Obtaining Your French Student Visa
The French Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs modify the rules and procedures governing student visas from time to time. All visas including student visas are issued by consular services. CampusFrance is a gateway for applying to a consulate for a student visa that has been established by these two Ministries but it has no consular authority. What follows are a number of salient points and tips. This fact sheet should not be substituted for a careful reading of the Campus France instruction page, or that of the Regional French Consulate to which you are applying.
1. There is only one general type of student visa, for all study sojourns longer than three months: Long Stay visa for students applying through CampusFrance
2. Allow lots of time for your application. DO NOT be last-minute about this critically important formality.
3. All French consulates in the United States require you to apply for your student visa in person. You may use either your school address or your home address as the basis for consulate jurisdiction, whichever is more convenient. The CampusFrance website refers to this address as your "permanent address" but it is clear that you may choose either your school address or your parents’ address as your "permanent address". The French consular websites for the US (there are ten French consulates — consulat général – in the US) include an interactive map of the US showing consular jurisdiction. There are no exceptions to this, the only choice being the one at the beginning of the process when you enter an address, either your school address or your home address. Once this address has been filed, there will be no change in the consulate at which you must appear. Note that the whole process can take several weeks, so keep this in mind when choosing your address, especially if you are applying over winter break and plan to go home for the holidays.
4. For non-US, non-Schengen nationals, experience demonstrates that obtaining a student visa may be significantly easier and less time-consuming when students use their US (university) address, rather than returning to home countries and filing with the consulate there.
5. For some Asian nationalities, there may be a required French language test, particularly if the student is applying through the consulate in her or his home country (see 4., above). Students are strongly encouraged to find out about this well in advance of their appointment time, as they will be constrained by the language testing schedule.
6. Your first step is to go the CampusFrance website for the US. There is a CampusFrance for each of the several dozen countries which have entered into this sort of accord with France, so make sure you are on the US CampusFrance: www.usa.campusfrance.org/.
7. The CampusFrance procedure has been modified, as has its website functionality and its information page. The whole is clearer and better organized than before. BUT IT IS ESSENTIAL FOR STUDENTS TO READ ALL OF THE INSTRUCTIONS AND TO READ THEM CAREFULLY, LINE BY LINE. FAILURE TO DO SO MAY RESULT – AND IN THE PAST HAS RESULTED — IN ADDITIONAL TRIPS TO THE CONSULATE, DELAYED VISAS, CANCELLED FLIGHTS AND/OR LATE ARRIVAL FOR THE PROGRAM ABROAD.
8. It is important to note that several changes in procedures concerning Campus France and the regional consulates have been enacted recently. An overview of the current process:
- Students open an online file with CampusFrance using the online data system PASTEL toward which you will be directed from the CampusFrance site.
- Once the on-line file is completed, students will be directed to mail to CampusFrance their "physical file", containing letters of enrollment, housing, and the money order payment required by Campus France. The contents of this physical file are detailed in the CampusFrance instructions. IFE will provide you with the necessary program documents.
- CampusFrance will then send you a message to your PASTEL inbox and only to your PASTEL inbox bearing the subject line "Congratulations", informing you that you have been cleared to request an appointment from the Consular Services. As will be explained, you must go to the consular website for your consulate (as dictated by the address you use to open your original Pastel application); you will identify yourself and request a time slot (which may or may not be granted). But you will receive an appointment to present yourself to the consulate, as the final step toward your visa.
- You will in no case receive the visa at the time of this appointment. Normally the visa will be ready in a week’s time, and can either be picked up at the Consulate or received by mail (upon provision of a SASE). Attention: procedures vary by consulate!
9. Two important implications of this new procedure (outlined in no. 6, above):
YOU MUST CONSULT YOUR PASTEL ACCOUNT FOR MESSAGES; no communication from CampusFrance will be sent to any of your email addresses but rather only to your PASTEL inbox.
CampusFrance longer schedules appointments at the French Consulate. It is up to you to follow instructions for contacting the correct French Consulate, and THEN to follow very closely the instructions ON YOUR Consulate’s website.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON TIMING YOUR CONSULAR VISIT: Campus France instructs you to wait until you have been cleared by Campus France before you schedule an appointment. But there are cases where the student must go ahead and schedule an appointment on the website of their consulate in order to be on time for the beginning of the program abroad. IFE suggests students check regularly their consulate’s website where they can see/track the earliest date available for an appointment. When that date becomes late July (for Fall programs) or mid-December to early January (for Spring programs), students should proceed to schedule an appointment regardless of whether they have received notification from Campus France. Failure to do so may result in late arrival for the program start date. The scheduling issue cannot be resolved simply by filing and scheduling a long time in advance because the student visa is only valid for 90 days before entry into France.
NB: each consulate’s scheduling is independent. For example, the NYC consulate always has a longer lead time for appointments due to high volumes of student visa applications, and students applying to that consulate should be particularly vigilant on this point.
10. You and the Consulate:
- Each regional French Consulate in the US has a certain degree of autonomy regarding visa procedures so it is important that you consult the right one, the one that is dictated by the address you chose as your "permanent address" (see no. 2 above). Follow the instructions available on this site carefully, not relying on hearsay or past experience of others. Things have changed, and procedures are not identical from regional consulate to consulate.
- You are particularly interested in information and instructions for two principal actions: (a) scheduling an appointment with the Consulate to obtain your student visa; and (b) a list of all the documents you will need to produce at this appointment in order to obtain the visa. It is very important to go over this list carefully and in detail.
- In assembling documents for your appointment at the Consulate, bear in mind that when an original document is asked for, it must be an original. For example a print-out of an email message containing a message of acceptance is NOT an original of a letter of acceptance.
11. DO NOT apply for a visa for an internship. Keep in mind at all times and especially in any communication with consular services that you are a student going abroad for an academic program (for which in most cases you are receiving academic credit). The IFE acceptance letter explains this clearly for the sake of the consulate. The fact that the program includes an internship for cultural learning purposes has nothing to do with the category of visas for pre-professional internships, apprenticeships and the like.
12. When asked where and by whom you will be housed, you should respond with the name IFE, and the address of IFE: 5, rue Saint-Nicolas, 75012 PARIS.
13. Be sure to notify your study abroad office and IFE of any problems, slowdowns, or other snags encountered during the visa-obtaining process.
14. If you are spending two semesters in France, in different programs, there are several things to note:
- Now that there is only one type of student visa (for 3-12 months) the student visa may be extended (up to 12 months) without returning to the US.
- the OFII form, number 11 on the list of eleven required documents to be presented at the time of the interview, is obligatory for students remaining longer than six months AND for students who might seek to renew/extend their visa once in France.
- Nevertheless, you should submit both letters of acceptance, and take care to request the appropriate length of visa.
- IFE will inform students about the medical visit formalities if IFE is the Fall program. If IFE is the Spring program, the Fall program should take the lead on helping with this procedure.
15. Another word on timing:
Applicants may apply for a French visa up to 90 days before their proposed arrival in France. Since visas are issued for a certain length of time, there is no specific time by which they must enter France (provided, of course, they arrive before the visa expires). Students may enter France at anytime during the validity of their visa. Most Consulates issue visas valid from the first of the month of their program start date. Students should not, however, arrive in France before or stay beyond their visa’s validity.
16. ANNEX: The OFII form, number 11 of eleven required documents for the interview:
"11. The French immigration (OFII) form should be filled out by the following students:
• ALL students who will be staying in France for more than six months (180 days);
• Students who will be staying in France for a period of time between four and six months (for a total duration of 91-180 days) who whish to be allowed to work in France while studying;
• Students who will be staying in France for a period of time between four and six months (for a total duration of 91-180 days) who wish to be able to extend their visa once they are in France.
NB: IFE has some possibility of contact with Campus France and some consulates, BUT THERE IS NOTHING ANYONE CAN DO FOR YOU IF YOU BEGIN THE PROCESS LATE! DO NOT PROCRASTINATE!