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 academics or research 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.
Let’s take a look at this process step by step:
Completing the Campus France online application Etudes en France process and the visa application process are the two distinct steps you need to take before departing for France.
- Create and complete your Campus France application
After you have created your Campus France account at Etudes en France, filled out your online application by using our guidelines : http://www.usa.campusfrance.org/en/page/students-already-accepted-a-program-or-institution-france.
Note: This should be your permanent address, whether it is your parents’ residence or your current school address. You will be automatically assigned to the French consulate closest to the permanent address that you enter into the online system.
Once your application has been processed by Campus France, 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.
Visa authorities have access to your online application Etudes en France and can therefore verify whether your online application is complete and has been validated by Campus France. If your online 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.
- 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).