21 June 2024

A Complete Guide for foreign students in France

If you come from a foreign education system, adapting to the French system may initially seem a little complicated. In this article, you'll find all the information you need to prepare for your arrival and installation in France.

What documents do I need to prepare for a French university or to open a bank account? How to find student housing in Paris or France as a foreign student? Can I apply for a student job if I’m not French? In this article, you’ll find all the information you need to prepare for your arrival and installation in France.

Pre-arrival preparation

If you’re a foreign student arriving in France, careful preparation is essential. This includes checking the necessary documents such as passport, student visa and school certificate, as well as finding student accommodation in Paris or elsewhere. Registering with the university and organizing the first administrative steps, such as opening a bank account, complete this crucial process.

Careful planning ensures a solid start to your stay in France, and a smooth transition to a rewarding study and living experience.

How to apply

Your application as a foreign student depends on your specific situation, in particular your country of origin, your chosen program of study and the administrative requirements of the higher education establishment in France.

If you hold or are preparing for a French or European baccalaureate:

  • You can register for the first year of higher education online at parcoursup.fr.
  • The European Baccalaureate is only awarded by accredited European schools in European Union member states.

If you don’t have a French or European baccalaureate and are applying for your first year of higher education:

  • For foreign residents, a application for admision (DAP – Demande d’Admission Préalable) is required, with consultation of the dossier blanc page.
  • For residents of France, a DAP is required, with consultation of the green dossier page.

If you do not have a French or European baccalaureate and are applying for selective non-university courses (CPGE, BTS/BTSA, schools, etc.):

  • Register online at parcoursup.fr.

If you do not have a French or European baccalaureate and wish to enroll in selective university courses (BUT, DEUST, DU):

  • Registration is online at parcoursup.fr for residents of France.
  • For residents of the 69 countries and territories with a Campus France space, registration is made on the Études en France website (excluding DAP).
résidence étudiante - Noisy-Le-Grand - restaurant

Visa and residence permit

You need a visa if you are coming to France for higher education without a residence permit for personal or family reasons. To qualify, you must be enrolled or pre-registered in a public or private higher education establishment, or in a higher professional training organization. You must also have a minimum monthly income of €615. This means-test does not apply if you are coming to France under an agreement between the French government and a higher education establishment, if you have passed an entrance exam to such an establishment, if you are a French government scholarship holder, or if your country has signed a reciprocity agreement with France.

The long-stay student visa (VLS-TS) authorizes you to stay in France for between four months and a year to pursue higher education.

résidence étudiante - Paris Massy-Palaiseau - coworking

Health insurance

Social security covers foreign students during their studies in France. This means they are protected in the event of illness or accident. To increase the amount of their healthcare reimbursements, they can subscribe to a complementary health insurance plan or a mutuelle. These schemes cover expenses not covered by social security, such as consultations with certain specialists, drugs and hospitalization costs. Complementary health insurance provides better coverage and reduces the remaining costs for students, giving them greater financial protection.

Daily life in France

Daily life in France for a foreign student includes enriching experiences such as discovering the local culture and taking part in various academic and social activities. But it also includes other important parameters such as accommodation, finances and learning about public transport, which may be different from those in your home country.

résidence étudiante - Villejuif - laverie

Housing and assistance

In France, foreign students can benefit from a range of housing grants to help them settle in and concentrate on their studies. The most important of these is the Social Housing Allowance (SLA). Paid by the Family Allowance Fund (CAF – Caisse d’Allocations Familiales), the SLA reduces the rent paid by tenants. This assistance, calculated on the basis of resources and rent, offers significant financial support.

For foreign students, access to the ALS reduces the financial burden associated with housing, which often represents a significant proportion of their budget. This enables them to devote themselves fully to their studies, thus promoting their academic success. What’s more, this assistance helps improve their quality of life, enabling them to live in more decent, less stressful conditions.

Housing subsidies, like the SLA in France, therefore play a major role in the integration and well-being of foreign students, easing their financial burden and contributing to a serene and successful academic career.

Opening a bank account

To open a bank account in France, a foreign student must provide the following four documents:

  • A valid passport
  • VLS-TS student visa
  • A school attendance certificate
  • Proof of residence (such as a CROUS or accommodation certificate).

These documents are essential to verify the student’s identity, student status and place of residence. Having a bank account makes it easier to manage day-to-day finances, pay rent and receive financial aid, such as grants or SLA, contributing to a more serene and organized settlement.

Transport and travel

Public transport in Paris and the rest of France makes it easy and affordable for foreign students to get around, thanks to special discounts. In Paris and the suburbs, the network includes metro, bus, streetcar and RER, offering extensive coverage and frequent connections. Subscriptions such as the reduced-rate Pass Navigo for students facilitate access to these services. These practical, cost-effective transport options enable students to get to their courses easily, discover the city and its surroundings, and stay within their budget.

Study and work

The French education system, renowned for its academic excellence, allows foreign students to work part-time. This possibility not only supports your studies financially, but also enriches your experience by offering cultural and linguistic immersion. This unique combination of rigorous academic opportunities and personal development makes France an attractive destination for international students looking to learn in a stimulating and diverse environment.

The French education system

The French higher education system may differ significantly from that of your home country. In France, higher education is often structured around grandes écoles and universities, with a strong tradition of academic excellence and early specialization. This structure can offer unique opportunities, but can also pose challenges for those coming from other systems.

Working while studying

To make ends meet, you can consider a number of different options. For example, you could offer your skills as a private teacher or tutor for subjects in which you are proficient, or you could look for part-time work opportunities in areas related to your field of study.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with your university’s student union or student office, where recruiters often post their student job advertisements. You’ll also find all the good deals for student in Paris and elsewhere.

Benefit from Ecla support

At Ecla, we understand that coming from abroad to study in France can be a complicated time. That’s why we offer full administrative support through our partner Science Accueil. This service, offered free of charge to our residents, includes :

  • Visa assistance: Help in preparing and following up visa applications.
  • Bank account opening: Assistance in opening a bank account in France.
  • Miscellaneous administrative support: Help with social security registration, housing insurance, and other necessary administrative procedures.

Science Accueil has offices in our Ecla residences and offers personalized assistance to help you settle in France. For more information on their services, visit the Science Accueil website.

With the right guidance, life as a foreign student in France is truly rewarding. With access to financial aid such as SLA, adequate health cover and discounts on public transport, you can concentrate on your studies without financial stress. Simplified administrative procedures, such as opening a bank account, will make settling in easier.

Good preparation is the key to a successful arrival in France as an international student. By following this advice and taking advantage of the support offered by Ecla and Science Accueil residences, you can concentrate on your studies and make the most of your experience in France. For practical, friendly accommodation, discover the options offered by Ecla.

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