How to Get a French Working Holiday Visa
As an Australian I have a lot of “White Passport Privilege” when it comes to travelling the world. Most of the places I have visited haven’t required me to get a visa. Or if I’ve had to get a visa I’ve been able to do so on arrival in a largely straightforward process.
With the exception of a few countries like Brazil, Russia (which I’m actually not going to anymore because of difficult visa requirements), Argentina and Turkey, very few countries on my upcoming trip to Europe, Central and South America require me to get a visa.
Most of the countries on my list offer between 30-90 days visa free on my Australian passport.
But the one sticking point in my big travel plans was the pesky Schengen rule.
The Schengen zone is the area encompassing 26 countries; Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Whilst as an Australia I don’t have to apply for a visa to the Schengen Zone, I am limited by the rule that says in any 180 day period I can stay no longer than 90 days.
Basically what this means is that anytime I enter the Schengen zone, border control officers need to be able to look at the 180 days before that day and not count more than 90 days in the zone on my passport.
Back before the European Union and the Schengen Zone, Australians never used to have any problems backpacking Europe long term, most countries gave us between 30-90 days each.
But alas the Eurozone strikes again and given that there is no border control between Schengen countries, there is instead a blanket 90 day rule over the whole zone.
Considering there are only a handful of countries on my list that don’t fall within the Schengen zone, the only way to extend my stay in Europe was to either stay illegally and risk being permanently excluded from the zone, or get an extended visa for one of the countries.
Hence began my endeavour to get a French Working Holiday Visa. I thought I’d write a guide to make it easier for you to work out how to get a french working holiday visa!
Note: The following advice is for Australian passports only but may be useful for countries like New Zealand and Canada that have similar arrangements. This information is current as of 5 November 2015.
What is a Working Holiday Visa?
Working Holiday Visas are visas that allow travellers to stay for usually up to a year in a country, and work in order to supplement their travel funds.
They are usually intended for young people and are limited by age (most set an age limit of 18-30).
Working Holiday Visas are reciprocal; we have similar deals allowing the young people of many countries to come into Australia under similar arrangements.
Currently Australia has reciprocal working holiday visa arrangements with 23 countries; Belgium, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong , Italy, Ireland, Japan, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Taiwan, Turkey and the UK.
I’m pretty sure we also have an agreement in the works with the US but I’m not sure on its status at the moment.
As you can see, there are a fair few options for countries in Europe. After a lot of research I landed on France, mostly because they are the only country that doesn’t require you to do something extra when you enter the country like apply for a residency permit.
The only requirement is to obtain the visa before you leave and then enter the country on it and get it stamped.
You will need to obtain a work permit in country if you plan on working, but, as I have no real intentions of seeking work that wasn’t an issue for me.
However the bureaucracy of countries like France is notorious and it lived up to its name when it came to the pretty stressful and complex process of getting a visa.
To make it easier I’ve prepared a step by step guide and checklist for getting this visa with little to no hassle.
So How Do I Get a French Working Holiday Visa?
In order to be eligible for the French Working Holiday Visa you need to be:
- 18-30 years old at the time of the application
- Be outside of France when you apply and the visa is granted
- Hold a valid Australian passport
- Must not have previous benefitted from this program
- Other additional document requirements which will be outlined below
Step One: Book an appointment at the Sydney Consulate online
Due to fingerprinting requirements you need to travel to the Sydney Consulate to lodge your application, regardless of which state you live in.
They can’t issue a Visa more than 90 days before your entry into France, thus don’t make your appointment too early.
That said, it will be a lot less stressful if you don’t leave it too late. As the appointment calendar releases appointments 60 days in advance my advice would be to start looking for an appointment 150 days before you leave. And book the first one that works that is no earlier than 90 days before you leave.
I intended to apply in September, but because I was in Korea in July when all the dates were released I almost missed out on getting an appointment (I’m told this is one of the busiest times of the year). After obsessively checking the appointment calendar I managed to snap up what must have been a cancelled appointment for the 18th of September; 66 days between my intended date of entry.
I lodged my application on the 18th of September and my passport didn’t arrive under the 22nd of October so definitely don’t leave it too late!
Step Two: Book Flights to Sydney
If you don’t live in Sydney you’ll most likely need to get on to booking flights for your appointment. Be sure to account for cancelled flights and delayed because if you are more than 10 minutes late for your appointment it will be cancelled and chances are you won’t be able to get another appointment for at least a month.
I used the Jetstar Price Beat Guarantee to book cheap flights, and made a weekend of it by going to see Matilda, walking across the bridge and eating lots of food!
Step Three: Book Flights to France
You need to have return flights booked to and from France. I already had my flight to Paris booked with my frequent flyer points.
However unlike other countries that only require a proof of funds, France required an actual return ticket. So I booked a fully refundable ticket with Qantas; they have a flex ticket which is super expensive but that didn’t matter considering I had every intention of cancelling it and getting all of my money back.
Step Four: Book Health Insurance
You need compulsory comprehensive one year health insurance. Basically this just means travel insurance with sufficient health coverage (unlimited will be best).
This was another stumbling block for me as the first 90 days of my travel are covered on my credit card at which point my free travel insurance with my university will kick in. Hence I didn’t want to pay for a year long policy that I didn’t need.
This was harder to find but after endless research I finally found a policy with Southern Cross Travel Insurance that would allow me to cancel for only a $35 fee so long as I cancelled before my trip started. I cancelled as soon as I got the visa.
If you are actually looking at buying travel insurance (because it is super essential), they are also pretty good value.
Step Five: Order a Police Check
You need to have a police name check that is less than 3 months old at the time of the appointment. I ordered the Federal one just to be safe. It costs $42. You fill in an online form and it didn’t take more than a week to arrive.
Step Six: Gather all your documents for your appointment
You’ll need the following documents and items to lodge at your appointment:
1 x Australian passport (with validity of at least 3 months from the intended expiry of your visa)
1 x Long Stay Visa Application form (filled out, dated and signed)
1 x passport sized photograph pasted on to the form
1 x Evidence of financial resources
- This requires proof of at least $5000 Australian dollars
- I got a statement prepared by ANZ for the last 3 months of my savings account. As it was an interim statement I needed to order this and left it too late. I intended up having to go to ANZ in Sydney straight after getting off the plane to get a statement.
- Make sure it has your full name on it (I also got mine stamped by the bank to be 100% safe). This means a simple print off of your online banking will not suffice
- They also say you can have last 3 months pay slips but I don’t think this would be as certain.
- Credit limits on credit cards are not sufficient.
1 x Evidence of compulsory/comprehensive one year health insurance starting from date of arrival in France
- Due to the way airline schedules work you won’t be able to book your flight exactly on the day your visa expires.
- But you do need to have a whole year’s worth of health insurance, regardless of your return ticket date.
- Hence mine had to show validity from 23rd of November 2015 – 23rd of November 2016.
- I printed the whole PDS out and photocopied it to my statement of insurance/receipt sent out by SCTI and highlighted the health insurance part
` 1 x Police Certificate + photocopies
- You’ll need both the original National Police Check (for them to sight) and a photocopy of it (which they will attach to your application).
1x return ticket
- Print off your e-ticked/itinerary for the return flights you have booked.
1 x processing fee
- 99 euros
- They can’t accept cash, they will take the payment in Australian dollars on your credit card
1 x return postage satchel
- If you don’t live in Sydney and don’t fancy another trip there, you’ll need to also have a postage satchel filled out so they can send your passport back to you.
- The postage satchel needs to be for registered post and they recommend Express Platinum Post so I just went with that (I didn’t want to give them any excuse to reject my application).
- Make sure you have it filled out with your address!
- Also keep the tracking number so you can track the package
1 x print out of appointment confirmation
- This has a unique barcode on it that will be scanned by security before you are admitted to the embassy.
- It will be emailed to you when you make your apppointment
NOTE: As you’ll be without your passport for what will most likely be at least a month it’s also a good idea to take a photo of it in case you need it for any other travel booking requirements.
Step Seven: Go to the appointment
Make sure you go to your appointment and you aren’t late. You can’t take anyone with you unless they have their own appointment.
1 appointment = 1 passport.
It’s pretty easy and shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes. You’ll be asked to show your passport to the security at the door before being let in.
I then had to wait for about 5 minutes before I got called up to what is essentially a bank teller sort of set up.
You’ll shove all your documents under the little slot, the person there will check them all (and if you are paranoid like me send all the extra copies back through the slot to you), take your photo and fingerprint you.
They’ll then ask for payment (I think mine was $157 AUD with exchange rate at the time) and give you a receipt for the application and payment.
Step Eight: Wait and Don’t Panic
The wait was probably the most stressful part of the whole process. During the more than four weeks it took for my visa to arrive in the mail I managed to convince myself that I had put the wrong date on my form, that they had lost my application and that it was going to arrive rejected.
I sent three emails off and none of them got a reply (you can’t call the visa part of the French embassy). But after four weeks of waiting my passport arrived in the mail. No letter attached or any peep from the embassy. Just a passport with my visa, properly dated and filled out in it.
Relief is an understatement.
Step Nine: Go to France!
I haven’t quite got to this step yet. I’ll update this post with any specific requirements upon entry!
UPDATE: I’ve since spent 11 months in Europe (and most of it in the Schengen Zone) with no issues. I wasn’t asked a single question by French authorities upon entry and I never got asked about my visa by any Schengen authority whenever I left or entered the zone. I also only entered from once. The rest of the time I entered or exited from other Schengen countries (Slovenia, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Germany to name a few) and had no issues. As soon as they saw the visa my passport was stamped.
I knew I had a million questions I needed answered so comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
WHEW! I would have just added a visit to the UK or Turkey to my itinerary.
Yay thank you so much!
Question: I’m aussie but live in NZ. Do you happen to know if they fast track the process? I can’t go home to NZ without a passport! haha
Thanks so much for all the info.
Unfortunately there is no way to fast track the process. You can’t pay extra for an express processing or anything similar like they offer for some visas.
Hi Britt. Great article, I think you’re making a lot of Aussies’ life easier! Do you happen to know the longest period allowed between getting the visa and actually flying to France? Wondering if I can leave 8 months after getting my visa… Although I know they don’t issue a visa more than 90 days before your entry into France, and you need a place ticket to get the visa, what happens if I then change my flight to later in the year? Thanks
You won’t be able to enter on the working holiday visa if it was issued more than 90 days before. So you absolutely can’t get it 8 months before. Everything is checked again when you enter France so even if you change your flight the visa won’t be valid if its older than 90 days
Be grateful for your privileges,not disdainful.
There’s good reasons why your countrymen have earned them.
I’m Australian living in London on a youth mobility visa. Is it possible to apply for a French WHV from outside Australia?
As far as I know the only place to apply is the embassy in Sydney. If you are looking for a visa that allows you to apply in country, than your best bet would be the German Working Holiday Visa that allows you to apply upon arriving there.
Hey Britt, i’m going for my consulate visit on the 30th december, and i had intended to go snowboarding for the first three weeks of my trip in chamonix, but to do this ive booked flights for me to land in geneva, but my return is out of paris, do you know if this is ok? or do i have to land in france somewhere by plane when i initially arrive.
Kind of stressing on this one, because i might have to change it an screw around my plans pretty quickly.
Kind regards, Lincoln.
thanks a lot for the article as well!
You need to land first in France in order to officially activate the visa. The consulate will need to see a flight into France. I ended up flying into Paris and then heading straight to Vienna the next day because of this requirement.
Hey -I am in the process of getting a French working holiday visa. Am I to understand that if you are legally allowed to live and work in a Schengen country, then the 90 within 180 rule doesn’t apply to you?
(If so, thats great!)
Hey! Technically it gives you a year in France and 90 days in the other countries but because there are no borders. So they can’t make you prove that you haven’t just been in France the whole time. And because of my visa I never ever got asked about overstaying.
Hey, in the middle of applying for this visa now.
So when you enter France on this visa do you need to do anything to activate it other than enter France? We are only entering France to activate the visa then we are continuing on our travels to come back and work at a later date.
Yes you only have to enter and get stamped and you are good to go!
Hey! Thanks for all the tip 🙂
Just wondering what you put for an address and the name, address, telephone number etc. of inviting employer / family member of you don’t have one?? Thanks
I just booked a fully refundable hostel and put down the details for that.
Hey Britt! Just wondering how long you booked this hostel for? Was two weeks enough (for example)?
Yes two weeks was enough!
When you had your appointment at the embassy, was it similar to an interview where you had to answer many questions? i have my appointment booked soon in Sydney.
Sorry I took so long to respond. They didn’t really ask me any questions- just took and checked all my paperwork and that was it.
Hey Britt, just wondering with the fully refundable return flights to France – did it matter how long the period between the departure and return was? Would the French consulate expect to see a 12 month period (is it even possible to book a plan ticket 12 months in advance?)? Did you purchase an ‘open’ ticket? or will a shorter period of say 4-6 months be okay? Thanks
Any return ticket will do!
This may sound like a silly question but on the list of required documents under ‘airline ticket’ it also states that you need a detailed itinerary. Do you know if this just the itinerary of the flight or of what you plan to do in France?
Just the flight ticket/details!
Hey with the police check was yours clean?
Yes mine was clean
Thanks heaps for your article it really helped me!
I have my appointment in Sydney booked for the 11th of January. I’m very unaware when it comes to passports and your article has helped me realise that they will need to keep my passport for the visa. My WHV should start on the 13th March if successful. I have actually planned a trip to France from the 30th of January before coming back to Australia on the 6th of March. If I haven’t received my passport back in time do you know of any other way to get into France without it, that is legal of course 🙂
Any help would be great,
I don’t currently know of anyway to do it in France. I’m pretty sure you can only apply at a consulate in Australia.
Hi Britt! Thanks for this article it is so helpful!
I was wondering, are there any limitations to how long you can actually work in France?
i.e. Can you work for the whole 12 months if you need to? And could you work full time while you are there?
Regrading getting work, do you need to apply for any additional permit or tax numbers / social service numbers etc so that employers can get you set up?
Hi! I’m currently applying for this and wondering the same thing – did you find any answers to your questions? I have a short term job lined up but the employers are very reluctant to deal with any extra work permits etc. Did you find you needed to do any additional government paperwork once you found work?
Hi! I never worked there. I just used the visa to get around the 90 day rule. So can’t help sorry.
Thanks for all the information! Very helpful! So it doesn’t matter when I enter the country? My visa starts on the 15th of February. Can I just enter anytime after that? Or is there anything I need to do upon my first entry into France?
I was wondering about the return ticket.. I am flying into London buying a camper van and then coming across on the ferry to France and mostly using the visa (same as you) simply to travel through Europe for more than 90 days.
As we will only be buying the van when we get there I have no idea what day we will need the ferry and I can’t find any refundable tickets online. Is a ferry crossing even a satisfactory form of return ticket?
My other option is to book a fully refundable flight from London to France – do you know of any companies that offer this through all your research? Thanks for all your help!! This article has cleared up so many things.
Also, to ‘activate’ the visa do you know if arriving by ferry and not through an airport is fine? I assume because its a border control it would have to be?
As long as you arrive from a country that isn’t in the Schengen zone. So if you arrived from the UK that would be fine.
They usually need to see your return ticket back to Australia. So it would be best to book a fully refundable ticket back to Australia and then cancel it when you got the visa. Qantas and Emirates both have fully refundable options, with Emirates being easier to cancel (no phone call required just fill in an online form).
In the required documents it says ”Medical certificate stating that the visa applicant’s health permits him or her to exercise a professional activity (if the bilateral agreement provides for this)”. I noticed you didn;t mention the health certificate so is not necessary for Australians going to France? Thank you
Hi Dave, I didn’t require it but it was more than two years ago so potentially the rules have changed. I’d email the French Embassy to double check. But I doubt you’d have to provide it for a working holiday visa.
Hi there im currently applying for a working holiday visa for the UK, im a New Zealand citizen and im wondering if you know if i can apply for a working holiday visa for France while in the UK or do i need to go back to NZ and come back through to France.
You’ll need to go back to NZ unfortunately. If you’re only looking to get around the Schengen zone rule you can apply for the German Working Holiday Visa in Germany… but as far as I know it’s the only one
Will the date of my return flight effect the duration of my working holiday visa? If for example I was to leave Australia in July and have a date of return for April the next year, would the french consulate still issue me a 12 month visa or would my visa length be based on the duration of my stay in France. I would like to have the option of being able to work until July and cancel my flight in April.
They’ll just give you 12 months regardless of when your flight is booked.
Very helpful article. Thanks. The required documentation for a French working holday visa includes, “a Medical certificate stating that the visa applicant’s health permits him or her to exercise a professional activity (if the bilateral agreement provides for this)”. Do you know what this means? Does everyone need to provide such a medival cetificate or is it only for those perfoming “a professional activity”. Do they provide any particular requirementst or a form for this?. Hope you can help. Cheers, Greg
I didn’t need to provide any medical certificate with my application.
Hi Britt. Me again. I don’t have a return ticket yet, but the application says I can provide an affadavit. Any advice on this? Should I use any particular wording? There is no advice on the Consulate website. Greg
Hi Greg. Haven’t heard of the affidavit requirement. I just booked a fully refundable return ticket and cancelled it for a full refund as soon as my visa was approved
Do you know if the Holiday working visa would work on someone over 30 years of age.? Cause some places say that France age limit on that visa is 18-30 and some say to 35. I wanted to check if you heard or knew of anyone over 30 and has been accepted?
Hi sorry I haven’t heard of anyone over 30 getting the Visa- you should contact the consulate directly with this question.
do you know if you have already had a schangen working visa before (netherlands) that you could get one from france?
Working holiday visas are outside of the Schengen arrangement and negotiated individually with the specific country. You could spend eight years in Europe on different working holidays for specific countries if you wanted to. Not a problem that you have had a Netherlands one before.
Hi Britt, if I am currently in the Netherlands with their working holiday visa and would like to stay longer in Europe by applying for the French one, I still have to fly back to Australia and do all the visa application procedures there and fly again to France, is that correct? Thanks!
Yes you can only apply at the embassy in Australia. You should consider applying for the German working holiday visa- that one you can apply for in country (ie just go to Germany and you can apply there).
I’m a 22 year old dual Australian / USA citizen. I have both a current USA Passport and a current Australian Passport. I am a USA resident. Can I still apply as Australian Citizen for French Working Holiday Visa by applying at the French Consulate in Sydney?
This may be a bit of an obscure question, if you don’t know the answer do you know where I might find out?
Is there a webpage clearly setting out the criteria for FWHV for Australians as there is for New Zealanders (https://nz.ambafrance.org/Working-holiday-Visa-2223 ) that French Visa NZ webpage is a model of clarity, the Australian pages I have been able to find not so much so). Thanks very much.
Hi Peter. You only need to provide an Australian passport (along with the other proof listed in this article) so I can’t see why being a dual citizen would be a problem. You don’t need to show them your birth certificate or anything. But for clarification you can email the consulate directly.
Hi! I’m hoping you are still answering questions!
1) With the bank account statements, I am earning money and will have over $5000 in the bank when I go to the appointment, but for 2 of the 3 months before my appointment I will only have somewhere between $4000 and $4800 in my savings. So long as I have that amount on the day, is it ok? Or do I need to show that I’ve had $5000 in my bank account for over 3 months?
2) So the only place of residence you had was two weeks at a hostel? What category did you put that under? Did you just say you were staying in hotels the whole time?!
A surprisingly confusing and stressful process when it takes 2 months to book an appointment!!
You only have to have the total amount in your account at the time you have your apppointment. They just want to know you have enough savings to support yourself if you don’t get a job straight away etc. To be honest I don’t think having accommodation is a requirement- I just put it there to be extra safe. I said I’d be staying at a hostel for two weeks while I found a place.
Do I have to arrive in France on the day I written in the application, or can I arrive a week later? Also, does anyone know if you can change the date of the application, after you have submitted it, but before the appointment?
As long as its after the date I think its ok!
I was just told this very day,that English speakers can find employment easily teaching it without any credentials.
Hi. A couple of questions
1. (Strange question) does the passport style photo have to be pasted onto the form with a comfputer ? Or you can just stick it on the form using glue or something?
2. Do you need copies of every document? Or just some of them?
I just used glue. I’m not sure if you need copies of everything but I bought them just in case.
Are you allowed to have a part time fixed term job sorted (chalet work in my case) before applying?
Not 100% sure on this but as long as you don’t tell them it would be fine.
That’s the spirit,no unneeded information given.
When I entered France no-one checked my Visa in my passport, they simply stamped my passport as usual. When you received your stamp, did you get one specifically for your visa or just a general entry stamp?
They just gave me a usual passport stamp! So don’t worry
Thank you so much for your article. Such a huge help!
I was wondering where you applied for your police check? Through the AFP or through another company? Online or in person, and did you need finger print scans? Did you take an official copy or a printed version of the online certificate to your visa interview?
I can’t seem to find the application page for the WHV. Would you please send the link my way?
Hi Britt, I have searched far and wide for a resource such as this! Thank you for posting your journey of applying for the French visa. I know you did it many years ago now, and you are not a visa application official. But I was wondering whether you could answer my question. The evidence of financial resources you have to provide to show you can support yourself in France, does this amount of money have to be current on the date of entry into France or just the date of your appointment?
For example, if I show I have $5000 in my bank account on the date of the interview, but by the time I enter France I only have $2k is this an issue?
Sorry for the late reply! I never got asked for anything on entering France.
Hi, and thanks so much for sharing your information.
There is a section on the application called the visapro number- do you know what this is and what should I put there? or do I leave it blank?
No idea sorry!
Thanks for the help! Just wondering if you need to already have a job lined up before you go over? Also, how did you find employment over there if I may ask?
Hi Jaden. You don’t need to have a job lined up. I didn’t use the visa for working- just to get around the 90 day rule. So can’t help or advise you about work.
I’m about to head to France on the working holiday visa. Do you know if we have an unlimited entry and exit of France to the other shengan zones?
Technically you get unlimited in France and 90 days in the rest. But there is no way to regulate that because of the lack of the borders.