Could it be! A French work visa that is… shall we dare to say it… easy to get? That is if you find a company to sponsor you and you’re willing to deal with a couple months of stress. No biggie.
When I was here on a student visa and even now, a pretty common question among expats is, how are you here? There’s always a mark of jealousy/understanding when someone says they have a double passport. But then your ears perk up when you hear- ah ha, you’re American, and here on a work visa! How could this be so?
Here’s my story: Last summer, yish almost a full year ago now, I was in Paris helping my French friends open a Mexican restaurant, and then later in the South of France to volunteer at Chateau de Gudanes. In between all of that, I was frantically looking for jobs in Paris that would allow me to return and continue to learn in my new career field. For me this included English-speaking, cooking related jobs from cooking schools to American/French bakeries.
In my back pocket I had a visa I had talked with my friend Melissa about- the Jeune Professionnel Visa.
- A temporary work visa
- Applicable for Americans ages 18-35
- You can have a company sponsor you (the sure way of getting this visa) or ask the FACC to help you find a post (not sure how that works but I saw it on the forms form united states postal service (I would think the best way to ensure that you have a job is to find one yourself)).
- The initial contract/visa is for one year, and renewable up to 6 months after that.
- You can only get this visa once (ever) (doesn’t matter if it’s with a different company).
- The company does not have to pay an outrageous amount of money for you to get the visa, just 72 euros in taxes.
- Admissions is rolling, meaning you can apply at anytime.
- Expect the full process to take 2 months, but allow 3 just in case!
Essentially this visa allows students and recent American graduates to go to France to train in their respective field. The BIG thing here is that as it is a temporary work visa, so the company does not have to prove that there is not a single French person that can take the job or pay a ton of fees. Both of which are massive hurdles faced with a permanent French work visa.
So every company that I thought might be a fit, I wrote a personal email, explaining who I was, my experience, and that I could actually get a visa (with their help) pretty easily.
In June, I left Paris after hustling the full month of May to hopefully, hopefully find something, with two possible job offers. One was with an American bakery, another a cooking school that taught tourists French specialties in English. I had no idea which way I wanted to go especially when I had been previously working in a pastry shop in Dallas.
The first week at the Chateau it was a lot of communication and crossed fingers before I hopped on a 6 hour train to go back to Paris for a trial day at the bakery and hopefully another interview at the school. Then fate intervened, the bakery fell through and a second interview at the school was landed and was a success. A week later and I had an offer and a whole lot of paperwork to do.
Here’s what was needed to complete the application as of 2015, that was sent to me by the FACC Office in NYC when I emailed them. You can also find out more about the Jeune Professionnel Visa (American Trainees in France Visa) on their website.
Documents needed from the host company in France:
– Four completed simplified work contracts, attached (Note: four forms are required, each form signed in pen by the visa applicant and signed and stamped by the host company. Photocopied signatures will not be accepted.)
– Completed Engagement de Versement, attached
Documents needed from you, the candidate:
– The Fiche de Candidature, attached
– Completed “Engagement de Retour”, attached
– Current resume in French
– Current resume in English
– Cover letter in French (i.e. lettre de motivation)
– 2 passport sized photos
– Proof of previous employment or internships (e.g. a brief letter from a previous employer on letterhead)
– Copy of university diploma or transcript
– Copy of the six first pages of your valid U.S. passport
– Completed American Young Professional Request Form, attached
– US$150 check payable to “OFII” (this can be a personal check)
Totally not a problem right? Except I was in France and a lot of the things I needed, like um my US checkbook, were well, in the US! So a slightly frantic message to my lil sis and a couple days later some very necessary documents were making their way to the Chateau- where the mailbox was seriously- Chateau de Gudanes and the town it’s located in, no street address or number. So yes, it was kinda a hail mary- let’s see if it makes it kinda move.
And it did! Just as we were starting a workshop and things were crazy hectic. But I set aside a couple hours, filled everything out, organized it in order on the massive table made out of wood from the grounds, and then walked down to town to find a photocopy machine, because as with any French paperwork you send off the originals and you make absolutely sure you have a copy just in case.
Did I mention the town had a population of 345 people with a post office, tobacco shop, boulangerie, little grocery store, and two restaurants?
The only copy machine that I could use was at the tobacco shop. So in between ringing up people she would scan and print a page- there were more than 30 pages…
Then coincidentally enough it was off to NYC to the French American Chamber of Commerce there that handles the dossiers. Then we hit a snag- the company and I had forgotten to fill something out on the contract, so back it went to France. Where luckily I intercepted it in Paris, was able to fill it out with my company and send it back once again to NYC.
They took a quick peek and then it was back off to France and the waiting began. Or should I say the stress began? I flew back to the US, and what started was two brutal months of biting my fingernails, having butterflies in my stomach and watching the days tick off as we got closer and closer to the day I was supposed to be starting my job in Paris.
About two weeks to go and I was getting super nervous. My visa contact started emailing the France OFII people and I started trying to call on a daily basis without much luck. Then I called the Houston Visa office- no luck either. Then I had a French friend try calling a couple of times for me. You might sense the desperation here.
There was a week of this and finally some news. The dossier was still with La DIRECCTE (think of them as the big scary people who approve things in France) but… the approved paperwork was supposed to be received at the OFII in a couple days! weee! Relief- or so I thought.
More waiting. Checking in with people- and nothing. More than a week passes and the date I’m supposed to be starting in Paris comes and goes. The ‘couple of days’ turns into almost two weeks before I hear that the paperwork is officially officially approved.
This is confirmed by my French consulate in Houston calling to let me know that they have my documents and to come in to finalize everything. This involved making an appointment online and bringing in:
- Your valid US passport, it must be valid beyond 7 months of your contract end date and have at least 3 blank pages
- 1 photocopy of the first page of your passport
- 1 passport sized photo
- 1 long stay visa application (found on the website)
- Demande d’attestation OFFI (found on the website)
- 99 euros or the equivalent in US dollars paid by cash or credit card
So I drove 4 hours to Houston the following morning starting the trip at 6am to be there in time for my appointment. This time I felt like a pro and instead of waiting to be called, I went straight up to the window, handed over the documents, got my picture taken, and voila!
Then to wait for them to put the visa in my passport! Since this could take up to a week (I have no idea why), I headed back to Dallas.
A couple days later and I received a phone call- it was ready! I immediately booked my plane ticket and started the drive back down to Houston.
Naturally they aren’t open after 12 each day so I spent the night at a friends and then went first thing in the morning to pick it up and make the drive back to Dallas, pack, and hop on a plane!
And there we go! Two months of stress for one of the least painful work visas to go to France. I was about a month late to getting to France but I made it!
Once here you do a medical visit with the OFFI- it’s not that bad. Eye exam (look at a chart and say the letters), they take your weight, and then there’s a chest x-ray. Yup a little odd but really it’s over in a second.
I always tell people that France really makes you work for it if you want to come here. I call it their weeding out process.
Double check your paperwork!
Make copies just in case!
Take Yoga! hehe
Here is a link to information on the US FACC NYC site: American Trainees in France Visa