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Schengen Visit before French Student Visa

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Hello - Assuming my long-stay visa application is approved, I will be studying this fall in France (beginning in early September). I am American with a US Passport. I have the following questions:

1) Can I visit Schengen zone countries, including France, PRIOR to the start date of my student visa (on a <90 days visitor visa)?
2) If so, must I leave the Schengen zone before re-entering France to start the visa? And does this have to be done on/after the visa start date, or can it be a few days before (so as to get settled in before classes begin)?

Sorry if this topic has been covered. I have found a lot of information about the reverse (traveling after a student visa), but nothing about beforehand. Thanks in advance!

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    I am assisting an American student who begins studies at a university in France on August 19, 2016. It is not clear if you are planning to study just for the Fall semester or longer. Either way, we were required to first submit the student application to Campus France. After that was processed, we were advised to make an appointment at our assigned Consulate. You cannot make an appointment at the Consulate more than 90 days from the start date of your school program. You may know all of this already, but if you do, then you've likely read all the requirements involved in obtaining the Long Stay VISA.

    At the top of the Required Documents to Bring to your VISA Appointment, there is the following statement: "Please note: An extended stay student VISA (for periods of more than 3 months) cannot be combined with a tourist visit of less than 3 months, which does not require a visa."

    On the "Required documents to bring to your VISA appointment (found on the Consulate website), under "Airline ticket or reservation," You must indicate the intended date of departure (which based on prior stated criteria cannot before earlier than 90 days from the start date of your school program). It goes on to state that you must make a 'formal commitment not to depart before that date.'

    So, unless I have misunderstood your question/circumstances, you will need to submit your passport to the Consulate the day of your VISA appointment. It will take approximately 3 or more weeks for the VISA to be processed. During this time, you will not have your passport. So, could not travel without it.

    If you plan to travel from the U.S. and return back home prior to your appointment at the Consulate, you shouldn't have any trouble as your VISA will not have been stamped into your passport. You would, however, have to return to the U.S. for your Consulate appointment.

    When you give the Consulate a departure date at your VISA appointment, that date will be used for the VISA start date stamp. You would not be able to enter the Schengen area prior to that date using that same passport. That is why they ask you the date you plan to enter and ask for your commitment not to depart before that date...

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    @1994 - Thank you for your comments. To answer a few of your questions... I have applied to Campus France and am awaiting response. If that goes through, I have an appointment with the Consulate on June 10th (~87 days prior to the start of my semester). I will be studying in a French language program from September to April, with the hope of extending the visa an additional year (I'll tackle that issue separately!). If my passport is returned from the Consulate and my visa approved within the estimated 3wk period, I will travel mid-July to the Schengen zone (as a visitor).

    As for the letter to the Consulate about my intended departure day, I figure I have two options, depending on feedback I receive from this forum (and other more official sources hopefully) -

    (a) I detail my travel plans, and provide my departure date as the date in July that I plan to first visit Europe.. I am aware that the visa itself is likely to be issued to begin at the start of my program and NOT this date requested in July, but I would be telling them for the sake of full disclosure.

    OR I can (b) keep my travel plans separate from my visa application, as they are just plans to 'visit', and use the date that I intend to re-enter the Schengen zone (early September) from, say, England or Croatia.

    I did also see the note from the Consulate about "student visa cannot be combined with visitor visa", but I have read conflicting accounts, between Consulate websites no less. I guess my bigger concern is whether my student visa will be impacted by a visit prior to the start date, and whether a trip outside of the Schengen zone between the visit and the long-stay is absolutely necessary (economically, I'd rather avoid if I can).

    Hope that clears a few things up. Thanks!

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    At your appointment on June 10, you can give them your departure date of the day you choose in July. We are doing this as we plan to arrive July 15th in order to find and secure housing, bank account, etc. This is more than a month prior to the first orientation day at university. You will not have a problem with this. That is why they ask you your date. Your VISA will not have the start date of the first day of class, it will have the date you provide as your arrival day into the Schengen area.

    The VISA will only be issued for the period of study. You will be advised how to renew the VISA when you get the VISA. In our case, the student will study at a 2 year Master's program. Yet, the VISA will only be issued for the first year of the program. The student will be required to renew the VISA 2 months prior to its expiration date - in France. This is the normal procedure. Your school should have explained all of this.

    You will have the opportunity to ask all your questions at the VISA appt. Campus France will also answer most of the questions you have asked. They do answer the phone and are very helpful. They also answer email inquiries very promptly (from our experience).

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