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I'm an international student currently living near Chicago. Tomorrow I have an appointment to get a French visa, and I have a question about one of the requirements.

According to them (http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/spip.php?article657), I'm required to have a travel itinerary: "2. travel itinerary: we recommend you to make a flight reservation and not purchase your airline ticket until you get your visa."

Does this phrase mean that I'm supposed to book a ticket before I show up at the Consulate General, or that it's just a recommendation and all I need is to know my route?

I would call the Consulate General, but they are closed today.

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From the looks of it, they probably want you to have an idea of where you're going, whether it's within the Schengen area or not, whether you need a particular visa, etc.

More than likely it's to prevent someone from spending a lot of money for a plane ticket that may not be used (if the visa is rejected).

Have a particular flight and/or date in mind, just in case. Good luck.

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It's definitely not obligatory as far as Schengen regulations are concerned, which is why they can't explicitly demand it and only recommend one.

Beyond that, you need to establish two things: that you have a valid purpose (that's where the itinerary comes in) and that you have the means to leave the Schengen area (that's why a reservation might be useful). The more evidence you are able to provide, the better.

See also Booking travel tickets for visa without paying?

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