Even though we live in a world where the English language seems to be the default language for all major courses of study whether in science or art, it is always an advantage to also have a French background. By preference, a person that wants to be recognized at the international level will have to speak both French and English and this explains why some students from an English speaking country might want to take a course in France to add to their portfolio. In some cases there may be requirements to fulfill before getting entry to the country. Here is what you need to know before trying to travel to France with a student visa.
A student visa is not required for every person that wants to enter France. Those living in the European Union don’t have to present that document. This same law also applies to citizens of Switzerland, Andorra, Vatican, San Marino and Monaco.
If you live in a country that is not in the list mentioned above, you probably will have to apply for a student visa first. There may be different requirement to fulfill to get the visa depending on the country of origin. For this article we are going to assume that you are a US citizen.
For an American citizen who wants to take a course that will last less than 90 days, a visa will not be required. That said for a course lasting more than 90 days, the person will have to get a visa first.
There are 2 important steps to take when applying for a long stay visa. The first one is to register and get an attestation from Campus France. Campus France is a service of the French Embassy designed to assist citizens from the United States who want to study in France. It is only after registering and complying with Campus France requirements that you can now go ahead and apply for the visa itself.
Step by step process to apply for the visa
1. Getting the closest French consulate assigned to your permanent address
Keep in mind that the Campus France online application process is distinct from the visa application process even if the former eventually leads to the latter. It is only after you get your attestation document from Campus France that you can apply for a visa. So make sure to get that document as early as possible. First go to http://www.usa.campusfrance.org and look for the blue PASTEL button (on the right side of the page) and click to start the registration process.
Once the account is created with all the required personal information filled in, you will be assigned to a French consulate closest to the area where you live, so make sure the address entered is correct.
2. Making sure the PASTEL application gets validated
Registering on the Campus France website is just one step but you also need to make sure that you go through a process to make sure that you get a final attestation that you will use to apply for the visa. So once you are assigned a French consulate, check the website of that consulate and get information about other documents that you might have to provide. Compile these documents in advance.
In the process of registering you will also be given a Campus France inbox where you will receive important information like confirmation letters. It is important to maintain that mailbox because you cannot divert the information mail to it to your Gmail or Hotmail account.
Keep in mind that the registration process on the Campus France is completed only after you have given all the required information in the online application form and also mailed a physical file containing documents like your acceptance letter, the money order fee and any other relevant printed document. The processing fee for Campus France is $100 paid by money order
Once you receive your attestation documents you can proceed with the visa application.
3. Requesting for a student visa
Once you know the French consulate you have been assigned to, you should go ahead and schedule an appointment with them. You will have to check the consulate’s website to find the dates available for appointment and book one. This should be done within 90 days counting from the day of your departure to France.
Before getting the appointment, take the time to browse through the consulate’s website and find out all the documents that you will need to take along you. They may request more or less documents depending on the country you happen to find yourself in. The best will be to take along any document that in one way or the other can support your case.
Also, depending on the season it may be difficult to book an interview because of the number of students trying to get the visa. You just have to keep trying, that is the only way. But do your best to book the meeting at least 6 weeks before departure.
4. The interview
On the day of the interview, the French consulate expects you to come in person. When coming, you should have on you the visa processing fee in dollars. The fee itself is set in Euros so depending on the exchange rate, you may pay a slightly different amount but it should be in the range of 50 Euros.
Before meeting the consulate make sure to have with you the visa processing fee and any other relevant document and their photocopies. The photocopies are really important so make as many as you can take with you. If anything goes wrong and your visa application is postponed you will have to book a new interview and pay for the visa fee all over again.
Once the interview is over, there is a review period during which it is going to be decided whether or not the visa should be granted. Usually you will have to wait for about 5 to 7 days to get a response. Sometimes even longer and that is why you have to get your interview as early as possible.
During the meeting, you will be requested to leave your passport on which the visa is going to be stamped in case you are granted one. Then a package containing the passport is going to be sent back to you using a secure form that you will have to provide yourself. The consulate takes no responsibility in case of any loss.
5. On arrival
Some foreign students, once arrived in France, may have to fill a OFII form (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration). You will know in advance if you fall under this category by checking the consulate website. If that is your case, make sure to register at the local immigration office. That is the only way to validate your student visa. This has to be done within 3 months after your arrival.
Benefits of studying in France
Taking studies aside, people already want to visit France anyway, especially Paris. Of course everybody wants to see the Eiffel Tour. Paris is the one of the most popular cities that people want to see at least once in their lifetime. It is also a key business and cultural city to France. But aside that, there are other advantages of studying in France. Foreign students there enjoy the same rights as native French students. For example they have access to the same housing subsidies, public transport, University catering, social insurance and other discounts.
Aside from mastering the French language while interacting with people in the country the students will also get a degree that is recognized around the world at the end of his study. This is going to open even more doors for a brighter career.
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