How to: Getting a French Study Abroad Visa

For nearly every student who wants to study abroad, applying for a visa is likely the most important step of the entire process. Visas are notoriously difficult and complicated (especially for France!), and most universities will not offer much help in acquiring one. Here are the steps I took when applying for my French student visa, and how long you should put it off until you get it done!

Find the correct visa type

This was surprisingly more confusing than I had anticipated. A student would need a student visa, right? But there are many types of visas, including student ones, many with only slight differences, but complete the wrong form and you may have to start all over again! For Canadian students who are going to France on a university exchange like me, you will find the latest 2B visa application here.
For students of other nationalities, check out the website of the embassy from the country you want to visit. For instance, if you are American and want to study in Spain, find the Spanish Embassy’s American website for visa information.

Gather all of your documents

Many visas are much shorter, but my French student visa required over 25 pages worth of signatures, affadavits and government letterheads.
Game of Thrones How

You will ask yourself this many times…

No one will likely be in a hurry to send all those signatures your way either. I had to make 2 appointments with Service Ontario at two separate locations and then wait 3 weeks to have delivered a piece of paper that said that I was covered for health insurance. The process was similar for every other signature I required. The visa application will likely require all the originals, so make sure that you photocopy everything before you send it away.

Check your passport’s expiry date

Most countries require that your passport is valid for 6 months or so after you are expected to return home. Passports can take 4-6 weeks to renew, so do check that yours will still be valid before you hand in your visa application.

Review, review, review

Look over your visa application several times just to be sure that everything is correct. If you make one small mistake (such as writing your birthday as month-day-year instead of day-month-year), the embassy may reject your application and you will have to start again. Be absolutely certain that your application is correct before you hand it in.

When should you apply?

I mailed my application in early July for a late August departure, but that was only because I was waiting a while for one little piece of paper to arrive. I actually started filling out my visa application in May. Give yourself lots of time to complete the application, and send it in the minute you have all the papers. Try to apply 3-5 months before you leave, just to be safe. I have heard of one application only taking two weeks to return, but also others that took over a month and a half. Mine took about three weeks after mailing before I received my visa.

What you will get in return

Hopefully, everything goes smoothly. If that’s the case, you will receive a few things in return. The package will have your passport in it, complete with a new shiny visa sticker on one page. You will also receive the original signed documents that you mailed in with your application. Leave a copy of these at home, and bring the originals with you when you travel, in case you need them again at a later date.


I was lucky that someone I knew was submitting her visa application at the same time that I was. We were able to bounce questions off each other and help one another. If you have any questions about the visa application (especially if you are a Canadian or applying for a French student visa) ask below and I will try my best to help you out.

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