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Applying for a French long-term visa: the pitfalls to avoid

Life in France has a powerful lure. However, before you can enjoy great food, wine and a relaxed lifestyle, the visa application process must be navigated. Not only is this much less fun than living la belle vie, but there are also some serious pitfalls you need to avoid.

Applying for a French long-term visa: the pitfalls to avoid
La Vie en Rose: Life in France can be bliss. That is, once you've organised your visa. Photo: Getty Images

We’d all love to pack up and relocate to France, whether it’s for a charmed life among the vineyards of the Loire Valley, or a sunny retirement along the Côte d’Azur. There’s so much to experience and explore – not to mention, eat and drink!

However, if you come from outside the EU, you’re going to need a visa to achieve that dream. 

Along with unparalleled culture, heritage and natural beauty, France is a modern and efficient country. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean that its visa application systems are straightforward or free from issues. 

Together with Fab French Insurance, we identify the pitfalls you may encounter when applying for a long-stay visa and show you how you can avoid them. 

Obtaining a French long-stay visitor visa

France offers many different visas for those who wish to work and reside in the country, depending on their circumstances. These include visas designed for students, salaried workers and ‘tech talent’. 

Others may wish to retire in France either permanently, or for significant periods of the year (if you’re a second home owner, for example). Two specific long-stay visas are popular options for such people – the ‘visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur’ and the ‘visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour’.

While these visas, particularly the VLS-TS, have various subcategories, we’ll focus specifically on visas for those who will not be working in France in this article.

With similiar-sounding names, you’d be forgiven for thinking they could easily be confused, so let’s take a look at the differences you need to know.

These visitor visas are ideal for retirees. They are among the more straightforward visas to apply for, with three similar basic requirements to be met – proof of accommodation (whether this is a rental or owned property), proof of a basic level of income (which could also come from savings or a mix of the two), and proof of medical insurance.

The ‘visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur’ (temporary long-stay visitor visa or ‘VLS-T’) allows you to stay in France for a period of up to six months, after which you must leave the country and cannot immediately re-apply. 

The ‘visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour’ (long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit or ‘VLS-TS’) allows the holder to stay for longer than six months and up to a year. If you wish to stay beyond a year, you must apply for a residence permit that fits your personal circumstances in the two months before your VLS-TS expires.

Regardless of which of these visas you choose, there’s a requirement for all non-EU applicants to hold medical insurance covering the entire Schengen area, with a minimum value of €30,000.

This medical insurance needs to be comprehensive – that is to say, covering you for medical care both in and out of hospital – and without any excesses or deductibles. As such it’s really important that you organise your compulsory medical insurance with a broker that knows the system.

Streamline your French visa application with French immigration consultants Fab

There’s so much to discover in France when you have a long-term visa. Photo: Getty Images

Seek a visa appointment early or employ an expert

Applying for a French long-stay visa is a two-step process. First, you need to use the French government’s online visa application portal to apply. If you have all the relevant documentation, this is a relatively simple procedure. 

The second part of the process is where things get a little frustrating.

Having applied for a visa online, you need to book an in-person appointment to confirm and finalise your application. Different countries use different systems to do this. The system for booking appointments is outsourced to contractors, including TLScontact for the UK and VFS for the US, Canada and Australia.

Ideally, this should be as simple as finding an appointment at your closest local consulate. However, this is the part where many have run into unexpected problems.

Some users of TLScontact have found the booking website overly complex and glitchy, with many having to repeat the process a number of times. An idea of the frustration and consternation felt by those who’ve tried and failed to get appointments can be ascertained from an article published by The Local in April. 

With potential technological and organisational issues affecting your ability to make a visa appointment, it could be wise to employ the services of an immigration lawyer, or a consultant such as Fab. Such experts know exactly how to work the system and ‘speak the language’ to secure a timely appointment.

Plus, you’ll have more time to daydream about that villa next to the lavender fields … or perhaps even to focus on making it a reality!

J’en ai marre! Some visa applicants have found booking an appointment difficult. Photo: Getty Images

Allow enough time

You’re required to apply for your visa between 30 and 90 days before your planned arrival date in France. Don’t apply more than three months ahead as your application won’t be processed. But leaving it until the final month is too late and could result in you simply being asked to re-apply.

If you have concerns about receiving your visa in a timely manner, it’s also best to apply outside the summer months of July and August if possible. With many French on their summer holidays at this time, applicants have reported delays in getting their visas processed.

Know what to expect after getting your visa

Many visa holders may think that once they’re on the ground in France, there’s nothing more to take care of. However, if you wish to enjoy all that France has to offer with peace of mind, you need to remember that the process is not quite finished.

If you’re a VLS-TS holder, you still need to validate your visa on the online portal, at which point you’ll receive an acknowledgement. Holders of a VLS-TS may also hear from the immigration office, which could send you for a medical screening or appointment with an immigration agent, depending on the information originally supplied in your application.

To avoid potential complications, you may want to ensure that all the documents you’ll require to apply for your visa are easily accessible, with additional copies at hand if possible.

Preparation and organisation will make registering and renewing your visa, or conversion to a residence permit, easier and help avoid delays – so that you can focus on enjoying the France you know and love!  

Unsure of where to begin? Fab French Insurance can guide you through each step of the French long-stay visa application process. Get in touch with an expert today 

Member comments

  1. Thx for this info! Crossing fingers that, when the time comes, we’ll be ready to successfully execute the VISA app process on time – one time.

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COST OF LIVING

How would a €1,600 minimum wage in France compare to the rest of Europe?

France's left-wing alliance Nouveau Front Populaire has made headlines with its economic policies, especially a pledge to raise minimum wage to €1,600 a month - but is that actually that high? Here's how France’s minimum wage stacks up against European neighbours.

How would a €1,600 minimum wage in France compare to the rest of Europe?

Part of the election manifesto of the Nouveau Front Populaire – an alliance of France’s four biggest left-wing parties – is an increase in the take home minimum wage to €1,600 per month.

Now it’s still far from certain that the group will get itself into a position to implement this or any of its other policies as France’s political deadlock continues but let’s take a look at how the proposals stack up.

The current minimum wage in France (known as the Smic) for an employee working full-time hours, is €1,766.92 a month (€11.65 per hour) before taxes and social charges – or €1,398.70 (€9.22/hr) take home.

Explained: The left alliance’s programme for government

In total, 22 of 27 member nations of the European Union have a statutory minimum wage, as does former member the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Finland do not have a national minimum wage. Instead, wage levels are set on a sector-by-sector basis via collective bargaining between employers and trades unions, and may include additional benefits depending on the laws of each country.

Similarly, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries Norway, Switzerland and Iceland do not have a national minimum wage.

What about the countries that do have a minimum wage?

Germany’s minimum wage increased on January 1st from €12 to €12.41 per hour. It is expected to rise again, to €12.82/hr on January 1st, 2025, assuming the government acts on recommendations (which it usually does).

That translates to a full-time minimum monthly wage before tax of €2,085. Germany is one of four EU countries – along with Luxembourg (€2,571), Ireland (€2,146) and Netherlands (€2,070) – where the minimum gross monthly wage is above €2,000, according to OECD figures.

Minimum wages in Spain, meanwhile, were revised upwards five percent on January 1st to €1,134 per month for general workers working full-time hours. 

In other European Union countries, the minimum monthly wage ranges from a high of €2,571 per month in Luxembourg, down to €477 in Bulgaria. EU candidate country North Macedonia’s minimum wage, meanwhile, is €360.

In fact, the minimum wage is €1,000 or lower in 14 EU member states that have a nationally mandated minimum wage. 

Here’s a list of the eight EU member states with monthly minimum wage levels before tax above €1,000:

  • Luxembourg – €2,571
  • Ireland  – €2,146
  • Germany – €2,085
  • Netherlands – €2,070
  • Belgium – €1,994
  • France – €1,767
  • Spain – €1,323
  • Slovenia – €1,254

Non-EU nations

For workers over 21, the minimum wage in the UK rose from £10.41 per hour to £11.44 on April 1st – equivalent to £1,735 per month before tax for anyone working full-time hours.

In USA, the federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr. However numerous states have their own minimum wage laws, which usually set a higher rate – in cases where employees are subject to both the state and federal minimum wage laws, they are entitled to the higher of the two minimum wages.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the National Minimum Wage was set at AUS$24.10 per hour on July 1st, or AU$915.90 per 38-hour week (before tax).

The minimum federal monthly wage in Canada was set at CAD$2,035 per month on April 1st, 2024, but workers there are subject to minimum wage levels set by their respective province or territory.

All of which is to say that while the Nouveau Front Populaire’s proposed minimum wage increase is generous, it is not insanely so and would not make France a European outlier on minimum wages.

But…

Comparing minimum wage levels between nations is not just a matter of quoting figures. Differences in the cost of living and taxation, not to mention different currencies and exchange rates for those nations outside the eurozone, render the exercise more complicated than a simple number comparison.

Which brings us to…

EU Minimum Wage Directive

In November 2024, the European Union’s Adequate Minimum Wage Directive comes into effect.

It says: “Member states may use indicative reference values commonly used at international level such as 60 percent of the gross median wage and 50 percent of the gross average wage, and/or indicative reference values used at national level.”

France’s current minimum wage of €1,766.92 per month for full-time workers is, according to recent estimates, 60.9 percent of the country’s monthly median wage before tax, meaning that – even before the EU directive comes into effect – it is meeting its expected obligations without having to increase minimum wage levels.

Portugal (€957 per month minimum wage) and Slovenia are the only other EU nations to pass the 60 percent median bar for their minimum wage levels, along with long-standing EU candidate country Turkey.

Germany’s minimum wage, despite appearing to be relatively high in straight euro terms, is only 52.6 percent of the median level, according to OECD calculations, while Luxembourg’s was 54.2 percent, and Ireland’s 47.5 percent.

Here’s another look at that list of the eight EU member states with monthly minimum wages above €1,000, with the ratio to that country’s median wage:

  • Slovenia – €1,254 (61.7 percent of the median wage)
  • France – €1,767 (60.9 percent)
  • Luxembourg – €2,571 (54.2 percent)
  • Germany – €2,085 (52.6 percent)
  • Spain – €1,323 (49.5 percent)
  • Ireland  – €2,146 (47.5 percent)
  • Netherlands – €2,070 (46.1 percent)
  • Belgium – €1,994 (40.9 percent)

The UK’s minimum wage, for the record, comes in at 58 percent.

This comparison of minimum wages is still open to interpretation and criticism. The International Labour Organisation said: “These ratios can be misleading when they are interpreted too literally.”

Meanwhile, the OECD has said that minimum wages must be revised regularly to cope with inflation and protect standards of living among those lower-paid workers. 

Salary conditions

According to European statistics agency Eurostat, the highest median gross hourly earnings in 2018 – the last available year for earnings – were recorded in Denmark (€27.2), Luxembourg (€19.6) and Sweden (€18.2).

By contrast, the lowest median gross hourly earnings were registered in Hungary (€4.4), Romania (€3.7) and Bulgaria (€2.4). 

In other words, across EU Member States, the highest national median gross hourly earnings were 11 times as high as the lowest expressed in euros.

In total, across the EU, some 15.3 percent of employees in 2018 were classed as low-wage earners – that is to say employees who earn two-thirds or less of national median gross hourly earnings, according to Eurostat. Again, there were huge nation-by-nation ranges involved. Latvia (23.5 percent), Lithuania (22.3 percent) and Estonia (22.0 percent) saw the highest proportion of low-wage earners. 

By contrast, less than 10 percent of employees were low wage earners in Denmark (8.7 percent), France (8.6 percent), Italy (8.5 percent), Finland (5.0 percent), Portugal (4.0 percent) and Sweden (3.6 percent), according to Eurostat figures.

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