How to obtain a recognition visa to work on a French flag?

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How to obtain a recognition visa to work on a French flag?

Today, a professional training qualification as a recognition visa is obligatory to perform a function on a commercial or professional pleasure vessel under the French flag.

You have a foreign licence and you want to work under the French flag? It is necessary to have a certificate attesting to the acquisition of skills. It can be issued either by the French authorities or by foreign authorities, via a recognition visa.

Also, a recognition visa is only given if the country issuing the title complies with an international convention on standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seamen (STCW).





All the main foreign certifications, attesting to training in accordance with the STCW Convention, can be recognised by a visa. This will allow the holder of the visa to work as a captain on a boat.
In addition, a recognition visa is possible for certain certifications such as the General Operator’s Certificate (GOC).


The application for a recognition visa is made by the seaman or by the shipowner of the French-flagged vessel on which the seaman (holder of the qualification concerned) is embarked.

The application for a recognition visa is made using the CERFA document n°15333*03 (link below). A section of this document must be completed by the shipowner when the holder of the title(s) is a citizen of another State than a Member State of the European Union or party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area. When the holder is a national of a State other than a Member State of the European Union or a State party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area, the shipowner does not have to complete this part, as no promise of embarkation has to be provided.

To obtain a recognition visa, the certifications must be recognised by France, either STCW or issued by a country with which France has a bilateral agreement.

The request for a recognition visa should be addressed to the “Emplois – Formation Maritime” department of the Directions Interrégionales de la Mer (DIRM) of the maritime facade on which the vessel is operating. Here is the link to the DIRM directory.



  • The CERFA visa application document, duly completed and signed
  • A copy of the seaman’s certificates. They must be valid and stamped by the administration of the country of issue and must show the STCW reference of the certificate,
  • A copy of the seaman’s valid passport,
  • A certificate of the seaman’s physical aptitude, issued less than 2 years ago by a doctor authorised in the country of issue of the certificate or by a French seaman’s doctor,
  • An identity photo in accordance with the prescribed standards (decree of 7 May 1999 and standard NFZ 12 – 010 on biometric photos).


Some documents written in a language other than French and English may need to be translated at the request of the Direction Interrégional de la Mer (DIRM).


Applications for recognition visas are checked by the DIRM. It may request additional documents if necessary.
The DIRM also verifies the STWC reference and the authenticity of the certification with the foreign authority.

The time it takes to verify the application depends largely on the speed of response from the foreign administration. For countries that have not signed a recognition agreement with France, the time required to identify the title may be longer. The DIRM can therefore issue a provisional recognition certificate for a period of no more than three months.


To sum up, obtaining a recognition visa is compulsory in order to perform a function at the same level as its equivalence under French law according to the STCW Convention.

However, this recognition procedure is not automatic, even if the certification is fully compliant with STCW standards.

The recognition visa is limited to a maximum of five years from the date of application. Therefore, renewal of the recognition visa requires an explicit request from the holder.

Note: A recognition visa does not entitle the holder to the equivalent French brevet. It is the same for the related rights under French regulations. (e.g.: obligation to hold a French brevet for access to higher education).

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