I understand that with a long stay student visa in France, you can work 964 hours per year. Does that include working on a contract as an Independent Contractor? On that contract, I would be traveling to a number of countries on the European River ships. As long as I stay within the 90 day Schengen limitations in the other countries, is that ok?
In France, all international students have the right to work, up to 964 hours a year. It starts with issuance of your student residence card or validation of VLS-TS (with some exceptions), by the Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) within the first three months of arrival.
You can exercise any paid activity without a work permit. However, the employer has to declare your name to either the prefecture of your residence (VLS-TS) or at the prefecture that granted your residence permit, and has to do this before you can start work.
Work as an independent contractor may not qualify and, in particular, if the employer/employment is not based in France and/or cannot demonstrate adherence to SMIC (Salaire Minimum Interprofessionnel de Croissance), including the mandatory taxation for France's social security benefits (20 percent deducted from the gross salary).
If you are not an EU national, your French student visa may allow you access to the Schengen area, but the French law that allows you to work doesn't extend to unlimited employment throughout the Area.
To avoid jeopardizing your status, it would be advisable to consult both your university's international student office and the OFII.