The Complete Guide To Studying In France (2017)


sg2017The Complete Guide To Studying In France (2017)

There are 2 reasons to study in France – to get a degree or to learn French (or both at the same time!). There are several benefits to being an international student in France:

  • If accepted, your studies are subsided by the State (for public education, not private business, engineering and management schools),
  • You can learn and live in the most-visited country in the world (80 million visitors a year)
  • You can learn French, the world’s fifth most-widely spoken language, and the language of love (and the third most-used business language)

According to Campus France, 80% of those who study in France said they were satisfied with the quality of their education and the value of their French degree. Furthermore, 9 out of 10 international students hold a positive view of their time in France and recommend France as a study destination.

However, administrative and logistical information is difficult to understand. Without a really good knowledge of the French language, it can be hard to understand what the proper steps are. If you want a complete guide to studying in France, then you’ll LOVE this guide. This guide is for university students that would like to carry on studying at a higher-education facility in France, or for adult students that would simply like to learn French in a short stay to learn the language and culture.

I have personally spent 6 months researching all the practical information you’ll need to making the most of our your French study stay. It has useful links (many of them in French) to help you with further information on your learning in France.

To save time, you can choose the section in the list to access the information most relevant to you.

Check it out:

studying in franceAccording to your home country, the type of visasstudying in franceAccording to your level of studies, information on French-language coursesstudying in franceHow to choose the right diploma or exam to certify your French language level
study in france housingHow to find the right accommodation for your stay in Francestudy in france housing grantsInformation on different awards, grants and how to get health insurancestudy in france practicalPractical information such as bank accounts, telephones, wifi and transport

visa1. Visa advice


All visa applications MUST be done well before you come to France and AFTER your candidature to the place of study has been accepted. Allow yourself at least 3 if not 6 months. If you’re coming to France from a foreign country, then you will automatically be categorized into 3 zones: European, CEF and “other”:

I. You’re from a country in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey or Macedonia

A visa is not necessary. You can directly contact the place you want to study at and start the inscription process (see chapter 2 for more information).

II. You’re from a country that is part of the CEF agreement :

AlgeriaArgentinaBeninBrazilBurkina FasoCameroon
ChileChinaColombiaComorosCongoCote d’Ivoire
MauritiusMexicoPeruSenegalRussiaSouth Korea

The CEF agreement is a special procedure that was put into place by Campus France in order to help residents in 36 countries known for sending large amounts of students to France for further education. It is obligatory for all residents in these countries to go through this process if you want to study at one of these 250 institutions (in French) after having achieved your high-school certificate and you are from one of the countries in the list above. If your institution is not in the list, then you will have to contact the institution you want to study at directly for your application. You will also have to get your visa yourself.

This process will enable you to streamline your choice of course, the administrative application with the school and the visa application to get into France. It starts off online (and can often mean a processing fee of around 85 euros) and then your local Campus France office will contact you to validate your application and help you get accepted. Please note that sometimes the institution you want to study at might also ask you for extra information. Furthermore, this process does NOT exempt you from a visa, but will give you the information you need to get the right one.

The application process is done online and through Campus France. You can start it by clicking here. (in French)

III. You’re not a resident of either of the above.

If you’re not from a country listed in A or B, then you’ll have to do everything yourself, including of course getting the visa.


There are 2 types of visa, depending on the length of stay and why you’re going:

I. Short-stay or “Schengen” visa

This type of visa will allow you to live on French soil for a period no longer than 90 days (3 months). When you are coming for studying, there are 2 sub-types of this visa:

  • A short-stay study visa: this is internships or language study courses in France.
  • An entrance examination visa: once on French soil, you may be asked to take an entrance exam, in which case this would qualify you for a long-term student green card (and you wouldn’t have to go home to get it).

For more information on short-stay visas (in French).
Here is a short-stay visa application form (in English).

II. Long-Stay Study Visa (VSL-TS):

A long-stay visa that is to be used for studying in France for a period of over 90 days (3 months). It must be accompanied by a long-term student green card that you can get via an application form to be sent to the Immigration Office that clearly stipulates where you will be living. You’ll also need to send a copy of your passport and pay a fee of €55 (that can be paid using special stamps) (in French), and then wait for your convocation. When that comes, you’ll have to go, taking a medical certificate of good health, proof of domiciliation (e.g. a utility bill) and a photo.

For more information on long-stay visas (in French).
For more information from the French Immigration Office (in French).

2. Choosing your course

Please note that even though around 1000 degrees in France are taught in English, an official and proficient level of French is very often necessary. You can learn French at distance before you arrive, or come to France beforehand to gain the necessary certificate.

Here we will look at the different types of course you can apply for:



If you are a resident in the European Union and you want to go straight from high school (or equivalent) into higher education in France, then you must go through the same process as any “ordinary” student in France – through the centralized website: (in French). The procedure is called “A.P.B.- Admission Post-Bac”. You have to sign up and then go formulate your wishes for where you want to go and what you want to study. There is then a paper-based phase for the admissions, and if accepted, the administration inscription at the university itself. For more information (in French): (in French)


If you already study at a university in Europe and you want to study for a year in France then taking part in the ERASMUS scheme is perfectly possible. You’ll need to speak to the international department of your current place of study. The ERASMUS year is usually the second or third year of your current course. Please note that many universities in France are over-subscribed which means that lodging will be hard to come by, and you should look for lodging and mobile phone access before you arrive (see below for more details).


If you’ve got a high-school certificate (or equivalent), then this is your country’s version of the baccalaureat (or “bac”) for short. The French sometimes abbreviate further years of study with the abbreviation “bac+number”, e.g. a 3-year course would be “Bac+3”. You even see this as a minimum requirement for some diplomas or job postings. If you’ve just finished high school and want to go straight into studies in France in the first year of university (or business school etc.) then this is called “DAP – Demande d’Admission Préalable”, which means you need to ask for admission. You must apply between the middle of November and the middle of January the year BEFORE you wish to come.

If you reside in a country with a CEF-agreement through Campus France, then you must get the DEP here: (in French)


If you’ve like to transfer from your current university education, or do further studies, then this is not a DAP request. You have to also go through the Campus France inscription, it’s just a different load of paperwork.

To start, click here: (in French)


If you live in a country that does NOT belong to the European Union or a CEF agreed country, then anything you apply for must be DIRECTLY with your preferred place of study. You will still need to a DAP (if appropriate). Make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Be warned, your biggest problem will be the language barrier – you must have proficient French even when you are doing the admission procedure (don’t wait until a couple of months before).


You can go to France to learn French for two main reasons:

  • Learn the language and culture for your own tourist or business reasons
  • Prepare and pass an exam to help gain entry into a French higher education institution

The French State take the learning of French very seriously. They have set-up an agency called the CIEP (in French) (Centre International des Etudes Pédagogiques) in Sevres to look after all the conditions AROUND French learning for foreigners (quality, exams, etc.) rather than the teaching itself.

You can trust the CIEP to find the right information of finding a good school to learn French and also a place to take a French exam.

To find a great course you can trust, I would recommend using the following 2 directories: (in English) (in English)

Before your stay, if you want to learn French online for free, I have created a guide of the top 100 sites, blogs and resource pages to help you, you can find it here.

Furthermore, if you want to trust a paid online software (provides better quality and a greater learning path), then I would recommend Rocket French, which is one of the cheapest but has by far the best reviews due to a new, clever learning technique called Chunking. To find out more, please click here.

french3. Certifying your French language level

If you are coming to France to study as an international student, or to find work, then you will probably need proof of your language level.

Be careful! You MUST see which tests or diplomas are accepted for the degree you want to do. For example, don’t bother signing up to do a TCF if you need a DELF!

There is a difference between a diploma and a French proficiency test. A diploma is an exam you can pass that gives you proof for life that you have that French level. A proficiency test is a smaller, less intense test that will give you a “photo” or your level but can’t be used as a “passport” wherever you go.


These diplomas are issued “for life”. The DILF, DELF and DALF diplomas are run by the CIEP within the Ministry for Education, and can be sat for and obtained independently of each other, in the same country or in different countries and without any restriction on the time period. The DALF is the most valuable, and if you get it, will absolve you from having to take another French level test again. The DCL is run by the Ministry for Education, but not available in countries outside of France:

I. DILF (in French): Diplôme initial de langue française (Initial French Language Diploma)

The DILF is for beginners and is proof of having the basics of the French language. It is also a pre-cursor to the higher-level DELF and DALF. However, you can only take it in France, it is not available abroad.

II. DELF: Diplôme d’études en langue française (French Language Studies Diploma)

There are 5 versions of the DELF, the most popular French diploma for foreigners. Three of them are for youths under the age of 18 (Delf Prim for kids (7 to 12), Delf junior and Delf scolaire for teenagers (12 to 17). Probably the most appropriate DELF for you would be the DELF tout public (in French) (literally DELF “for everyone”) or the DELF Pro (in French) (which has a professional, work-based content – useful if you need a diploma if you’re looking for a job). All of the DELFs use the European Framework for Languages (A1 to C2) and are available in over 1100 centres in 173 countries. You can see the updated list here (in French). You can find some very good preparation exercises here (in French).

III. DALF (in French): Diplôme approfondi de langue française (Advanced French Language Diploma)

The DALF is for very advanced-level French speakers. You literally have to live in France or have a very good level to take it. Most people take the DELF before going onto the DALF. If you have a C1 level, then by all means look into it.

IV. DCL (in French): Diplôme de Compétence en Langue (Language Proficiency Diploma)

The DCL is also run by the Ministry for Education, but not available in countries outside of France. It is mainly an excellent option for those people that need a nationally-recognized diploma for work-related skills. Two versions are available according to the level you are trying to obtain.


Here are the nationally-recognized French proficiency tests. You need less preparation for these tests than for diplomas, and are thus an easier option if you don’t have much time to study:

I. TCF (in English): Test de Connaissance du Français (French Knowledge Test)

This is a general French language proficiency test for all non-French speakers who, for professional or personal reasons, wish to obtain quick, simple, reliable certification of their knowledge in French. The test places candidates on a six-level scale (corresponding to the six levels of the European Framework for Languages). There is also a specific TCF-DAP test (in French) used to test foreign students French proficiency before allowing them to join a 1st year in higher education (see DAP). There are over 700 centres around the world where you can prepare and take your TCF. Have a look here to find one in your country (in English).

II. TEF (in French) – Test d’Evaluation de Français (French Evaluation Test)

The Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s TEF test is recognised by the French national educational system. Students wishing to enrol in first-year courses at a French university can sit for the TEF tests. To find a centre in your country that can help you prepare and take the test, please click here (in French).

housing4. Choosing where you’re going to live during your stay

This is one of the hardest and stressful parts of studying in France. If you don’t have something already lined up for you, then it can be very complicated to do remotely – it’s pretty much obligatory to be in France to gain access to lodging. There are specialized services that can help students facilitate finding somewhere to live – it all depends on the type of lodging you are interested in. The good news is that there is a specific grant available that can help pay for your lodging called the APL (more details below). Here are three choices for you:


University accommodation in France is made available and managed by the universities themselves. This type of lodging can be either on campus (a “Cité Universitaire”) or off campus. Lodging is usually quite cheap but also small. There will always be a specialized accommodation service in the University that you can contact, and they are used to dealing with requests from aboard. Make sure you find out about this option whilst you are abroad so you don’t have any surprises upon arrival. You must call and find out the cost, availabilities and whether you need some specific paperwork.


There is a special student housing service managed by the French government. It is part of a service provided by CROUS (in French) (Centre régional des œuvres universitaires et scolaires) and has a very good website (sadly all in French). Please note however that any help by CROUS for lodging in priority goes to under-privileged students and exchange students (e.g. ERASMUS). If you apply, your parent’s revenue (and other criteria) will be examined by a committee, and if accepted, housing will be found. Obviously to go through this process, you need to be poor and speak good French. In order to apply, you need to build a dossier called a DSE (Dossier Social Etudiant) here (in English).

You can find some announcements of student lodging on Lokaviz (in French).
You can also find some very useful information on lodging (in English) at Campus France.

Student flats are usually from 18m² to 30m² (the larger the accommodation the more likely you are to have to share). They usually come equipped with everything you need (except sheets and towels). Pricing can vary – as a rule of thumb you can count on paying 500 euros a month for lodging of around 20m².


If the university nor the state can help, then you can look for private accommodation. However, it is a complicated process that needs lots of documents, and you would be well advised to set yourself up for temporary lodging (youth hostel, B+B, cheap hotel, etc.) for a few weeks upon arrival whilst in your home country. This will give you the time to look for private housing, including visits that you have preferably organised beforehand.

You can also opt for apartment-sharing which is a simple, quick and cheap way to access lodging for your studies. You also won’t need any bureaucratic work either. The best and easiest way to look is through dedicated sites such as: (in French) or (in French).

If it’s possible for you, there are also apartment exchanges: (in French) (in French) (in French)

We don’t advise you to send any money until you arrive in France unless you are 100% sure that there is no risk.


If you’re coming for a short stay to study, in particularly for French-language courses, then most language schools now offer a housing service, and you should first of all ask them for help. They’ll also be able to help in English, which would probably be good news for you!

If you are coming during the school holidays, then it is possible that any local universities will have spaces available for short-stays.

Otherwise, the most popular websites for booking and renting accommodation are: (in English) (in English) (in French)


To gain access to lodging in France, whether it’s university, student or private lodging, then it’s possible that you’ll need to prepare a few documents and more importantly, some money you will need to spend upfront. In some cases, grants are available to help (see Section 5: Grants):

I. French bank account: Possibly the most difficult thing to obtain as you actually NEED a fixed address to have a bank account!

II. Deposit: All landlords, whether they are public, private companies or individuals, need a deposit by law. This amount, usually equivalent to 1-month’s rent, is a precaution taken to allow them to carry out reparations after the tenant has left. Make sure you leave this in your calculations. Sometimes it is possible to pay the deposit in several installments.

III. Agency fees: If you have found private lodging through a realtor / real estate agency, then it’s possible you will have to pay some sort of fee. This can also be the equivalent to 1-month’s rent.

IV. Guarantee: Once again, whatever the type of rental you get, then on top of the deposit and possible agency fees, you might well be asked for a guarantee. In the past, an equivalent of 3-months rent was the norm, but the law has been changed and now 1-month is more likely. In some cases, having someone with a French nationality can actually be a guarantor. If you have successfully gained lodging through CROUS, then you can also get a guarantee from them, called Loca-pass.

V. Proof of domiciliation: You need this to open any account – banking or otherwise – and you should try to get it done as soon as possible. Please see Section 6A for more information. Here are the possible examples of proof of domiciliation that will be accepted in France. They MUST have your name and address on them, or they will not be accepted:

  • A recent (less than 3-months old) receipt
  • An electricity or gas invoice in your name
  • If you can’t get either of these things, try to ask your landlord for an attestation (letter) that proves you have lodging
  • If you are not on the lease agreement, because you are sharing, sub-letting etc., then you’ll need any of the above in the name of the person who is on the lease agreement, and then an attestation (letter) from that person saying that you are living in the premises. You’ll need a photocopy of his/her ID card too.

VI. Lease agreement: A lease agreement (bail) is the contractual document that will stipulate uyou as the tenant. It contains all the information about the lodging. It is for a finite period and can be renewed. Usually the agreement lasts for 1-year for apartments with furniture, and 3-years without. A notice period of 1-month for furnished apartments and 3-months for non-furnished apartments is needed if you need to leave.

grants5. Grants and health insurance

The French government is generous when it comes to helping students get by. The great news is that even as an international student, you are allowed to apply for the same grants and aids that French students get!

Campus France even has a directory of the available grants and it can even be sorted by the country where you come from. It’s well worth a look! (in French)

Here are some good examples:


I. Monthly Housing Grant (APL)

The French government is the only government in the world to offer housing grants to international students. Obviously, like everything that is highly regulated, you need to have the necessary paperwork. The amount of the grant (a monthly payment straight into your French bank account) depends upon the size of your rent and how much income you receive. If you receive too much income, then it might be refused.

In order to apply for the grant, called the APL (Aide personnalisée au logement), then you must have the following 4 things in order (all covered in this section or Section 6):

  • Your name on the rental agreement
  • Proof of domiciliation
  • Student health insurance
  • A French bank account

Once all these are in order, then you must apply online on another French government agency site (in French).

II. Housing guarantee

As mentioned above, most student accommodations require a guarantee, usually in the form of money. If this will be difficult for you and you have successfully got housing through CROUS, then you might also be able to apply for help through Loca-pass (in French), which is a 0% loan that must be repaid.


Aside from looking up a possible grand through the Campus France Directory (in French), there are 2 other famous grants that might be applicable for you :

I. The Eiffel Master / Doctorate Grant

This is a grant based on excellency and only available for masters or doctorate students in 3 areas (science, management and economics). The French government is willing to pay up to 1200 euros a month to try to get the best students from around the world to come to study in France. Please note that you can’t apply for this grant – it must come from your school or university. For more information, please go here (in French).

II. The Erasmus scheme

If you are a student in an institution within the European Commission then you have probably already heard of Erasmus. The European Commission has a budget of over 3 billion euros to enable students to study for one year in another institution within Europe. The budget helps cover the tuition (and sometimes accommodation) fees. The work done throughout this year counts towards the final degree as part of the European Credit Transfer System. And you can learn another language at the same time! If you want to come to France, then you need to talk to someone in charge of Erasmus in your current institution.


Student health insurance is obligatory when you come to study in France. If you need to see a doctor or go to hospital, then you will be asked for a “Carte Vitale” which is a State Health Insurance card. This will be used by the doctor or hospital to get paid and will spare you from nasty paperwork. Around 60% of medical costs are covered by State Health Insurance, the rest must be reimbursed privately – either through you, or a private health insurer (French or otherwise, see below). Your place of education should help you apply for the Carte Vitale as it is obligatory. You must be under 28 years old and be staying for a minimum of 4-months to comply. Here are the different options available:

I. Students from the European Union

Students from countries in the European Union don’t have to pay for mandatory health insurance as long as they have a European health insurance card valid for your stay. If you don’t have one, then you’ll need a private insurance certificate that will attest to covering all medical risks (check with your home private health insurer – they will perhaps cover the costs for your stay in France.

II. French student private health insurance

To help cover the approximate 40% of costs not covered by the State, you might need to apply for private French health insurance (see with your place of tuition). There are 2 private insurers that are recommended (La Mutuelle des Etudiants (LMDE) (in French) and emeVia) (in French), and the premiums aren’t usually too high – anything from 150 to 600 euros per year.

III. International private health insurance

Surprisingly, some private and public health insurers actually cover medical risk when abroad. It is up to you to find out what is possible or not, and you might have an extra premium to pay.

practical6. Other practical information


Opening a French bank account can be a complex and frustrating task specifically because you need all the right paperwork, including proof of domiciliation. If you haven’t got it yet, you could get around this with a temporary address. Each bank is different but they all offer student banking. If you are staying for a short-time (less than 3 months), then it probably isn’t worth opening a bank account. Here are the links to some of the best offers:

Banque populaire (in French), BNP Paribas (in French), Caisse d’Epargne (in French), Crédit Agricole (in French), La Banque Postale (in French), LCL (in French), Société Générale (in French), Lydia card (in English)

Here are the documents you’ll need to open a bank account:

I. Identification card

If you come from:

  • a country that is part of the European Commission, then just use a photocopy of your ID card or passport as proof of identity.
  • a country from outside of the European Commission, then you need a photocopy of your ID card and/or passport AND a valid visa (see Section 1).

II. Your student card

This is issued by the place of studies, and is useful for all sorts of discounts (cinemas, sports clubs, trips out, theatres, computer hardware and software etc.) and also to ensure you can get a student bank account.

III. Other attestations

Certain other documents could help getting your bank account open, and we suggest trying to get them if you can:

  • Any proof of incoming revenue – job contract (if applicable), grants, letter of proof of revenue from your family, etc.
  • A bank statement from your existing bank – banks like seeing that you know how to handle your money. IN order to prove you know you are responsible, showing them your current bank statement in your home country would help
  • Any income tax notice you have received in your home country

IV. Bank charges

For student accounts, most banks don’t charge admin fees for opening the account. However, it is necessary to transfer some money immediately (minimum 100 euros). Some banks will even give you money when you open an account with them! Some might ask you to become a minor shareholder – any charges you pay would be reimbursed when you close the account. Apart from that, you will be charged a small fee for running the account.

V. Bank card

Opening a student account will automatically mean you get a bank card – always a debit card. The French don’t do credit cards so don’t even ask. You can, if you want, ask for all debits to be deferred to the end of the month. The bank card will be either VISA or MASTERCARD (French banks don’t do AMERICAN EXPRESS or DINER CARDs) and will allow you to do all the basic purchases. Be careful because it won’t work in some areas such as in Road Toll Booths and possible for buying petrol / gas. Make sure you ask if there are any exceptions when you open your account.


You need this to open any account such as a bank account, or a getting a mobile / cell subscription or wifi access. Here are the possible examples of proof of domiciliation that will be accepted in France. They MUST have your name and address on them, or they will not be accepted. You don’t need all of them, one should do:

  • A recent (less than 3-months old) rental receipt
  • An electricity or gas invoice in your name
  • If you can’t get either of these things, try to ask your landlord for an attestation (letter) that proves you have lodging
  • If you are not on the lease agreement, because you are sharing, sub-letting etc., then you’ll need any of the above in the name of the person who is on the lease agreement, and then an attestation (letter) from that person saying that you are living in the premises. You’ll need a photocopy of his/her ID card too.


You’ll obviously be desperate to get your hands on a French mobile / cell phone as soon as possible because the costs of calling back home will be very expensive if you use your own phone with roaming charges. There are 4 major operators in France (Orange, SFR, Bougyues and Free), and the best site to compare student offers and information on how to get Internet access can be found here (in French).

All major public areas usually now have free Wifi access (train stations, airports, malls, etc.) though you’ll probably have to sign up with an email address. Hotels, bars and restaurants have them too, just ask for the access codes (“Quels sont vos codes Wifi ?”).

All wifi boxes have sharing facilities, so while you are waiting, you can ask your friendly neighbor to share his/her connection in exchange for a few euros.

Lastly, don’t forget to ask your bank if they can offer you something – they are starting to propose mobile and internet access as mobile phones are becoming tools of payment.


France is a big country (the biggest in geographical area in Europe) and transport is an important issue. The roads are generally excellent, especially the motorways, which are run by private companies and so you have to pay tolls. Traffic is now dense in all of the major metropolitan areas. Some large towns such as Paris are starting to limit driving due to pollution. Here is some practical information on transport around France:

I. Driving license

Good news – wherever you are from (European Union or not) – you can use your current driving license during your stay (in French). Just don’t break the law – if you get caught doing a major infraction, then your license can be taken away and you’ll have to change it for a French one! You just need to make sure it is valid, that you are a minimum of 18 years of age, and we strongly advise preparing before you drive as the rules in France can be different from in your country (in English). For example, did you know that when you are waiting at a traffic light, it goes from red to green (no orange)?

II. Public transport

  • Buses are the cheapest form of public transport in France. It really is worth taking lots of time to research the different bus lines and it’s not worth giving links here because there are so many. However, there are private and public buses and so there is a lot of choice. Student discounts are sometimes possible.
  • Trains are run through one provider – the SNCF. It is very easy to reserve a ticket, and you can do it in English and even from abroad here (in English). Tickets are electronic and can sometimes be put on your mobile phone. Be careful because in rare exceptions you will have to get your ticket at the station before the train and you’ll need a booking reference number. Discounts are available for students, but you need to apply using your student card (in French).
  • Internal plane flights are possible through Hop (Air France), Ryanair, Easyjet and other companies. Just use any decent flight comparator.


Be careful because French sockets are hermaphroditic (in English) – they might not fit with your current appliances! It’s very important that you bring some adapters with you.