Working in France: How to Get Your Visa

So, you got your dream job. You’re moving to France. You’re so excited!

But... now what?

Well, in order to start working in France, you have one crucial task:

Your work visa!

When I managed to get my own dream job in Paris, I remember the overwhelming abundance of excitement being slightly offset by the intimidating visa process looming over me.

Reading through the France visa services website, my eyes burned as all letters blurred together into a confusing web of words. I scrolled and scrolled through what seemed like an endless list of procedures and documents that needed to get done. Panic started to take hold.

How on earth could I keep track of all these things? What if I forget something? What if I mess everything up?

If you’ve found some of these questions running through your own head, do not worry. You are definitely not alone.

Getting a visa is a confusing process and can feel overwhelming when you’ve got your dream job hanging on the line.

It doesn’t help that the online visa instructions can be somewhat difficult to navigate. I found myself wishing there was a simple to-do list to follow that didn’t lead me to five other links every other sentence, or forced me to google requirements I didn’t understand.

That’s why I’m here writing this. I’m determined to provide the step-by-step visa guide that I wished I had when I was going through this!

Do everything here in the order I explain and I promise it will all be a piece of cake.

Let’s start with step one, shall we?

1. Identify your visa type

Do you need a short stay visa? A long stay visa? Perhaps you have family in France and don’t need a visa at all?

This handy tool matches you to which visa you need based on questions they ask you in a short survey. Here you will find out if you need a visa, what kind of visa, and what documents you will need to acquire one.

2. Make an appointment

Time to schedule an appointment!

There is a continent and place of residence section of the website which determines the closest visa agency to you. This agency will be where you submit your visa application and all the necessary documents in person. Once you’ve determined your region, you will be redirected to your nearest agency’s appointment scheduling system.

Now, let me give you some advice.

Getting an appointment can take a long time.

You should have seen the look of absolute horror on my face as I realized the earliest visa appointment where I lived was two months away! Yes, that’s right- two whole months!

But don’t be too alarmed. The wait time for an appointment may vary based on your location. And ultimately, this is sadly a situation out of your control. The wait time for a visa has been wildly exacerbated by the coronavirus, as the visa agency offices have had to limit the amount of clients coming visiting each day in order to maintain proper social distance. As a result, the system has been quite backed up.

This can obviously make things complicated if you’ve agreed to a set start date with your work. The best thing you can do is to maintain contact with your employer and keep them updated on the process. Let them know when your appointment is so that they are aware of your timeline. Explain the situation, keep everyone on the same page, and all should be fine.

3. Fill in application

Once you have identified where you need to go for an appointment, go to the France Visas website and click on “start your visa application.”

Create an account and fill out the application.

Once you have filled everything out, print out all pages of the application to bring to your appointment.

At the end of the application, there should be a “document checklist” page which tells you all the things you need to bring to the appointment. Print this page and bring it. You will need to submit this page as well. Basically, bring every single page on the application form even if you think you don’t need it.

As a general rule, if you have any doubt throughout this process about what to print or bring, just bring it anyway. I believe it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Here’s a tip:

Print and bring the confirmation page of your “avis favorable de la convention de stage.” This is a work authorization form in France that your employer fills out and submits for you.

This form is actually the responsibility of your employer. So, you will have to ask them to send you a confirmation page of the work authorization which they should have.

Oddly enough, the VFS does not mention this form on their website and it will not be on your checklist. But to my surprise they asked me for it! I had never actually heard of it before I received an email from the visa officials in Washington DC asking me to provide this document.

I ended up sending it to them electronically. On the chance they ask you for this as well, I suggest printing and bringing this paper with you to avoid the headache!

4. Come to appointment with your complete file

I strongly recommend neatly organizing all your documents in their own separate folders. This way, when the visa agent asks you for a specific document, you’re not fumbling nervously around a billion other papers to find it!

Your checklist provided at the back of your application tells you everything you need to bring. But there are some important details you should know about each one:

  • Internship Agreement signed and dated by your employer, yourself, and your university

  • Proof of income

This can, for example, be your last three bank statements or last three payslips. Or, if you are being sponsored by someone else, a signed and notarized letter from them. They must state their relation to you and confirm that they will be financially supporting you. You would have to also attach the last three bank statements of your sponsor and a scanned photo of their passport.

  • Proof of housing

You can show a lease contract or a hotel reservation. Another option is a written statement from an individual who will be housing you in their home. In this case, you would have to show a letter with their address, the length of your stay, their contact information, signature, copy of ID, and the lease as proof of address.

  • Health Insurance

The insurance has to be valid throughout all Member States of the Schengen area for the duration of your stay. It must guarantee a minimum of € 30,000 for any medical, emergency or hospital care. Getting insurance is actually not too difficult. You can do it pretty quickly online. I used the Atlas International plan, but there are many others which can all be easily found in a simple Google search.

  • Your passport

My only advice for this one is to make sure you have at least two blank visa pages for your visa to be stamped on. I saw someone get turned away for only having one blank page left, so be sure to double check this! Also, check that your passport is not damaged in any way. A visa agent told me that they are apparently particular about the condition of your passport, and will sometimes reject applications which have very rugged or stained pages.

If you are quite the seasoned traveller, make sure your passport isn’t too crazy looking!

  • Full Visa application

As I mentioned earlier, bring all pages of your application, including the receipt and checklist pages at the end. Do this and you’ll be all good!

  • Appointment confirmation page

Bring your appointment confirmation page or else they may not let you in! This should have been emailed to you when you scheduled.

  • ID Photo

This is not a normal passport photo! Be sure to check the measurements of your ID photo, as every region has their own requirements. In France, the photo should be 35mm wide by 45mm high. I watched a girl in front of me get turned away because she brought U.S. passport sized photos instead of French visa sized photos. I had to drive to five different places before I finally found a small, local shop that could take international visa photographs. I recommend calling places in advance and asking.

  • Visa fee

I was able to pay by debit card but check with your visa agency about this, as payment methods will vary by location. The application fee is collected by the French administration to process the visa application. A short-stay visa is €80 and a long-stay is €99.

At the appointment they will collect your biometric data All visas issued by France are biometric visas. Once you’ve finished providing all your documents, they will take you into another room for a photograph and 10 fingerprints. Note that if you have had a biometric Schengen visa in the past, it's possible to recover your biometric data and not have to do it all over again.

Your documents and passport will be sent off to the VFS headquarters. Once the visa arrives at the headquarters, it can take anywhere from two weeks to over a month to process. Once the visa has been processed, you will receive your documents, passport, and visa in the mail.

If you’re as terribly excited and impatient as I was, you’ll likely be just as eager to constantly check on the status of your visa. You can check out where your visa is in the process by clicking on the “Track your request page.” Here, you enter a special reference number that the visa agency will have highlighted for you on a receipt. Don’t lose this number!

You’re all done!

Now that you have your visa, you’re all set to move and begin working in France. Time to get packing!

By the end of my appointment, I was practically skipping out of the office with a mixture of excitement and relief. Finally, all of the complicated visa stuff was over with and I could sharpen my focus towards the big move and dream job ahead.

I was overjoyed when my visa arrived in the mail. I ripped open the package to see my brand new visa stamp in my passport. Yay! After all that hard work, it felt really good to finally be holding my work visa in my hands.
Hopefully, my own experience can help you feel less overwhelmed and more motivated as you embark on your own mission to earn a work visa for France. As long as you follow all of these steps, you’re on the right track.

Congratulations on getting that new job and starting this new adventure. I wish you the best of luck on your journey to France.