Long-Stay Student Visa – Visa d’étudiant

Yesterday, I had my visa appointment at the French Consulate. Although this process is technically not finished until I actually receive my student visa, arrive in France, enroll in their Social Security System, and be approved by the French government, a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Applying for a French student visa is definitely a process, however, the French consulate website provides so much guidance that it’s not so overwhelming, but that is completely up to you and your own judgement.

There is a huge list of documents that you must print out and provide, and it is found at your respective French consulate’s website. For myself, it was the consulate located in Los Angeles. http://www.consulfrance-losangeles.org/spip.php?article801

Some tips and tricks that I just thought I’d share:

1. Organization

I had my pile of documents (and it was a PILE) and it was organized, but it easily became disorganized after she started asking for each specific document. I would order each document, with their respective copy behind it, in the order of the checklist. And keep it that way!

2. Make sure you have EVERYTHING and COPIES.

My mom and I went through the checklist at least 10 times before we left to LA to make sure we had everything. There are horror stories of people going to their appointment without one of the required items, and them being refused right on the spot. As far as copies go, you only need one of each document that they indicate a copy for.

3. Passport photos- Costco Costco Costco !!!

I had prior intentions to have my passport pictures taken at a Walgreens or CVS because I knew that there’s always a coupon that I could print out to save some money. Then, I did more research and learned that Costco hands-down provides the best deal. $4.99 for a set of 4 photos. Amazing. They just take your picture, print it out, and voilà!

4. LA French Consulate – l’homme de la sécurité

I was forewarned that there is a not-so lovely security guard who works the French consulate entrance/exit. With this in mind, I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be a victim of a mean Frenchman. The security guard was a bit rude (not to me at least) but it wasn’t without reason. Just make sure you are kind and patient, and listen! Dealing with people is hard, especially when dealing with those who are distressed because they’re missing a document or their passport was stolen. On top of that, he was the gatekeeper of the visa section. He had to sit through the intercom and ringing, and 5 seconds after I gained entrance, I was easily annoyed by the noise. My life-hack for you: turn up the charm, and you’ll be fine in any situation. Except maybe at the police station.

5. Do your research!

Google has seriously been my best friend through this whole process. Coming into this, I was worried that I wouldn’t know what to do because no one that I’m close to has had to do this; but there will always be someone before you who did. I could literally type in (which I did) “How do I fill out the OFII Form?” and it’d take me to a forum where someone else had the same question. So extremely helpful, I don’t know where I would be without it.

A re-occuring theme throughout this whole study abroad prep/experience is and will be patience. You need it, in fairly large doses.