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. Did you know the country is also home to over 3,900 public and private higher education institutions? Or that the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 notes 41 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. Though this effort is temporarily halted as the country reduces international travel, students are still welcome to plan their study abroad here. Part of this is brushing up on your knowledge of the student visa process.
Do I qualify for a student visa in France?
You may apply for a French student visa provided:
- You are at least 18 years old
- You have chosen your training course or studies
- You have been accepted into a higher education establishment
- You have proof of accommodation in France.
French higher education agency Campus France says: “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 student visa here.
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.
How can I apply for my student visa?
According to Campus France, students residing in the countries listed will need to follow a “Study in France” procedure online. 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. Have these at hand for your visa application:
- Visa application form
- Two passport-size photos
- Valid passport and copies of your previous visas
- Official acceptance letter into an accredited programme at a French institution
- Proof you have sufficient funds to live in France (approximately 615 euros monthly)
- Proof of return ticket home (e.g. actual ticket or reservation showing departure date)
- Proof of medical insurance (costs between 311 and 714 euros yearly)
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof of proficiency in English or French (where necessary)
Where can I apply for my student visa?
You can kickstart the process:
- via Campus France, which requires you to register first
- at a French consulate in your country — simply schedule an appointment at least 90 days before you intend to leave for France.