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STUDYING IN FRANCE

France reopens visas to students and researchers from India after three-month suspension

Students and researchers from India can once again apply for visas to France after a three-month suspension of applications due to the pandemic.

France reopens visas to students and researchers from India after three-month suspension
Passengers from red-zone countries register for Covid tests upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle airport. Photo: Ian LANGSDON / POOL / AFP.

The Local has spoken to many Indian students and researchers stuck in limbo, with jobs or study courses lined up in France but unable to apply for a visa since the suspension began on April 27th.

However on Friday, France’s ambassador to India announce that applications were now open for student, researcher or ‘talent passport’ visas.

The French government has also loosened restrictions on arrivals from red list countries, including Indian, for fully-vaccinated people.

Fully vaccinated travellers no longer have to provide an ‘essential reason’ for travel, although they do still need a negative Covid test and to quarantine on arrival.

At the same time, it was announced that France would begin accepting the Covishield vaccine, the version of the AstraZenica jab which is manufactured in India and widely administered in India and Africa, for travel purposes.

“Some of us may have regrets”

Aviral*, from India, was one of many left in limbo by the suspension of visa applications.

He was due to begin a Phd research programme in Toulouse in May, but was unable to travel, and says the anxiety of not knowing what will happen has taken a toll on his mental health.

“We rejected other opportunities in order to study in France,” he said. “Some of us may have regrets about this choice.”

Those with funded research programmes risk losing out on income.

“Many of us have to support our families, and many of the post-docs even have children and spouses to support so it’s very difficult for us if we’re not being paid because we’re not accepted by the universities unless we go there physically,” said Priyanka, from Mumbai, who is expected in Paris in late August to begin studying for a PhD at Sorbonne university.

A health worker prepares to inject a student with a dose of the Covishield vaccine in Amritsar. Photo: NARINDER NANU / AFP.

“I really do feel that India is being treated unfairly compared to the other European countries,” John*, who is due to move to France from Chennai in August to begin a PhD in geology, told The Local.

“I understand we had a really bad second wave of Covid in April, and it made sense for them to impose a travel ban in India, but right now the situation is much better.”

In India, there are currently 24 confirmed daily cases of Covid per million inhabitants, compared to 117 in France, and 665 in the UK, according to figures from Our World in Data.

France’s traffic light classification system lists red zone countries as areas where the virus is actively circulating and variants are a concern. Since the delta variant first identified in India is now widespread in France, the researchers who shared their concerns with The Local said they thought India was still suffering from bad publicity dating back to the peak of the second wave earlier this year.

“If people from the UK can come, people from India should be able to come,” added Sam*, originally from Kolkata. Sam was able to travel to France in February, before the travel ban, but his wife had to give her notice period before joining him, and is now unable to enter the country.

Above all, those affected want France to acknowledge the importance of education and research. “We are all coming here to work, we aren’t coming to see the Eiffel Tower,” Sam said.

John added: “Research and education should be considered essential travel.”

“In a way, we’ve already lost out,” Savio, from New Delhi, told The Local.

Savio is due to begin his MBA at the INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau in September, but he has already had to miss an intensive language class this summer since he was not allowed to travel.

Pranav is supposed to be joining Savio in Fontainebleau, and he admits to feeling powerless.

“We have been working towards this for years,” he said. “There have been multiple hurdles we’ve already cleared, and to have something stopping us from clearing the last hurdle, and to see that you come from a certain country which is why you don’t qualify, is mind-numbing.”

READ ALSO France to require 24-hour test for UK and some EU countries over delta variant fears

Those studying at INSEAD have already handed over a €15,000 deposit towards their tuition fees, and they already have housing lined up for August, explained Mahika, a student from India. “We didn’t have the option of not taking up housing, because even to apply for the French visa we had to show housing arrangements for at least three months.”

* Names have been changed.

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DRIVING

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

France's Ministry of Transport has announced that toll-fees will increase in 2023. Here is what motorists in France can expect.

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

With French motorists already expecting increases in fuel prices starting in January, the cost of travel on many of France’s motorways will also increase in 2023.

Toll rates on the main routes across France are set to go up by an average of 4.75 percent starting on February 1st, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Transport on Friday.

These rates already rose by two percent in 2022. 

While the increase is still lower than the rate of inflation (six percent), motorists in France can still expect driving to become more expensive in 2023, as the government does away with its broad-scale fuel rebate (€0.10 off the litre) at the start of January.

As of early December, the French government was still discussing plans for how to replace the fuel rebate. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, told Les Echoes in November that the government was considering a targeted, means-tested “fuel allowance” for workers who depend on their vehicles to commute to and from work. 

How much will I be affected?

The degree to which drivers will experience increased costs depends largely on what kind of vehicle they use, in addition to how far you plan to drive on the toll-road. 

Vehicles are broadly classified as follows:

Class 1 (Light vehicles): these are cars and minivans. This class also includes vehicles pulling trailers with a combined height of no more than 2m and a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes.
Class 2: Large utility vehicles and camping cars
Class 3: Heavy goods vehicles, coaches, other 2-axle vehicles, motorhomes taller than 3m
Class 4: Vehicles taller than 3m with a GVW greater than 3.5 tonnes
Class 5: Motorbikes, sidecars, quad bikes, three-wheeled motor vehicles 

The next determining factor for how significant the price rise will be depends on which company is operating the road you use, and there are several different companies that operate toll-roads in France. 

Each year, toll (péage) prices in France are adjusted and re-evaluated for the following year on February 1st, following discussions between the government and the main companies that operate the French freeways. The fees are in part used for road maintenance costs. 

To estimate the cost of tolls for your next French road trip, you can use the calculator on this website

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