France is among the world’s top tourist destinations, with iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame de Paris and the Palace of Versailles charming holiday-makers worldwide.
But did you know the country is also home to over 3,500 public and private higher education institutions? And that the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019 notes 34 French institutions among the top universities on the globe?
The country has announced plans to simplify visa procedures, reform tuition fees and boost English courses across its universities to woo foreign students over the next 10 years, reports France 24.
As such, it’s easy to see the appeal of studying in France. But depending on your country of origin, you may need a student visa to study here.
Do I need a student visa to study in France?
Campus France, the French Agency for the promotion of higher education, shares the following information on its website:
If you are a national from a European Union (EU) country, the European Economic Area (EEA), Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you do not need a student visa to study or pursue an internship in France.
Typically, nationals from other countries will need a student visa to study in France.
Find out if you need a visa here.
Click here to find out more about studying in France.
What type of student visa will I need?
The type of visa you’ll need depends on how long you plan to study in the country. There are four types of student visas. The first two are short-stay student visas (less than three months):
- The “short-stay for studies” (court séjour pour études) visa
This visa is ideal if you’re taking a short course (e.g. language course) that lasts less than three months. Click here to check if you’re exempted from a short-stay visa.
- The “student in competition” (étudiant concours) visa
This visa is for non-EU students who need to come to France to sit for an exam or complete an admission interview at an institute of higher education within the country. You can submit your request by contacting the French consular authorities in your country of residence.
Campus France notes that the “student-in-competition” short-stay visa will only be granted if the results of the competition or admission interview are known within three months.
The two other types of visa are long-stay student visas (more than three months):
- The Temporary Long-Term Visa (VLS-T)
With the VLS-T, you can stay in France for one year to complete your higher education programme. You do not need to validate this visa upon arrival. It can’t be renewed and doesn’t grant the same rights as VLS-TS.
This visa allows you to travel freely in countries in the Schengen Area. You’ll also benefit from French social security (after registering at a higher education institution) during your stay and will enjoy part reimbursement for all health expenses while equipped with this visa.
Do note that the VLS-T does not allow you to work during your studies, nor to benefit from VISALE, the free rental deposit service for students; or receive housing subsidy with the CAF; and you will not be able to extend your stay beyond the validity of issued residence permits.
- The Long-Term Visa used as Residence Permit (VLS-TS)
With this visa, you can stay in France for one year without having to request a residency permit. Upon expiration, you must request a residency permit to remain in France.
However, Campus France notes that you will still need your visa to be approved on arrival. There are three types of long stay visas: the student VLS-TS for studies at the Bachelor’s and Master’s level; the Talent passport VLS-TS for a doctorate and beyond; and the internship VLS-TS to do an internship in France as part of the programme you are enrolled in in your country of residence.
VLS-TS gives you the right to travel freely in to Schengen countries; work 964 hours per year, or an equivalent to 20 hours per week; benefit from VISALE, the free rental deposit service for students; receive housing subsidy with the CAF; and extend your stay beyond the validity of issued residence permits.
Quick Tip: Find out more about working while studying in France here.
This article refers to the last option. Here’s what you need to know:
How can I apply for my visa?
If your country is not listed, you will need to gain acceptance into a French university of your choice before proceeding with your visa application at the French consulate in your country of residence.
You may want to contact them to check all necessary documents, both original and copies, prior to making an appointment with your consulate. According to QS, you may want to proceed in the following steps for your visa application:
- Obtain an official acceptance letter into an accredited programme at a French institution
- Proof you have sufficient funds to live in France
- Proof of return ticket home (e.g. actual ticket or reservation showing departure date)
- Proof of medical insurance
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof of proficiency in French (if your course is in French)