Part 1: The
Application | Acceptance E-Mail | Waiting
Part 2: Figuring out your Arrêté de Nomination | Obtaining your Visa
Part 3: Packing & Bringing Money | Arriving: The Paperwork Nightmare
Part 4: Teaching Tips & Lesson Plans | Vacations: Travelling
Part 5: Before Leaving France | Staying in France: Renewing, PACSing, Unemployment
Once you receive your arrêté, you will know exactly where your work will be located. Now you can get your plane ticket if you haven't already and start looking for housing. However, you might not receive your arrêté until August. (And don't worry if you notice that British and Irish assistants receive theirs much earlier than you - this is because they are EU citizens and do not need special authorization to work in France, unlike non-EU citizens). Most French schools are closed in July and August, and you cannot get your visa until you have your arrêté, so be prepared to wait for months, and then rush to get your paperwork done at the last minute before leaving.
If you still have not received your arrêté by the end of August, contact Carolyn Collins and she will track it down for you. And in some cases, your school will e-mail you first before sending your arrêté in the mail. Make copies of your arrêté as soon as you get it. This is the most important piece of information for getting your visa. The French Embassy in the US does not receive a copy of the arrêté, so if you lose it, the Embassy cannot replace it. However, some consulates will allow you to use a faxed copy of your arrêté when you apply for your visa.
If you are a primary assistant, you may just have the address of the Inspection Académique (IA) and/or the Inspecteur d'Education Nationale (IEN) on your arrêté instead of an actual school (and the IA/IEN may be in a different city than the schools you are assigned to). The IEN's cover the larger cities, while the IA's cover entire départements. A lot of primary assistants don't find out what schools they will be teaching at until just before they need to start work, so the IA or IEN is listed on your arrêté just so you can get your visa. In general, you will placed in the town that is listed under "rattachée administrativement" so you can at least start looking for housing.
I received my arrêté on July 8. I also received information about the required orientation (which may take place before October 1 depending on your académie), general information about my académie, and the Carnet de Route (guidelines booklet) for language assistants (in English). You can download the Carnet from the CIEP website but I've scanned all of the other documents and you can view them here:
Letter from Recteur
Arrêté de Nomination
Grenoble Info 1
Grenoble Info 2
Grenoble Info 3
Grenoble Info 4
Grenoble's website also included the updated informational documents for premier degré and second degré last year. I have also written another page specifically about the académie de Grenoble and/or ville d'Annecy if you are placed nearby.
If you don't receive any information about when your académie's orientation will take place, check the CIEP's site for dates and locations. There is one list for primary assistants and one list for secondary assistants, but you should check them both regardless of which level you are teaching.
The ANAEM form (also called OMI) might or might not be included with your arrêté. This is the form you will need to mail once you arrive in France so that your medical checkup will be scheduled (you must get a medical clearance before you can stay legally in France). The Embassy suggests making a copy of the form and mailing one to France a few weeks before you arrive and mailing the other as soon as you arrive in France, so that your appointment will be scheduled earlier. Do not worry if you did not receive this form before you arrive in France! Sometimes the académie will e-mail you the form anyway.
The first thing you should do now is write letters or send e-mails to your school(s). I sent both and you can view my letter here. However, since most schools are closed until the 3rd week of August, it may be a while before you hear anything from them. The Carnet gives information about what questions to ask. You should definitely ask if housing is available. If you received a general packet from the académie and not from the actual school (like I did), you can look on your académie's website to find more information about your school (and probably its website and email addresses.) Each académie in France has their own website using the address www.ac-nameofacadémie.fr so mine was www.ac-grenoble.fr
You can start gathering information about your city now too. Most cities in France have their own website and many use the address www.ville-nameofcity.fr so if you wanted to find out information about any city in France, just fill in the name. (Some of the larger cities just use their names in the URL, such as Paris, which is www.paris.fr and available in English too) These city websites are very comprehensive and you can probably find maps and public transportation routes and schedules as well. You can also look up your city on itransports.com and see what type of public transportation is available.
You really need to be patient in waiting for your arrêté to arrive. Each académie, and sometimes the individual départements, mail out the arrêtés at different times. However, if you are really impatient you can try e-mailing the person in charge of the assistants in your académie to see if they will give you any information. Search on your académie's website for assistants étrangers and see if anything comes up. Do not e-mail your local French embassy (that you sent your application to) asking for information about your placement. They do not know where you have been placed and they have nothing to do with you anymore once you are accepted.
Depending on how early you get your arrêté and which consulate serves your state/province (refer to Documents & Links page for the list of consulates), you may be able to apply for your visa through mail. However, the only consulates in the US that still allow mail-in applications are Los Angeles (but only if you live in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico or Southern Nevada) and Washington D.C. All three consulates in Canada, as well as Australia and New Zealand, now require personal appearances (or so it says on their websites, but I know some Canadian assistants who mailed their applications). In general, most consulates require you to make an appointment through their website and go in person to the consulate in order to apply for the visa. Then it will be mailed back to you in 2-3 weeks (in the self-addressed Express Mail envelope that you provided.)
Which consulate do you have to go to? From Carolyn: Most assistants apply to the consulate that corresponds to the region where their parents live, or to the region where they attended university. The visa service generally defines your region of residency as the region where you have lived for the past 6 months, but this rule is not set in stone as there are a number of applicants who have just moved or graduated from college. Some consulates require proof of residency (i.e. a utilities bill) when you apply for the visa to show that you live in their region of authority. If you cannot provide a utilities bill in your name, many consulates will also accept a utilities bill and letter written on your behalf by your "host" (parents, landlord, etc.), stating that you live under their roof. The required documentation for proof of residency can vary by consulate, so please go to your consulate's website for more detailed information.
If you do not currently live in your country of nationality, you can probably obtain your visa for France in the country of your current residence, as long as you can prove that you are a legal resident there and not just a tourist. I know assistants coming directly from Taiwan and South Korea have had success in doing this.
You will be applying for a Long Stay Visa (for the purpose of working in France, not as a visitor!) and there is NO fee for this. You must fill out the visa in French and all of the questions are in French, but there is an English translation of the questions available and you can see how I filled out my application here or below. You must use your original documents when applying, so if you go in person, make sure to get the originals back before leaving. If you mail your application in, make sure to put post-it notes on the originals so that they will be returned to you. This is what I needed for the Chicago consulate, back when they allowed visa applications by mail: passport and a photocopy of the first page, two application forms filled out, the original arrêté and one photocopy, and three photos (two attached to the applications, and one left loose).
New Procedures as of June 1st, 2009
Long-stay visa holders will be allowed to reside in France for up to 12 months according to the validity of their visa and purpose of stay. They will no longer be required to obtain a residence permit ("carte de séjour") through the French local authorities ("Préfecture"). However, these long stay visa holders will have to register to the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) during the first three months of their stay in France. Please note that the new regulations applicable to long stay visas will require a longer processing time as they will serve as residence permits.
When you apply for your visa, you will also need to include the OFII form so that the consulate can stamp it. After your arrival in France, you will need to send it to the OFII along with a copy of your passport and the immigration stamp received at the border. Then your medical visit will be scheduled, after which you will receive a registration stamp in your passport that serves as your residence permit and acts as a replacement for the carte de séjour.
English Translation of visa application and suggested answers to some questions:
Please fill the visa application form out completely. Please use a pen and print in capital letters. Select yes or no with a ‘x’. Please do not fill out the column on the right.
1. Last name
2. First name
4. Date of birth (day/month/year)
5. Place of birth
6. Country of birth
7. Other names : maiden, alias, pseudonyms
8. Present Nationality
answer: Use the feminine form of the adjective even if you are male, because it's agreeing with nationalité, which is feminine
9. Nationality of Origin
10. Type of travel document : passport, laissez-passer, diplomatic or official passport, refugee travel document.
11. Travel document number
12. Nationality of travel document
13. Date (d/m/y) and place of issue of travel document
14. Date (d/m/y) of expiration of this document
15. Permanent address and phone number
answer: ASSISTANT(E) D’ANGLAIS
17. Employer (name, title and address)
answer: Name, address and phone number of school in France
18. Civil status : single, married, separated, divorced or widow(er)
19. If you are NOT a citizen of the country in which you are applying, please write the information from your Alien registration card : number, date and place issued, by whom, and expiration date.
20. If you plan to travel with members of your family, please indicate : relationship, name, date of birth and nationality.
21. Purpose of stay in France (study, work…etc) and for what length of time ?
answer: POUR ETRE ASSISTANT(E) D’ANGLAIS and 7 MOIS (or 9 MOIS)
22. What will your address be in France ?
answer: Name, address and phone number of school in France (unless, of course, you already have a place to live in France)
23. Will you seek employment in France ? If yes, what type ? Name, complete address, and telephone number of employer.
answer: X on OUI and ASSISTANT(E) D’ANGLAIS and name, address and phone number of school in France
24. Will you be a student in France ? If yes, what kind of studies ? Name and address of the school or university.
answer: Only fill this out if you have already been accepted into a program. Mark NON if you intend on studying in France, but haven't applied or been accepted anywhere yet.
25. Will you be in France for an internship ? If yes, what kind of internship. Name and address of the organization.
answer: Only fill this out if you have already been accepted for an internship.
26. Explain your financial means during your stay in France (salary, personal incomes, parental support) Will you receive a scholarship while in France ? If yes, name and address of the organization that granted the scholarship. Please indicate the amount.
answer: LA REMUNERATION MENSUELLE and MES ECONOMIES PERSONELLES (monthly pay and my personal savings) and X on NON below
27. Do you have any relatives in France ? If yes, please indicate their name, nationality, relationship, address and telephone number .
28. Do you have any sponsors in France ? (contact or friend) If yes, please indicate their name, nationality, title, address and telephone number.
answer: Just mark NON for this one, unless you really do have a close friend/significant other in France and want to write their info.
29. Have you ever spent more than three consecutive months in France ? If yes, what was the purpose and dates of your stay ? Address ?
Fait à= City where you signed this form
Please do NOT forget to glue an original i.d. photo to the front, lower right-hand corner of the application.
If your consulate lets you apply by mail, you also need to include a copy of your plane or e-ticket (so they know what arrival date to put on your visa) and an Express Mail pre-stamped self-addressed envelope (which costs $14.40 at the post office). Keep in mind that some consulates require more paperwork or a different type of envelope, so make sure to check on your consulate's website first. You can get two passport photos at Kinko's for $12.95. I bought the two there and then scanned and printed more copies (of various sizes) at home on photo paper. I mailed my application on July 17 using Certified Mail (which cost $2.40) so that I could track it online. You can also send it Registered Mail (which costs $7.90) if you'd like insurance coverage. The Chicago consulate received my application on July 21, and I received my visa on July 28.
Please note that some consulates have made assistants pay for this visa in the past. You might want to print out this page from France Diplomatie that states the assistant visa is free and bring it with you to your appointment just in case. Canadian assistants in particular have had different experiences regarding payment for the visa. According to the Canadian liaison for the program, however, the visa should be free.
I received the third e-mail on July 19, which included specific information about each consulate and applying for visas. You can download it here.
I received the fourth e-mail on August 24, which included information on what to do if you hadn't received your arrêté yet. You can download it here.