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My girlfriend and I want to study abroad in France. For both of us it's one of those bucket list things. We're planning to leave in the Spring of 2018. I will be 30, and she will be 31 at the time of our departure. Both of us are US citizens. I plan on going to a University for my masters and she will do a PhD program. In our "dream" phase of this planning we wanted to leave early say April and do a bunch of traveling in Europe before our classes start. Now that we've been researching this plan we're not too sure that we will be able to do this.

From usa.campusfrance.org it states:

Campus France Step By Step Visa You must schedule an in-person appointment at your assigned consulate via its official website. The consulate website features an online calendar that shows available timeslots. Appointments for visa applications are available in the morning only. Your visa appointment must take place no more than 90 days before your departure to France.

According to the application for the French Consulate in Washington DC, US:

French Consulate Washington DC Application The starting date of the visa cannot be earlier than 3 weeks before the starting date as written on your official letter of enrollment.

So it seems like the earliest we can fly to France is 3 weeks prior to classes starting. So I have two questions:

  • I can make my appointment 90 days prior to my departure date. With processing, say I enter France 60 days before my start date. Will I be able to do this with a short term visa and then it would seamlessly transition to my student visa?

or can I do this?

  • Sign up for Summer French Classes at the University I plan on attending for my academic studies and get my visa set for an earlier date. I will plan so that I start classes in June, but I've seen courses that are only a couple weeks long. So could hypothetically take the rest of the summer off and travel? According to Campus France this sounds like a possibility:

Campus France Step By Step Visa If you plan to complete two consecutive programs (such as a program in French as a foreign language, followed by an academic program), obtain admission to both programs before applying for your visa. That will ensure that your visa will be valid for the full length of your period of study.

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    As a US citizen, you can enter France without a visa. If you enter France 60 days before your start date, your status does indeed transition seamlessly according to the Schengen directives. However, I don't know whether French law views it the same way; if it does not, you could get around that by leaving the Schengen area (to the UK, for example) and re-entering. – phoog Oct 10 '16 at 22:26
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    If I were you, and pursuing the visa-free-entry route, I'd probably plan a trip out of the Schengen area just to be on the safe side, unless you can get information from an official French source that it's unnecessary. The UK is the closest and easiest option, but any non-Schengen country will do, just so you get an entry stamp on your visa. – phoog Oct 11 '16 at 14:53
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    Your girlfriend is going to need her convention d'accueil and all those documents ready, and you're not likely to be able to get them early. And she can only apply for a visa from her 'country of residence'. Sorry, but I think you'll have to be home for this. – la femme cosmique Oct 13 '16 at 10:55
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    In my case, I was actually three weeks late for the beginning of my contract (applying from country of residence which != my country of nationality). You can try to speed things up by getting the university to send the convention d'accueil early, but I also tried doing this and it took the university over a month. I think that the usual procedure gives you the visa between two weeks to one day prior to beginning the contract. The CDA needs to be signed by very many people including the local préfecture, and there are delays on each step which can't really be skipped or sped up unfortunately. – la femme cosmique Oct 19 '16 at 10:19
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    And to simply sit some immersion classes, it would be a different visa to the one she'll need for her PhD, which is a working (scientist) visa. I really wouldn't advise trying to do anything funny to get bonus time in the country before she starts tbh, but maybe you'll have more success. Everything here really is a big process, and there's the matter of submitting OFII papers, etc. I wouldn't mess with it if I were you. Now you could enter the country as a tourist and that would be fine. But I think you'd have to get the visa in the US still. So you'd have to fly back and forth. – la femme cosmique Oct 19 '16 at 10:23

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