Do you need a visa to study in France?
Whether or not you need a student visa to study in France depends on whether you are a citizen of an EU country.
You do not need a French student visa if you are a citizen of the EU, the EEA, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein. Instead, all you need to study in France legally is a valid passport or other travel ID.
If you are from anywhere else in the world, you will need a student visa to study in France.
What kind of visa do you need to study in France?
There are different types of student visas for France, and the one you need will depend on how long you plan to study there.
Schengen student visa (short-stay)
If your studies will last less than three months and you know you won’t be staying longer, you should apply for the court séjour pour étude, also known as the short-stay or Schengen student visa. The Schengen visa for students is free and can’t be renewed.
Visa to sit entrance exams
If you need to go to France to take one or more college entrance exams, you can apply for a visa de court séjour étudiant concours, which is just a fancy name for an exam visa. If you take your test and pass it, you can apply for a one-year residence permit that can be renewed. Contact the admissions office of the school in France where you want to study for more information.
Temporary long-stay visa
The visa de long séjour temporaire pour études is a temporary student visa that lets you study in France for up to six months. You don’t need to apply for a separate residence permit if you have this student visa for France.
If you want to study in France for more than six months, you need the long-stay visa, also called the visa de long séjour pour études or the extended-stay VLT-TS. This visa acts as a residence permit and lasts for the length of your study period, which is usually three years for a bachelor’s degree, two years for a master’s program, and four years for a PhD. Algerians don’t need the VLS-TS, but they do have to follow different rules. For more information, you can talk to your institution or the French consulate or embassy in your own country.
How to apply for a French student visa
Campus France is the official national agency for higher education and international students in France. It is where people from a number of countries can apply for a French student visa. Those students would have also had to use Campus France and the CEF process to apply to their chosen French schools. Check this list of countries to see if this is how you need to apply for both a visa and entry.
If your country of origin is not on the list in the link above, you will be responsible for both your application to the university and your application for a student visa. You won’t be able to apply for a student visa for France until you have been accepted into a program at a French school.
To apply for your visa, you will need to contact the French consulate in your home country and give them the following when asked:
- A formal letter of acceptance into an approved program at a French school. This should be on official letterhead and include your full name, information about your study program, and the start and end dates of your studies.
- Proof that you have enough money to live in the country. The current amount needed is €615 (US$820) per month, which can be shown with a bank statement, a letter from a guarantor, or a letter from a loan, scholarship, or grant saying that the money will be coming in.
- Proof of a ticket to go home. This is usually a ticket or reservation showing the date of departure, but it can also be a handwritten letter of intent with the dates of when the person wants to leave.
- Proof of health insurance with a minimum of €30,000 (US$40,150) in coverage.
- Proof of living there. Can be shown in the form of a student housing confirmation, a certificate of board and lodging, or a “attestation d’accueil” (if you’re living with friends or family).
- If you are taking a French language course, you will need to show proof that you can speak French.
When they got to France
When you get to France with a VLS-TS for a longer stay, you need to send the official form that came with your visa to the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII). You can do this by sending a registered letter or doing it in person if you live in Paris. In the same letter, you should also send a copy of your valid passport. This copy should include the pages that show who you are and the stamp that says you entered France.
Once your form and copies of your passport pages have been received, you will get a receipt and, if needed, more information about what to do next. This could be a request for you to get a medical exam if you have never had one in your home country.
Most of the time, the place you go to school will help you with this step. In some cases, the OFII and the school in question have made a deal so that documents can be sent to the school instead of the French government.
In every case, you will have to pay a tax of €58 (US$78) to cover the costs of running the government.
With a French student visa, you can work in France.
As an international student, you can work for pay for 964 hours a year if you have a valid residence permit, which is what the VLS-TS is. This is about 60% of a full-time job. This number of hours is set up for work from September 1 through August 31. Between September and June, you can work (up to) 670 hours. From July to August, you can work (up to) 300 hours.