As an American, I get asked quite often about how I'm able to work in France. I usually just say that I had to do a lot of paperwork but I honestly don't have enough time at the check-in to explain everything I've gone through. So I thought it might be interesting to go though most of the process that I've had to experience in the past year.
When I was back in the US I found out about a special French visa for young professionals that lasts for 18 months. I had to submit a few forms, provide a few other documents, and pay a small processing fee. Feels Like Home in Paris also to fill out some paperwork. The first step was pretty simple but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Here is the progression I had to go through to get (temporary) working rights in France.
After everything was compiled I sent off my documents to the paperwork black-hole known as the French government for them to approve your visa application. They say it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 10 weeks to hear back from them and there is no way see the status of your paperwork. But amazingly about 10 weeks later I received word that everything was approved and that my paperwork was sent to the French consulate in Chicago. Unfortunately I had to go to the Chicago consulate in person to submit more of my application and to get my physical visa in my passport.
By the time I got this news that all my paperwork had gone through I was in the middle of moving from Madison, WI to Kansas City. Therefore we had to make a pit stop on our journey from Madison to KC so I could swing by Chicago (which isn't even remotely on the way).
At the Chicago office my entire meeting lasted about 15 minutes. They kept my passport and took some more paperwork. They told me that they would mail back my passport in 3-20 days. A few days later (I forget how long it took) I received my passport back with a shiny new 3 month visa and a letter saying that I had to go register myself with the department of immigration once I arrived in France. But it didn't tell me anything else.
So once I was in France I went to the main police office to register and they told me I had to go to a different office across town. Luckily they knew what documents I needed to register. We spend a few days trying to compile everything I needed.
Off the top of my head I remember needing:
- A copy of my work contract
- A copy of my approved work permit
- A copy of my passport
- A copy of the immigration stamp in my passport
- A copy of my visa
- A copy of my birth certificate with an official translation
- A copy of my marriage license with an official translation (and they still marked that I was single on my paperwork).
- A utility bill/bank statement that shows I actually have a place to live (these can be pretty tricky to get for someone who just arrived)
- A handful of other immigration forms.
- Passport photographs.
- And I'm sure I'm missing a few other things.
In the waiting room there are about 10 windows where workers were processing people's paperwork. But at about 12:00 I notice that all the workers are leaving... of course, it is their lunch time. So for the next 60-90 minutes no one gets any of their paperwork processed. They start wandering back in about 1:45 Finally at about 4:45pm I get my number called.
I presented my paperwork to a lady at the window and after about 15 minutes she handed me a piece of paper that says to take all the paperwork I just presented (and a few new forms) to another office in 3 months time. All-in-all I felt like it was a success.
So three months later my next meeting rolls around. I get to the office at my meeting time of 9:30 and precede to wait 2-3 hours until my number is called. Once it is my turn I present my papers and the lady processing my stuff looks confused. She wants to know where my medical clearance papers are. Apparently I was supposed to get medically cleared before this meeting but I was never sent an appointment time. So I was given another 3 month extension and was told to come back about 3 months later with my medical paperwork. Unfortunately they didn't tell me how/where to get a medical appointment.
After a few dozen phone calls/emails I found out that the French Consulate in Chicago gave me the wrong type of visa so that was why I never received a medical appointment. So I had to gather a bunch of new paperwork and send it off to another office. About 2 weeks later I still hadn't gotten work about my medical visit so I sent a few more emails... apparently my stuff had gotten lost in the mail. So I had to make more copies of everything and I had to hand deliver my dossier to another small office on the other side of the city. Luckily this person I was dealing with got everything sorted out and I had my medical visit scheduled a week later.
The medical visit went fine and I only had to wait about an hour. And I even got to keep my chest xray! But I had gotten what I had come for... another piece of paper that said I was medically cleared to live in France.
Late February 2012
So back to the police office I went to wait for another 3 hours. I turned in my paperwork again and they told me to come back in 3 months to get my residence card.
I go back to the Paris police station and to stand in line again for 2 hours but this time I come out with an actual residence card (Titre de Sejour) and not just a piece of paper with a stamp on it. Success!
|Example of a Titre de Sejour|
After a few weeks I start to get worried because I had not heard back about my approval and my card was set to expire in about two weeks (which means I'm not legally allowed to work/stay in France). So I send a few more emails and find out that my paperwork was approved but the originals were sent to the wrong address. They did send me some electronic copies which I could use.
Back to the Paris police station. I had to wait for about 5 hours this time. But I had no paperwork problems. After my 10 minute meeting they handed me a piece of paper that said to come back after October 2012 to pick up my new residence card... whew!
The sheer amount of paperwork and waiting time has been amazing. But I guess I am used to it at this point and 3-4 hour waits don't really phase me anymore — it is actually kind of comical. And other Americans (and non-EU citizens) that I've talked to all said this has been their experience too—and they have to go through this same process multiple times each year even after living in France for 5+ years.
Fortunately France is starting to make steps to make all this more simplified. They now have most of the required paperwork available online (when I started everything was printed and sometimes hand written). But the laws seem to change every few months so I don't think all the offices can keep up with the changes. But I can't complain too much because I know the US Government makes it just as difficult (or possible harder) to work in the US so I feel lucky to be given this opportunity.