Visa pro: acquiring long-stay visas to work in France

Kate Kurdziej

Kate put together a detailed business plan with her working visa application - Credit: FPN

Kate Kurdziej takes us through the process she and her husband went through to acquire professional long-stay visas so they could move to France and work there.  

My husband Dan and I met in France 11 years ago. We spent a fun winter season working in the ski resort of Val d'Isère. Fast forward to UK lockdown 2021, now with an 18-month-old son in tow, and we were ready for a new chapter. France was calling us back.  My online business consultancy was going from strength to strength – all I needed was a laptop and a good internet connection – and Dan was ready for a change in pace. The stars aligned and we jumped at the opportunity. 

Brexit meant that we now had to apply for long-stay visas as our way to work legally in France, but it was something we were prepared to do. With our best project management hats on, we began the process.

Kate Kurdziej

Kate, Dan and their son Oliver have settled happily in France - Credit: FPN

Long-stay visas

The VLS-TS (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour) is a visa with a duration of 12 months that transforms into a residence permit upon validation. The online validation must take place within three months after your arrival in France.  

The VLS-TS entrepreneur/profession libérale is the obvious choice for those wanting to work when they move to France. This visa is suitable for self-employed people who will be registering as a micro-entrepreneur (ME), including running gîtes. 

There are other options for working in France, including finding a salaried offer of employment or the Business Creation visa where a €30,000 investment is necessary among other criteria. More information and a helpful visa wizard is available on the France Visa website.

If you are retired or don’t need to work, the long-stay visa to consider is the VLS-TS visiteur, which does not allow any form of work (including remote working). Proof of accommodation and funds for the length of the visa are needed as well as private health insurance cover.  

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The business plan 

The visa application for the VLS-TS entrepreneur/profession libérale is centred around a business plan to prove the economic viability of your proposed business. The most important criteria to keep in mind when writing your business plan is the need to meet the equivalent of the French minimum wage, known as le Salaire Minimum de Croissance (SMIC). If your intended professional activity is not likely to produce at least €1,258 net per month, or consistently fails to do so after its creation – important to consider for your renewal – then your visa will probably be refused, regardless of whatever other financial resources you may have.  

Being a business consultant, I felt comfortable writing a business plan. The only given criteria is a multi-annual estimated budget. I included Year 1, 2 and 3 financial forecasts plus Year 5 and 10 for good measure.

I also included market analysis. My business had already been established for a year in the UK so I had some proof of viability; however, my husband’s business would be brand new in France. I included competitor research and my planned marketing methods appropriate to my business. If you are able to get ‘letters of intent’ from potential or current clients, this is an excellent way to show the viability of your project. 

Another important area to document is how to put your plans into action once you arrive. I had heard on a Facebook group that an entrepreneur visa was refused due to a lack of understanding of the overall French process. Therefore, I included a section on how to set up my business on arrival and more practical details. I was keen to prove that not only was my business viable, but that I actually understood how to get started.  

Aerial view of small French town of Brantome en Perigord on banks of bend in Dronne overlooking Town

The family love to visit local town Brantôme in Dordogne - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The visa application 

We applied on the France Visas website on 5 August. Following our initial application, you are then guided to the TLS application site. TLS is a third party company that handles the application process on behalf of the French Consulate.  

The TLS online booking system wasn’t showing any appointments, so on 6 August I tried to phone TLS to manually book in our appointment. However, I couldn’t get through so I sent an email instead. Luckily, TLS responded quickly and we had appointments booked on our behalf and sent directly to us for 31 August, just over three weeks away. 

We had already started to compile our business plans and make copies of all documents so we spent the next three weeks ensuring we had watertight dossiers. I was determined to get the visas in our passports. 

We used TLS Manchester (the others are in London and Edinburgh) and the staff were helpful and knowledgeable. I recommend an early morning appointment if possible. When we arrived, they allowed us to start early as no-one else was there. When we left 1.5 hours later, applicants were queuing up outside.

When you enter TLS, you go through security to a receptionist who takes your passport and checks you in, then gives you your applicant number to watch for on the screen. You then get called up to the counter and go through your paperwork as it is checked off from the required documents list. A note is made of any extra paperwork you’ve submitted. If any changes are needed to your original application form, then TLS staff can make changes and print a new version for your dossier. You then have your fingerprints taken in a separate room. Under 12s do not need to attend in person. The visa fee is around £115 per applicant. You get an application receipt and collection instructions once you’ve finished your appointment. These were especially important as Dan would be collecting all of our passports by himself. 

We tracked our passports online. They were sent the following day to the French Consulate in London and our visas were issued within 24 hours of arrival. We were not asked for any further information which, I gather, many people are delayed by. Our dossiers were large but it was worth the extra paperwork to ensure a smooth process. We picked them back up from Manchester a week later.  

On arrival in France 

Once we arrived in France, there were two final tasks to complete. First, we registered the business with URSAAF – the Chamber of Commerce that handles our category of service-based activity. 

Secondly, we validated our visas online. When Dan collected our passports from TLS there was a slip of paper inside with the official website to convert our ‘entry visa’ to a Titre de Séjour – a residence permit for the year. This costs €200 per person, although this process is not necessary for minors. 

The website is easy to navigate and payment is made by French revenue stamp (timbre fiscal). The link to buy one online is within the process you’re being guided through on the website and was surprisingly easy to follow. You make payment for your stamp which gives you a number, which you then enter as payment on the original site to complete your validation.  

I’m so glad that we followed our dreams and didn’t let paperwork get in our way. The process isn't quick and easy, but completely doable if you follow the steps and provide everything they require.

Dossier checklist for the entrepreneur visa 

(Required at time of writing)

  • Signed and dated French visa application form
  • France Visas receipt
  • Valid passport, plus copies of any pages with existing visas
  • Residence permit if applying in a country outside of your country of origin
  • ID photos – can be taken at the TLS centre as they have photo booths that accept contactless payments
  • Proof of no criminal record  
  • Supporting documents for your purpose of stay (e.g. diplomas, degrees, certificates)
  • Retailer, Craftsperson, Manufacturer form (CERFA no. 13473*01)  
  • A written business plan with ‘multi-annual estimated budget’
  • Proof of a credit balance from an account in the applicant’s name at a French-based credit union  
  • Any other documentation to support your business plan, such as letters from the prefecture, mairie,
  • lease agreements, letters of intent from prospective clients etc

Further documentation that we provided to support our application:

  • Proof of funds
  • CERFA 13821*07 – application for micro-entrepreneur status for profession libérale
  • Comprehensive private health insurance (despite registering your business and therefore being automatically enrolled into the French healthcare system, it can still take months to obtain social security numbers or carte vitales, so we purchased a policy that can be cancelled once we’re in the system).
  • Covid vaccination certificates
  • Covering letter – as an overview of our situation with important information highlighted
  • Tenancy agreement,  to show we have accommodation for the duration of our visa with a clause that we can work from the property  
  • For our son’s visitor visa – all standard ID was requested, plus proof of funds for the duration of his visa (our bank statements), private health insurance, proof of accommodation, plus a letter of intent to enrol in school, as he is a minor.

Kate Kurdziej is an online business consultant