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I have been accepted as student for the 2013 January intake. Since the “lettre de attestation” says the program will start by the 4th of January I suppose my visa will be valid just before the program starts (I am already in the visa application process). However I bought a flight ticket with my family for the 17th of December arriving in France and staying for two days in Paris and then going to another country in the Schengen zone from de 21st to the 26th. (everything is bought since I wanted them to say goodbye before I move definitely to Europe - fiancee is European).

However since few days ago I realized that if I only have the long-stay visa I wont be able to leave France before passing through the OFII process, I plan to apply for a short term visa with another Schengen country (My fiancee will give me an invitation with exact dates, so it will accelerate the approval process). My concern is how should I do with dates.

  • What if I asked the short term visa last until the day before the long one starts?.
  • Can they co-exist for some short period (for example if the short one ends after the long one starts working)
  • How will I do with the entry stamp on my passport (if I am in France as tourist and get the entry stamp before my long stay starts working, how can I "activate the long stay one" and then apply for the normal process?)
  • Is there any risk I will somehow be considered in "sejour irreguliere" status or do I risk not having the chance to enter to France?

According to a document published on the web,

si vous souhaitez vous rendre à l’étranger (dans un pays de la zone Schengen ou effectuer un séjour dans votre pays d’origine), assurez-vous que vous êtes en possession de la vignette OFII apposée sur votre passeport, en regard de votre visa ; dans le cas contraire, vous ne serez pas autorisé à rentrer en France sans avoir au préalable sollicité un visa de retour auprès de l’autorité consulaire compétente".

So, how is the best way to travel before, but having the chance to leave France and then come back?

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Hi how are you? Have you received any valuable information regarding your question, i am also having the exact same problem? Thank you very much. – user3607 Nov 23 '12 at 4:53

So I found very few resources on this topic, but I will try to answer or at least give hints based on those and my experience (not for France though).

So first, about what you quoted, the vignette OFII is probably added on your passport when you enter France with a long-stay visa or maybe you have it when you receive your visa.

My first suggestion would be to ask your long-stay visa to start on the date of your earliest arrival. If it is 2 weeks before, you can still say you would like to make arrangements before your term starts. I saw on the form to apply for a visa that you can write the date you want as a start date. Maybe the university you'll go to provided information about it. And when you'll travel to another Schengen country, the procedure is more simple.

Your idea was to have a second short-stay visa, that allows you to travel for tourism before starting school. I think with this option it's pretty sure it'll work, even though the French authorities might wonder why you apply for two visas within a very short period of time. There should be no problem entering a country with a new visa while another is still valid (but you should specify which visa you want to use), I suppose it happens quite often. But I think there are a couple issues that might happen:

  • some countries forbid travellers with certain visa to enter their territory during a period of x to y days before the visa start date. I suppose such rules will be explained to you when you receive your visa.

  • You might need to leave Schengen area before entering France with your long-stay visa.

I know this post is not based on official information. You can ask the embassy near you (or see their FAQ). You can probably find some information about the date you're allowed to enter France in your visa's documentation if you already received it. You can also ask the person at the university about this problem.

(also to have more accurate information and to improve your question, providing your origin country and the other Schengen country is more useful than telling your exact dates of travel)

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When you meet with the consulate to get your visa, they will look at your travel itinerary and give you a visa that includes those dates, usually also with a couple days of buffer on both sides.

Once you have entered the Schengen area, no matter from which country, no one will look at your visa at the border crossings again.

Personal experience below:
I currently live in Paris. The French consulate in Boston looked at my travel itinerary when I applied for the visa and gave me a visa that had a week of buffer on both sides of my itinerary. I entered the Schengen area through Iceland, and the only stamp in my passport is from Iceland, even after I traveled to Poland a couple weeks after I got here. I applied for my carte de sejour almost 2 months later with no problems, and while my application was being processed and I was waiting for the medical exam, they gave me a document that stated I was in the OFII process, which is a substitute for the actual carte de sejour.

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