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I am a college student on an one-month exchange program in France, with full scholarship awarded by the French Embassy/Consulate of France. Round trip direct flight tickets had been ordered for me by the French Embassy. In particular, the return flight was scheduled to be on the next day of the end of my program. As it is my first time visiting France, I have asked the embassy (before the start of the program) if I could slightly extend my stay so that I could do some sightseeing before returning to my home country. Since my program is very packed, I would not have the time for this during my designated stay.

However, my request was rejected as I was told it would 'violate the terms and condition' of my government scholarship. They told me they would have to cancel my scholarship if I insist on changing the return date. Therefore, I have come up with two possible options:

  1. Do not change the date of my return flight, but deliberately missing the flight and purchase another return flight on my own. However, this would be risky and somehow disrespectful. I am not sure if the embassy would find out, and if there would be consequences.

  2. Take the return flight as scheduled, but taking another flight back to France on the same day. In other words, instead of purchasing only a single return flight as in option 1, I would have to purchase a round trip flight tickets on my own. Economically, the price of a single return flight and a set of round trip flight are very similar. However, I am not sure if this is allowed by the custom, and if I would face any extensive questioning/troubles in the airport. By the way, my visa does cover much longer than I need so that wouldn't be a problem in theory.

I know option 2 sounds stupid, as two consecutive long flights maybe very physically demanding and it is a tremendous waste of time. However, I come from a very hectic field and this is probably my only chance to travel for a few days in the coming 5-10 years. What should I do?

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    What type of visa do you hold? What are the authorised duration of stay, the number of entries, the dates of validity, and the purpose of stay? Why would you want to return immediately rather than wait a few days? And why would it be your only opportunity to travel in such a long period if you have the time and money to do it now? In addition to the flight, where would you stay?
    – jcaron
    Jun 8, 2023 at 21:24
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    What type of visa do you have? The embassy has explicitly informed you that what you want to do is not permitted. If the visa was granted for a specific purpose how would you justify a rapid return to French immigration officials in option 2? Would you be able to comply with all the usual terms for a visitor eg insurance, proof of subsistence?
    – Traveller
    Jun 8, 2023 at 21:49
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    please read the comments - your visa status/requirements is by far what should be your main concern.
    – WoJ
    Jun 9, 2023 at 9:18
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    @wkjnrt I understand why you can do the scholarship-funded part of the travel. But if you can the extra round trip and hotel and spend the time for that now, surely you could do it at any other time in the future?
    – jcaron
    Jun 9, 2023 at 12:11
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    @wkjnrt Sorry but I’m struggling to think of any job or academic program in the entire world that can legally deny someone a few days leave for 5-10 years
    – Traveller
    Jun 9, 2023 at 18:52

2 Answers 2

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There is a much simpler option: just call the airline and change the return flight yourself. It's in your name and you have all the information needed to do so (PNR/booking code etc). And there is no magical connection between the airline and the organization granting the scholarship, so they will not be notified if you do so.

The one thing to beware of is change fees, if any: you will need to make certain you pay for these yourself, because if they get charged to the organization, they will find out.

As an aside, what is it with scholarships and stupidly restrictive flights? When I had one in Japan, not only did I have the same issue as you, but they bought two separate one-way tickets to ensure you could only return after completing the program -- even though this was far more expensive than buying a return!

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    This does not cover the visa question (and also the breach of the terms of the scholarship).
    – o.m.
    Jun 9, 2023 at 5:05
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    @o.m. OP stated that their visa allows them to stay in France beyond the length of the scholarship. If they complete the scholarship as they intend to, and don't engage in paid work or something, I don't see any issues here from an immigration POV. Jun 9, 2023 at 6:41
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    I don’t think there is any guarantee that the people who purchased the tickets will not be informed, this probably depends a lot on how the ticket was booked. Also even if they are lot informed directly, they can check it whenever they want, since they also have the name and PNR. And given their stance on the topic, that seems quite risky.
    – jcaron
    Jun 9, 2023 at 12:14
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    @phoog, the OP asked the embassy on variations and they said 'no,' even threatened to revoke the scholarship. If I were him, I would follow the conditions of the scholarship program to the letter, and avoid anything which even looks like doding that 'no' on a technicality.
    – o.m.
    Jun 9, 2023 at 12:24
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    @o.m. "I would follow the conditions of the scholarship program to the letter": so would I. But the consequences mentioned by the embassy concern the scholarship grant, not any visa.
    – phoog
    Jun 9, 2023 at 20:46
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Visas are a pretty big deal. You cannot afford to mess with that, or you can get 10 year or lifetime ban from the country, lose any visa waiver privileges you get due to a nationality, and for the rest of your life have to answer "yes" when any country asks you if you have been refused or expelled. In youth this all seems trite, but later, not trite.

And now that you've asked the embassy, fair chance the fact that you've asked is in your immigration file. So they will be on the watch for misbehavior here. Remember there's no freedom of travel, well there is, but it's called "citizenship". Every country or union gets to decide the conditions under which foreigners may enter. And the embassy vs immigration... assuming those agencies don't talk to each other is optimistic.

The scheme of buying a round trip airline ticket whose first segment arrives as your planned trip would depart, fails because of "hidden city ticketing" or skiplagging. Short version: anytime you miss a segment of travel, the entire rest of the ticket cancels.

So when you went to collect the second half of that round trip, you would be stranded need to buy a new one-way ticket on the spot. Or a new round trip ticket - you can always bail on the last segment. If you don't do it often enough to annoy the airline.

Of course since you're willing to pay for the round trip, you could always book the next day ... and actually fly the segments, after obtaining appropriate visa if you're not under VWP. Then when you present yourself at immigraton, your explanation is very simple: you planned to stay for an extra week but found out the scholarship doesn't allow that, so the necessity for the double flight.

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    (+1) I agree - struggling to understand why someone would think that looking for a way to evade a very definitive no from the embassy is anything other than a very bad idea, regardless of how attractive it seems. Where Immigration is concerned, toe-ing the line usually works out best
    – Traveller
    Jun 9, 2023 at 18:46
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    @Traveller the consequence of not complying with the terms is the loss of the scholarship. It has nothing to do with a visa -- indeed there seems to be no visa as OP seems to be an Annex II national. It's not really an immigration question but a scholarship grant question.
    – phoog
    Jun 9, 2023 at 20:51

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