So, you’re looking to go on a gap year in France? The good news is this: anyone from inside the Schengen zone has no need to get a visa for any reason when visiting, nor do those from the UK. Those from outside the Schengen zone might well need to get the relevant documentation though, which is where this article will hopefully help. One thing to remember is this though: if you do have to get a French visa, it’s well worth it, as France is one of the most spectacular places to visit on the planet!
Who Needs a Visa?
As already stated, anyone from inside the Schengen zone will not require a visa. This applies for those who want to visit as a tourist, study or work there. Therefore, those from inside the Schengen zone will find that planning a gap year in France is not a difficult thing to do at all! Those from many other countries – including Australia, the UK and Canada – also don’t need visas to visit France, as long as they are visiting for tourism and don’t stay for more than 3 months. You can find a more comprehensive list of countries not requiring tourist visas here.
When it comes to working in France, those from inside the EU are allowed to gain employment without any restrictions. Simply apply for a position and, if you get it, you don’t need to do anything else. Those from outside the EU will need a visa though, as will those from outside the EU looking to volunteer in France. There are different types of visas needed for different circumstances, which are discussed below.
Types of French Visas
Any seasoned traveller will tell you that often the toughest part of getting a visa is working out exactly which one you need. Below you’ll find the two most common visas that those on a gap year will possibly need.
- Tourist visa
A tourist visa is needed by those outside of the Schengen zone and who don’t come from countries with agreements in place with France. The great thing about getting a Schengen visa is that it allows you to travel throughout the Schengen zone unrestricted, meaning that nearly all of Europe is open to you! The cost of a Schengen visa is €60 for those looking to travel for less than 60 days, while the cost increases to €99 for those looking to stay in Europe for more than 60 days. You can find more information on the Schengen visa here.
- Work visa
The French work visa comes in two main forms – the temporary work visa and the Working Holiday Visa. The latter of these is open to those from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Hong Kong. It allows those from these nations to get paid employment for up to a year, providing certain conditions are met. There are also a number of countries with work permit exemptions that allow them to work for up to 90 days – they can be found here. Those from other countries will need to gain a temporary work visa in order to take up paid employment in France, regardless of the type of duration. Those volunteering in France will also need to get a visa for their stay – the French Embassy within your country will be able to give advice on this.
How to Apply
If you need a visa for France, you will need to apply in person at your nearest embassy/consulate. This can be annoying, as sometimes the consulate is a long way from where you live – for example, the relevant consulate for those living in Seattle is actually San Francisco! Appointments can be made online though, and you’ll be able to find out whether you need a visa before making the often huge trip.
Thanks to the large distances you might have to travel, it is prudent to ensure that you have all the relevant documents you’ll need. You will be given a list of these when making the appointment online – make sure you check and check again that you have them all before you leave! Once the appointment is over, you’ll normally receive your visa within 3 weeks. You should not make travel plans for anything before 3 weeks, just in case your visa does not arrive within this time.
Visa Refused/Cancelled: What Next?
If your visa is refused, you will receive instructions on how to appeal the decision. While some appeals are successful, the vast majority are not, so you need to think long and hard about whether to spend your time fighting against the decision. If a visa is cancelled while you are in France, you should make every effort to speak to your own embassy for assistance. Visas are usually cancelled with good reason though, so make sure you behave properly and you won’t have to go through the process of appealing against a French visa cancellation!