Study Abroad Visa Tips
This is my second post about my study abroad journey. I want to tell you my experience preparing for my visa at the French Consulate in Los Angeles that I will need when I go abroad this fall. I first go over some general tips to help you with the visa process. I then go into detail for each requirement for the visa. Finally, I talk about my experience at the visa office.
Organize now to save time and avoid stress later.
Have Visa Process Folders
I would recommend having a studying abroad folder on your computer AND on Google Drive I made a separate folder just for the visa process to put in the directions and paperwork I would collect for the visa process. You should also have a physical two pocket folder to contain paperwork you will present to the visa office.
Make a Checklist
You will have to digest the visa process directions from the visa office and probably from your program. I would start by writing a checklist as you digest multiple information about the visa process. Start by writing the requirements the visa office provides and use the school directions after.
Being proactive is crucial to making sure you have everything in place. For my visa application, I needed a letter from my school’s financial office stating how much aid I would have while abroad. I tried to be proactive by visiting the office two two weeks before the visa appointment so it would be complete within those two weeks. However, I want to tell you that two weeks is still not enough. You can read the above email of what happened to me. I would rather not spend too much time about what happened but I want to emphasize that if you need paperwork that requires a school office to review and complete, I would recommend communicating with the office three weeks in advance and checking up on them each week. Three is the magic number ❤
You will also need to download application forms that you need to complete. I would rename downloads right away to what you will remember and put in your visa process folder. This will save you time later.
Keep Everything Updated in Google Drive
Just in case your computer breaks, you should back up all your files on Google Drive so you can still access everything. Make sure you constantly update your Drive when you have new files completed.
Details About Each Paper
Each paper will have nitty gritty details that the visa application requires. Take one paper at a time and ask questions of what you need to do to have it ready for the visa office. Does it need to be filled out? Does it need to be printed? Does it need copies? I will highlight each paper I had to go in detail below.
Each Paper in Detail
Be explicitly honest with yourself
- Proof of Residency in Jurisdiction
You will need to show proof that you reside in the area where the visa office is. For me, I had to prove that I live in Southern California for the French Visa Office in Los Angeles. I am originally from Northern California but attend school at UC San Diego. For proof, I copied my California’s driver’s license, my apartment lease near my school, and a utility bill to show that I am a resident of California and Southern California.
Bring your original passport and a copy of the first identification page.
3. If You Are Not A US Citizen
You will need to bring the original document of your residence (Green Card, Work Visa, Student Visa etc. and a copy. Please check with each visa office for more specifics.
4. Passport Photo
You will need to visit a place that takes official passport photographs. Check to see if your school offers this service or visit a local postal office. I would recommend getting multiple copies of these photos. You will need one for this visa process but you may need another one in another step of your study abroad journey.
5. Application Form
The application form indicates that you are applying for a visa. You will need fill out the form, tape 1 passport photo at the top, and make 2 copies of the form. You will bring the original and 1 copy to the visa office. You will keep the other copy for yourself.
6. Confirmations from Campus France
Setting up your Campus France account should be done before all these visa steps. If you haven’t started, start now! Your school should provide more specific information on how to fill out specific fields. Once you finish your Campus France account, you will receive a confirmation that your fee has been processed AND a confirmation that your account has been processed in your email inbox. Print 1 copy of each and bring to the visa office.
7. School Letter
You will receive a school letter from your current school’s study abroad office that you have been accepted to the study abroad program and indicating the dates you will be abroad. Go to the study abroad office to receive this letter and make 2 copies. Bring the original and 1 copy to the visa office. Keep the other copy for yourself.
8. Proof of Financial Means
You will also need to show proof that you will be able to fund your time abroad. If you are a financial aid student, you will need to request a letter from the financial aid office stating how much aid you will have abroad. Go to the office three weeks before your visa appointment and check the status of the letter every week. Receive the letter from the office and double check it meets the visa office standards. Make two copies of the letter. Bring the original and 1 copy to the visa office. Keep the other copy for yourself. If you are not receiving financial aid, you will need a statement from your parent stating that you will have a certain amount every month abroad. Check the office you are going for more detailed information.
9. Proof of Departure
Print out your flight confirmation to France and bring it to the visa office.
10. Long Stay vs. Temporary Stay Form
This document is to check which type of visa you would like. Fill out to indicate which visa you would like to apply for and bring it to the visa office. What’s the differences between long stay visa and temporary stay visa?
Long Stay Visa: You can work with this visa. You can extend your visa while abroad. You will need to fill out the OFII form.
Temporary Visa: You cannot work with this visa. You cannot extend your visa while abroad. You will not need to fill out the OFII form.
11. OFII Form
This form only needs to be filled out if you are applying for a long stay visa. Fill out this form, print 2 copies, and bring both to the visa office.
12. FEDEX Envelope and Slip
You will need to bring a self addressed FedEx envelope so they can return your original passport back to you. Go to the FedEx office to receive an envelope. This envelope will be from you and delivered to you. Bring the envelope and slip to the visa office.
13. Visa Fee
Bring your DEBIT CARD. I was charged $56 at the visa office.
14. Make a Visa Appointment
You will need to keep checking the visa appointment website for a time and day that will work for you. For the French Consulate in Los Angeles, you can only see the current month and not the upcoming month. So keep checking back to get the right appointment. Once your appointment is confirmation, print out the confirmation email and bring it to the visa office.
For the Visa Office
Friendly and Pleasant Experience :)
Check your bag that you have your debit card, driver’s license and passport. Keep all your papers in a folder and have everything in order. Have your appointment confirmation paper at the top so the security at the front can take it from you.
I would recommend texting yourself the address so you don’t panic. For the French Consulate in Los Angeles, there will be a parking garage. It costs $2 for every 12 minutes. The entrance to the place is hidden but close to the parking lot. If you take the elevator, the security guard will direct you how to get there. If you’re facing the front of the building, the door to the French Consulate is on the left back side of the building.
The security officer will ask what appointment time you have and tell you to come in through a speaker. Once he has told you to come in, you will show your appointment confirmation and driver’s license for identification. He will also request that you turn off your phone before going into the office.
The people reviewing your visa are very friendly and patient. They will ask to take a picture of you. Don’t smile for this picture.
Overall, the people at the visa office were very friendly. The security officer and the man who reviewed my visa were personal and curious of my visit to France. I think I panicked that I would miss something or that they would be strict. However, I was over-prepared and had a smooth experience at the office.
The visa process seems intimidating and too detailed. However, if you take one paper at a time and organize what you need to do, you will be able to get through this! I hope this was helpful to anyone stressed about the visa process. I have created some checklist PDFs if anyone is interested! Thank you for reading!