Official and diplomatic passport holders from the United States must get a French Schengen Visa prior to arrival. You will not be able to enter France if you do not have a visa. Holders of a U.S. Permanent Resident Card or a U.S. visa (excluding B1/B2).
In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requires that American citizens obtain a "Residence Permit for Temporary Work" in order to work in France. The permit is free of charge but must be obtained in advance by mail or in person at an Embassy or Consulate of France. It must be displayed on your documents page of your passport when you enter France.
Also note that if you are a citizen of one of the visa-exempt countries (and even if you are not), then you do not need a visa to visit France for up to 90 days during each year. These visas are called "Visas for Short Stay" (VFS) and can be obtained at many French embassies and consulates around the world.
You should know that if you are arrested while in France without a valid document, you could be deported. So it's important to bring along with you: a photocopy of your passport data page, photo ID, and proof of employment if you are a non-EU citizen.
The best way to avoid problems is to prepare ahead of time.
You can enter France without a visa for up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes. An immigration official may also ask you to present proof of adequate finances for your anticipated stay as well as a return flight ticket. If necessary, you can obtain a visa before coming to France.
The best way to get one is on the Internet first. Go to the French embassy website (http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr) and click on "Visas". You will find list of all the visas available from France. Find the right category (e.g. Tourism) and check if it's still available. If yes, there will be an application form attached to this page. Print it out and fill it in completely - include your purpose of visit, date of arrival and departure, as well as evidence that you have enough money to come back home if needed.
If you don't want to use the Internet, you can apply for a visa at any French consulate abroad. But only a few are open to the public and they can be difficult to get into. It's best to book your appointment through a travel agent or on the Internet.
Without a visa, you can visit nations in the Schengen region, of which France is a member, for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. If you are visiting France or another Schengen country without a visa, make sure you stay within the 90-day restriction. Otherwise, you could be fined or detained.
If you are from one of these countries then you do require a visa: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea. Visas are also required of citizens of these countries who plan to enter through Ireland or Italy.
Visas are also required of citizens of these countries who plan to enter through Belgium or Germany.
Visas are not required for British or American citizens.
Citizens of these countries can apply for a visa online through the French Embassy or Consulate in their own country. You can find application forms on the French government's website: https://www.consulat-edf.fr/visa/applications-forms/?lang=en. The process takes about 10 days and there is no fee for this service.
In an emergency situation, you can contact the consulate directly by phone +33 (0)1 45 51 00 00.
France permits people of several nations to come without a tourist visa for three months. If you require a Schengen or long-stay visa to enter France, you must book an appointment with your local French consulate and produce the necessary documentation. The process is similar if you are granted asylum in France.
The French Ministry of the Interior can extend your residence permit if you can prove that there is a risk of persecution against you in your country of origin. You will need to apply for a prolongation before the expiration date of your current document. It may take some time before you hear back from the ministry. If it approves your application, you will receive a letter with the extension date on it. If the ministry does not approve your application or sends you a letter with another reason given, you will not be able to renew your document.
People who have been granted permanent residence status in France should refer to the French embassy or consulate website to check whether they still need a visa to travel to certain countries.
In case you forget to bring a valid document, you can usually get a temporary residence permit. But it will cost you 500 euros. This amount increases to 2000 euros if your country is listed as a high-risk area by the French government.