France is the largest country in western Europe. It is globally famous for its culture, its cuisine and its wines. It has a colourful history as one of the first global superpowers, and has long played an active role in global affairs.
It is a member of the United Nations Security Council, a founding member of the European Union, and is part of the EU’s Schengen Area which grants free movement throughout most of continental Europe.
France has traditionally been a country with a fairly open border policy, but there have been recent efforts, as reflected in a July 2006 law, to restrict the immigration of unskilled workers and persons who would become a burden on the French State. Recent legislation has made French nationality requirements via marriage more difficult.
Considerable discretionary power has been given to the French Consulates in their decisions to grant or deny visas. There has however been a streamlining of procedures for entry of professionals and group-level transfers to France. This is merely a short summary of an increasingly complex area of French law.
We shall briefly look at visa issues, both professional and family, and then look at French nationality questions relating to foreigners.
The Need For An Entry Permit
A distinction is made under French law between a “visa” and a “stay document” (carte de séjour). A long stay visa, or entry permit, is required for all persons requesting a stay document. This essentially means that the alien must go through a Frenchtown Consular authority and be approved to enter the country. Of course, for members of the OECD countries, including the United States, no such long stay visa is required for trips to France under 90 days.
However a visa, or entry permit, is required for all persons entering France intending to remain there for greater than 90 days and/or work or study in France. While exceptions to the need for an entry permit, or long stay visa, are provided (especially for spouses of French citizens), the general rule is that a person will not be issued a stay document or carte de séjour, unless they have been approved by a foreign Consulate. This means that the great majority of people must begin their immigration to France by preparing a petition to the French Consulate having jurisdiction over their residence.
Short Stay Visas
There is a harmonization of rules across the European Union for short-stay visas (called “Schengen Visas”), allowing free movement in the Schengen space (Europe). There are various types of such visas, whether for business or pleasure, issued by one of the European member states to the Schengen convention. The visa is granted for one or multiple stays for no more than three months per every six months. A short stay visa is required for a brief entry into France, unless the alien is a non EU citizen or who is subject to a visa waiver (the nations of the OECD – United States, Australia, Canada, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand; and for European countries, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey).