I am an American student studying in Dijon for a semester and had a question regarding the OFII form. I will be in France for the duration of 3 months and 5 days, and I have some other friends studying elsewhere in France who have told me that it's not required by their universities. I wanted to confirm which is correct, since the OFII form is costly to mail in and I will barely be here for over 3 months. Am I allowed to fly home without completing the form?
There's no chance you would not be authorized to leave when what the OFII can do is deliver an OQTF (Obligation de Quitter le Territoire Français, making you leave France) (at least from my understanding, I am not a lawyer).
However, you must know that our immigration minister, Claude Guéant, sent the infamous “circulaire Guéant” on May 31st, calling for much stricter application of immigration limits, especially for students. There's now a rising awareness of the consequences of this act, that is it's much, much harder for graduates who want to work in France to do so.
So basically, I would say that if you're in only for three months and never intend to go back to France to work later on, you could skip the step. On the contrary, if you think there's a chance you would come back, you should definitely do it. Even if the legislation gets smoother by the time you come back, being able to prove you were previously allowed to stay on the territory will probably be a good point (based on advice given by school responsibles in another European country with strict immigration laws).
From my understanding, the worst thing that could ever happen to you is to get an OQTF + being forbidden to ever come back (“interdiction de retour”). That seems incredibly unlikely for a student that would have forgotten to send a paper.
This is an opinion from a local student and does not take into account any exigencies your school may have regarding this document, nor is it based on any real-life American student story. It is your duty to double-check the legality of what you're doing and how much it could impact you. I can only say there's very little chance you get trouble with the police or whatever in France, however I would make sure you'll be able to get your credits validated.