Hindsight is 20/20: Navigating OFII

If you are a future TAPIF assistant, other language assistant, or future expatriate of France, then you’ve probably seen the acronym OFII thrown around quite a few times. OFII stands for Office Française de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration. If you are not an EU citizen, then you will be close friends with this office (or at least become rather close) throughout your expatriation.

All non-EU citizens are required to register with OFII before getting to France, and your visa will not be validated until after you have gone through the entire immigration process through OFII. You’re probably wondering how you do this. Well, my friends, as I mentioned in my post about applying for and receiving your visa , when you apply for your visa, you also have to fill out what is called a residence form, aka an immigration registration form. You can download this form and fill it out from the French consulate website. It should be an option on which you can click when you go to make your visa appointment here. The one that I’ve linked is to the French Consulate in Chicago, but all consulates should have it. Sidenote: be sure to fill out a visa application for ”lecteurs” and ”assistants.” 

Before you go to your visa appointment, you need to fill out the top portion only of this residence form, bring it with you to your visa appointment, and then the consulate will mail it back with your passport and your visa for you to take to France. Do Not fill out the bottom portion of the form until after you get into France. 

The top portion of the form needs to be filled out as follows: 

  • Your name of birth – your family/last/surname that you were born with
  • Your spouse’s name, if you are married, if not, leave it blank
  • Your first name
  • Your sex – male or female
  • Your birth date – remember day-month-year!
  • The city in which you were born
  • The country in which you were born
  • Your nationality 
  • Your civil state – married, single, separated, divorced, widow(er)
  • Your father’s first and last name
  • Your mother’s first and maiden name
  • Your passport number
  • The issue date of your passport
  • The expiration date of your passport

The Consulate will fill out and stamp the box portion, and you will need to fill out the bottom portion after you get to France. 

Getting to France: 

On your way to France, whether you are going straight to France or going through another country in the Schengen Zone, you have to get your passport stamped. This will show proof to OFII that you have indeed entered the Schengen Zone/France. For example, on my way to France, I entered the Schengen Zone through Iceland. I got a stamp on my passport in Iceland and didn’t get one on my way to France, since my flight to Paris came in from a country in the Schengen Zone (Iceland).

Not sure what the Schengen Zone is? Simply put, the Schengen Zone is a group of countries, most of which are members of the EU, that have a free border agreement, meaning that if you are traveling within Schengen Zone countries, you will not go through border control nor will you receive a stamp in your passport (like I did not receive a stamp in my passport flying into Paris from Iceland). The only time that you will is if you are going to/coming from a non-Schengen Zone country or if the country is on high security alert, such as France was after the Paris bombings in November 2015.

Something to note: not all EU countries are part of the Schengen Zone and not all countries in the Schengen Zone are a part of the EU.

Unsure which countries are in the Schengen Zone? Check out this map here. Be sure to check this map before you travel because the stamp you receive is of utmost importance. Without it, you cannot hope to have your visa validated by OFII.

Once you are in France, you need to send the following documents to OFII as soon as possible within the first three months of you arriving in France: 

  • The completed bottom portion of the OFII form (Don’t forget to make copies of it before you send it off just in case they don’t get it!) 
  • copy of your passport – ID pages
  • copy of your visa 
  • copy of the stamp you received coming into the Schengen Zone 

How you need to fill out the OFII form: 

  • Your new French address – This is why you must have housing before you can send in your documents to OFII
  • Your new French number – This is why you must have gotten a phone plan by the time you send your documents. If you have not received your bank card yet and have yet to get a phone plan, you can do what I did. I got a temporary number through Orange, and then when I got a phone plan with Free after having received my French bank card, I just asked them to keep my number. I talk a bit about this process in my post about looking for a phone plan.
  • Your email address 
  • Languages that you understand both written and spoken – They need to know this so that they know which language to speak with you during your medical visit.
  • Visa information – number, dates valid, date of entry into France (NOT the date of entry into the Schengen Zone. So, stamp of entrance into Schengen Zone but date of entrance into France. It seems as though they like to make things complicated).
  • Signature – In France, you must sign official documents with the place (meaning the city) you signed it, the date, and then your signature. Here in the States we only do date and signature.
  • DO NOT fill out the box at the bottom of the form. This if for OFII to fill out.

You can hand-deliver these documents to your nearest OFII office (if you are close enough to one), or, you should mail it. You must mail it by lettre recommandée – a type of official letter where you get a piece of paper back when they receive your documents. You will need that piece of paper. You can do this at your local post office. When sending the documents, ask to send them lettre recommandée, and they will get you the proper documentation for you to fill out in order for you to do that.

The address to which you need to send the OFII documents should be in the assistants handbook, and it should be correct. Last year (the year I was an assistant), the address on the form ended up being wrong, and the only way I found out was by going to my stage d’accueil where they blatantly told us that it was wrong, proceeded to give us the correct address, and told those whom had already sent it to the wrong address ”sorry. You’re out of luck, but you’ll have to send it again.” (I’m still confused as to why they never corrected it on the document). So, if you are unsure of the correct address, you can wait until your stage d’accueil (which is one of the first things you’ll do. So, if you are worried about time, you shouldn’t be.) , double-check with the person in charge of assistants in your country, or check the OFII website.

Once you’ve sent your documents lettre recommandée, you should receive a paper back from the letter that should be stamped in some way. You need to hold on to this to show that you have proof that you sent your documents.

Eventually (hopefully within the first three months) you will receive a letter from OFII stating that they have indeed received your documents. This document can replace the document that you received back from the lettre recommandée. You need to guard this with your life because this will show proof that you are in the process of registering with OFII, and if you don’t receive your medical appointment letter by the time your three months is up (which is very likely. I didn’t receive mine until the end of January), then you will need it in case you want to travel or just to have in case anything happens. You do not want to be deported!

Once you receive your letter telling you the date and the time of your medical appointment with OFII, you should have multiple letters.

  1. Convocation Pour L’Attestation Par L’OFII De L’Accomplissement des Formalités – This is a letter that tells you the date, the time, and the address to which you will need to go for your medical visit. It will also give you a list of things that you will need to bring with you to the medical exam
  • Your passport – This is what they will stick the OFII sticker into to validate your visa
  • A passport style photo
  • A copy of proof of residence – This can be a copy of your attestation d’habitation, an utilities bill, your lease – any official document that has your name and your address on it.
  • If you have already completed an OFII medical visit elsewhere by a doctor approved by OFII, then you will need the related medical certificate – only if this applies. In most cases, it doesn’t.
  • A stamp amounting to the tax indicated on the adjoined documentIf you are a language assistant, you will not have to do this. You will be exempt from the tax. However, if you are not a language assistant, yes you will have to buy stamps, like from the post office, amounting to the tax that you have to pay.

2. Taxe Percue A l’Occasion de la Délivrance du premier titre de séjour – This is a letter stating that you are exempt from paying the tax. You must bring this with you to your medical visit, otherwise, they might make you pay the tax.

3. Convocation à la visite medicale – This is another letter that states again the date, the time, and the place where you will need to be present for your medical visit. In this document, they will also ask you for the following, if they apply:

  • Any lung x-rays taken within the last three months
  • Your vaccination records (If you don’t have them, don’t stress about it)
  • Hospitalization report if you’ve been in the hospital within the last year
  • Information relating to your pregnancy – if applicable
  • Any other documents relevant to your health – For example, I brought my prescription medication to show the doctor for my hypothyroidism.

You will need to bring all of these letters and documents to your medical visit. You will need to show up on the date at the time and the place in which your letter states that you should be present. I had heard of assistants being able to reschedule, but do not assume that you will be able to. I think this is for rare cases.

On the day of your appointment, you should expect the following: 

  1. Show up at least 15 minutes to half an hour early 
  2. Give the reception your name and all of your paperwork
  3. Go wait in the waiting room until your name is called for an x-ray – Forewarning, you will have to remove all of your clothes on top, and they do not give you a gown. So, ladies, don’t be shy. They’re doctors. They’ve seen it all before.
  4. Go back to the waiting room and wait for your name to be called by another doctor – You will get your height and your weight taken, have your eyes checked, and get asked some questions about your vaccinations, your safe sex practices (yes, they are very thorough.), your general health, etc.
  5. You will go back to the waiting room and wait to be called by another doctor for the last portion – The doctor will take your blood pressure, take a look at your x-ray with you, talk to you about any potential health problems you might have, ask a bit about your medical history (if you’ve had any notable diseases, surgeries, medical conditions), and ask if you smoke. During this time, the doctor should give you a cerftificat de controle medicale. This is important. This shows proof that  you completed the OFII medical visit in addition to the stamp that goes in your passport.
  6. Afterwards, you will go back to reception where they will put the stamp in your passport that says that you have completed the OFII process and that you are legally allowed to stay in France
  7. Congratulations! You’re all finished!

The OFII process can be and will be confusing. It can also be complicated and take lots of time. The best advice that I can give you is for you to be patient, do everything exactly as you should in the time that you should, and send in/give the proper documents always. You should be alright if you follow these rules. Also, do not worry if you have not received your medical visit before your three months is up. Most assistants don’t!

Just take some deep breaths and follow the rules, and then you’ll be set! Good luck!

 

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