Regarding non-English speaking countries, France is the first country attracting students from all over the world. The majority of foreigners studying in France come from Morocco, China, Algeria, Tunisia and Italy. French education system is indeed known to be one of the best in the world.
Be aware of France entry requirements
In order to study in France, you must meet the requirements to enter the Schengen area. If you are an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen, you only need a valid ID card or passport to enter the country. If you are a non-European citizen, you must apply for a visa, depending on the duration of your stay in the country:
Less than 3 months
If you want to enroll in a short-term programme or language course in France, you need to apply for a Schengen short-stay student visa. This type of visa gives you the opportunity to study and to travel in all the countries of the Schengen area without needing a residence permit. It is free of charge and can be renewed, provided you wait 6 months before applying for a new visa.
Note that you might be exempted from the Schengen short-stay student visa depending on your citizenship, so contact your embassy to know whether you need to apply for it or not.
Less than 6 months
If your programme, training or language course lasts between three and six months, you need to apply for a temporary long-stay visa (VLST). Like the Schengen short-stay student visa, it allows you to study in France without the need of a residence permit. However, it is non-renewable.
More than 6 months
If you want to spend more than 6 six months in France to study, you must apply for a long-term student visa, also called VLS-TS student. This type of visa also acts as a residence permit from 4 months to 1 year and can be renewed to be valid for the entire duration of your studies, i.e. three years for a bachelor’s degree, two years for a master’s degree or four years for a PhD. It also allows you to work 20 hours per week in case you need extra money. Note that the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers scholarships to some foreign students, so you can get help to pay your studies in France.
France also has a special visa called ‘Etudiant concours’ that allows non-European students to take an entrance exam or an admission interview in a French higher education institution. If you pass the exam and are admitted in the establishment, you can apply for a student residence permit at the local prefecture without having to return to your country. If you fail the exam or the admission interview or if the results are not known within three months, you will have to return to your country.
How do I get a VLS-TS student?
You must contact the French consulate of your country as soon as you receive your admission or pre-inscription letter from the French establishment in which you want to study. If you are a citizen from one of the 41 countries following the Studies in France (EF) procedure, you must apply for a student visa online. Either way, you will receive a long-stay visa application form (Cerfa no. 14571*05) that you have to complete, sign, date and send by mail to the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) within three months of your arrival in France. Do not forget to attach a copy of your passport showing your identity details and the stamp with the date of your arrival in France. You will then receive a registration certificate and a summons to validate your VLS-TS with the OFII.
When meeting the OFII, you must provide the following documents:
- A photo ID
- Your passport and your visa
- A proof of residence in France
- A fee of 60€ in fiscal stamp
- A medical certificate in some cases.
Once your visa is validated, you will finally receive a visa sticker to put on your passport.
Note that some universities have an agreement with the OFII and can help you to get through all this process.
How do I renew my residence permit with a VLS-TS?
If you wish to continue your studies in France for more than a year, you must apply for a multi annual residence permit at the local prefecture two months before your VLS-TS expiration. This residence permit costs €79 in fiscal stamp and remains valid until the completion of your degree course.
What are the conditions to get a student residence permit?
To get a residence permit at the expiration of your VLS-TS student, you must meet certain requirements:
- You are enrolled in a French public or private higher education institution or vocational school
- You can provide proof of sufficient financial resources (at least €615 per month)
- You can prove that you are serious about your studies (e.g. regular attendance, test results, degrees obtained…)
- You can explain why you changed studies if applicable.
- You don’t need to apply for a VLS-TS student if:
- You are an EEA, Swiss or Algerian citizen
- You already have a residence permit due to your personal or familial situation (e.g. French resident card, ‘private and family life’ residence permit, …)
- You have a ‘Etudiant concours’ visa
- You have had a French schooling from the age of 16 and have enrolled in a French higher education institution.
What do I need to enter the country?
If you are a non-EU/EEA, Swiss or Algerian citizen, you might be asked to present the following documents at your arrival in France or in the Schengen area:
- A passport valid for at least three months after your planned date of departure
- Your visa
- A proof of accommodation
- A proof of sufficient financial means (at least €615 per month)
Learn French language
France attracts students from all over the world because of its high number of English programmes and courses. But as you will be living in the country for several months or even years, learning French can be very useful to make friends and facilitate your integration in the French society. You can easily learn basics online before your departure or enroll in an FFL (French as Foreign Language) training centre in France. If you have already been studying French for a few years, you can also take different tests and certificates to prove your level of language. These tests are sometimes even required to be admitted in a higher education establishment. There are 4 kinds of knowledge tests:
- The DELF (Diploma in French Language Studies): a certification that your French level is A1, A2, B1 or B2.
- The DALF (Diploma in Advance French Language): a certification that your French level is C1 or C2.
- The TEF (French language assessment): a test assessing your knowledge and skills in French on a scale of 0 to 7.
- The TCF DAP (Test of Knowledge of French for Preliminary Admission Application): the official test of the French Ministry of National Education that you have to pass to be admitted as a first year undergraduate or as an architecture school student in some institutions.
Make time for social activities
Course schedules are generally very flexible in France, leaving you a lot of time to study on your own, but also to take part in social activities. It is indeed highly important to socialise during your studies if you want to improve your French knowledge and discover the French culture, but also to get help for your studies and everyday life issues. So, do not hesitate to join one of your university’s sports clubs or to take part in social events like student parties and movie nights!
Take part in educational events
Universities and other higher education institutions regularly organise lectures, seminars and other educational events that might help you to better understand French culture and open your mind to new things. It will also show professors and other students that you are an active member of their community.
Take the time to pack up your suitcaseThe last days spent at home before your trip may be overwhelming and you may feel too nervous and excited to correctly pack up your suitcase. To avoid forgetting something important, it is a good idea to write a list of all the items you need and to start packing a week before your departure. Here is a checklist of what you should take in France:
If you go to France for a year and cannot go back to your country to switch clothing, you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather and for all seasons. Do not forget to also take two or three bath towels and a set of sheets.
You will find all the necessary cosmetics in France but it might be nice to have already some shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, toothpaste and cotton wool pads to spend less time shopping at the beginning of your stay.
Think about all the cables and electrical adapters you need to use your laptop, mobile phone, battery chargers, electric shaver and all your other electronic items. Do not forget to also take your camera if you want to capture memorable moments of your stay!
If you need a special medical treatment, take the pill or have allergy problems, you should consult your doctor a few weeks before your departure to request prescriptions. You can also pack up a first aid kit with paracetamol, bandages and medicines for travel sickness.
Ask your bank to exchange at least 300 dollars in euros to be able to pay for transportation, food and other necessities at your arrival in France and do not forget to get a credit card to easily make your payments.
Once in France, you will not use your big suitcase to travel around, so do not forget to take a backpack for short trips within the country!
Studying abroad is a life-changing experience, so be sure to be ready by following all these tips to make the most of your stay in France!