How to obtain a long-stay student visa (VLS-TS) in South Africa

 
The VLS-TS visa applies to all international students who will be enrolled in a French institution of higher education for longer than three months, and up to an academic year.

LONG-STAY STUDENT VISA APPLICATIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA

If you are applying for a student visa in South Africa (whether you are a South African citizen or a foreign national residing in South Africa with a valid residence permit or visa), the following information is applicable:

All visa applications for France are now received by the agency Capago with branches in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.  To enquire about visa application requirements and to book appointments (all applicants have to appear in person at the relevant centres for the collection of biometric information), please phone their Call Centre at +27 87 231 0313 or visit their website, www.my-europe-visa.com

Students who reside in Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Northwest, the Free State or Lesotho have to schedule an appointment with the agency Capago (in Johannesburg or Durban) to submit your visa application to the Consulate of France in Johannesburg. 

If you reside in the Eastern, Northern or Western Cape, you have to schedule an appointment with the agency Capago in Cape Town to submit your visa application to the Consulate of France in Cape Town.

VALIDATION LETTER: 

All applicants for student visas are required to contact Campus France at least one week before their visa appointment to request a validation letter that will accompany their visa application.  

Please note that requests will be evaluated according to the coherence of the student’s academic and professional career, and according to their motivation or reason for wanting to study in France.  Admission to a university in France is not a guarantee that you will obtain this letter.  The decision remains at the discretion of Campus France South Africa.  The decision, once made, will be final.

As the request for this letter forms part of the visa application process, it is preferable that students personally contact and engage with Campus France South Africa with regard to this letter, and that files are not submitted by a third party such as an agent or family member.

Students residing in Gauteng can make an appointment with Campus France to submit their documents in person.  Students outside of Gauteng or those unable to make an appointment in either Johannesburg or Pretoria may submit their documents electronically (send to pretoria.bourses@campusfrance.org). 

Please note that all copies should be clearly certified by an authorized authority (the South African police service, South African post office, etc.), and that originals may be requested by Campus France for verification.

The documents to be submitted:

NOTE:  Please submit documents in single, coherent files.  (i.e. Passport (and visa) = 1 file, Previous qualifications (diplomas and / or transcripts) = 1 file, etc.)

- A clear copy of the student’s passport

- A detailed motivation letter for the students studies in France

- If the student is not a South African national, a valid visa for their stay in South Africa (if the student intends to return to South Africa after completion of their studies in France, the visa should be valid for at least three months after their foreseen return to South Africa).

- Letters of acceptance from a French institution (university, language school, etc.), stating the start- and end dates of the student’s course.  If the student is studying at a language school, they should submit proof of payment (or partial payment, depending on the school's regulations) for their language course.

-  Academic transcripts and diplomas of previous studies completed, and proof of registration for current studies, if relevant.

-  A detailed curriculum vitae.

VISA APPLICATION:

Please note that the request for a validation letter does not constitute an official visa appointment, nor does the submission of documents to Campus France constitute a visa application.  Also note that the obtention of this letter does not guarantee a successful outcome of your visa application to either of the Consulates.

Once you have obtained a validation letter from Campus France, you can proceed with the application for a student visa.  You will be required to submit a number of documents along with a completed application form to the Consulate (see files below).  Note that from 29 May 2013, all applicants are required to appear in person for the submission of their visa applications, due to the implementation of biometric visas.  

After the submission of your application to the Consulate, please allow for processing time of 15 working days.  This means that you should start your application process at least 4 weeks before your intended departure, to allow for enough time to obtain your letter from Campus France, to submit your visa application to the Consulate, and for your application to be processed and your passport returned.

Please consult the websites of the Consulate of France in Johannesburg or the Consulate of France in Cape Town for more information.

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General information on the long-stay student visa, or VLS-TS

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. 

Special cases:

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Students enrolled at an institution in Paris must send their documents to the welcome center (Cellule d'Accueil) at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (CIUP), 17 boulevard Jourdan, 75014 Paris.

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Some institutions (including many universities) have entered into agreements with OFII whereby their students' documents are to be submitted to the international student office at the institution. Students are strongly urged to check this point with their new institution before arriving in France.

 

In all cases, a tax of €55 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.

Obtaining a VLS-TS

International students wishing to enroll in the first 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 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 circular 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. Under the guidelines, prospective students must demonstrate that they have resources equivalent to 70% of the monthly base amounts paid to recipients of French government scholarship grants, about €455.  France's consulates have discretion in applying these guidelines.