There are only a limited number of countries you can visit without a visa if you have a Philippine passport and getting it isn’t always easy. You have to open up your entire being to these people before they can accept you. And if you cannot handle rejection, you will get heartbroken (again). That’s why when I decided to live in Paris, the thought of applying for a long-term french student visa was already stressful. Coupled with the fact that the French bureaucracy is known to expats as a direct threat to your patience. Thankfully with the right planning, resources, skepticism and patience, I was able to get accepted into the French soil.
Where I appliedWhere
The French Consulate in Gibraltar doesn’t process any visa so I needed to submit my application to the French Consulate in the UK. Since Gibraltar is a UK territory, we are covered by the consulates in the UK.
The French Consulate in the UK doesn’t accept applications directly, they have outsourced this service to TLSContact in London and Edinburgh. TLSContact does not accept applications by post directly from the applicant. Someone (either you or a friend) needs to drop the documents in their offices personally in order for them to accept the application. Even though this is the case, they do accept documents through a visa agency. This means that if you’re living outside of London or a friend in London is not available, you can send your documents through post to one of these agencies and they can send it to TLSContact. Here is a list of agencies in TLSContact’s website:
List of accredited agencies:
- ANYVISA LTD : email@example.com
- C’EST LA VISA: firstname.lastname@example.org
- CIBT: email@example.com
- FAR EAST TRAVEL CENTER: firstname.lastname@example.org
- MULTI TRAVEL VISAS: email@example.com
- NEXUS VISAS SPECIALISTS: firstname.lastname@example.org
- PASSPORT SERVICES: email@example.com
- STAR TOURS : firstname.lastname@example.org
- VISA POINT: email@example.com
I’ve used AnyVisa in my past short stay tourist visa applications and this long stay student visa application both with good success. I like their service because they really try to get the answer for you if you have questions (and I had countless).
What documents I submittedDocuments
This is where bulk of my time was spent and I really clarified all requirements with the visa agency to make sure I have the right documents.
- Two identical ID photo less than 3 months old and meeting set standards;
Make sure you check the standards, in other visa applications they require a white background but in others they require gray. For the life of me I don’t know how gray or white will affect your visa application but just follow the rules.
- Two long stay visa application forms, completed and signed
For field 11. National identity number, we don’t really have this in the Philippines so ever since I’ve been filling out visa forms I’ve always left this blank. Wikipedia has a list of what this number might be for your country:
is used by the governments of many countries as a means of tracking their citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents for the purposes of work, taxation, government benefits, health care, and other governmentally-related functions. The number appears on identity documentsissued by several of the countries.
For field 26. Intended date of entry into France or the Schengen Area, I wrote 16 December 2017, and when they approved my visa they used this as the start date of its validity even though they’ve issued the visa one month prior to my intended departure. Put this in mind when planning for your dates.
You only need to fill out the first half of this form because the French consulate will stamp this and give it back to you since you need this when you arrive in France (see this article to know more about what happened in my OFII appointment).
This form is in French but you only need to know the basics to be able to fill this out. Nevertheless, here is a translation to help you with that if you’re too lazy to open google.translate:
NE(E) born : LE the : DD/MM/YYYY
- Original signed passport; must be valid for at least 15 months after the day you plan to leave United Kingdom; must have at least two blank visa pages);
- Previous passports (if applies);
- Original BRP card/ UK residency visa (if comes separately from your passport);
The Gibraltar residency visa is a sticker within the passport and therefore doesn’t come separately.
- Registration or pre-registration in a French university or school. Recent, official and signed letter stating your name/type of studies/length of studies/part of a European program if applicable/number of hours per week;
I enrolled myself at France Langue and I told them that I need a certificate to go with my visa application. They are already aware of what type of document they need to provide for this purpose. I was wondering at first whether I need the original letter from them since all the documents require being an original. And since the school is in Paris and I’m in Gibraltar, then if I want the original I would have to pay for courier and wait for it to arrive. The school said they always just send a scanned copy. And since my visa didn’t get refused, in retrospect it was fine to just submit the scanned copy of this. Whichever school you enrolled at, you need to contact them in order to get this.
- Diplomas, certificate. Proof of your academic status/ level if relevant;
I handed my huge original university diploma (which I was hesitant to fold in half to be honest). Unfortunately I forgot to bring my original accountancy certification so I just didn’t submit this. The important thing is they know that I have proof I graduated from university according to my representation.
- Original letter from your employer less than 3 months old;
This applied to me since I was working at the time. It’s just a letter stating that I actually work in that company etc.
- Last three months’ payslips in original;
- Cover letter explaining study project in France;
I explained why I wanted to study French and what my plan is after I finish my study. The key here is to show the consulate that you genuinely do plan to study in France.
- Proof of accommodation for the first 3 months (Hotel booking + proof of resources to cover the costs; Rental agreement signed by both parties; University/School accommodation: letter from the University/School stating details of accommodation; If private accommodation: letter of invitation from your host in France + proof of his/her ID.+ proof his/her French residence permit if applicable + proof of address such as a recent bill)
I’m very lucky to already have a place in Paris, since I would be living with my boyfriend so I didn’t really experience the hassles of finding an apartment in Paris.
- Last three months bank statements in original showing sufficient funds to support yourself in France; Proof of scholarship if applicable; in case of Private sponsor : letter from your sponsor stating financial sponsorship and relation to the visa applicant + his/her proof of ID + his/her French residence permit if applicable + his/her recent bank statement showing sufficient funds + his/her last three month payslips + contract of employment;
You need to have €615 per month for the duration of your stay in France. My boyfriend and I used both our resources to prove my financial capacity to live in Paris for the duration of my visa.
- Medical insurance covering your full stay in France (it is not a travel insurance), if you are over 28
I was still 27 when I did my application and won’t be 28 until after I move to Paris but I still need an insurance since I will be 28 in a few months. Also, France Langue do not have any insurance schemes for students like universities do so I really need to have my own. I did a bit of research and I ended up buying this insurance underwritten by Lloyd’s London administered by Tokio Marine HCC. It’s the most affordable insurance I can find that’s underwritten by a known company (Lloyd’s) and covers the requirements for an international student private insurance. You can refer to TLSContact’s FAQs, to get more information on insurance requirements.
How long did I wait for the decisionWaiting time
I successfully submitted my documents to TLSContact on 27 October 2017 and I got the decision on 7 November 2017, just 8 working days! I don’t know if this is exceptional but it was good for me! I got all my documents back after two days.
The joy of knowing I can finally enter the French soil beats the stress of collating all documents and waiting. I know it doesn’t stop here because I still need to do a lot of administrative stuff afterwards. But let’s leave that for another post.