Apr 19th, 2018, 02:21 AM

A Fool's Guide to the Immigration Process

By Charnice Goldsborough
Photo by Francesca Tirico on Unsplash
What you need, when to do it, and how often you should renew it.

Some students recently were limited to travel freely in and out of France, myself included. This is because they have not been able to finalize their visas. Typically the immigration process for AUP students goes pretty smoothly, but this Spring is unique in that the French immigration office has been backed-up due to an influx of refugees. Emails were sent from the Student Immigration Services office to give the affected students updates. One email informed us, "As you can understand the refugees’ situation is absolutely terrible, and the emergency to assist them is a priority for the French Authorities." Another email sent later stated, "Our office is continuously in touch with the OFII, and we are following up. We will not forget anyone. Thanks for your patience and understanding."

This is a simple guide to the daunting immigration process, which will hopefully help with any stress or confusion.

Step 1) Getting started

To apply for your student visa, you first start by registering with CampusFrance. Next, on the website, you must make a visa appointment at a French consulate or embassy nearest to your country of residence. For U.S. students you can find out by visiting the French Embassy website and the French Foreign Ministry’s website for other countries. Visa appointments should be made in advance, at least 4-12 weeks before arriving in France. Make your appointment as soon as you can, as they can fill up quickly in some locations.  

Step 2) What type of documents you need

Once you've set your appointment, you need to gather a list of documents. The documents French authorities usually require for your student visa are the following: 

- The original “Certificate of Admission” which includes a section written in French 

- Proof of your financial support. In most countries, this is a notarized letter from your parents or your bank certifying that you will have a minimum monthly income as specified by your local French consulate.

- Proof of health insurance.

- 4 - 5 passport photos as specified by your local French consulate. Make sure the photo is in the correct dimensions since it varies for each country.

- Your passport (valid for at least one more year).

- The CampusFrance Attestation that you received by email on your CampusFrance email account. (But what the **** is an "attestation" you may ask? It just means a certificate in French, and you'll see this word a lot in the immigration process.)

You may also be asked for: your flight reservation and a proof of accommodation in France.

Once you've checked everything off the list, you're ready for your appointment with the French embassy.

Step 3) What type of visa do I need?


All non-EU students must apply for a long-stay student visa (stamped with the letter “D”) to legally study in France. This student visa, which will allow multiple entries, can be valid for three, 6, or 12 months and must be validated within three months of arrival in France, in order to legalize your stay on French Territory. Students over the age of 18 make sure that your “D” visa has the code “CESEDA R311-3 6° VLS-TS”


Visiting students who intend to stay in France for only one semester should apply for a temporary long-stay visa, or “Long Séjour Temporaire /Dispense Temporaire de Carte de Séjour.” Afterward that you don't have the worry about step 4 or 5. However, if you want to extend your visa, you need to go back to your country of residence and repeat step one.

If you're an EU citizen then why are you reading this? You don't need one.

Step 4) Finalizing your residency: Completing the OFII process 

So you're in France now. Enjoying all the wine and cheese to your heart's content. But don't forget you still have to complete your OFII appointment, which is absolutely mandatory if you care about staying in France. Missing the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) appointment will cancel your student visa procedure, you'll be an illegal citizen in France, and you can kiss your new found Parisian lifestyle goodbye.

Here's the list of documents needed to avoid it.

- OFII convocation, which the SIS office will send it to you by email before your appointment

- €60.00 tax stamp (which you can buy at a local Tabac store or online with your credit card)

- Passport

- Birth certificate 

- Four passport photos

- Proof of Housing:

>If you are housed by AUP, you stop by the Housing Office 

>If you are housed by Comforts of Home, you can go directly to COH building near campus

>If you’re neither housed by the university or COH,  a copy of the most recent housing contract signed by both you and your landlord is required. Also if you receive a monthly EDF/GDF bill in your personal name, your most recent EDF bill is required too.

*Tip: At this point, it's good to have an A4 sized accordion folder or anything that helps organize all the papers you'll have to gather. 

Before leaving the OFII building, make sure to get your passport stamped. The vignette (OFII stamp) officially validates your student visa and legalizes your stay in France under a student status.

Step 5)  Getting your residency card or renewal application

Three months before your visa/ residency card expires, you are required to meet with the SIS Office to receive the list of required documents and to schedule an appointment for your renewal. I know, more lists of documents? Will it ever end? As long as you stay in Paris, no it won't. Luckily they're about the same documents that were needed for your student visa and OFII. Click here to see. So if you keep them, this step can go by with ease.

Your renewal application must be complete and ready to be processed by the Préfecture de Police two months before your visa or card expires. So there's a month window for you to see the SIS office and get your documents together. Once that's done you'll have to sign a few papers, then wait two or three months until you finally get your temporary residency card. The residency card needs to be renewed annually, so whatever the expiration date says on your card, subtract three months, add a year, then mark your calendar. 

Residency cards typically expire around May, June, July, or August. If that's the case for you, you must make an appointment with SIS before you leave for summer vacation. If your summer plans are fixed and you have to leave France immediately after Spring, you have to apply for another long stay student visa back at your country of residency in order to legally return to AUP.

If you are a returning student who didn't do any of that, forgot to renew your visa/ card, and now find yourself to be an illegal immigrant, don't panic. This is pretty common. You can still apply for a new one. You'll just have to go back to your country of residence (which isn't France anymore since you forgot to renew your card) and go back to step one. This process usually takes a semester. 

Be warned that you can only make this mistake once, otherwise French immigration can be less forgiving the second time and ban you from the country.

Now you are ready to take on French immigration!

Contact Student Immigration Services (SIS) for more information or help:

5 Boulevard de La Tour-Maubourg, 75007, Paris  


Phone: + 33 (0)1 40 62 06 15

Office hours: Monday - Friday 09:30-12:00 and 14:30-16:00