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'Thorough but not as tough as I had feared' - how to get a French student visa

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'Thorough but not as tough as I had feared' - how to get a French student visa
Photo: AFP
11:50 CEST+02:00
When she achieved her dream of a place at the American University of Paris, Juliane Rhea was prepared for a struggle in securing a student visa. Here's what she learned along the way.

When I applied to continue my studies in France, I wasn’t half as worried about being admitted into the university as I was concerned whether I’d be granted with a visa or not.

I am from Port Louis, Mauritius, and as I am of Franco-Mauritian origin, I always wanted to study and live in France, knowing that France is home to some of the world's best universities.

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French students are by and large an engaged bunch, passionate about defending the country's education system. Photo: AFP

After completing my bachelor's degree in Social Sciences & Humanities at the University of Mauritius, I applied to and was accepted by the American University in Paris to study for a master's in Global Communication.

Once I was admitted, I immediately started the French visa application process. Surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d heard.  

A lot of people tell me about the difficulties they encounter while applying, but after I talk to them, I notice this happens mostly because they are not informed on the procedures before they start applying.

Though the French government promised last year they would review and simplify visa procedures for students, it has yet not happened.

There’s still a lot of paperwork, an interview to attend and a fee to be paid, but that doesn’t make it as demanding as you’d think, if you just check the procedures beforehand.

First, check which type of student visa for France you need. If the period of your studies is up to three months, such as for a short study exchange or to sit an entrance exam in France, you should apply for a Schengen study visa. On the other hand, if you need to stay in France longer than that, you need a France long-stay student visa. 

If you apply for the wrong type of visa, that mistake will definitely lead to the rejection of your application. 

I did not need to sit for an entrance examination, so I submitted my university application online and waited for a response. Once I got my acceptance letter, I immediately started the visa procedures in my country. 

The application process

I started by completing the online French visa application form. That is how you get the list of the required documents. 

If you have ever held a France visa before, you should just log in to your old account and complete the form for your new visa application. If not, create an account, log in, and then activate it through a link you receive in your email. 

After you log in and answer all the questions in the online form, you will get the list of the documents you need. This includes your passport, photos, proof of accommodation for the first three months and insurance. You will also need proof that you have sufficient means to stay in France, usually through providing a guarantor who can provide you with €615 a month during your stay in France, if required.

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The interview  

You will then need to make an appointment for the visa interview in advance. Check where to apply with the French embassy in your country, as you may have to apply at the embassy, a French consulate, or the visa cente of an outsourcing service provider contracted by France in your country. 

I had to submit my documents at the French consulate in my home country, with whom I made a visa appointment through their website. 

On the day of the interview, I showed up quite a bit earlier than I was supposed to, though I don’t advise anyone to do the same. Ten minutes before your appointment will be enough.

I submitted the documents to a visa consular officer who also interviewed me. She asked me a few questions on why I wanted to study in France, and whether I looked forward to returning to my country after I finished my studies. Once I was done, I gave her the money for the fee, exactly €99, (fees range from €50 to €99 depending on where you are applying from) and she wrote a payment receipt, which she attached to the application file. 

Another thing you should keep in mind is that if you’ve never been in the Schengen territory before, you will also have your fingerprints scanned, and your digital image taken. 

After the interview with the consular officer is over, you can leave and wait for the processing of your application. Your passport will remain at the embassy in the meantime. 

All in all I found the process far less daunting then I had feared.

I have now completed my Master’s Degree in Global Communication and currently, I am living in France under a carte de séjour residence permit for foreign graduates at French Universities, planning to return to Mauritius soon.

I really enjoyed my time in France, the Parisian life, eating French foods and speaking French. I will for sure miss the country when I leave, my friends and the streets full of tourists, the beautiful quiet countryside that I spent a lot of weekends in, and in particular the French food.  

Planning on studying in France? We offer a half price discount to students for membership of The Local. Find out more here.

 
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