent in France on a long-stay visitor visa counts towards the minimum residency period if you intend to apply for French citizenship.

You can find full details on how to apply for the long-stay visitor visa HERE

Member comments

  1. A rider to the above.
    We have a VLS-T, multi entry 6 month Visa. Despite showing this to border control our passports are duly stamped each time. Pointing out the Visa is merely acknowledged with a shrug. Pursuing a discussion would only irritate others in the queue I suspect.

  2. Well, it’s not strictly true that a holder of a 1-year visitor visa (or titre de sejour) is automatically a resident for tax purposes. One can spend less than six months a year in France but still need (and hold) a 1-yr. visitor titre de sejour if the six months are spread throughout the year (e.g., January, May-July, September, December) and not within a consecutive six-month period.

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work. 

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