How to get a long-stay visa to stay in France for more than three months at a time

Collonges la Rouge in Correze, France (c) Guy Ozenne - Getty Images

Collonges la Rouge in Correze, France (c) Guy Ozenne - Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Frustrated that you can no longer stay at your French holiday home as long as you’d like following Brexit? Here’s our guide to French long-stay tourist visas

Before Brexit, many British owners of French holiday homes, especially retirees, were used to nipping across the Channel and spending as much as half the year at a time at their properties.
Now that we have left the EU, however, UK tourists are restricted to spending no more than 90 days in any 180-day period visiting the Schengen area visa-free.

Struggling to work out whether or not you will exceed your allowance? Input the dates of recent and forthcoming trips to countries in the Schengen Zone into a calculator such as this one

If you want to stay longer, you’ll need a long-stay visa. There are two main types.

VLS-T (Visiteur) – The visa de long séjour temporaire ‘visiteur’ (VLS-T Visiteur) entitles you to stay for between three and six months, so this is the visa type that will be most useful to second home owners hoping to spend the warmer months of the year in France. You must leave France when it runs out but can reapply on an annual basis from the UK.

VLS-TS  – The visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour ‘(VLS-TS) entitles you to stay for between six months and a year and is equivalent to a residence permit. This is the type of visa needed if you are moving to France. There are different types depending on whether you are retired/not working, employed, running your own business, studying, doing research or seasonal work or married to a French national. 
If you don't need to work, you should apply for the VLS-TS (Visiteur).
On arrival in France, you must validate a VLS-TS visa through the French immigration office (OFII). You will have to pay a fee understood to be around €200 and the OFII reserves the right to call you for a meeting to carry out other formalities such as a medical examination and/or welcome visit. If you decide you'd like to continue living in France, before the VLS-TS expires you can submit a residence permit application to your local préfecture.

What are the requirements?

To obtain either the VLS-T or the VLS-TS, you must apply online no earlier than 90 days  before you are due to travel. The length of time the process takes varies, but you are advised to allow a bare minimum of 20 days for processing.

After lodging your visa application online, you will then be asked to make an appointment for an interview at a centre in London, Manchester or Edinburgh. These are run by a company called TLS Contact, which is contracted by the French government to handle visa applications from the UK.
Both types of long-stay visa cost €99 (about £86) and there may also be a smaller service fee. You’ll be required to provide several documents and assurances, including that you won’t engage in any professional activity during your stay (unless you are applying for a working visa).

If your spouse or long-term partner is an EU citizen, you will still need to apply for a visa but it likely that it will be more straightforward than if you are not in such a relationship.

Interview process
Interviews are usually done standing at a counter and can take a couple of hours or more.
You will need to:

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*Show your passport was issued less than 10 years ago and that it will still be valid at least three months after the expiry date of the visa you’re requesting

*Provide a passport photo (there are also photobooths at the centres).

*Prove your socio-economic situation (eg working/retired/studying) and promise not to undertake any professional activity in France unless you are applying for a working visa.

*Show you have travel health insurance for the duration of the visa’s validity

*Provide proof of your property title or rental agreement. If you are staying with hosts, you must prove that they are resident in France.

*Provide the last three months’ worth of bank statements for your UK current account, showing your full name and address, and proving you have enough funds for the whole duration of the trip (see below), or traveller’s cheques presenting the same guarantees. If you are financially sponsored by your spouse/partner, you must provide a marriage certificate and your partner’s bank statements.

What are the income requirements?

Whichever long-stay visa you are applying for, you must prove you have sufficient financial resources to support yourself for the period of its validity.

This means an income equivalent to at least the net French minimum wage, known as the salaire minimum de croissance or SMIC. As at October 2021, the net figure (meaning after deduction of social security contributions) is €1,258 per month. The good news is that it’s not necessary to have this amount per person. The French Consulate told us that this figure of SMIC net (currently €1,258 a month) would suffice for a couple with three children. For larger families, you will be expected to have slightly higher resources but our understanding is that this will not be very much.

Money from pensions, rental income and/ or savings are taken into account. What the authorities want to see is that your resources are secure, stable and easy to access during your stay. They may accept a monthly income slightly below SMIC if you are able to prove you own your property outright and are therefore not paying a mortgage or rent.

How do I apply?

The application is done through two separate websites. First, register with france-visas.gouv.fr and start your application, recording for each applicant the application reference number that starts with FRA1.

Next, you should be directed to the TLS website and asked to register. Complete the next part of the application for each person, confirm this part is complete and get a firm appointment with TLS at one of its visa applications centres (London, Edinburgh or Manchester). Once this is done, submit your application and prepare the documents required for your interview.

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A Brit shares his experience of applying for a VLS-TS long-stay visa