How to Get A French Residence Permit: The Ultimate Guide

One of the first things you’ll need to do after moving to France is getting your French residence permit. Find out how with this guide.


8 minute read
Updated on 11 Mar 2024

If you're thinking about moving to France for more than 3 months, one of the first things you'll need to do is apply for a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit or French residence permit.

But how do you know if you need a long-stay visa that’s equivalent to a residence permit or a regular residence permit? And how and when do you apply for these? To help you answer these questions, we’re sharing all there’s to know about:

  • Who needs a French residence permit
  • What is a Visa de Long Séjour – Titre de Séjour (VLS-TS) and how to get it
  • How to get a French residence permit *Carte de Séjour
  • How to get a French resident card Carte de Résident (your road to getting permanent residence)

Do I need a residence permit to live in France?

Citizens from the EU, EEA, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland, or the Vatican won’t need a residence permit to live in France. On the other hand, non-Europeans who need to live in France for more than 3 months must apply for a VLS-TS long-stay visa or a French residence permit to live in France.

What is a VLS-TS?

A VLS-TS is a French long-stay visa that’s equivalent to a residence permit and issued to non-Europeans for stays of 3 – 12 months long. So if you’re moving to France for the first time, it’s highly likely you’ll be issued a VLS-TS for your first year in France.

Some of the most common VLS-TS visa categories include:

  • VLS-TS Étudiant: foreign students above 18 years old who’ve been accepted to study at a French university need a French student visa.
  • VLS-TS Salarié: salaried employees with a permanent contract that’s greater than 90 days need a French work visa.
  • VLS-TS Travailleur Temporaire: for foreign employees on a temporary or fixed-term contract that’s greater than 90 days.
  • VLS-TS Salarié détaché ICT: for ICT workers or intra-company transferees performing a high management function and a contract that’s valid for at least 3 years.
  • VLS-TS Stagiaire: for ICT employees or ICT trainees posted to France for less than a year.
  • VLS-TS Passeport Talent: for those who can improve France’s economy, such as investors, business owners, freelancers, highly qualified employees, researchers, artists, performers, and those who’ve (inter)national reputation.
  • VLS-TS Vie Privée Et Familiale: for spouses, partners, children, or dependent old parents who want to join their family member in France.
  • VLS-T Visiteur: a temporary long-stay visa of 4-6 months issued to tourists, digital nomads, retirees, or other long-term visitors who won’t carry out professional activities.

How do you get a VLS-TS?

You need to apply for the VLS-TS at least 3 months before your arrival in France.

You can apply by submitting an application form and supporting documents via the France Visas website and then attending an interview at your local consulate/embassy.

Once your application is processed you’ll receive a VLS-TS sticker on your passport.

How to validate the French long-stay visa (VLS-TS)?

You’ll need to validate your VLS-TS within 3 months of your arrival if you’ve got a VLS-TS sticker or within 2 months if you’ve got a VLS-TS with an obligation to apply for a residence permit (carte de Séjour à solliciter dans les 2 mois suivant l'arrivée). Exceptions include those on a working holiday, minor students, and those on the Visiteur (temporary) VLS-TS.

You need to validate your VLS-TS online by

  1. Downloading the application form from the OFII website
  2. Filling in the VLS-TS application form digitally
  3. Submitting the VLS-TS application form and a copy of your passport to OFII via email

Once you’ve submitted your application, the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) can take up to 3 months to process it.

After your application has been processed, you’ll be invited to an OFII office for a medical exam and/or for signing a Republican Integration Contract (CIR), if applicable. You must bring the following documents with you for the appointment:

Once that’s done, the OFII will add a sticker to your passport which will allow you to legally stay in France as a resident.

How much does the VLS-TS cost?

The price of the VLS-TS depends on the category of VLS-TS you’ve applied for. To give you an impression, you can expect to pay somewhere between €80 and €250.

What is a French residence permit?

After your arrive in France with your VLS-TS, you’ll need to get a French residence permit. A French residence permit allows foreigners to stay in France for a specific period of time and is issued to those who:

  • Are obligated to get a residence permit upon arrival
  • Want to stay in France after their VLS-TS expires
  • Are offered a multi-year visa from the beginning
  • Are eligible to stay in France indefinitely

Requirements for getting a French residence permit

In general, to get a French residence permit, you need to have the following documents:

  1. A valid passport and a copy
  2. A VLS-TS visa or Carte de Séjour
  3. A birth certificate or marriage certificate, including your family’s, if applicable
  4. 3 ICAO-standard photos
  5. Address proof in France, no older than 6 months
  6. Medical certificate issued by OFII
  7. Proof of your income
  8. Proof of valid health insurance
  9. Proof of payment of duty stamps
  10. Signed Republican Integration Contract and language certificate

Every document that isn’t in French must be translated by a sworn translator.

Once you’ve submitted all of the required documentation, you can expect your residence permit to be processed within 45 to 60 days.

Types of French residence permits

There’re different types of French residence permits, depending on whether you’re applying for the first time or after a few years of living in France.

  1. Carte de Séjour

  2. Carte de Résident

Carte de Séjour

Carte de Séjour is the French residence permit for non-EU citizens who need to apply for a residence permit upon arrival or after their first year in France.

There’re 2 types:

  1. Carte de Séjour temporaire, a temporary residence permit issued usually for 1 year.
  2. Carte de Séjour pluriannuelle, a multi-year residence permit.

Typically, you’ll first get a Carte de Séjour temporaire, which is a temporary residence permit valid for 1 year. It'll mention the nature of your residence, such as Carte de séjour salarié or Carte de séjour vie privée et familiale.

After the first year of residence, you can renew your residence permit and get La carte de séjour pluriannuelle, a multi-year French residence permit that can be valid for up to 4 years. Exceptions include students whose residence permit is valid for the duration of their study.

How to apply for your Carte de Séjour

You must apply for Carte de Séjour within 2 months of your arrival in France if you’ve got a VLS-TS with the obligation to apply for a residence permit.

If, on the other hand, you’re currently on a VLS-TS visa and want to extend your stay by another year, you’ll need to apply for your Carte de Séjour 2 months before the VLS-TS expires.

You can apply for the Carte de Séjour by making an appointment at the nearest (sub) prefecture or the police headquarters if you’re in Paris. There you’ll need to submit some documents, your biometrics, and pay €225 for tax and stamp duties. You can also do the process online.

Note: When applying for a Carte de Séjour renewal, you’ll be issued with a receipt (récépissé) which will cover your stay in France even if your old one has expired.

Carte de Résident

Carte de Résident is a French resident card that lets you live in France for an extended period of time. There’re 3 types:

  1. Carte de Résident de 10 ans, a 10-year resident permit card.
  2. La carte de Résident Longue Durée - UE, an EU Long-term residence permit card.
  3. Carte de Résident Permanent, a permanent residence permit card.

Carte de Résident de 10 ans

The Carte de Résident is often popularly referred to as as Carte de Résident de 10 ans as it’s resident card valid for 10 years. You can either get it automatically or under discretion of French authorities when renewing your Carte de Séjour.

You’ll be issued a 10-year French resident card after 3 years if you:

  • Are a (step) parent of a child born in France and have lived in France uninterruptedly for 3 years.
  • Are on a family reunion visa for 3 uninterrupted years and your family member has a French residence permit.
  • Have renewed your Carte de Séjour for 3 years in a row and your native country has a bi-lateral agreement with France. E.g. Cameoon, Mali, Morocco, etc.

In this case, you’ll also need to meet additional requirements:

  • Sign a Republican Integration Contract to show you understand and respect French culture and principles.
  • Receive a French language certificate of least A2 level.
  • You must not pose a threat to the public.

For a detailed list of conditions to meet and documents, refer to the official website.

As an exception, some reasons you could get the 10-year resident card when you first enter France include:

  • You’ve been married to a French citizen for more than 3 years and your marriage is recognised in France.
  • You’re a child below the age of 21 and are dependent on your French parent.
  • You’re a dependent ascendant of a French national or their spouse.
  • You want to retire in France and permanently live here.

Carte de Résident Longue Durée - UE

Another type of resident card that will allow you to stay in France for 10 years and is renewable is the Carte de Résident Longue Durée UE. You can request the long-term resident EU card after 5 uninterrupted years of stay in France or if you’ve a EU Blue card.

This is the best route for international students or employees who’ve moved to France and want to live here indefinitely without becoming French citizens.

You’ll need to meet the below conditions to get the long-term EU resident card:

  • Prove you earn more than the minimum wage in France, which is €21,203 per year in 2024.
  • Have health insurance coverage in France.
  • Have integrated, as shown by your knowledge of French at level A2 or above and the signing of the Republican Integration Contract.
  • Prove you’ve have not left France for more than 6 consecutive months or 10 months in total within the last 5 years.
  • Have had one of the following permits during your 5 years residence: VLS-TS, temporary visitor residence permit, family reunion permit, entrepreneur permit, talent passport, employee residence permit, or the resident card. Student, trainee, or other temporary residence permits do not count.

Carte de Résident permanent

The Carte de Resident permanent is the French permanent resident card that allows foreigners to stay and work in France indefinitely. Although you can stay indefinitely, you still need to renew your resident card every 10 years.

The eligibility criteria to apply for the Carte de Resident permanent is tough as you can only apply when your 10-year resident card or your 10-year EU long term resident card is expiring. It can be issued to you automatically after you:

  • Have had 2 consecutive French resident cards or long term EU resident cards.
  • Are above 60 years old.

How to apply for a Carte de Résident

You can apply for either of the French resident cards 2 months before your Carte de Séjour expires at the local (sub)prefecture or the police headquarters if you’re in Paris. Some prefectures might require you to apply 4 months earlier as well. If you don’t hear a response from them in 4 months, your application is considered implicitly rejected.

The application cost is €225 and you’ll be required to show proof of payment either when submitting your application or when collecting your Carte de Resident.

Now that you know how to get a residence permit, don’t forget to tick off other equally important items on your relocation checklist, such as getting your tax ID number.

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