Last Updated: May 08, 2021
France Student Visa
Overseas education, in a modern era, is opening up new horizons for students. There are seemingly endless benefits one may consider while opting for studying abroad. Many countries are adopting courses that can help students get an internationally acclaimed job. France has one of the most well-respected education systems in the world. The country also provides good quality research opportunities and is student-friendly too!. France has more than 250,000 international students who have the option of studying in English. To fulfill this dream, getting a student visa in this country is important, so let's first understand the process of procuring a visa.
Choosing a Course
France offers a lot of lucrative courses allowing international students to choose from a wide range of options:
- Bachelor's Degree
- Bachelor's Degree with Honors
- Graduate Diploma Courses
- Master's Degree
- Post Graduate Studies
- PhD degrees
Types of Student Visas for International Students and their Validity
There are three types of student visas offered in France. Students need to apply for any one of these visas depending upon the course they are pursuing:
- Short-Stay Visa: This visa is issued for a short duration of 3 months. Although mostly issued to tourists and business professionals, it is also issued to international students looking to pursue a short-term course. Types of short-stay visas:
- Schengen visa This short-term visa is good for only 90 days and cannot be renewed under any circumstances. The students have the option to travel to any Schengen country during this time period. This visa is good for short-term courses since there is no validation or any other formalities required upon arrival in France.
- Circulation Schengen visa/Travel visa Most easily available French visa, it is valid from 1 to 5 years. This visa allows the visa holder to travel to any of the Schengen areas during the duration of the visa, with the condition being they cannot stay more than 90 days in any Schengen area during a 6 month period. This visa can be renewed and there is no need to apply for a residence permit.
- Short-stay Student Competition visa This short-term visa is issued to students coming to France to take a competitive exam or an admission test for higher education in France. This visa is valid for only 3 months, but the student can apply for the residence permit IF they get selected in the higher education institute.
- Temporary Long-Stay VLS-T Visa: This visa is issued to international students looking to stay in France for 4 to 12 months. The student does not have to apply for a residence permit for the duration. All the formalities are completed at the time the visa is issued. This visa CANNOT be extended for any reason and the student has to leave France upon expiration of the visa.
- Long-Stay Visa: This visa is issued to international students whose course exceeds 6 months. The visa is valid for up to 1 year depending upon the duration of the course. The student will have to apply for a residence permit before the expiration of the visa, in case they cannot finish their course within the visa duration. Types of long-stay visas:
- Long-stay VLS-TS visa Issued to students for a period of 4 months to 1 year. Students need to apply for a residence permit to stay for more than the 1 year period at the prefecture 3 months before the expiry of the visa. The residence permit will be good for the entire duration of the course.
- Long-stay VLS-TS Trainee visa This visa is issued to students coming to France to pursue professional internships. The visa is valid from 3 to 12 months depending upon the contract with the host institution. Students can apply for the temporary residence permit marked "trainee" if they have to stay beyond the expiry of the visa. This application has to be made at the prefecture at least 2 months before the expiration of the visa.
- Long-stay Talent Passport - Researcher VLS visa This visa is issued to students looking to pursue doctorate or research in France. This visa is good for up to 1 year and the student can apply for a residence permit to stay longer for up to 4 years.
The long-term visa acts as a Schengen visa
if the students travel to other Schengen areas outside France for up to 90 days. This gives them the flexibility to travel to other areas without any additional formalities.
If a student is under a European Union program, they will have Student - Mobility
marked in their visa. This is a program where the student has the mobility to study in two or more European Union Member States. In this case, the student can be issued either:
- a long-stay visa, which will also act as a residence permit (VLS-TS), in case the mobility is equal to or less than 12 months
- a long-stay visa with a residence permit if the mobility period will exceed 12 months.
Who Needs to Apply for the French Student Visa?
The nationals of the European Economic Area are exempt from a short-term visa and can enter France for short-term courses, not exceeding 3 months. For all the courses exceeding 3 months, the student has to apply for a long-term visa irrespective of their nationality. Additionally, the student needs to:
- be at least 18 years old
- have been accepted by higher education institute or have been invited by an institute to take an entrance/competitive exam conducted in France
Cost of French Visas
The cost of a French student visa depends upon the type of student visa being applied for and the country where it is applied from. There are a few fees required during the entire visa process. For applying from the USA, the following are the fee required:
- Campus France fee $190 for regular 3 week processing time, $340 for expedited 3 day processing time
- Consulate fee $30 paid online at the time of scheduling the visa appointment
- Visa processing fee $60 paid at the time of the interview
- Express mailing fee (optional) $35 if the student chooses to have the passport mailed to them. They have the option to pick up the passport themselves from the VFS center in which case this fee is waived.
Steps to Applying for a French Student Visa
Applying to a French university
The first step to getting a French student visa is deciding what studies the student wants to pursue in France. The international student needs to be accepted by a higher education institute or be invited by one for an entrance exam. A short-term visa is issued in the latter case, which can then be used to apply for a residence permit upon being granted admission by the French university. The student will not have to come back to their country for the process.
French language proficiency
French is a widely spoken language, not just in France, but in most of Europe. French language proficiency may be a requirement depending upon the course chosen by the student. If the student is required to have basic French knowledge, they can prove it by taking a French language test or a diploma. Some accepted options are:
- DELF - Diploma in French Language
- TEF - French Evaluation Test
- TCF - Test of French Knowledge
Financial resources to cover up the costs
The students have to show proof that they have enough funds to sustain themselves during their stay in France. They are required to show that they can pay for the tuition and accommodation costs for their entire stay in France and still have 615 euros per month in their account for additional expenses. This can be done by providing:
- personal bank statements showing the available funds or proof of continuous flowing funds
- Financial Guarantee Form filled and signed by the sponsor who would be taking up the financial responsibility like parents
- proof of scholarship
Proof of accommodation
The students need to submit proof of temporary address of stay or permanent address if they have found accommodation. The students are encouraged to have some French address where they can go upon arrival in France, however temporary it may be. They can then search for more permanent accommodation upon arriving in France. It is preferred to provide proof of the first 3 months of accommodation. If the student is unable to do so, they at least need to provide proof of accommodation for their first week of stay in France and how they plan on getting permanent accommodation. They can choose from the following three options:
- Hotels, private accommodation
- Hostels, college residence
- CROUS - available for eligible students
Applying at Campus France website
The French visa process is started at the Campus France website for long-term visas. This step is skipped for short-term visas, but it is a mandatory step for long-term visas. The student has to first submit all the documents at the Campus France DocBox and make the payment. Campus France is a French Government agency that will check for accuracy and eligibility of the student before they can initiate the visa process. Once their application is successfully processed, the student will get a confirmation email.
Schedule an interview appointment
The student then has to complete the visa application online at the VFS website and schedule an interview. The interview has to take place in person. The student is required to take all the documents listed below along with the proof of payment of the Campus France fee.
Pick-up or wait for the French visa
The visa application is then sent to the French Consulate for processing. The student can be asked to send in additional documents at this point. After the visa is approved/denied, the student can pick up their passport and other documents from the VFS office or request it to be mailed to them.
Documents required to apply for French student visa
The student needs to bring all the original documents along with a copy of each to their interview. All the originals, except the passport, will be returned to the student, after reviewing at the embassy and the copies will be kept for records. Following is the list of the documents needed at the time of the interview:
- A valid passport (or another acceptable travel document) with at least two blank pages, less than 10 years old, and valid for at least 3 months after the visa expiration
- One recent passport photograph (3.5cm by 4.5cm against a clear background)
- Proof of citizenship/legal residence status in the country of application
- Proof of payment of Campus France fee
- Proof of Enrollment letter from Host Institution
- Copies of all previous educational qualifications which are either in English or French language. If not, then attached transcriptions of the degrees in French
- Proof of funds
- Proof of accommodation in France
- Proof of French/English language proficiency, if applicable
Steps to be Taken to Extend the Stay in France
- Pay for campus and student life contribution The amount of 92 per year has to be paid by all international students coming to France for higher education. This can be done online by visiting cvec.etudiant.gouv.fr. The proof of receipt should be kept by the students since it is needed during the university registration process.
- Register in the host university The student needs to register in their university in person and inform them of their safe arrival. This can be done by visiting the international relations department of their host university.
- Open a French bank account The international students can open a bank account in France for ease of payment. This can be done in any bank in France.
- Validate the visa An international student on a long-term visa needs to validate their visa within 3 months of arriving in France. This online process can be completed by visiting https://administration-etrangers-en-france.interieur.gouv.fr.
- Apply for a residence permit The student should then apply for the residence permit if their visa is valid for more than 90 days. The process has to be completed at the local police station 2 months before the expiration of the long-term visa. The rules and documents to be shown can be found on the local website. The student may be asked to show the original documents.
- Register for social security This is a medical benefits plan, that all international students have to apply for after validating their visa. European students with European Health Insurance Card (CEAM) are exempt from French social security. Registration is free and can be done by visiting https://etudiant-etranger.ameli.fr/#/.
Working While Studying in France
Students who have a valid residence permit are allowed to work part-time in France. Students on short-stay visas or long-stay visas are not allowed to work in France unless they obtain their residence permit. With a residence permit, an international student is allowed to work part-time which is a maximum of 964 hours in a year. They are eligible to get at least a minimum wage of 9.76 euros per hour.
While some students choose to work outside their university for better pay, the majority of the students in their first year in France, choose to work in their university campus for ease of schedule management, and getting to know their environment better. Some jobs on the campus include library helper, event organizer/helper, assisting people with disabilities, and many more.
Appealing Visa Refusal
International students have the option to contest visa refusal if they are denied a French visa. The visa refusal can take place in one of two ways:
- Express refusal where the student gets a written notification from the consulate stating the denial.
- Implied refusal where the student does not get any response from the consulate till after 2 months of applying for the French visa.
The French consulate is required to justify their denial reason and the student can appeal without charge within 2 months of the refusal.
Some Things to Remember
- After arriving in France the student should register and validate their visa. If a student fails to validate their visa within three months of arrival, then they will not be considered as a legal resident and will not be allowed to re-enter France.
- Visa application cannot be started more than 3 months before the student is scheduled to arrive in France, in case of a long-term visa, and not more than 6 months in case of short-stay visa.
- Students can now apply for a long-stay visa completely online by uploading copies of the necessary documents. This initiative has been started by France to expedite the visa application process.
- Recently a new scheme has been implemented whereby meals are served to students at 1 euro by CROUS restaurants in the French territory.
- The visa processing time can be up to 3 weeks after the visa interview appointment.
- Along with enrollment fees some additional fees need to be paid for certain services.
- It is advisable to check with the embassy/consulate before submitting the application, about the Visa Fee, as exchange rates are different in different countries and are subject to change every year.
- The passport of the student should be valid for at least three months after the return date from France is planned by the student.