US students ‘in limbo’ over delays to French visas

US students 'in limbo' over delays to French visas
US students hoping to start courses in France in September are still in limbo over visas. Photo: AFP
American students have told of their frustration at being unable to get visas processed, in spite of French government reassurances that they would be prioritised.

With people still largely banned from travelling from the USA to France, one exception to the travel ban is US students, who the French government says it wishes to welcome to start courses in September.

France is a major destination for American students and the country is keen to maintain and expand its international student programmes.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: “In view of the stakes involved in making universities attractive, international students will be allowed to come to France, regardless of their country of origin, and the arrangements for their reception will be facilitated.

“Their applications for visas and residence permits will be given priority.”

But in spite of his warm words, many American students have reported that they are unable to get visas.

Non-European students are required to get a student visa from the French consulate in their home country before they travel, so if the visa is not processed in time for term starting, they miss out.

Dozens of students have contacted The Local to say they been waiting for weeks for visas to be processed and are unable to get answers from the French consulate.

Many have had to rebook flights several times, as well as rebooking the Covid-19 tests that are now mandatory for all travellers from the USA and must be taken within 72 hours of travel.

READ ALSO Last-minute Covid tests and surgical masks – what to expect when flying from USA to France

Many students have had to rebook flights several times because of the visa delays. Photo: AFP

Faith Lewis, from California, is due to start an international business degree at Université Paris Dauphine.

She said: “I applied for my student visa at the VFS office in San Francisco on July 2nd. Of all the applicants I have spoken to, I was by far the first to submit my visa application, so it's been particularly worrisome that I have had no news.

“I have rebooked my flight three times and my Covid test twice. The cost for a one way flight from Sacramento to Paris was over $800 when I first booked (keeping in mind I can usually get a one way flight to Paris around $300 from the nearby SFO airport). It only gets more expensive every time.

“I have called and emailed the consulate in San Fransisco and Washington DC, VFS, and Campus France and no one has or is willing to give me any information. VFS and Campus France defer to the consulate. The consulate does not accept phone calls and sends out a standardised form response to any email.”

Leah Kim has a place at Campus Langues to study French starting in September.

She and many of her fellow languages students are also still waiting on visas. She said: “Clearly, there is a huge delay in this process for reasons we cannot understand.

“It's as if all our visa applications are just on hold at the consulates. We've had news of a couple rejections but zero approvals.

“Some of us have been waiting 6 to 7 weeks now with no end in sight and the fall 2020 school year is right around the corner. Due to this delay, many of us have already rebooked expensive flights and hard-to-get PCR Covid tests multiple times.”

READ ALSO LATEST: Who can travel from USA to France?

The Local has approached the French consulate in Washington DC for comment.


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