Extended-stay student visa, with residency permit (VLS-TS)
With one exception, the new VLS-TS visa applies to all international students wishing to enroll in a French institution of higher education. The exception is Algerian nationals, who are subject to other provisions.
In most cases, the extended-stay visas with residency permit (VLS-TS) is valid for 1 year, "except in circumstances calling for the issuance of a visa with a shorter period of validity, as in the case (…) of some students."
When the VLS-TS visa is issued, the consulate will give the applicant an official form (with instructions) that the applicant must present to the French office of immigration and integration (OFII).
Holders of the VLS-TS visa no longer have to obtain a residency permit from the prefecture having jurisdiction over their place of residence in France, but they do have to report to the OFII and complete several administrative formalities.
Specifically, a VLS-TS holder must, upon arriving in France, send to the OFII by registered mail (return receipt requested):
- The official form received from the consulate that issued the visa.
- A copy of passport pages showing the visa holders identity and the stamp indicating entry into France (or into the Schengen area).
Upon receipt of these documents, the local office of the OFII will send the visa holder, by regular mail to the address provided by the visa holder), a letter acknowledging receipt of the form and possibly asking the holder to report for a medical examination if such an examination was not performed in the holder's country of origin or upon entering France.
- Students residing in Paris must bring the above documents to the OFII. During the months of September, October, and November, students may use the OFII office at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (CIUP). At other times of the year, they must bring the documents to OFII’s Paris headquarters.
- Some institutions (including many of France’s universities) have entered into agreements with OFII. Where such an agreement exists, the student must submit the above documents to the institution’s international student office. Students are strongly advised to learn, before arriving in France, whether an agreement exists between their host institution and OFII.
In all cases, a tax of €58 must be paid by purchasing a tax stamp marked "OMI" or "ANAEM."
The stamp may be purchased:
- online at www.timbresofii.fr
- in certain shops that sell tobacco products (Tabacs)
- at tax offices.
Algerian students applying for their first 1-year “residency certificate” are also subject to this tax. However, because they do not obtain an extended-stay visa with residency permit, they may not use the virtual stamp purchased online. Instead, they must purchase the paper version.
Obtaining a VLS–TS under the CEF procedure
In 31 countries the local offices of CampusFrance are equipped to administer the CEF procedure set up in 2007 by a partnership involving the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MAEE), the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (MESR), the Ministry of Culture and Communication (MCC), the Conference of University Presidents (CPU), the Conference of Directors of French Engineering Schools (CDEFI), and the Conference of Grandes Ecoles (CGE).
The procedure provides students intending to study in France with advice and counsel while preparing the visa application and, later, in tracking the prospective student’s applications for admission.
Prospective students who open an account on the CampusFrance website in their home country gain access to a virtual procedure that enables them to submit online applications to approximately 230 French institutions and to chat with the staff of the CampusFrance office in their country and with participating institutions from which they may obtain a preliminary offer of admission (often under the preliminary admission process known as DAP).
Students interested in nonparticipating institutions must contact them directly.
CampusFrance offices in the 31 countries where the CEF procedure is used provide prospective students with information and guidance. The procedure includes a messaging system that allows students to chat with local CampusFrance staff.
CampusFrance local offices make arrangements for language-proficiency tests where these are required.
They also review students’ applications for completeness, authenticate diplomas, and arrange interviews to explore the prospective student’s study plans.
Obtaining a VLS-TS in a non-CEF country
International students wishing to enroll in the first or second year at a university or school of architecture are required to use the so-called DAP procedure, under which the student must complete an application for preliminary admission obtained from the culture and cooperation office of the French embassy in the student's country. The student may not apply for a visa until he or she receives from the embassy a certificate of preliminary admission.
Students who are not seeking to enter the first or second year at a university or school of architecture may contact the institutions of their choice to obtain a certificate of preliminary admission. With such a certificate in hand, the prospective student may submit to the French consulate his or her application for an extended-stay visa, along with any supporting documents required by the consulate.
Criteria for the granting of an extended-stay student visa
In making their decisions on applications for academic visas, France's consular officers use the criteria spelled out in an interministerial circular dated January 27, 2006.
Consular officers are required to take into consideration general factors, including the likelihood that the applicant's training in France will result in "professional success," the likely contribution of the student's plans to the economic and social development of his or her home country, and France's relationship with that country.
The circlar also lays out more specific criteria:
Criterion 1: The applicant's academic background, with priority given to applicants prepared to enter a master's or doctoral program, holders of a French baccalauréat, applicants admitted to a program to prepare students for the grandes écoles, and applicants admitted to selective short programs (IUT, STS).
Criterion 2: The applicant's level of preparation (notably in assembling and sending to French institutions "information designed to facilitate their autonomous decision to offer preliminary admission to the student through indications of how the institution is likely to complement and enhance the applicant's academic preparation"), the reliability of the grades and evaluations claimed by the applicant, and the overall fit between the applicant's international study plans and his or her prior preparation and background.
Criterion 3: The institutional framework of the applicant's international study plan, with priority accorded to applicants participating in exchange programs governed by agreements between French institutions and institutions in the applicant's home country, to recipients of French government scholarships, and to students who have graduated in their home country from a degree program offered by or involving a French institution.
Criterion 4: Language proficiency, as determined by an assessment of the applicant's command of French, without prejudice to applicants showing exception academic potential.
Also mentioned are three other criteria whose relevance is not limited to the decision on whether or not to issue a student visa. They are:
- the absence of any threat to France's security or to public order
- the authenticity of the documentation produced by the applicant (such as diplomas and grade reports)
- evidence of sufficient financial resources.
The last point is dealt with in general guidelines on the issuance of visas, since France's immigration code (CESEDA) does not specify a minimum amount. Prospective students must demonstrate that they possess resources equivalent to the monthly base amounts paid to recipients of French government scholarship grants, about €615. France's consulates have discretion in applying these guidelines.