Find out which French student visa or permit you need to study in France, or take a short course or French language class.
If you want to study in France, you may be required to get a French visa or permit depending on your nationality and situation. Different application procedures apply depending on what you will be studying in France, and how long you will need to live in France in order to complete your studies. This can be applicable to students studying a degree, taking a short course, or enrolling to study French in France.
This guide to French student visas and permits includes:
- Students from EU/EEA or Switzerland
- Non-EU/EEA/Swiss students
- How to apply for a French student visa
- Working while you’re a student
- After graduation
If you are coming to study in France from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, after you’ve secured a place on a course at a French university, all you need is a valid passport or travel ID document. You can ask your university or school for any other details.
Note: 2016’s Brexit will likely not affect British students studying in France in the 2017/2018 academic year, but for the 2018/2019 academic year it’s possible that higher tuition rates and fees may apply. It’s also possible that new visa requirements may be put into place; however, it is currently still unknown.
Almost everyone else will need to apply for a French student visa or a French visa/residence permit.
Types of French student visas
There are different types of student visas in France:
- Visa de court séjour pour etudes (‘Schengen’ short-stay student visa)
You can come to France and study for up to three months on this visa without the need for a separate residence visa. This is suitable for those enrolling in a language course or other short-term programme. It is issued free of charge and cannot be renewed. These countries may not need a visa for a stay of less than three months.
- Etudient concours (visa for sitting entrance exams)
On this visa, you can come to France to take an entrance exam at an institute of higher education. If you pass, then you can apply directly to your local prefecture (French local authority/administrative office) in France for a one-year, renewable, residence permit. Find a map of French prefectures here.
- Visa de long séjour temporaire pour etudes (temporary long-stay visa)
This visa allows you to study in France for between three and six months without the need for a residence permit. It is non-renewable.
- Visa de long séjour etudes (long-stay visa)
If you want to study for longer than six months, then you need to apply for the long term student visa in France. As from 2013, this type of study visa (which is also your residence permit) now lasts for the duration of your course in France: three years for bachelors, two years for a Master’s and four years for a PhD. Long-stay visas act as residence permits and are called VLT-TS.
The extended stay VLS-TS’ visa is for all international students (except those from Algeria who don’t need one) who wish to enrol in a course at a French institute of higher education. You have to provide information on your academic background, French language proficiency and adequate financial resources (approximately EUR 615 per month).
On your arrival in France, you must contact the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII), send them the official form issued by your consulate, possibly have a medical examination and pay a fee of EUR 58 in the form of a tax stamp (available from tabacs (tobaconists), tax offices and online here). Some universities have an agreement with the OFII, whereby you do this through them rather than the OFII (check with your own school or university).
- Extended stay research scholar visa
If you have a Master’s degree or higher and want to come to France to take part in research or teach at university level, then the institution can bring you over on an extended stay research scholar visa VLS-TS. You need a hosting agreement from the institution, describing the work you will be doing and its duration, which needs to be stamped by the local prefecture. You then send this to the consulate in your home country along with your visa application.
Like the normal extended visa, you must report to the OFII on your arrival in France (as above). Two months before the visa expires, you must apply for a residence permit which lasts between one and four years. With this visa, family members (spouse and minor children) are automatically entitled for a residency permit marked vie privée et familiale.
Some countries require you to register first with CampusFrance, the French national agency for higher education and international students, in order to apply for admission and get a student visa through the CEF procedure. You can check CampusFrance to find out if you need to do this. Otherwise, you should apply for a course via the university website, and get your visa at the French embassy/consulate in your home country. See here for a full list of French consulates and embassies able to issue visas.
Whether you are taking part in an exchange programme, enrolling at a French educational institution as an independent student, or as part of a programme organised by an institution in your home country, you will need to provide the consulate with the following France study visa requirements:
- an official enrolment or acceptance letter on the headed paper of the institution, stating your full details, details of the French institution and specifying the start and end dates of the academic programme.
- proof that you have sufficient funds (currently EUR 615 per month), for example, bank statement, guarantor’s letter, or notice of a grant or funding from an official source.
- an airline ticket/reservation showing date of departure or handwritten statement from yourself with an intended departure date.
- Proof that you have medical insurance with a minimum cover of EUR 30,000.
- proof that you have accommodation. If you’re staying on campus or student housing, then you’ll need an official letter from the university or college confirming the details. If you’re staying with family or friends then they’ll need to get a certificate of board and lodging (attestation d’accueil) from their town hall.
As an international student with a study visa in France, you can take on paid work – 964 hours in a single year (about 60 percent of full time employment for a year) – while you are on the course, as long as you have a valid residency permit. You can also work in the university or other educational institutions, with contracts of up to a year running between September 1 to August 31 (up to 670 hours September–June and up to 300 hours July–August), as long as it doesn’t affect your studies.
If you hold at least a Master’s degree, a degree categorised as level 1 by the CGE (Conference of Grandes ecoles) (equivalient to a 5-years studies course) or a professional license, you can apply for a further one year, non-renewable temporary residence permit, which allows you to work in any job up to 60 percent of a normal working week to support yourself while searching for a full-time job.
If you find work offering a salary of at least 1.5 times the minimum wage, then you can contact your local préfecture to change your status from student to employee and work full-time.
It may be possible for other students to work in a few, limited fields (contact CampusFrance for an up-to-date list of occupations) but you’ll need a contract from the employer before you begin working. It’s also possible to pursue an “auto-entrepreneur” (freelance) visa duing this year if you want to stay in France to start your own company (work must be related to studies, and business viability must be proven).
After graduation, other students may also now stay in France for one year post study work visa to look for work in an area related to your course. Once you have found a job, you have to apply for a work permit and attach a letter from the prospective employer confirming the position, and then apply for a resident permit.
Due to a recent update in French work visa options, recent graduates may now also qualify for the “Talent Passport” visa, a four-year residence permit for specialised graduates, company creators, artists and more. For more information on the passport visa, see Expatica’s guide to French work visas and permits.
In order to attract Indian graduates to stay in France, it is now possible for Indian students to obtain visas lasting up to five years if they have graduated from a Master’s or PhD course from a French higher education institution.
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