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.” 

Continue reading “Hindsight is 20/20: Navigating OFII”

Hindsight is 20/20: Your birth certificate

When moving to France, no matter what country you are from or what job you will be working, you will be required to have your birth certificate and not just a copy. You will need an original birth certificate to bring with you to France.

Before, all language assistants, including assistants from English speaking countries, were required to have their birth certificates translated and apostilled, a type of stamp that says that the certificate is officially official, like it’s super official. I’m still not sure that I fully understand what it is, but it’s a pretty important stamp.

However, now, at least American assistants don’t need it apostilled. I’m not sure as to whether or not language assistants from other countries need it apostilled. However, just to make sure, I would double-check this information, because I think it depends on the country you are from. You should be able to get this information from the information packet you were emailed or from the person in charge of your country’s assistants. It is also a wise idea to double check information, even if you are mostly sure.

Continue reading “Hindsight is 20/20: Your birth certificate”

What is this place?: the journey back Stateside

My journey back home to the United States was definitely quite the journey. When I booked my flights home, going back through Iceland turned out to be my best bet in terms of cost. I was able to get all three of my flights for around $550, which is quite cheap considering that I was flying across an ocean.

My journey started at 6:00 am when my co-worker with whom I was staying and one of my friends in Laval sad goodbye to me at the Laval train station and helped me get my two suitcases, my backpack, and my purse, all of which were bulging at the seams (I honestly had no idea how many things I actually bought while I was in France until everything was all packed and I’m pretty sure that all four of my pieces of luggage weighed more than me when combined), onto the first train back home.

My train pulled out at 6:18 am, and I cried, silently of course because I didn’t want to be that weirdo crying on a train at 6:18 am.

I had to make a change in Le Mans, a French city about a 40 minute train ride east of Laval, because unfortunately the one direct train from Laval to the airport would’ve gotten me to the airport only an hour before my flight left. That definitely wasn’t going to happen.

So, I made my change in Le Mans, almost spraining my ankle when getting off the first train because again, all of my luggage weighed more than me. I’m sure I looked quite the scene, this tiny woman lugging around all of this stuff that was much bigger than her.

I had just enough time to find my train platform, and relax for about 10 to 15 minutes before my next train, and then it was time to struggle getting on the train again.

At this point, I just accepted that I was going to look like the world’s biggest fool with all of my luggage.

Thankfully, this train was going straight to the airport, so I took an hour and a half slight nap while enjoying the French countryside for one last time for quite awhile.

Now, even though I accepted that I was going to look like a fool, I did still feel so awkward and like a complete idiot once I got to the airport. Charles de Gaulle Roissy Airport doesn’t really have many elevators. They have more escalators than anything.

Seeming how the train I was on was a double-decker TGV, I’m pretty sure there were at least a hundred people getting off that train at the airport, if not more, and because CDG only has escalators, everyone had to take the escalator one at time filing slowly behind one another.

Now, most people in France, even though they were at the airport and obviously traveling, had one medium or small suitcase with either one backpack/purse, and here I was with my one large suitcase, one small suitcase, one large backpack, and purse, all bulging as previously mentioned. The awkwardness level was tangible. It was so awkward, and I was struggling so immensely, that I almost completely lost it and burst out in laughter. Oh well, c’est la vie when you decide to live/move to another country/back home. Also, escalators and suitcases don’t mix too well, but I definitely managed (not that I really had a choice).

Thankfully I was at the airport well ahead of time, and because I was so exhausted already, I was able to sit for a couple of hours before I could check my bags in. I literally sat for two hours while I people-watched. I had no brain power to read, to write, or to do anything else really.

The airport is one of my favorite places to people watch because you have people from all over running around trying to check in and to catch flights speaking all different languages.

Once I was able to check in my two bulging suitcases, I got through security, and I enjoyed my last baguette sandwich, fresh smoked salmon with tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and butter,  and a French-style espresso one last time before saying goodbye to my second home. It was quite the moment. That was the most savory baguette sandwich.

My first stop was Iceland, for only an hour and a half. Thankfully I was able to get some sleep on the plane, but I honestly never really sleep well on planes. So, really it was quite meh.

This first flight was my first dose of reverse culture shock. You’re probably wondering how that was possible. I was flying to Iceland from France. Well, my friends, it appears as though many American tourists in France found out about Icelandair’s great deals, just like me. About at least 80% of the people on my first flight were all American and very obviously so. I’d forgotten how loud we Americans can be. I generally consider myself a quiet person, even for an American, but now that I’ve lived in France for 8 months, where they’re just quiet 90% of the time, even in restaurants, I felt overwhelmed with the volume level. Seeming how I was already exhausted and just ready to be home even though I still had hours of travel ahead of me, I literally was becoming angry, even though they weren’t doing anything wrong, even though they weren’t bothering anyone. I was ready to deck someone. My sense of anger worsened when we got to Iceland and had to go through border control (no surprise there), and I’d forgotten that in the States, we are a culture of push. Single-file lines mean nothing to us. I was reacquainted with this quite quickly when going through border control and people were edging closer to me than I was comfortable and kept pushing me forward in the line, even though I clearly couldn’t move forward, even though I clearly was in line. My whole world view started shifting again, and the struggle was literally so real.

This continued even past the border control at the gates themselves. Again, most of the people on my flight to Boston was mostly Americans (no surprise there as we were flying to the United States), but again, I forgot how different Americans are. Thankfully though, I was in the exit aisle (which means lots of space!!!!), and I was sitting next to a lovely Finnish couple. I felt much more relaxed on this flight, thankfully so since it was a 5 and a half hour flight.

IMG_4360

One great thing about my travel home: this beautiful shot of Greenland! Look at all of that snow and ice. 

Once I arrived in Boston, I only had two hours to get across the airport to another terminal. I was a little overwhelmed because since I had booked my last flight separately, I had to pick up my bags, go through border control and customs, check my bags back in, and go back through security. It all worked out though, but the reverse culture shock kept coming. The guard at customs and the security guard both inquired as to how my evening was going. What? That threw me off. Why are you asking me a question not related to my things or me or where I was and why I was there? You are asking me how I am? huh? I forgotten how outwardly friendly Americans are. In France, they are very private, reserved people. At the airport, they only ask you questions when needed. Asking you how you are is just not a thing, and I forgotten that small talk is a thing, a thing that is massively ingrained in our culture. I almost forgot how to manage. I almost forgot to respond without giving them weird looks and feeling violated. In France the idea is ”I don’t know you. You don’t know me. We don’t talk to each other. That’s odd. I will not tell you personal information about myself, especially how I’m doing.” However, here in the States, it’s seen as polite. I’d forgotten. How do I be an American again? 

Another thing that threw me was the fact that everyone was speaking English and not with a European accent. I knew that was correct. I was in the States now, but my brain just couldn’t comprehend what was happening. It didn’t help either that I’d been traveling for 18 hours at this point. So, I kept moving forward all in a daze.

By the time I got to the check-in desk for my last flight home, I learned that my flight had been delayed an hour. Even though that was nice in the fact that I no longer had to rush through security, it did mean that home was an hour more away from me than originally planned. The struggle to stay awake and to be patient was becoming the realest of the real. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep for a whole day.

Once I was through security, I realized that I hadn’t eaten since noon France time, which was 6 am my time here in the States, so I was starving. Again, I was pleasantly acquainted by reverse culture shock again. I ended up paying $9.00 plus tax for a half soggy sandwich. Why is everything so expensive here? Why is there tax? Why is this bread not crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside? Better yet, why is this sandwich soggy at all? What is this place? I was a bit overwhelmed. American prices make no sense, and I’m really sad that I can no longer eat baguettes.

When I finally boarded the last flight, I only had two hours and ten minutes between me and home. Thankfully, I was so exhausted that I was able to snooze a bit on the plane. The airport was dead upon arrival, being how it was about 12:15 am, and I balled my eyes out upon seeing my mother, not realizing how much I actually missed her and being completely delirious from exhaustion.

It was a bit of a rough journey, but I made it. I made it home safe and sound after much struggle, but I’m still trying to remember/figure out what this country is all about. France changed me, and I didn’t realize how much until coming back Stateside.

 

 

Hindsight is 20/20: Applying for and receiving your Visa (carte de long séjour)

If you are not an EU citizen then it is absolutely, positively, and certainly obligatory to get a visa, specifically une carte de long séjour travailleur temporaire. Yes, that is a ridiculously long title for a visa, but c’est la vie.

In order to apply for a visa, you need a few things first:

  • a passport, that is valid at least 6 months after you plan on coming back from France
  • one copy of the identity pages of your passport
  • your arrêté de nomination, aka your contract, make sure that the stamp from the French authorities, specifically the French Ministry of Labor, is on your contract and clear
  • a copy of your contract
  • one application form, which is to be downloaded and filled out from the French Consulate website
  • one passport style photo – make sure that it is the correct size, format, and that it is clear. Blurry photos will not be accepted.
  • one residence form, which is also to be downloaded and filled out (just the top portion) from the French Consulate website
  • A self-addressed, pre-paid EXPRESS MAIL envelopedo not use FedEx or UPS and do not stick the mailing label on the envelope. The French Consulate will do that.
  • appointment booking confirmation 
  • Flight itinerary for your departure to France – not completely necessary but a good idea to bring in the case that you already purchased your flights

If you are not sure what all is required or if you want to be completely certain of the documents required, then you need to go to the French Consulate website of the Consulate that manages your state. Unsure which consulate you should go to? Check out this link to know exactly which consulate you need to make your appointment with.

The type of visa that is required is considered a Long Stay Visa for ”lecteurs” and ”assistants.” Do not fill out the application for a Long Stay Visa to Work in France if you are going to be working as a lecteur or assistant, because as a lecteur or an assistant the application fee is completely waived!

When making your visa appointment, you need to do the following:

  • Figure out which consulate you need to go to using the link that I put up above. For example, I’m from Indiana, so I had to make my appoint with the Chicago French Consulate. If you are not from the United States, you can still use the internet to Google where you would need to go for your closest French consulate.
  • Once you figure out which consulate you need to go to, go to the website specifically for that consulate to book your appointment.
  • To book your appointment, click on the following:
    • Visas for France
    • Long Stay Visas for ”Lecteurs” and ”assistants”
    • scroll all the way down to the section that says ”How to make an appointment” – it is also on this page where you can download the visa application form, the residence form (immigration form/OFII), and double check exactly what documents will be required.
    • then you would click on the ”make an appointment” link
    • it will open a new tab, in which you will click on the ”book an appointment” link on the left-hand side
    • You will need to accept the General Conditions to move forward and then click next
    • From there you can choose a date and a time for your appointment and then you click next
    • Next you will probably have to give your email address as well as print out the booking confirmation page – keep and bring the confirmation booking page with you to your appointment. It shows proof that you have an appointment with the Consulate. 
    • You can return to this appointment page to change your appointment time in the case that you would need to.
  • Come prepared to your appointment date at the French Consulate at least 15 minutes to half an hour before your appointment time with all of your documents

Some things to consider when booking your visa appointment:

  • You will most likely have to travel to your visa appointment, so keep in mind travel time
  • They are not open on the weekends, so you will most likely have to take a day off work/school (if you are still taking University classes)
  • Book your visa appointment ASAP! August/September is also a very popular time for study abroad students to apply for their visas, so visa appointments tend to get booked up fast! Even though you can’t apply for your visa until you have your contract, you can still book your appointment before you receive it and set it for a date when you feel mostly certain that you will have it and then change it later if things change.

Filling out the Visa Application Form:

  • You can download the form in either French or English
  • You need to fill in the basics:
    • Last/Surname
    • former last/ Surname – If it changed for some reason, such as if you had gotten married
    • First name
    • Birthday in this order: day-month-year, make sure not to put it month-day-year like in the States.
    • Your place of birth – I put city and state or just your State/Region/Province will suffice
    • Your country of birth
    • Your current nationality 
    • Your nationality at birth, if it was different than it is currently
    • Your sex – male or female
    • Your civil state – married, single, separated, divorced, or widow(er)
    • If you are a minor, which I’m sure most of you aren’t, the Name and Address of your legal guardian/parent
    • Your national identity number – In the United States we don’t technically have this. The closest thing we have is our social security numbers, which is what I put.
    • The type of travel document you will be using, most likely your passport
      • The French form says ”passport ordinaire”, choose this option
    • The number of your travel document
    • The issue date of your travel document
    • The expiration date of your travel document – Make sure it is valid at least 6 months after you plan on returning from France
    • Who issued your travel document – For example, my passport was issued by the USA
    • Your address in your home country
    • Your email address
    • Your phone number 
    • If you live in a country other than your nationality, then you need to put the number of your visa, when it was issued, and when it expires
  • You need to fill in information about your current job:
    • What is your current job
    • The name, address, phone number of current employer 
    • The name and address of your school if you are currently still in University 
    • The reason why  you are applying for a visa – On the French application, one of the options reads “Activité Professionnelle”, choose this one.
  • Information about your job in France – most of this information should’ve arrived with your arrêté de nomination
    • The name, address, and phone number of the inviting employer/establishment – for this you should put the name, address, and if you can find it, the number for the main school on your contract
    • What your address will be in France – Now, chances are that you won’t know this yet. So, you can do one of two things: Put down the address of the main school with which you will be working or put down the address of the Rectorat in charge of your Académie, for example le Rectorat de Nantes for l’Académie de Nantes. Do not stress too much about this part because as long as you have something, they really don’t look at it. They also will see your contract, so they know that you are already guaranteed work in France.
    • The date of your intended entrance into France/the Schengen Zone – If you are going to be entering into the Schengen Zone before you enter into France, then put that date, not the date you plan on arriving in France. This will be important for later. For example, I arrived in Iceland the day before I arrived in France. Since Iceland is a part of the Schengen Zone, then the date of my intended arrival in Iceland was the date I put. This is why it is extremely important to know your plans ahead of time. You don’t necessarily need to have purchased your tickets yet. It’s just wise to have your plans figured out before hand. If you are unsure which countries are in the Schengen Zone, check at this link.
    • The amount of time you plan on staying in France
    • If you plan on carrying out your stay in France with family members, then you need to write down their relationship to you, their first and last names, their birth dates, and their nationalities
  • Information about how you will financially support yourself in France:
    • Write down your job title, how you will be earning money in France – For example as an assistant, I put assistante d’anglais dans un lycée et un collège
    • Whether or not you will be receiving a scholarship while you are France, probably most likely not.
    • Whether or not someone else will be taking care of you – If yes, then you need to write down their name, their nationality, their address, and their telephone number.
    • If you have any family members that live in France – If yes, you have to write down their name, their address, their relationship to you, and their telephone number.
  • Information about whether or not you have lived in France for more than 3 months before
    • If yes, you must give the dates and the reasons – For example, I studied abroad in Nantes, France from January 2013 to May 2013.
    • You must also give the address at which you lived during that time
  • Sign and date the application with the place in which you signed it, yes the city in which you signed it. This is how France signs things.

Filling out the residence form (aka the immigration form/OFII form): 

  • You must only fill in the top portion of the form before you go to your Visa appointment with the following information 
    • 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
  • Leave the box for the Consulate to fill out
  • Leave the bottom portion for when you get to France

Going to your visa appointment: 

  • Arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes early!
  • Make sure to have all of your necessary documents!
  • When you arrive, if it’s anything like the Chicago consulate, there will be a reception desk on the ground floor to which you give your appointment confirmation sheet and show them your passport
  • Once you arrive in the office, you put in the piece of paper (if you get one from the reception) in the necessary box and wait for your name to be called
  • Once your name is called, you give them all of your documents
  • They will then verify your documents
  • They might ask you a few questions, such as if you plan to stay in France after the end of your contract, when you plan to arrive in France/the Schengen Zone, etc.
  • Then, they will take your picture
  • Then, they will give you a receipt – They will take your passport, but you will get it back, I promise! 
  • Then, they will send you on your merry way, and your visa/passport should arrive in 1 to 4 weeks!

If you have all of your required documents, you should not have any problems, and the appointment should go quite fast. That’s also why you should show up early so that you can get in and get out quickly. If you are not there at your appointment time, they will not wait for you! They will skip over you and go to the next person, either making you wait longer or making you book another appointment, which can be a nightmare.

Even though the visa is a lot of paperwork and can take up some time, it’s pretty straightforward if you have everything you need and you follow these steps.

I promise that it’s quite simple and mostly stress free. Assistants do this every year and end up getting into France just fine. So, don’t fret! Just be responsible and follow the rules!

Good luck!