With world class universities, cities buzzing with culture and a different flavour to every region, there are plenty of reasons to study in France. Whether you want to pursue a university degree, do academic research, or learn French in an intensive immersion course, there will be something for you.
However, if you’re not from within the EU, you’ll most likely need a student visa before you can head off to take up your place at a French university. Here’s how to go about getting your paperwork all sorted out, so you can start your new chapter.
Immigration law is notoriously complex, and there are many different visa types - or visa tiers as they are commonly known - for any country. If you’re planning on going to France and need a visa, you’ll have to find the one which meets your needs from the following broad categories:
- Tourist visa - Schengen Visa for mainland France, or alternative short term visa for other French territories. You can also get a transit visa if you’re just passing through
- Long stay visa for visits of over 90 days
- Professional visas as a self employed person or worker
- Student visas, for university or school studies
- Au pair visas - for people looking to learn French while working as a family assistant
- Family visas to permanently join a family member who is already living in France, or to adopt a child from overseas
This guide will cover only the visas on offer for people going to France to study.
Your eligibility for a student visa depends on fulfilling a range of criteria. Although your nationality might change the process of the application, it is not the deciding factor. More importantly, you must prove you’ve been accepted onto a study course at an approved institution, and be able to pay your way while in France. More on the full range of eligibility requirements in a moment.
If you’re from the European Union you don’t need a study visa for France.
To have your visa application processed, you must prove your eligibility by submitting a set of supporting documents, and pay a fee. You’ll have to have been accepted already onto an approved study course, as well as having the funds to support yourself while in France.
There’s a helpful Visa Wizard tool on the French government website which confirms the documents you need to provide to support your application, based on the visa type you need, and your personal circumstances.
If you hold an Australian passport and are applying for a long term visa for university study, you are likely to be asked to provide the following documents:
- Completed application forms and photo
- Valid travel document, which lasts at least 3 months longer than your planned stay in France
- Proof of legal residence if you’re not currently in your home country
- Certificate to prove you have been accepted onto an approved study course
- A nominated address for your first 3 months in france - this can be your university if you have not yet found somewhere to live
- Proof that you can pay your tuition and living costs. Living costs are set at by the government at least €615 a month for your entire stay
To apply for a student visa, you will need to collect your paperwork and application forms, and submit it all to an application centre in your home country. Depending on where you are in the world, you might be able to start the process of applying, online - but you will still have to print all of the documents off, and then submit them to a visa centre.
Start off using the online Visa Wizard on the French government website, and you’ll be guided through a series of questions which check the visa you need, detail the visa conditions, and confirm the documents required. You can then hit ‘submit an application’ to get going, and check the process needed for your visa type.
In Australia you can apply for a long stay visa at the Consulate General of France in Sydney. If you’re applying for a short stay visa, you have a few other choices of locations where your application could be processed, including Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide.
You’ll need to submit your application up to 3 months before travel, and might have to attend an appointment to discuss your visa. In Sydney, you can book an appointment up to 2 months in advance, and you’re advised to check the appointment system regularly to find an appropriate slot.
Under a normal student visa, you can work part time in France during your studies. Usually you’re limited to working a maximum of 60% of the normal working hours of a French employee.
If you’re from a country eligible for the CEF procedure, you will pay €50 for your student visa application - otherwise the fee is €99.
Citizens of around 30 countries are eligible for the CEF procedure, which allows you to apply online for your university place, and offers additional help in completing the admission process. There is a full list of eligible countries, on the French government website, which has a dedicated visa section.
If you’re headed out to France for a period of study, you’ll need to pay for your student visa, tuition fees, and the cost of daily life. Although visas typically require you to show that you will have at least €615 a month for the duration of your stay, depending on where in France you are, the actual cost of living could be much higher.
Most students will need to draw from their savings, or rely on payments from family, or a scholarship, to cover at least some of the costs of their studies. That means sending money from Australia to France on a regular basis to pay for tuition, rent, and day to day needs. This can be pricey. It’s essential to find the most cost effective way to make international payments, to make sure you’re not paying more than you need to in fees and charges.
When you’re choosing an international payment service, it pays to shop around. Although it might be tempting to use your regular bank for cross border transfers, traditional banks don’t often give the best deals out there. Using a specialist in international payments, like TransferWise, can be a better option.
TransferWise process all international payments using the mid-market exchange rate. That means you get the same rate for your transfer, as you’ll find if you google the currency pairing. This is important because banks and exchange services often don’t pass this rate on to their customers - they add a markup instead, which they can then keept. That allows them to say that they charge zero commission - but in fact their profit is wrapped up in the rate used.
TransferWise prefer to be transparent about the costs of your international payment, charging a low upfront fee, and sticking to the real exchange rate for all transactions. That can work out much cheaper than using your regular bank.
If you’re making regular international payments, you might also want to check out the TransferWise borderless account. This account lets you hold your money in dozens of different currencies in one account and switch between them whenever you need to. That means you can top up your balance using your Australian bank account, and switch to euros for spending in France as and when you want to. This flexible approach to managing your money across currencies is perfect for expats, and can save both time and unnecessary expense.
Studying abroad will stretch your mind in so many ways. Not only do you learn your academic subject, you’ll be exposed to another language, and immersed in a new culture. The formalities of arranging a visa and sorting out your finances can seem daunting, but it’s well worth pushing on and taking the opportunity you have to learn something new, somewhere different. Good luck!
All sources correct as of 22 January 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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