How to study in France: getting your student visa
Choosing to study abroad or enroll in a foreign university is stressful for so many reasons. (Shout out to my future $30k of debt! 😎) Before my travels even begin, I'm stressed about my visa, as it's usually difficult to find up-to-date, clear, and reliable information about the application process.
As studying abroad is already so inaccessible (see: aforementioned debt), I want to at least make sure information is available to everyone. So, I've put together this comprehensive guide to getting your long-stay visa to study in France. Follow the three steps below and you'll be in France living la belle vie in no time.
Step One: Register with Campus France
If you plan to study in France for more than 90 days, you'll need to first register with Campus France before you can apply for a visa. Basically, it's just an extra check on all your academic documents. The application process isn't too complicated, just tedious.
You can start the process as soon as you receive your university acceptance, and you absolutely should! (They get busy in the summer, and it can take upwards of three weeks to receive approval.) You can't make a visa appointment until you complete this first step with Campus France.
Campus France provides some decent resources and information, such as these application guides, which you should read in their entirety before you start the process:
I have been accepted to a full-time undergraduate, graduate or PhD program
It's also possible to register with Campus France before you've been accepted by a university, and you can find some info about that here.
For application processing, the regular service takes three weeks and costs $190. You can expedite it for $340 (yikes).
Below are the three steps to apply to Campus France as a student already accepted to a university — in my case, a master's program.
1) Upload a bunch of files to Campus France
Get your scanner hot n’ ready. 🚨WARNING 🚨 though: you will need to have already obtained your passport before you can complete this first step. (It can take between four to six weeks to acquire a passport.)
It may also take some time to receive official transcripts from your university, so request these ASAP.
Here’s all the documents you’ll need to submit for this first step:
Official university acceptance letter
Resume (optional if you’re a study abroad or exchange student)
Photo of yourself
Official transcripts (college or high school, depending on your academic level)
If you’re funding your education abroad with grant or scholarship money, you may need to upload reward letters
Any supporting documents related to your French language level (proficiency exams, admission records, etc. — I didn’t upload any because it was reflected in my transcripts)
If you’ve stayed or studied in France before, you’ll need to upload some supporting files (study abroad transcripts, letter of enrollment, visa, plane ticket, etc.)
2) Fork over $190
Welcome to the financial drain of international education! 🎉 Make your payment here.
For the next step, you’ll need to send a copy of the payment receipt. After you pay, you’ll receive an email confirmation. The actual receipt is found when you log back into the Campus France portal. It’ll be linked as “quittance de paiement” in a notification at the top of the page.
3) Email your application to Campus France
Send these three things to applicationfileUSA@campusfrance.org:
Official university acceptance letter
Email subject line: “REGULAR SERVICE + LAST NAME + USXX-XXXXX”
After you do all this, it should take three weeks to process your application. The key word here is “should.” I didn’t receive mine within three weeks, so I emailed them, and they told me they were busy. #Cool. But then they sent me the acceptance email within a couple hours, so I feel like this was a pretty successful strategy.
I also just found out that you can download an official Campus France acceptance letter from the portal by clicking on the “finalize the procedure” tab. There will be a little PDF icon to the right, where you can click to see your letter. When I submitted the documents for my visa, I just gave them a copy of the email confirmation from Campus France (I guess that was OK?), but if you can give them this official letter instead, do it.
Step Two: Apply for your French visa online
When you receive the email from Campus France letting you know your application has been processed, they will also send you a link to make your visa appointment.
First, you'll complete an online application. I finished this in a couple hours. Here's a sample application, just to give you an idea of the questions. (They're in English when you answer them on the website.)
After you finish, make an appointment at the French consulate that serves your state!
Step Three: Prepare for your visa appointment
OK, so when you make the appointment, the consulate provides a list of forms and items you need to bring with you. 🚨 However, they fail to list several necessary documents. 🚨
I searched online for what documents others said they needed at their appointments, but I failed to find a list specific for student long-stay "visa de long séjour" (type D) applications at the Chicago consulate. Unfortunately, different consulates may require slightly different documents, so if you apply at any other consulate, search for other resources to make sure you're bringing the right stuff.
So, here is a complete list of what to bring to your French visa appointment in Chicago:
Visa application + one photocopy
Visa appointment confirmation form
ID (such as a driver’s license) + one photocopy
Passport + one photocopy
Two visa photos, one stapled to your application (you can get these at CVS or Walgreens)
Official university acceptance letter
Booking confirmation email for your flight(s)
Insurance information (usually this is included in the acceptance pack from your university)
About $100 in your bank account to pay the processing fee
Campus France acceptance letter
Proof of sufficient finances (you need to show that you have funds to support your stay in the amount of $820 per month you’ll be in France — i.e. your own bank statements from the past 3 months or your parents’ statements + a notarized letter. also include any loan/scholarship documents.)
Download my printable checklist!
Plan to spend a couple hours at the visa processing center. First, you'll meet with someone who will go over all your documents to make sure you have everything. Then, you'll wait around a bit before you pay the fee (for me, $93). After another wait, someone will take your fingerprints and ask you a couple questions you've already answered multiple times.
Then, after a long period of stress, everything is out of your hands (at least for a while).
I received my visa in 14 days. Once you receive an email stating that your application has been processed, your passport should arrive in the mail the next day. Unfortunately, you won't know whether or not your application has been approved until you actually receive your passport in the mail. 🙃 But if you follow all the steps above it should work out well for you!
Remember to save the forms sent with your visa, including the OFII form (now stamped). You'll need these when you get to France and apply for a temporary residence permit.
That's all you need to know! Comment below or contact me if you have any questions.
Bonne chance et bon voyage!
Me (and you) soon: