A trip to France is one of the world’s most sought-after travel experiences.
Whether you need a visa will depend on your individual circumstances, such as your citizenship, your reasons for travel, and how long you plan to stay. Still, all visitors should be up to speed with the entry and exit procedures. Here's our guide to help you on your way.
What you need to know about visas for France
France is part of the Schengen area, a bloc of 27 European countries that have abolished internal border controls. As a result, citizens of Schengen member countries (including non-EU countries Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) and Ireland (a member of the EU but not Schengen) can enter France with just a passport or national ID card (carte d'identité in French) for an indefinite stay.
What about non-EU nationals?
To enter France, nationals of countries outside the EU and Schengen Area will need a passport valid for at least three months after their intended date of departure, along with proof of insurance, evidence of an onward travel ticket and accommodation (or sufficient funds to pay for these), and a visa if required.
Check the French government’s France-Visas website for full details of the information you’ll need to present on arrival in France. The site also has a handy Visa Wizard to help you find out if you need a visa and details of how to apply. France has a well-deserved reputation for red tape, so make sure all your documents are in order.
Many nationalities can visit France visa-free
Citizens of around 60 non-EU countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and many Latin American countries, don’t need a visa for a short stay in France.
Nationals of visa-free countries can normally stay for up to 90 days within any 180-day period. Once you leave, you can’t re-enter the Schengen Zone for a further 90 days (you can estimate dates on the EU’s travel day calculator).
Some countries have special bilateral visa waiver agreements that allow visitors to spend time in one Schengen country without reference to time spent in other countries in the Schengen Area, subject to permission from border officials; check your home country’s government travel advice.
There are some changes ahead
The EU’s Entry/Exit System (EES), which has suffered some delays but is due to be operational by the end of 2023, will beef up security at external EU borders by electronically monitoring border crossings, making it easier to identify anyone overstaying.
The new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will come into operation in 2024. Under the new rules, nationals from visa-free countries will need to apply for pre-travel authorization online (arrange it 72 hours ahead of travel). The cost is €7 for a three-year, multi-entry authorization (there's no charge for travelers under 18 and over 70).
Non-EU nationals will need to apply for a Schengen visa
Nationals of non-visa-free countries, including China, India, Nepal, Pakistan and South Africa, need a Schengen Visa to visit France and other member countries. A short-stay Uniform Schengen Visa allows visits of up to 90 days within a 180-day period and is valid for travel throughout the Schengen area. The cost is €80 for adults and €40 for children aged six to 12 (free for children under six).
Visit the French government’s website France-Visas for the latest regulations and information on the process for applying. Find your closest French embassy or consulate on the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs - France Diplomatie website.
Tourist visas can't be extended within France
When your visa expires, you'll need to reapply from outside France to spend more time in the country. It’s not possible to extend tourist visas within France, except in emergencies (for example, a medical emergency), in which case you should contact your nearest Préfecture.
Student visas are available
Tourist visas cannot be changed into student visas after arrival, but students sitting university-entrance exams or attending interviews in France can apply in advance for a special short-term étudiant concours (literally, "student-in-competition") visa. Details are listed on the French government website Campus France.
Working holiday visas in France are valid for a year
If you’re from a country with a working holiday visa agreement with France and are aged between 18 and 30 (or 35 if you're from Canada), you may be eligible to apply for the programme vacances-travail (PVT) scheme through the French embassy or consulate in your home country. The scheme allows participants to live and work in France for 12 months. Currently, France has arrangements with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Taiwan, and Uruguay.