FRANCE: Paris prepares for annual student invasion

The student support agencies of Paris are preparing for the annual influx of
international students.

The Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (CIUP), which provides services including accommodation for international students and academics, is with the support of Paris City Hall organising and coordinating a one-stop shop bringing together all the authorities and administrative services with which foreigners need to register, or for their general information.

These include the immigration office, Paris police headquarters, welfare and benefit services, employment and vocational training departments, student insurance agents and the city's transport system.

A multilingual team of reception staff - between them speaking Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish - have received special training to advise the newcomers on such matters as finding somewhere to live, opening a bank account, applying for a residence permit, where to go for health insurance, signing on for housing benefit, French lessons, cultural and sporting activities.

The special reception service will be available until 11 December. During the equivalent three-month period last year, the service helped 4,000 students from abroad.

Globally, France caters for the fourth-largest contingent of foreign students after the US, Australia and the UK. In 2008-09, out of a total 2,213,000 students enrolled throughout France, 266,448 were foreigners, an increase of 50% compared with 2000-01.

About half of foreign students in France are from African countries, followed by Europeans who represent about a quarter, followed by those from Asia and Oceania at 16.2%, North and South America at 8%, and the Near and Middle East at 5.4%.

Paris is the most popular region for students from abroad, who make up 21.3% of the capital's student population.