France has the distinction of being the most popular tourist destination in the world attracting over 90 million visitors annually and capital city Paris alone caters to more than 40 million per year. Known and admired for its culture, cuisine, vineyards and fashion, France is also home to numerous historic castles and châteaus including the world famous Palace of Versailles.
One of the four original signatories to the Schengen Agreement of 1985, France became part of the Schengen Area in 1995. Although France has many overseas territories, a Schengen Visa for France does not grant the holder entry to these countries but does include admission to the small states of Monaco and Andorra.
No Visa Requirement
Not everybody wishing to enter the Schengen Area will require a visa and these exemptions can be divided into three groups:
- Schengen Citizens – There are currently twenty-six member states and nationals of these countries will obviously not be required to obtain a visa.
- European Union Citizens – A reciprocal agreement between the European Union and Schengen authorities also means that citizens of any EU member state are also visa-exempt.
- Citizens of Visa Liberalisation Countries – A visa liberalisation list of around sixty countries is operated in the Schengen Area and nationals of these countries are exempted from the visa requirement. The long list includes the United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Israel and a number of countries in South America.
Nationals of countries not included in these three groups are what what are called “world citizens” by the Schengen authorities and must possess the correct visa type to enter not just France but any member state.
Which Visa Type is Best?
As is the case in any of the Schengen Area member states there is a range of visa types, each issued for a specific purpose. Choosing the visa type that best aligns with the main purpose of the visit is crucial in order to avoid misunderstandings upon arrival or even refusal of entry.
France currently offers eight basic types of Schengen Visa covering holidays, work, study and more:
- Transit Visa. Covers world citizens who are transiting through a French airport.
- Tourist Visa. The most common visa issued, this covers short-stay visits and vacations.
- Family and Friends Visa. A special visa for world citizens wishing to visit (or stay with) family or friends residing in France.
- Business Visa. For business people wishing to attend business-related events in France.
- Official Visit Visa. Reserved for visiting foreign delegation members on official business.
- Medical Visa. Required by world citizens who need medical treatment in France.
- Study Visa. Covers educational courses of no more than three months (90 days) duration.
- Culture, Sports, Film Crew Visa. Covers attendance at sports or cultural events in France.
All of the above are for short-stay visits meaning the holder cannot stay in France (or the Schengen Area) for more than a total of 90 days in a period of 180 days. The 90 day allowance can be used in one block or broken into several visits as long as the 90 day total is not exceeded.
Visitors requiring a longer stay for business, study, medical, employment or residency will require a different form of visa.
Documentation for French Schengen Visa
Depending on the visa type there will different requirements as to which documents must accompany the application. A short-stay Tourist Visa is the most common form of Schengen Visa issued and the following is a list of the minimum documentation required for a successful application:
- Fully completed application form, dated and signed.
- Two recent passport approved photos.
- Valid passport no more than ten years old and with an expiration date at least three months after than the last planned date to be spent in the Schengen Area.
- Confirmation of return trip booking.
- Where applicable, proof of booked accommodation at hotels or guest houses.
- Funds of €120 per day if no accommodation is booked or €65 per day if accommodation is reserved.
- Copies of any previous Schengen Visas held.
- Travel and Health Insurance with minimum coverage of €30,000.
All of the above documentary proofs are necessary for all forms of Schengen Visa but more will be required dependent upon the specific type of visa.
Possible Additional Documentation
Each type of visa has its own rules as to what proofs or documents are necessary. In brief, the following requirements apply:
- Employed applicants must supply a copy of an employment contract, permission of leave from an employer, copies of most recent income tax payments and recent bank statements.
- Self-employed applicants must also supply recent bank statements as well as certificates for any income tax paid and a copy of the business registration or license.
- Students must produce a copy of the enrolment form and a letter from the educational institute stating the student will definitely leave France when the course finishes.
- Retired applicants must provide pension statements covering the preceding six months and declare any income from property owned.
As well as providing any required documentation requested, visa applicants must also hand in a covering letter detailing the reason for visiting France and outlining any planned trips within the country or onward travel to another Schengen member state.
The Final Step
Having collected (and double checked) all required paperwork, applicants must arrange a personal interview. This will normally be conducted at a French embassy (or a consulate) in the country the applicant resides in or is travelling from. If an embassy or consulate is not present then the interview will take place at a designated Visa Application Centre which may result in the payment of an additional processing fee.
The purpose of the interview is not just to physically check the applicant’s identity and scrutinise the documents supplied but also to take fingerprint samples which will further enhance security.
The interview is also where payment in full must be made. Currently this is a standard fee of €80 for adults, €40 for children aged between six and twelve while there is no charge for those aged under six.