The notion of living ‘la bonne vie’ in France is a dream for many around the world. With its seemingly endless countryside, stunning coastal towns, and some of the most vibrant cities in the world, it is easy to see the appeal. The very thought of freshly baked croissants and baguettes, bustling markets rich with local produce, and sipping coffee or wine in a village square is incredibly enticing. French residents also benefit from a strong local economy and easy access to other countries within the European Union (EU). For EU nationals, the process of gaining permanent residence in France could not be easier due to the rights of free movement. However, for non-EU/EEA nationals, gaining permanent residence in France takes time and requires an understanding of the country’s immigration system. In this article, we will take a look at how non-EU/EEA migrants can acquire permanent residence in France.

How Can I Acquire Residence In France?

Thankfully, the French immigration system is relatively simple and inexpensive for prospective migrants who want to relocate for a new life. The first stage is to acquire a Temporary Residence Permit (Carte de séjour temporaire). A Carte de séjour temporaire (CST) is a residence permit issued in France for a fixed period (typically up to one year). There are several types of residence permit catering for a wide range of scenarios, as follows:

International Students

Students from outside of the EU/EEA must be 18 years or over, be enrolled in a place at a French educational establishment, and have sufficient funds to support themselves whole in France.

In some cases, it may be necessary to pass an educational entrance examination; if this is the case, you can apply for a short-stay visa (for up to 90 days) which will allow you to travel to France to complete any exams you need to complete.

For Private And Family Life (Vie Privée Et Familiale)

Non-EU/EEA nationals with a spouse or child of a French citizen or a person with a French residence permit can apply for a vie privée et familiale (VPF) residence permit. The government guidance states, “If you have family ties in France, you can obtain a private and family life residence permit, under certain conditions. This card allows you to work and it is annual”. As such, you will not need to apply for a separate work permit if you hold a VPF residence permit.

The exact process you need to follow to gain a VPF depends on where you are and your circumstances. For example, if you have a French husband and you live outside of France, you can apply for a VLS-TS and before this expires, it is possible to apply for a multi-year VPF residence permit. To check which process to follow for a VPF residence permit, check the French immigration website for more details.

For Employees Or Temporary Workers

Non-EU/EEA nationals will typically apply for a VLS-TS which is a French long-stay visa and permit combined. There are several employment-based residence permit routes available, including for employees, self-employed individuals, traders, and research scientists.

There are several types of work permit available in France depending on your circumstances, including:

  • Temporary residency permit (CST) – this will state the work which you are allowed to undertake e.g. employee (activité salariée), self-employed (activité non salariée), scientific (scientifique), cultural and artistic profession (profession artistique et culturelle) or trader (commerçant).
  • Temporary work permit (ATP, Autorisation provisoire de travail). These are typically issued to students wishing to work beyond the duration authorised as part of their studies, migrants seeking asylum, and employee working in France but not living there (i.e. cross-border)
  • Seasonal work contract (contrat de travail saisonnier)

Employees must have a job offer that is formally approved by the French government.

How Can I Acquire Permanent Residence In France?

Having lived in France for five years, you will then be able to apply for a permanent residence card (carte de residence). While a French permanent residence permit allows you to live, work, and study in France indefinitely, it does need to be renewed every ten years. Another option is to apply for French citizenship which will allow you to vote and apply for a French passport. To make your application for permanent residency in France, you will need to make an appointment at your local prefecture who will provide you with the necessary paperwork to be completed. They will also outline which documents you will need to provide to support your application, such as your passport, contract of employment, medical certificate, and birth/marriage certificates.

The qualifying period for citizenship is also five years, at which point you can apply to naturalise as a French citizen. To do so, you must have lived in France for five continuous years, and be able to provide evidence that you have integrated into French life and you have sufficient French language proficiency. You will also be asked to sign a Republican Integration Contract (CIR), which is an agreement between the “French State and any non-European foreigner admitted to stay in France wishing to settle there permanently, with some exceptions. The signatory undertakes to follow training courses to promote his integration into French society. Civic training is compulsory. Language training may be prescribed depending on the level in French”.

Final Words

France makes the process of gaining temporary residence and then permanent residence relatively simple, as long as you fit into one of the above categories (i.e. employment, family, studying, etc.). If you are unsure of the process, speak to an immigration lawyer, or if you are in France already, visit your local French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII). Based on your circumstances and those of your family, and your future plans, they will be able to advise you on the best immigration route to suit your long-term needs.