Applying for a Student Visa – Step by Step
If you are a U.S. citizen or legal resident over the age of 18 and planning to pursue an academic project at a French higher education institution for a period longer than three months, you must first complete the Campus France application process and then apply for a student visa.
If you are not yet 18 at the time you leave for France and you will be studying at a college level, you need to complete the Campus France application process, but you will need to apply for a student visa for minors. Please check your local consulate’s official website for details.
Please note: Your visa appointment at a French consulate must take place no more than 90 days before your departure to France.
The basic sequence of events for getting a visa for study in France is:
Let’s take a look at this process step by step:
Campus France assigns you to the French consulate closest to your permanent address.
Completing the Campus France online application process and the visa application process are the two distinct steps you need to take before departing for France. You should be sure to complete your Campus France application (through the online PASTEL system) as early as possible so that you have enough time to apply for and receive a visa.
After you have created your Campus France account in PASTEL and have filled out the personal information section, you will be automatically assigned to the French consulate closest to the mailing address that you entered into the PASTEL system. Note: This should be your permanent address, whether it is your parents’ residence or your current school address.
The screenshot below shows you the section where you can find out which consulate you have been assigned to when you are logged into your Campus France PASTEL account, under "Informations Personnelles".
Complete the Campus France application procedures before starting the visa application procedures.
The Campus France procedure and the French consulates' visa procedure are two distinct steps, and you have to make sure to complete the Campus France application (in the PASTEL system) before you start your visa application. We encourage you to check the website of the French consulate to which you are assigned in order to find out which documents you will need to present when you apply for the visa. Please compile these documents in advance so that you are ready when you go to your appointment at your assigned consulate.
Reminder: Your Campus France application is not complete until you have (a) completed your online Campus France form in PASTEL and (b) mailed Campus France your physical file and the Campus France fee in the form of a money order. You must also include a photo copy of your money order.
Once Campus France has reviewed your online and physical application documents and found them to be complete, you will receive a confirmation email – which starts with “Your Campus France file has been processed” – in your Campus France inbox in the PASTEL system. You will NOT receive this message in your personal email such as Gmail, Hotmail, etc. Print out the (a) confirmation email, as well as (b) the proof of payment that you should have received earlier in the process (a PDF attached to the email entitled “Une Quittance est disponible”), as these are among the several documents required by the French consulate.
Visa authorities have access to your PASTEL online application and can therefore verify whether your PASTEL application is complete and has been validated by Campus France. If your PASTEL application has not been validated – i.e., it has not been approved by a Campus France representative – the visa services will not be able to start processing your visa application. Please make sure to finish your CampusFrance / PASTEL application as early as possible. You will need the clearance from Campus France that your PASTEL application has been approved in order to start applying for a visa.
Request a student visa at your assigned French consulate.
You must schedule an in-person appointment at your assigned consulate via its official website. The consulate website features an online calendar that shows available timeslots. Appointments for visa applications are available in the morning only. Your visa appointment must take place no more than 90 days before your departure to France.
Your assigned consulate’s website also provides the most up-to-date and comprehensive information about student visas as well as a list of documents that you are required to bring to your visa appointment. Upon the examination of your file, and at the discretion of the consular officer assigned to you, you may be required to provide documents in addition to those listed on the website.
Please note: During periods of peak activity in the consulates, especially in the summer, available slots fill up very quickly, and sometimes it may be up to four weeks until the next appointment is available. Campus France cannot get an appointment for you. If you have trouble getting an appointment, we suggest that you frequently check the consulate’s online schedule in case a slot opens up due to a cancellation.
You must present yourself in person at your appointment at the French consulate. You cannot ask a friend or a relative to go to your visa appointment on your behalf.
Timing: Your appointment at the consulate should take place at least two weeks before your planned date of departure for France. To be on the safe side, we strongly encourage you to visit your consulate’s website to book your appointment at least six to eight weeks before your planned departure date.
Always err on the side of caution. The earlier you start preparing for your departure to France, the better. Neither Campus France nor the visa authorities at the French consulate can make special arrangements to accommodate your planned date of departure to France or the beginning date of your academic program. You cannot go to France and begin studying before your visa is granted.
Go to the consulate for a visa interview.
Applicants are required to appear in person at the consulate for a visa interview. You will have to pay a visa processing fee in dollars, which varies slightly depending on the current euro/dollar exchange rate. For details, please check the official website of your assigned consulate.
To make sure that your visa interview goes as smoothly as possible, verify beforehand that you bring with you:
- (a) the visa processing fee, in the correct amount and in the correct form of payment,
- (b) all the required official documents and (c) the appropriate photocopies.
The visa section of the consulate does not make any copies. If you forget to bring any of the required documents to your appointment at the consulate, your visa application will be postponed, and you will have to set up a new appointment and pay the full visa fee again.
If you plan to complete two consecutive programs (such as a program in French as a foreign language, followed by an academic program), obtain admission to both programs before applying for your visa. That will ensure that your visa will be valid for the full length of your period of study.
Please remember: Your visa appointment at the French consulate takes place on French diplomatic premises. We therefore strongly encourage you to dress in appropriate attire and to adhere to each consulate’s specific policies (i.e. no eating or drinking within the consulate, no use of cell phones, etc.) Be respectful of the administration, and if you have questions regarding your consulate’s specific set of regulations, please refer to their official website.
Visas are never granted on the spot. It takes at least five to seven business days for a visa to be granted – or longer, depending on the situation.
Once the visa has been approved, your passport will be stamped with a visa stamp and be returned to you using a secure form of delivery that you provide during your appointment. The consulate assumes no responsibility in case of loss. This rule does not apply at the consulate in New York, where you or a designated representative must go in person to pick up your visa and passport.
If relevant, register with the local immigration office once you’re in France.
You have arrived in France – bienvenue!
Please check your local consulate’s website to see whether you fall into the category of students who need to fill out the OFII form. If so, please make sure to register with the local immigration office (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) to validate your student visa within a few days after your arrival.
You will need to submit to the OFII the immigration form that was provided to you at the consulate as well as your passport containing your visa stamp (the instructions are provided on the document). The OFII form has to be processed within the first three months of your arrival in France. If you intend to travel outside the Schengen area after three months have passed since your arrival in France, you must first get official approval from the OFII (in the form of an additional stamp affixed to your passport). Otherwise you may not re-enter France or the Schengen area after travelling beyond the Schengen borders (for example, this could happen if you spend a weekend in London, as the UK is part of the EU, but not part of Schengen).