Reader question: I plan to make a short visit to the UK from France. I am a US citizen living in France with a validated VLS-TS visitor visa. Are there any restrictions I need to be aware of? Do I just show French customs my visa upon arrival back in France?
If an American plans to stay in France for between three months and a year, then they will typically apply for a VLS-TS, a visa long séjour valant titre de séjour, a long stay visa serving as a residence permit, as you have done.
Those wanting to stay longer than a year can then apply to extend it with a residency card unless it is ‘temporary’, for a limited period only.
While this VLS-TS allows you to stay in France as long as the visa is valid for, with regard to travel elsewhere in the EU it is equivalent to a short-term Schengen visa, thus allowing the holder to move around and stay in the Schengen area outside of France for a maximum of 90 in a rolling period of 180 days with the VLS TS and your passport.
With the UK no longer being a part of the Schengen area, the 90/180-days rule no longer applies to it, so you need authorisation to enter UK territory.
However, as an American, you are considered a ‘visa waiver’ national and can visit the UK as a tourist for up to six months without needing a visa.
Note that this mostly only applies to visiting for personal and leisure reasons, as well as for example a short period of volunteering, short study courses or certain business-related activities such as attending an interview or conference.
As long as you will only be doing permitted activities of this kind you will not need a visa.
If you want to work in the UK, then you will need a visa even for a short visit.
When you return to France, you will not need to ask for another visa, your VLS-TS will still be valid.
If it is within the first three months of you arriving in France, then a VLS-TS remains valid unconditionally. However, if more than three months have elapsed, then the holder has to validate the visa, as you have done.
Read also: What is the EU’s Etias visa waiver scheme?
A person needs to validate their VLS-TS online
Validating a visa now takes place entirely online. Go to this page to do so.
The holder needs to enter their visa information, any additional information such as telephone number and family circumstances, the date of their arrival in France and their address in France.
They then need to pay a tax that varies depending on which country they are from.
If they do not have a bank card that is accepted for online payments in France (such as Visa and Mastercard) they can go to a tabac with a Point de vente agréé, an approved point of sale sign to buy a timbre fiscal électronique, which can be used to complete the payment online.
A person needs to validate their VLS-TS online to lawfully remain in France even if they do not plan to leave. If they leave after three months without validating their long stay visa, they will need to apply for another one to return to France.
On arrival back in France from a visit to the UK you will need to show your validated visa and your passport.
You can travel back and forth as much as you like during your long-stay visa period, with a few provisos.
As mentioned, the UK allows Americans to visit for up to six months at a time, however, in this case it wants reassurance that you are not trying to move to the country and make it your main home, so you should avoid spending too much time in the country in any one calendar year.
You can start the application process for a long stay visa on this page.