Do you need a French student visa?
Whether or not you require a student visa for France will depend on whether or not you are an EU national.
If you are an EU national, or national from the EEA, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you do not require a French student visa. Instead, all you will need in order to legally study in France is a valid passport or other valid travel ID.
If you are a national from anywhere else in the world, you will need to obtain a student visa for France in order to be able to undertake study.
What type of French student visa will you need?
There are several types of French student visa, and the one you require will differ depending on how long you are planning to study in France for.
- Schengen student visa (short-stay)
If your studies will last less than three months, and you are sure you will not be spending any longer in the country, then you should apply for the court séjour pour étude, otherwise known as the short-stay or Schengen student visa. The Schengen student visa is issued free of charge and cannot be renewed.
- Visa to sit entrance exams
If you need to travel to France in order to sit one or more university entrance exams, you can apply for the visa de court séjour étudiant concours, which simply means a visa for sitting entrance exams. If you sit your exam and pass, you are then eligible to apply for a renewable, one-year residence permit. For more information, contact the admissions department of the French institution you wish to study at.
- Temporary long-stay visa
The visa de long séjour temporaire pour études is a temporary student visa that allows you to study in France for a period of up to six months. With this student visa for France you do not need to apply separately for a residence permit.
- Long-stay visa
Known as the visa de long séjour pour études or the extended-stay VLT-TS, the long-stay visa is what you need if you wish to study in France for longer than six months. This visa acts as a residence permit and lasts for the duration of your study period (normally three years for a bachelor’s degree, two years for a master’s program and four years for a PhD). Algerian nationals do not require the VLS-TS, but are subject to different provisions. Contact your institution or the French consulate/embassy in your own country for more information.
Nationals from a number of countries will apply for their French student visa through Campus France, the country’s official national agency for higher education and international students. Those students would also have been required to use Campus France to apply to their chosen French institutions, via the CEF procedure. See this list of countries to find out if you need to apply for both your visa and your admission in this way.
If your country of origin is not listed in the link above, then you will be responsible for both your university application and your student visa application. Only once you have received acceptance onto a program at a French institution will you be eligible to apply for your student visa for France.
In order to apply for your visa, you will need to contact the French consulate in your home country and provide them with the following, when requested:
- An official acceptance letter onto an accredited program at a French institution. This should be on officially headed paper, featuring your full details, the details of your program of study and the start and end dates of study.
- Proof of sufficient funds for living in the country. The current amount required is €615 (US$820) per month, which can be shown with a bank statement, a guarantor’s letter or a notice of funding from a loan, scholarship or grant.
- Proof of return ticket home. Often this is in the form of the actual ticket or reservation showing the date of departure, but can be a handwritten statement of intent, including intended departure dates.
- Proof of medical insurance (minimum cover €30,000, US$40,150)
- Proof of accommodation. Can be shown in the form of student housing confirmation or a certificate of board and lodging or ‘attestation d’accueil’ (if you’re living with friends or relatives).
- Proof of proficiency in French, if you are studying a French-language course.
On arrival in France
When you arrive in France with an extended stay VLS-TS, you will need to send the official form which was presented to you along with your visa to the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII). This can be by registered mail, or in person if you reside in Paris. In the same letter, you should also provide a copy of your valid passport, including pages showing your identity and the stamp issued upon entry into France.
Once your form and copied passport pages have been received, you will be sent a receipt of confirmation with further instructions on your next steps if required. This may be an instruction to obtain a medical examination if you have not previously received one in your country of origin.
Often your institution of study will help you with this part of the process. In some cases, an agreement exists between the OFII and the school in question, meaning documents can be submitted to the school instead of the French authorities.
In all instances, you will be expected to pay a tax of €58 (US$78) to handle administration costs.
Working in France with a French student visa
With a valid residence permit (the VLS-TS functions as such), as an international student you are eligible to take on paid work for 964 hours annually (this equates to about 60% full-time employment). This number of hours is configured for work between the periods of 1 September to 31 August. Eligible work hours between September and June are (up to) 670, while July to August is (up to) 300 hours.