I’m Celina, an American who’s lived in France for over 5 years on 3 different visas. As someone who moved abroad alone at a young age, I’ve learned many tips and tricks to making moving to and staying in France easier (by learning the hard way!).
I first moved abroad to work as an au pair in France, I later since tried out a few other visa options with the one goal of staying in France as long as I could. One of the visas I have been on in France was a student visa but I didn’t do my bachelor’s or master’s degree here.
Instead, I did a DUEF program, a Diplôme Universitaire d’Etudes Françaises, at a French university. This translates to a "University Diploma in French Studies" and is more intensive than the comparative FLE (French as a Foreign Language) courses and provides you with a long-stay student visa in France.
Let's dive into the good stuff and everything I learned along the way so you can get your France student visa with far less hassle.
What Is the DUEF Program?
The DUEF program, or Diplôme Universitaire d’Etudes Françaises, is a 20 hours per week French language program that certifies your level in French while also preparing you for university in France or for taking a language test (like the DELF or DALF) to prove your skills for another visa or job.
This program is for those that prioritize speaking French fluently in day-to-day life. This goes far beyond the basic skills apps like Mondly can give you.
Many universities and some private language centers offer this program, giving you the chance to live and study abroad all throughout France. I'll cover how to find the programs below.
Who Is This Program For?
If you plan to teach French, attend university in France, or stay in France after the program, the DUEF program could be a great path for you.
The courses are arranged by level:
It's important to realize though that not all programs accept beginners and some ask that you're already at the A2 level before applying. The universities and language centers don't offer a one-size-fits-all situation but instead the requirements to apply will also vary from program to program.
Lucky for those of us that aren't moving to France will infinite funds, you can work up to 20 hours per week on a student visa, so you’ll be able to work part time while you study if you’d like. One thing to note, however, is that to get a French student visa you must have proof that you (or a guarantor) have the finances for all course fees plus 615 euros per month of your stay.
How Long is the Visa Valid For?
Your visa is valid for as long as your program is, either for 6 months or 1 year. You can extend your long-stay student visa by continuing on with the next level in your French language class.
What’s great is that it’s relatively easy to stay in France after completing a DUEF, by starting a degree, starting a business, or finding a sponsored job.
6 Steps to Get a France Student Visa
Step 1: Find a Location
Make sure to factor in your budget and the style of life you prefer. Living in Paris is amazing, but make sure you have a budget for Paris rent.
As well, choosing a smaller town, like Annecy, or even a more rural area could help your French advance much quicker because locals will be less likely to speak English, forcing your to practice your French speaking skills more often outside of the classroom.
Step 2: Explore DUEF Programs
This official list shows a few of the available programs to get your student visa to learn French and this site shows even more. Note that on the 2nd site, some of the highlighted programs aren’t full time DUEF programs so make sure to double check and read the fine print before getting your hopes up on one.
This site will also show you private language schools where you can study French and qualify for a visa. It's important to know though that private language schools are often much more expensive than DUEF programs.
After browsing through these 3 websites, if you haven’t found what you’re looking for from those sites, try searching “DUEF + city name” in a search engine.
Step 3: Check for Application Dates
DUEF programs are mainly held at public French universities, so their application windows are short and strict. You’ll need to keep an eye on when to apply by checking the universities’ websites, as most (if not all) won’t accept late applications.
Step 4: Start the Application Process
Make sure you have all of the supporting documents requested, which usually includes:
- A copy of your passport
- A transcript and/or diploma from your last school/university
- A resume/CV (mine wasn’t academic but I’d recommend highlighting your academic successes)
- A letter of motivation
You may be able to apply directly to your university but you may need to go through the EEF portal, the website for international students to apply to study in France.
This is where you’ll submit all of your application documents (whether or not you’ve already applied to the university directly) and pay the fee, which is mandatory for all Americans and many other nationalities (listed here).
Once you make an account on the EEF website, you’ll be able to proceed either as an already accepted student, or as someone applying to programs. Make sure to follow the advice from Campus France.
Step 5: Make a Visa Appointment
Once you’ve been accepted into the program, have paid your Campus France/EEF fees, and have the approval from Campus France, you can make a visa appointment up to 3 months before your program starts.
You may ask for your visa to start up to a month before your program starts, but keep in mind that you will not receive a visa for more than 12 months no matter what the start date. Be sure to bring all requested documents and copies of those.
Step 6: Take a Language Level Test
After you've completed the prior 5 steps, you're all set! You're moving to France on a student visa to learn French. Congrats!
The last thing you'll need to do though before classes start is to take a language level test just before the start of your course (unless your university does this online). Then you’ll be placed into a level and start your DUEF course.
If you’d like to learn more about my experience doing a DUEF, click here to check out my TikTok video on it.
Moving to France on a Student Visa
Visa can certainly be intimidating and most assume that applying for one is a nightmare. And, well, honestly that can be the case for most of us expats.
Lucky for you though is that if you want to live in France on a student visa, the process is super straightforward and not as chaotic as applying for other visas can be.
If you have a real desire to live in France and speak French fluently, moving to France on a student visa is a fantastic option for you.
All photos by depositphotos.com.