Entering France from other parts of the EU is usually a breeze – no border checkpoints and no customs – thanks to the Schengen Agreement, signed by all of France's neighbours except the UK, the Channel Islands and Andorra. For these three entities, old-fashioned document and customs checks are still the norm, at least when exiting France (when entering France in the case of Andorra).
Goods brought in and out of countries within the EU incur no additional taxes provided duty has been paid somewhere within the EU and the goods are for personal consumption. Duty-free shopping is available only if you are leaving the EU.
Duty-free allowances (for adults) coming from non-EU countries (including the Channel Islands):
- 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco
- 1L spirits or 2L of sparkling wine/other alcoholic drinks less than 22% alcohol
- 4L still wine
- 16L beer
- other goods up to the value of €300/430 when entering by land/air or sea (€150 for under 15 year olds)
Higher limits apply if you are coming from Andorra; anything over these limits must be declared. For further details, see www.douane.gouv.fr (partly in English).
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days (or at all for EU nationals); some nationalities need a Schengen visa.
- For up-to-date details on visa requirements, see the website of the Ministère des Affaires Étrangères and click 'Coming to France'.
- EU nationals and citizens of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland need only a passport or a national identity card to enter France and stay in the country, even for stays of more than 90 days. However, citizens of new EU member states may be subject to various limitations on living and working in France.
- Citizens of Australia, the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and many Latin American countries do not need visas to visit France as tourists for up to 90 days. For long stays of more than 90 days, contact your nearest French embassy or consulate and begin your application well in advance, as it can take months.
- Other people wishing to come to France as tourists have to apply for a Schengen Visa, named after the agreements that have abolished passport controls between 26 European countries. It allows unlimited travel throughout the entire zone for a 90-day period. Apply to the consulate of the country you are entering first, or your main destination. Among other things, you need travel and repatriation insurance and to be able to show that you have sufficient funds to support yourself.
- Tourist visas cannot be changed into student visas after arrival. However, short-term visas are available for students sitting university-entrance exams in France.
- Tourist visas cannot be extended except in emergencies (such as medical problems). When your visa expires you'll need to leave and reapply from outside France.
Carte de Séjour
- EU passport holders and citizens of Switzerland, Iceland and Norway do not need a carte de séjour (residence permit) to reside or work in France.
- Nationals of other countries with long-stay visas must contact the local mairie (city hall) or préfecture (prefecture) to apply for a carte de séjour. Usually, you are required to do so within eight days of arrival in France. Make sure you have all the necessary documents before you arrive.
- Students of all nationalities studying in France need a carte de séjour.
Working Holiday Visa
Citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and a handful of others aged between 18 and 30 (35 for Canadians) are eligible for a 12-month, multiple-entry Working Holiday Visa (Permis Vacances-Travail), allowing combined tourism and employment in France.
- Apply to the embassy or consulate in your home country. Do this early as there are annual quotas.
- You must be applying for a Working Holiday Visa for France for the first time.
- You will need comprehensive travel insurance for the duration of your stay.
- You must meet all health and character requirements.
- You will need a return plane ticket and proof of sufficient funds (usually around €3800) to get you through the start of your stay.
- Once you have arrived in France and have found a job, you must apply for an autorisation provisoire de travail (temporary work permit), which will only be valid for the duration of the employment offered. The permit can be renewed under the same conditions up to the limit of the authorised length of stay.
- You can also study or do training programs but the visa cannot be extended, nor can it be turned into a student visa.
- After one year you must go home.