Customs and Visas


© S.Benhamou

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 12 September 2023

How do you obtain a VISA for a stay in France – and what are the customs procedures?


Every foreign national wishing to come to France must be able to present documentary evidence regarding the purpose of theirstay, their financial means of support and conditions of accommodation to immigration upon arrival in the country.

Generally, unless exempted, a VISA is required. It must be acquired before departure for France at the relevant French embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of residence. The type of VISA required to enter France depends on both the duration and reasons for the intended stay. Except in special cases:

  • For stays of less than 90 days (3 months), the VISA to be requested is a short-stay VISA called "Schengen VISA". These VISAs can be issued for multiple entries. It is usually issued for tourist trips, business travel or family visits. It also allows the holder to come to France for short courses, internships, or gainful employment (artists on tour, athletes competing for a championship, an employee seconded to provide a service, etc.).
  • Transit VISAs enable the holder to stay in the Schengen area for periods of less than or equal to 5 days.
  • Foreigners in Transit through a French airport do not need VISAs as long as they do not leave the “international transit” area of the airport, as they'll not be entering French territory.
  • For stays over 90 days (3 months), the VISA to be requested is a long-stay VISA, the length and type will depend on the duration and reasons of stay. This VISA requires registration, upon arrival in France, with the “French Office of Immigration and Integration” or, with the appropriate prefecture responsible for issuing a residence permit.

Once registered in France, the VISA holder cannot obtain a modification of his/her VISA or a change of status. Furthermore, the exercise of gainful employment is subject to specific procedures that require a work permit before obtaining a VISA.

Regarding the French overseas territories, the rules may differ from those applicable in the French metropolitan area. The applicant must precisely specify his/her purpose of travel to the overseas territories as well as his/her travel details.

VISA Exemptions

The EU Regulation 539/2001 removes the need for certain foreign nationals to obtain a short-stay VISA when entering the Schengen area.

Depending on your personal situation, specific measures of the law of the European Union are applied:

  • Nationals of EU Member States, the European Economic Area or Switzerland are not subject to entry visas and residence permits, regardless of length of stay.

  • Family members (partner, dependent children, dependent ascendants) of an EU Member State citizen, the EEA or Switzerland (who are not themselves citizens of an EU Member State, the EEA or Switzerland) are subject to the same visa and other permit rules as other foreigners of their nationality.


Upon arrival in France at a land border, railway station, port or airport, there are two separate passages through customs depending on the nature and the quantity of your goods: the "green" lane and the "red" lane.

In the first case, you have nothing to declare. In the second, according to one or several standards discussed below, you are under obligation to declare your goods.

Upon both arrival and departure from France, you must declare the money, titles and/or assets that you're carrying with you. This report is intended for the Customs Administration, which conducts inspections in a campaign against money laundering and drug trafficking.

Note: You may be checked throughout the national territory.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the General Directorate of Customs and Excise.


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