How to Get a Long-Stay Visa for France Through French Lessons

While it would be nice if Americans were able to live in Europe visa-free, it’s not the case (one can dream that it will be someday, right?). If you’re from the US and want to live in a country like France for more than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a long-stay visa (known as the VLS-TS) first.

If you don’t have family or a French spouse, there are (to really simplify things) two ways you can live in France legally as a non-European: through work or school. 

I’ve already touched on how to obtain a student visa for France, but this “hack” is for those of you who are more interested in improving your French skills rather than going to a university.

What Kind of French Classes Get You a Long-Stay Visa for France?

If you’re like me, you cringe at the thought of going back to school. Maybe you finished your undergraduate degree and thought to yourself “Never again!” Or, maybe you’ve gotten as far as your master’s or doctorate and there isn’t much university-level schooling out there for you. Or, hey, maybe after high school you decided to go straight to work.

As someone who never thought she would ever go back to school after my undergrad, I eventually did get my master’s degree here in France. But, that’s another story for another day. In between being an au pair and enrolling in my master’s program, I did one year of intensive French classes. And, those classes enabled me to get a long-stay visa for France.

For a bit of background, once I did ultimately decide to go for my master’s degree, I knew I needed to improve my French for a few different reasons. First of all, I wanted to be able to intelligently engage in a conversation with a French person. I also knew that in whatever master’s program I enrolled in, I would be required to understand, speak, and write at least basic French (a level I had not yet reach after living here as a nanny). Plus, if you want to go to a public French university as a foreigner, you need to prove that you have at least “B2” level French. 

B2 refers to a level in the “Common European Framework of Reference” (CEFR) scale for languages. It is used to assess people’s language levels and ranges from A1-C2. Here is a breakdown of the different levels for French:

  • A1: Beginner
  • A2: Elementary 
  • B1: Intermediate
  • B2: Fluent
  • C1: Advanced
  • C2: Bilingual

To be honest, whether or not you want to continue on to a master’s or doctorate program if you plan on living in France for an extended period of time, you should try to obtain at least a B2 level. 

The good news is, an intensive French language program will get you that student visa you’re after whatever level you’re at! Here is what is required:

Once you’ve found your dream program, you’ll have to go through the steps of applying for a student visa for French. I’ve mapped out everything you need to know here.

If you’re in Paris, I did the FETE program at Université Nanterre (yup, that Nanterre. Any other 20th-century history buffs out there?). It’s located just outside of the city to the west. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in improving their French. The classes are a mix of speaking and writing as well as cultural classes. Fieldtrips include visits to Parisian museums and landmarks, how cool is that? There is also a similar option at La Sorbonne

If you’re not in Paris, simply take a look at the list of FLE accredited schools I linked above!

Some Things to Remember if You Want to Renew

If you plan on spending just one year in France and know that you won’t need to renew your visa, you can skip the next section.

If you already know that you’ll want to extend your time in France after one year, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You need to pass the school year in order to renew. That means you’ll have to take school seriously. Attend all of your classes and study for your tests. Stay on good terms with your professors, as well.
  • Make sure you have a plan for what you want to do next. Do you want to continue with intensive French courses until you’ve achieved C2? Do you want to enroll in university? Remember, for the latter, you’ll need at least a B2 level.
  • Start gathering the paperwork you need to renew 4-5 months before the end of the school year. You’ll need to schedule your renewal appointment at least 3 months before your visa expires.
  • As a general note concerning all French visas: keep everything. That means bank statements, cell phone bills, copies of your lease, or a letter from the person who is housing you saying that they are housing you. You’ll need all of this plus proof that you passed the school year. 

Disclaimer: I’m not giving you permission to slack off or stop going to school if you don’t plan to renew your visa. My advice? Take advantage of the fact that you’re in France learning French. It’s the best way to learn a new language, and you’ll have the opportunity to speak French with actual French people. Don’t throw away an opportunity like that.

Molli offers private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

Photo by Faisal Waheed on Unsplash

How to Become an Auto-Entrepreneur in France

Many people dream of living and working in France, and while I was right there with you when I first got here, I know that I had a tendency to put the logistical side of everything on the backburner. Thinking about taxes and the like just didn’t fit into my Midnight in Paris vision of what I wanted my life to be like here. 

I was soon brought back down to reality when I finally got settled into my new post-master’s-degree life. I had already been in France for some time at that point, but I worked as an au pair (the family I worked for paid taxes on me), and after I was a full-time student (I traded English lessons for my apartment and took other odd jobs to make a little cash on the side). I knew I wanted to pursue freelance writing as a career, but I was unsure how to do so legally (plus how to get the benefits that I knew came from paying taxes here). 

I was soon introduced to the concept of the auto-entrepreneur. There is no literal translation for the term, but it should be understood as a one-person business. If you’ve also seen the term micro-entrepreneur floating around, it’s because in 2016 the French government officially changed the term from “auto” to micro-entrepreneur. However, although it’s been officially changed for five years now, most people continue to call it the latter and even the website you’ll use to open your business and pay your social charges features the word auto-entrepreneur. That’s France for you!

Similar to the 1040 freelancer tax status in the United States, opening your own one-person business is a great way to freelance legally in France. If you have a valid residence permit that permits you to work in France (sorry Visitor visa holders!), you’re eligible. When I got started myself, I found the process confusing and so I created this guide to help anyone else who may be in the same position.

Registering as an Auto-entrepreneur

I want to clarify one more time that the terms auto-entreprise and micro-entreprise are one and the same, and both signify a one-person business in France. Once you open your business, you become an auto, or micro, entrepreneur. There are a few different ways to open your business:

  • In-person, at the Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE) closest to your residence (a quick Google search will help you determine which one).
  • By mail, but filling out the form on this website (click on accéder au formulaire) and sending it to the correct CFE.
  • Online, by visiting this website.

I recommend you do the online option unless you’re eager to practice your French or use your printer and pay for postage. Once you visit the website, follow these instructions:

  1. The first question is asking if you are already an “independent worker,” which is yet another term for auto-entrepreneur. You are allowed to have up to two small businesses, but if you’re reading this how-to article I’m assuming you don’t have one already! Check the box that says “non.” Then, click the button that says “déclarer mon auto-entreprise.” 
  2. You’ll be asked to create an account, which you’ll need to pay your social charges and to have access to any sort of information related to your new small business. Fill in your personal information and then click on “créer mon compte.” You’ll have to confirm your email address and then sign in to your new account before you can move onto the next step.
  3. Once you’ve signed in, you’ll see a message at the top of the page asking you to complete the process to create your small business (Pour effectuer votre formalité…). Click on it.
  4. You can now finally get down to business. Fill in the necessary information, including what you plan on doing, when you want to start, and some other questions. The nice thing about the process (which didn’t exist when I opened my small business) is the small question marks next to each step that you can click on if you’re confused. 
  5. Below is a screenshot for reference, of what I would put if I were to sign up for a small business for freelance writing:
  6. Click on “Suivant.” Here, you’ll be required to fill in your personal information like your address, date of birth, and the like. You’ll also need to put your nationality, and here you’ll be prompted to put in your residency permit number.
  7. Click on “Suivant.” This next section has to do with your marital status and your monthly social charges. If you already have a social security number you can put it in here, otherwise, click on the box that says “Ce numéro ne m’a jamais été attribué.” You’ll be able to choose the frequency of your social charge payments. I personally prefer monthly payments, but you can also opt to pay each trimester. There is also the option to pay your yearly taxes at the same time as your monthly social charges. Again, this is all preference! IF you’d like to separate yourself legally from your business (similar to an LLC in the US), check “oui” next to the option to become an EIRL. 
  8. Click on “Suivant.” You’ll want to check “non” for the first question as you’re creating the business for yourself. Check “oui” for the second question, you’ll need the SIRENE for your future business dealings!
  9. Click on “Suivant.” You’ll be brought to a summary of all of the information that you’ve filled in so far. Review it and edit if necessary. 
  10. Click on “Suivant.” Here you’ll be required to upload a copy of your ID and your valid residency permit. This next part is a bit tedious, but you’ll have to scan and print out your documents and sign with the words, “J’atteste sur l’honneur que cette pièce d’identité est conforme à l’original,” Plus, “Fait à … le …” with your location as well as the date. Then, re-scan this document and upload it onto the site. Make sure you click on “Joindre le fichier” after you’ve selected the document from your computer. You should then see it below like this:
  11. Click on “Suivant.” You’ll be taken to a confirmation page with the option of downloading your application and I recommend that you do so for your own records! If you followed the steps above, you should receive a confirmation letter from INSEE, the institute responsible for managing all small businesses in France. In the letter is your SIRET, which is the ID number assigned to your business. You’ll be required to put that number on any invoices you send to your future clients!

Paying Your Social Charges as an Auto-entrepreneur

Now that you’ve set up your new small business in France the next step is to start working! I wanted to include a note on paying your charges. Whether you opt for monthly payments or each trimester, you need to stay on of them to avoid paying late fees. You can use the same website that you used to create your business to tell the French government how much money you made and to pay the social charges based on how much you earned. 

  1. Sign in to your account. You’ll be brought to the homepage:
  2. Under “Déclarer et payer” click on “mes échéances en cours.” You’ll see a red “1” if you haven’t filled yours out yet (like me, as of writing this article!). Click on the month that you need to pay. Here you’ll fill out your earnings. There are different categories depending on what your small business does. If you offer a service, such as writing, put your income in the first box. If you make things, like pastries, for example, put how much you took in as a salary in the second box, and in the third box how much money you made from actually selling the pastries. 
  3. Click on “Suivant.” You’ll see here how much you owe the government. As a small business owner in France, you’re required to pay about 23% of your income to social charges. This the price of advantages like low-cost health care and other such benefits. Click on “Valider” to confirm that you agree with the amount.
  4. Here you can enter your bank information if you haven’t already. I usually click on “Payer via ce mandat” right away so that it’s taken care of. You won’t see it deducted from your account until the beginning of the next month.

Congratulations, you’re officially a small business owner in France!

Molli offers private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

Reflections after 7 years

Reflections After More Than 7 Years in France

Sometimes it’s still hard for me to believe that I have lived abroad for so long. If you’ve read any of my other articles for The American in Paris, you know that my journey to France never involved years of dreaming or yearning to live in a different country. I’m from southern Rhode Island, which is filled with small beach towns and people who rarely leave. I was content with this idea until the first time I left the United States.

I found myself in France for the first time in early 2012 when I came here for my semester abroad. If you would have asked me in September 2011 if I thought I would ever travel internationally, never mind live abroad, I would have laughed and said no way. To put things into perspective, I had never left the country before (no, not even to go to Canada or Mexico), I didn’t have a passport, and I thought the life I was starting to build was too important to ever even consider leaving, even if for a few months. 

And yet.

Something was pulling me in the direction of France and I couldn’t really shake it. A study abroad advisor at my university very easily convinced me to come to Paris for six months. I loved my time abroad and when I got home I became that girl, starting all of my stories with “This one time in Paris,” but at the same time, I didn’t believe that I would come back to live here. I thought it may be nice, but that life that I had started to build in 2011 kept sneaking back up on me: it was way too important to ever leave long term. 

And yet.

I found myself yet again in France in 2014 and this time it stuck. I’ve been here ever since and now have a master’s degree from a French university under my belt as well as a French husband. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the past seven years more and more. 

What I don’t miss

I don’t miss the fast-paced American life.

I don’t miss 60-hour work weeks and I definitely don’t miss the standard two weeks a year off (and being expected to be happy with/grateful for that).

I don’t miss the materialism and capitalism and consumerism and all of those other -isms that seem to be such essential parts of American life.

I don’t miss the competitiveness that spills over and swells through every facet of that life.

I don’t own a car or a home and I don’t feel judged for it.

I don’t miss being bombarded with advertisements everywhere I look.

I don’t miss hearing “Ask your doctor if this pill/cream/potion is right for you” on television.

I don’t miss worrying about what I would have to pay if I end up in the hospital, and I feel fortunate that I was able to continue my education without thinking about the price tag.

I don’t miss being chased out of restaurants the moment I put my fork down on an empty plate.

I take long lunch breaks. I walk everywhere and I enjoy a glass of wine after a day at work. I like to spend hours at a time in cafés, people-watching, reading, and chatting with other café-goers around me.

What I miss the most

I do miss my family and my friends.

I do miss being able to call my mom whenever I want without having to calculate the time difference.

I do miss going to dinner at my dad’s house on Wednesdays and eating dinner with him on his deck.

I do miss having a backyard.

I do miss the beach, the ocean, the pier, New England, and I miss having access to so much natural beauty at all times.

Sometimes I do miss driving, although I don’t miss owning a car.

I do miss the wide-open spaces that the United States is so famous for.

I do miss paying less in taxes.

I do miss good, quality coffee and inexpensive beer.

I do miss breakfast and hot sauce and good Mexican food. 

I have missed seeing some of my closest friends get married, buy a house, and get pregnant.  I can’t get any of those moments back.

A different kind of homesickness

These days, newly married to a French guy who my parents have only met a handful of times, I’ve been considering what it would be like to go back home for a year or two. Between my selfish decision to spend 2019 in Europe to “Not spend all of my money and time on a trip home,” and the pandemic of 2020-2021, I haven’t stepped foot on US soil since summer 2018. 

Enter what I’ve been calling, a different kind of homesickness. I have, like any expat, of course, felt homesick before. It was the worst when I first arrived in France for the long haul in 2014, and I remember it getting bad again 9 or so months in. That kind of homesickness was pretty standard: I missed my family and friends and I ached to be in the place where I grew up and everyone knew my name (cue the Cheers theme song).

The homesickness I’ve been feeling recently goes a lot deeper and is even harder to describe. On one hand, I love my life in Paris and I feel like I’ve started to hit my stride here. I’m married, have a great group of friends, and I consider myself bilingual. When I walk through my neighborhood I see people who I know and say hello to. I know how to get around the city and I rarely find myself confused or disoriented. I have mastered the métro and even know how to rent a bike using my Navigo.

No, this homesickness goes beyond all of that. I am fully integrated into French culture and yet so far from it at the same time. I get frustrated when I don’t understand certain types of slang or cultural references. Much of this comes down to the simple fact that I am American. I grew up in the United States. In the same way that most of my French friends wouldn’t understand some of the vernacular that I use with my friends back home, or won’t know the obscure reference to some YouTube video that went viral in high school, sometimes I can feel lost. I feel misunderstood, simply because I am not French and I will never be.

It’s been hard but I’ve also started to realize, is it so bad that I will never be French? I have been striving, working, climbing, and scratching to be more French, but I can’t turn back time and change the fact that I wasn’t born here. And I’m becoming more and more okay with the fact that I am and may always be, an American in Paris.

Molli offers private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

Photo by Rafael Garcin on Unsplash

Did you enjoy this article?  TAIP is 100% reader-supported through tipping.  If you want to leave us a tip of any amount it would be highly appreciated.  These tips help support our efforts to keep TAIP an ad-free environment.  Just like at a cafe, the tips are split evenly among the team.

How to Earn Money as an Expat Student in Paris

I’ve had almost every student job imaginable since I’ve been in Paris. I’ve traded daily English lessons for my apartment and picked up a child after school while speaking exclusively in English. I’ve cleaned Airbnb properties and met guests to hand over the keys. I’ve done babysitting, dog sitting, cat sitting, and housesitting. 

As a student, you’re legally allowed to work “up to 964 hours per year, or the equivalent of 60% of the maximum working hours permitted.” That’s around 20 hours per week. 

If you’re an expat student in Paris who wants to start earning an extra euro or two, below you’ll find several different options that aren’t soul-crushing and actually kind of fun.

Childcare

Providing childcare is one of the easiest and most common ways to earn extra money as an expat student. There are a lot of French families who want their children to learn English, and a great way to do so is through an English-speaking babysitter:

  • Au pair “lite:” one of the biggest benefits of being an au pair is that your “host family,” or the family you’re working for, provides your housing. If you don’t want all of the responsibilities of a traditional au pair, like dinner, bathtime, and bedtime, keep your eye out for what I like to call au pair “lite.” I’ve had several of these types of positions. One was 10 hours of English lessons/babysitting per week in exchange for a tiny apartment. Another featured the same hours but in exchange for a salary.
  • English lessons: this doesn’t mean you’ll have to come up with a strict lesson plan. If you cringe at the thought, opt for families with younger children, who will learn much better through games and simply speaking in English around them. Those 10 hours of English that I mentioned above? Those were 10 sweet hours of simply speaking in English while playing with a 5-year-old. 
  • After school pick up: my favorite childcare student job in Paris was so simple that I couldn’t believe someone paid me to do it. I was required to pick up a 10-year-old from school, walk him home, and stay with him until his mom got home from work. All in all, it was about an hour and a half per day. The caveat? I was required to speak in English the entire time, which wasn’t a problem. 

If you’re interested in childcare and have control over your class schedule, you’ll want to try and keep your Wednesdays free. Most French children don’t have school on Wednesdays, or only for half a day, so, it’s a great day to get in those hours!

You can find childcare jobs in several different places online. First and foremost I would look on Facebook for groups of au pairs, students, and parents in Paris. Then, you may want to check out other websites such as MisterBilingue, Mômji, or Angloinfo. You’ll find a lot of French families who are looking for a helping hand who can also teach their kids a new language. Or, you may find Anglophone families who are looking for a babysitter who can speak their language. Either way, it pays to be an English-speaking babysitter in the French capital. 

Pet sitting and dog walking

Another one of my favorite student jobs in Paris was dog walker. If you miss your pets from back home but don’t want the responsibility of owning one here, the next best thing is pet care! I’ve walked dogs of all shapes, sizes, and ages, and it is one of the easiest and most rewarding student jobs I’ve ever had. Pet care is a great option if you don’t like kids or don’t want to teach English:

  • Dog walker: there are several different dog walker jobs out there. I’ve had everyday gigs and others just one or two days a week. Some people will want to pay you hourly, others, a weekly flat rate. Dog walking is also a great way to get outside and enjoy the city – while getting paid for it.
  • Pet sitter: whether it’s for a dog, cat, or both, pet sitting is another easy way to earn extra money as an expat student. Most pet owners will require that you stay in their house or apartment, but I have also come across some people who are willing to take their animal to you. However, most people who want a pet sitter will also want you to be their house sitter – but more on that later. 

I’ve had great luck as a pet sitter in Paris, and, in addition to being a way to make money, it also gave me the opportunity to explore certain areas of the city I would have never gone to. And, for those of you with teeny tiny apartments, it will give you the chance to stay somewhere with a little bit more room, while getting paid to do it.

I found most of my gigs in a Facebook group called Paris Expat Dog and Cat Owners.

Housesitting and Airbnb

If you don’t want to work with children or pets, you may consider housesitting or working as an Airbnb cleaner and/or greeter. I’ve done all three in Paris and, again, it’s a nice way to earn money and explore different areas of the city:

  • Housesitter: as mentioned, a lot of potential pet sitting jobs will involve housesitting as well. But, there are also people without pets who are simply looking for someone to water their plants and keep an eye on their place while they’re out of town. Sometimes you’ll be asked to stop by a few days a week to check in on things, other times you may be asked to sleep there.
  • Airbnb: Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, but did you know it has more than 50,000 Airbnb listings? What do all of these properties have in common? They need to be cleaned between each guest. Some Airbnb properties will also require that someone be there to meet the guests for a key handover. 

Again, I found most of these types of jobs in Facebook groups and on Craigslist. Similar to childcare and pet care, once you build up a good reputation you’ll also be able to find more gigs through word of mouth. 

These options are not the end all be all for making extra money in Paris – far from it. Other options include working in a bar, restaurant, café, or even at walking or bike tour companies. Rest assured, there are plenty of ways to make money as an expat student in Paris. 

Molli offers private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

Photo by Steven Lasry on Unsplash

Did you enjoy this article?  TAIP is 100% reader-supported through tipping.  If you want to leave us a tip of any amount it would be highly appreciated.  These tips help support our efforts to keep TAIP an ad-free environment.  Just like at a cafe, the tips are split evenly among the team.

Making Friends With The French

Making Friends With The French

One of the things that I was happiest to leave behind in the US is the idea that there’s something wrong with you if you’re not an outgoing extrovert. Throughout my childhood, teenage years, and even into young adulthood I was constantly called shy. My closest friends always laughed at comments like that because I’m actually a very talkative person once you get to know me. That’s the difference between being reserved and shy, and so you can imagine my frustration at being falsely labeled for most of my life.

Then I showed up in France and, spoiler alert, I’ve never been called shy here. France is the place where being discreet is the penultimate. Consider this: have you ever been on the métro in Paris? Have you noticed that most of the time, you could hear a pin drop? Take a moment to really think about it. 

Now, have you ever been on the subway in New York City? I’ll admit that there’s an energy there that you’ll never find in Paris, but one thing that sticks out the most in my mind is the noise. Once, I landed at JFK and had to take the subway out to Brooklyn to meet the friend I was staying with. The shock of just how loud the subway was hit me like a ton of bricks. My jetlag probably didn’t help, but I think you get the idea. 

So in France I feel more at home than I ever have because the fact that I’m reserved is not only accepted here but sought after. When I first got here, I lived with a Franco-American family out in the Parisian suburbs. Almost immediately after I arrived, I got on Meetup and Facebook and got out there to meet people. I was lucky in the fact that I was an au pair, and similarly to international students, au pairs flock together. Just two weeks after stepping foot on French territory, I had found a group of girls with whom I really bonded.

But (le sigh), we were all American. I started meeting more people and they were, second spoiler alert, more English speakers. Australian, Irish, English, even some German people, but all Anglophones. In some way, it felt good to be surrounded by this comfort of a shared language because I was so far from home. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t what I came here to do. I came here to learn new things, meet new (French) people, and, to be honest, I was struggling to do so.

Fast forward to my second year as an au pair. At this point, my group of friends had dwindled down to a solid six people, all English speakers. Once you start living the life of an expat, you realize that other foreigners come and go and you have to be ready to adapt and make new friends at all times. The group that I became close with was also interested in sticking around for the long haul, which is why we gravitated to each other. And, we were all frustrated that we hadn’t made any solid French friends yet.

After 2.5 years as an au pair, I was ready to make a change and yet not at all ready to go back to the United States. I still couldn’t speak French at this point and so I decided to take the plunge and go back to school – in French. Before I could do that I needed to seriously step my French skills up, so I enrolled in an intensive year-long program that promised to get me to the level that I would need to go on and apply for a master’s program. 

So, I moved into my apartment in the sky, otherwise known as an under 100 square foot shoebox on the seventh floor of a Parisian apartment building, and started trading English lessons for free rent (another story for another day!) so that I could focus all of my attention on finally learning French and hopefully making French friends. The learning French thing happened fairly quickly, as it turned out I just needed a little encouragement, a lot of practice, and to be in a classroom where I was the only English speaker. The French friends took much longer.

As it turns out, there aren’t many French people who take intensive French classes (read: none). So while I was happy to have new friends that I could practice my French with, I still ached to truly integrate into French life, and for me, that meant a shiny new group of French friends. I finally got my chance through my best friend here, who is English. She started dating a guy and a few months in, wanted me to meet his group of (French!) friends. 

And so I got ready to meet a bunch of new people, took a deep breath, walked down my seven flights of stairs, and started to walk to the club we were supposed to meet at. I had a great night, was finally able to meet a group of Parisians with whom I could connect and speak in French, and no one called me shy. It was also the first time I met my now-husband. 

The French are notorious for being hard to connect with and well, I used to agree. But, I also think of it like this: when you’re out with your friends, are you on the lookout to meet new people? Probably not. You’re probably just enjoying being with your people and this was a realization that I came to the hard way. I’m also grateful for my experience because it served as another helpful reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around me or my needs. 

Don’t feel discouraged if you’re a fellow expat reading this article. You don’t need to wait three years to learn French and meet French friends. I will say it’s a lot easier if you have an in with at least one French person. If you hit it off, they’ll likely introduce you to the rest of your friends. Once you do have that in, the French are kind, welcoming, and will most likely cook you delicious meals as well as teach you how to pick out a good bottle of wine. And, when you think about it, finding just one French friend is a lot less intimidating than finding a whole group of them, isn’t it?

Molli offers private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

Photo by Steven Lasry on Unsplash

Did you enjoy this article?  TAIP is 100% reader-supported through tipping.  If you want to leave us a tip of any amount it would be highly appreciated.  These tips help support our efforts to keep TAIP an ad-free environment.  Just like at a cafe, the tips are split evenly among the team. 

How to Go to University in France as a Foreigner

When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree I was one of those “I’m free!” people. I was so happy to have finally wrapped up my schooling after what seemed like 16 long years. I truly never thought I would go back to school.

Fast forward to 2017 and I found myself in the admissions office of Université de Nanterre in a suburb just outside of Paris. I had already spent one year here studying French in order to a) be able to carry on a conversation instead of just responding with “oui” or “non” and hoping for the best, and b) to obtain the B2 level of French that I need to get into the master’s program I had my eye on.

Say what? The girl who basically ran off stage after she was handed her bachelor’s degree now had grand plans to get her master’s degree? In a foreign country? Guilty.

Why I Made the Decision to go to University in France 

Let me back up a little. When I first arrived in France I was an au pair for a Franco-American family. I was required to speak in English with the children which was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I knew next to no French, and a curse because I was able to stay in what I like to call my “English bubble” for too long. 

I was speaking in English with the children, the American mom, and even with the French dad because he wanted to practice. My friend group included other Americans, an Irish girl, and several Australian girls. We spent our time together and we often went to English and Irish pubs with other Anglophones.

In some ways, it was a relief to be able to speak my own language in the midst of a foreign country. Moving abroad is filled with ups and downs, and it can be lonely. Plus, all of the sudden change is…intense, to say the least. My English bubble was comforting and so I stayed there for two and a half years.

After those years of nannying, I decided that I wanted to move on, but that didn’t mean moving back to the US. I wanted to stay in my newfound country but I knew at this point that I needed to start speaking the language, not to mention think about what I wanted to do with my life. I realized that I couldn’t be a nanny or live in my English bubble anymore.

And so I started the process of determining how I could legally stay in France. I found out that if I had a valid visa, I could go back to school for the same price as a European. 

This has now, unfortunately, changed. In 2018, the government announced that foreigners would need to pay 2,770 euros for an undergraduate degree and 3,770 euros for a master’s degree. Most universities disagree with the new rule and refuse to comply, other universities have gone forward with it. Before you decide on which university you’d like to go to, make sure you’re aware of the admission fees for foreigners! However, the new admissions fee for foreigners is still a fraction of what I would have paid in the US.

Things to Consider Before you go to University in France

I started thinking about what I wanted to do for work, as I had lost all interest in the field that I got my undergrad degree in. I finally settled on becoming a writer (how do you think I’m doing?), and so I started looking into master’s programs in French literature. At almost the same exact moment, I realized that I not only needed to prove that I had a B2 level in French, but I would be completely lost at university if I didn’t have at least that. 

I recalibrated my search for a program that would help me learn French as well as give me a diploma with my new French level on it. In Paris, there are two well-regarded programs: one at La Sorbonne and the other at Nanterre. I settled on Nanterre because I had already missed the deadline to apply for La Sorbonne.

I ended up having an amazing year at Nanterre in their FETE program, which I recommend to anyone looking to up their French skills. Not only was I on a university campus (which just made it feel more legitimate), the teachers are qualified and helpful and the curriculum is interesting and relevant. 

I finished the year with my B2 in French and decided that I wanted to stay at Nanterre for my master’s for a few different reasons. I enjoyed my time there, I understood how their administrative procedures worked, and I knew that the admission process would be easier seeing as though I was already in their system.

I headed to the literature department to speak to an advisor to make sure that I had the right requirements. We got to talking, and she asked me about my plans, she looked at my resume, and she also asked me about my interests. She told me that although I had the correct level of French to enroll, I would probably have a hard time with the course material. Did I know that the school had an English Studies department? That offered a bilingual literature program?

My eyes lit up — that sounded right up my alley. 

Ultimately, I’m so happy that I decided to speak with that advisor before I enrolled in the French literature program and that she was so honest with me. I would be able to handle the course material now, but that’s because I have four more years of speaking and reading French under my belt. 

Although I technically had the correct level to enter into the program, I did not have the brain capacity or level of vocabulary to seriously study, analyze, and write French texts. And, because I decided to go for the bilingual English/French program, I was able to write my 80-page thesis in English (what a relief!).

I ended up thriving in the English Studies program and I finished my degree with a mention très bien. I also scored because my program was truly bilingual and most of the English or bilingual master’s programs in Paris are at private universities — which come with a much higher price tag. 

So, what should you consider before you go to university in France?

  • Why you want to go to university — if it’s to simply obtain a student visa there are other options, like the intensive French course that I took
  • Your level of French — be brutally honest with yourself
  • How much you want to pay — private is much more expensive than public (don’t forget to be sure of the admission fee for foreigners at whichever institution you decide on!)
  • What you want to study — again, be honest with yourself!
  • Whether you want to go for a license (bachelor’s) or master (master’s)

Tick off these boxes before you start looking into French universities and you’ll set yourself up for success. 

Molli offers private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Did you enjoy this article?  TAIP is 100% reader-supported through tipping.  If you want to leave us a tip of any amount it would be highly appreciated.  These tips help support our efforts to keep TAIP an ad-free environment.  Just like at a cafe, the tips are split evenly among the team. 

How to Become an Au Pair in France

How to Become an Au Pair in France

After I returned home to the United States after my semester abroad, I knew that I eventually wanted to go back to France. But, before I could do that I knew that I wanted to finish my undergrad degree. And so, in the way that life sometimes “happens,” I graduated, got a job in my field, and while I never really forgot about my goal to return to Paris, I will admit that it was put on the back burner as I did what most Americans are taught to do from a very early age: I started working. 

Fast forward about a year and a half and I was miserable at work. There was something missing and as I stared out the window, wishing I was anywhere but my hometown, it clicked: that something that was missing was Paris. I quickly logged into Facebook and started typing a message to a fellow study abroad-er who I knew had stayed in France after our semester and was working as a jeune fille au pair (a fancy French way to say a live-in nanny, usually between the ages of 18-25). 

I asked her how she did it. While I didn’t have dreams of being a live-in babysitter, I knew that it was a simple way for a non-European to get a visa to live in France. And, to be honest, I felt that I could use the break. Again, like most Americans, I had been working since I was 15. At the time I had just turned 22 and a year abroad with a low-stress gig sounded ideal!

In one of those pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moments, the person that I messaged for advice had plans to leave her au pair position at the end of the school year. I had plenty of babysitting experience under my belt, I was a native English speaker, and I was willing to put the rest of my life on hold for the time being so that I could return to my favorite city in the world. I had an interview with the family over Skype and the rest is history! 

I was really lucky in that I already knew someone who was living as an au pair in the Paris area. I could ask her advice, and in the end, she even hooked me up with a job. For those of you who don’t have those kinds of connections, I know that the search for a quality “au pair family” (sometimes called a host family) can be confusing and overwhelming.

If you’re interested in becoming an au pair in France and aren’t sure where to start, or how to find the perfect-for-you family, I created this step-by-step guide to help you along the way. 

Step 1: Determine where you’d like to live

It’s unfair to assume that everyone who wants to come to France wants to live in Paris, so I wanted to include that you can consider another town in France! Here are some of my personal recommendations:

  • Strasbourg: a mixture of French and German culture
  • Bordeaux: one of the most famous wine-growing regions in the world 
  • Marseille: if you want to live by the sea 

Step 2: Start looking for families

Before you start looking for your dream family, there are a few things that you’ll need to consider:

  • How many children do you want to look after? I looked after three children and things were hectic at times. But, if you come from a large family that might be a breeze for you!
  • How many hours per day/week do you want to work? Some families will require you in the morning and the afternoon, others just after school. I was happy to have my mornings off.
  • Do you want to live with the family or in a separate apartment? I lived in the home with the family and, to be honest, I would have preferred my own apartment for extra privacy. However, living with the family helped us become closer!
  • How long do you want to stay? Most au pair contracts are for one year – at least. I ended up extending my contract twice.
  • Do you want to speak in English or French? I was required to speak in English, but this will differ by family. If you want to learn the language, opt for a French-speaking family.
  • Do you want to be responsible for household chores as well as the children? I was responsible for making dinner and cleaning up after myself. I know some au pairs who had to do laundry and ironing (for the whole family) as well.

Each host family is different. I personally worked Monday-Friday, from 4 pm until whatever time the parents came home. I was required to speak only English with the children. I was responsible for: 

  • Picking the three children up from school 
  • Snacktime
  • Homework help
  • Dinner
  • Cleaning up the kitchen after dinner
  • Bathtime 
  • Bedtime

I know others who were required to wake up the children in the morning and take them to school as well as after-school care. Some others I know even had to give the kids their lunch (most French schools allow the children to go home to eat lunch). Legally, you are not allowed to work more than 30 hours per week.

Another important aspect to consider is your salary. I was given free room and board (I lived in a private part of the family’s home), a cell phone, unlimited access to public transportation, as well at 80 euros per week as “pocket money.” 80 euros per week, or 320 euros per month, is the minimum salary for au pairs, legally. 

Don’t be afraid to be selective and hold out for a family that fits your needs. I know many people who said “yes” to the first family that they found, no matter the working conditions, just because they wanted to come to France. There are hundreds if not thousands of families in France that are looking for an au pair – be picky!

Here are some websites where you can find au pair families:

Step 3: Apply for your visa

Now that you’ve found your perfect family, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of coming to France to be an au pair. 

All non-Europeans who want to be an au pair in France for longer than 90 days must obtain a visa in order to do so. You are required to apply for a specific visa just for au pairs. It’s called the stagiaire aide familial étranger et jeune au pair visa.

Here’s what you need to apply:

  • A valid passport
  • An authorized au pair contract (your host family is required to come up with a contract that must be approved by DIRECCTE (Direction Régionale des Entreprises, de la Concurrence, de la Consommation, du Travail et de l’Emploi))
  • A visa application form that you can find here
  • Clean criminal record (this technically isn’t required but many families request it)
  • High school diploma
  • Private health insurance that is valid in France
  • A cover letter explaining why you want to come to France specifically to be an au pair (it’s important to mention why you’d like to learn French)
  • Proof that you’ve signed up, have been accepted, and have paid for French language courses

Don’t be afraid to ask your host family for help when applying for your visa. 

Once you’ve found your family and your visa has been approved, it’s time to start preparing for your new adventure abroad! 

Molli offers private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Did you enjoy this article?  TAIP is 100% reader-supported through tipping.  If you want to leave us a tip of any amount it would be highly appreciated.  These tips help support our efforts to keep TAIP an ad-free environment.  Just like at a cafe, the tips are split evenly among the team. 

passeport talent

How to Apply for the Passeport Talent Visa

Americans have had the Profession Liberale and Long-term Stay Visitor statuses closed for application from the US for some time now due to Covid-19.  Other countries do have these options available and Americans who have had legal residence in other countries have successfully applied for and received these statuses from the embassies/consulates in those countries and have subsequently entered France.  One status has remained open to Americans applying from the US: Passeport Talent, a status I had helped clients with in a limited capacity in previous years.  But a colleague of mine has watched many friends get it over the years and is now helping those who are stateside and do not want to wait for PL or Visitor to re-open (and who don’t fancy the student route) to get this visa.  I had her write this brief look at three of the 11 classifications available within Passeport Talent for this article.  I’ve added some editorial notes in italics but if you’d like help with this visa classification you can contact Molli at the link at the bottom of the article. – SH

For non-Europeans looking to come to France to live, your best bet has long been the student visa. Even for those who thought their student days were long behind them, traveling to France for some continued education is by far the easiest way. And, continued education doesn’t mean that you need to sign up to do another undergrad or Master’s degree. You can obtain a student visa if you take French classes or attend a cooking school, among other options.

But then 2020 arrived and our lives changed. Traveling wasn’t as easy as before (if it was even allowed) and moving to a foreign country became a distant memory of something that you may have considered. Even college students had to put their study abroad semesters on hold, and if you did manage to get a student visa for yourself, your spouse or children weren’t necessarily able to apply for their own visas through yours. 

But there’s always another way, if you look hard enough. If you’re feeling frustrated and aren’t sure what to do, I’m glad you found this blog. Here’s how to apply for a different type of visa for France, the Passeport Talent. 

What is it?

Passeport Talent is a fancy French way of saying that if you’ve got talent, come and share your skills in France! It is a multi-year residence permit that was created to bring talented foreigners to France in order to develop the county’s “attractiveness.” As if France wasn’t attractive enough, right? Well, if you’ve got a special skill that you want to bring over to the français, you can, thanks to the passeport talent

Who can apply?

You can apply if you’re planning on working and living in France for more than three months. You’ll remember that people from many non-European countries are allowed to visit and live in Europe without a visa for 90 days. The passeport talent ensures that you’re allowed to stay for much, much longer. This long-term visa (otherwise known as a residence permit) is issued for up to 4 years and is renewable.

In order to apply, you must be from a non-European country. 

How to do it

If you’re still in your home country, you’re required to apply at the nearest French consulate. IF you’re already in France and are interested in changing your visa status, you’ll need to go to the closest prefecture. To start, you’ll have to provide these documents:

  • Your passport
  • Your birth certificate (translated in French by an officially licensed translator)
  • Your wedding certificate, if you are married (translated)
  • Your children’s birth certificate, if you have any (translated)
  • Proof of address
  • Three ID photos
  • Application (different according to your activity)
  • Official documents related to your activity.

It will cost you 269€ to get the final card.

So, who can receive the passeport talent? There are 11 different scenarios in which you could potentially get one, but for the sake of this article, I will briefly examine three of them. I encourage you to visit the official French website for this type of visa if you don’t see an option below that works for you. 

You want to create a business in France, or are taking control of one

(this is ideal if you have some money set aside for yourself and is essentially a more financially muscular Prof Lib – SH)

  • You’ll apply for “passeport talent – création d’entreprise.
  • You must prove that you have a serious plan to open a business in France. 
  • You’re required to invest at least 30,000€ in your project, have a degree that is equivalent to a Master’s degree (or are able to prove that you have five years of professional experience in your field)
  • You are also able to apply for the passeport talent – création d’entreprise if you are slated to take control of a French business.
  • You’ll need to show proof of the plans for your new business as well as proof of your investment, your diploma, that you’ll be earning at least the French minimum wage (roughly 1,500€ gross per month), and you must fill out this application.

You are an artist, a writer, or a performer

(this is perfect if you were already planning to come as a writer on Prof Lib – SH)

  • You’ll apply for “passeport talent – profession artistique et culturelle.
  • If you’re a singer, performer, author, or simply an artist, you must prove that you earn at least 1,064.85€ gross per month.
  • You’ll need to provide documents that prove that you are a professional artist, and if you are employed by a French company, you’ll need proof of that too. That being said, you can apply for this visa even if you are self-employed. You must fill out this application as well.

You are making a direct economic investment in France

(if you had dreams of opening a B&B or some other larger traditional business, this is a good route for you.  Simply buying a property is insufficient in and of itself.  The investment must create/save jobs. – SH)

  • You’ll apply for “passeport talent – investissement économique – toutes activités commerciales.
  • You must prove that you are investing at least 300,000€ in a French company that you own or through a company in which you hold at least a 30% share of the capital.
  • You must also prove that you will create or save jobs and you must have proof of your plans for your investment, and you must also be earning at least the French minimum wage (roughly 1,500€ gross per month). 

These are just three of the possible situations which would allow you to apply for the passport talent. Like all things in the French administration, the application process is long and very involved. I offer private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

Photo courtesy of Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

student visa

Obtaining a Student Visa for France

Over the summer I gave a series of webinars on moving to France (recordings available on Nomadic Matt’s Patreon).  One of the strategies I suggested for coming to France in the short term (given that some visa windows were indefinitely closed) was the student visa.  A “student” visa doesn’t necessarily mean getting enrolled in a degree-seeking program.  It just means any course of study.  France continued to rubber stamp these all throughout 2020, despite the fact that many of the programs were online, meaning that even though you didn’t have to physically come to France to “take” the course, France still approved you for transit.  I concluded that France wanted to continue to signal that they were making a conscious choice to at least appear to allow education to continue even as they forbade commerce and leisure travel.

One of my friends and colleagues in my years here in France, Molli Sebrier, has gone through the student visa process twice and I asked her to write a guest post on the process.  She also does consulting on the process, so her information is at the bottom of the post should you wish to learn more. – SH.

The first time I ever stepped foot in France was as a student in 2012. I was there to do the elusive “study abroad semester,” which has a reputation of being more about soaking in the culture of wherever you go rather than taking classes. Spoiler alert, the rumors are true. Although I will say I attended most of my classes, they were nothing compared to the workload I was used to at my university. I had an architecture course in which the professor actually took us around Paris to explain treasures like Notre-Dame and Les Invalides. Interesting? Extremely. Do I remember everything about the architecture I learned about? Seeing as we didn’t have any exams, no. 

In addition to 2012 being the first time that I stepped foot in France, it was the first time that I had ever left the United States. I never really considered myself a homebody or uninterested in travel, but an international trip was just not on my radar at the time. I didn’t even have a passport. 

Fast-forward to 2020, and in total, I have about seven years of French living under my belt, three student visas, one au pair visa (when that still existed), and one visa I have courtesy of my French fiancé. I’ll soon find out what the newest chapter in my immigration journey, marriage, will be like. 

Whether you’re in the same situation as I was in 2012, or you have a bit more international travel experience, navigating the world of French bureaucracy can be intimidating. This is the country that is known around the world for its “red tape.” And, to be honest with you, it is a lot to figure out especially if you don’t speak French or have never applied for a visa before. 

In these unpredictable Covid times, the easiest (and most plausible unless you are in a relationship with a French person) way to move to France as an American for more than 90 days is through a student visa. Don’t let the word “student” scare you, especially if you’re not a teenager or in your twenties anymore. You could take a French language course, a culinary program, or simply shoot for another degree…for 1/10th of the price of American schools.

In an effort to help those interested navigate these sometimes murky waters, I’ve come up with this basic guide to obtaining a French student visa. 

Step 1: Determine your program

The most important thing you’ll need to do before you get started on the path to obtaining a French student visa is to find a program. It’s important to note that not all programs will make you eligible for a visa. You will need to be enrolled in classes that are between 18-20 hours per week or more. Here are a few examples of the types of programs you should be looking for:

  • A study abroad or exchange program (if you are currently enrolled in a college or university this is your best option)
  • A degree-granting program 
  • French language program (please note that the program must be FLE accredited)
  • A specialized school in France

You must be accepted into the program of your choice before you move onto Step 2. And, remember, don’t get discouraged if you don’t want to take French classes or go back to college. As mentioned, if you love to cook or are interested in wine, there are several options. Does the famous Le Cordon Bleu, ring any bells? Channel your inner Julia Child and check out their options. 

You won’t be able to apply for your student visa until at most 3 months before your program starts, so keep that in mind as you continue on through the process. 

Step 2: Apply through Études en France and Campus France

Once you’ve been accepted into your program, you’re ready to start the process of applying for your student visa. First, you’ll need to make an account on Études en France, a platform that was created by the French government to make applying for a visa easier. 

Once you create your account you’ll have to follow the instructions on the site. It involves knowing the name of your program and finding it on a list, entering your personal information including your name and passport number, and other administrative information. There is an option for “students not yet accepted,” but I do recommend that you wait until you have been accepted to begin the process as it’s much easier. 

Études en France and Campus France are connected so after you’ve filled in all of your information, you’ll be able to directly submit it to Campus France via the Études en France platform. You will also have to pay a fee of $190 (subject to change) to Campus France. It can take up to 3 weeks for Campus France to review your application. You will receive a confirmation email if and when you are approved.

Step 3: Apply for a student visa via the France-Visas platform

Once your application has been approved by Études en France and Campus France, you will move to the next platform, France-Visas. You already know that you need a student visa, so feel free to skip the “Do I need a visa?” step. Create your account and fill out the application form. Here you’ll note that “Visa applications cannot be submitted more than 3 months prior to the start of your trip for a long stay visa, and 6 months for a short stay visa” as I mentioned! Please also note that you will need to pay another fee of $37.15 (subject to change) when you’ve finished filling out your application.

Step 4: Make an appointment at the VFS Global Center closest to your home

After you’ve submitted your application on France-Visas, you’ll be able to directly book an appointment at the VFS Global Center closest to your home. It’s recommended on the site that you make your appointment at least 15 days before the date of your departure. In my experience, the longest I’ve had to wait to receive my visa was 7 days, but, I was also in Boston.  Your consulate’s waiting time may vary.

Step 5: Go to the appointment and then wait to receive your visa

You’ve made it this far and for that, I congratulate you! But, you’re not out of the woods yet, as you still need to attend your in-person appointment where you’ll need to present a fair amount of paperwork in order to obtain your visa. You will need:

  • France-Visas Visa application form
  • France-Visas receipt of payment
  • ID Photograph (please note that this needs to be a “European-size passport-style headshot” which is 1.4 inches by 1.8 inches)
  • If you are a non-U.S. citizen, proof of your legal status in the U.S.
  • Passport
  • Campus France USA confirmation email
  • Études en France electronic acceptance letter
  • Proof of accommodation in France (this can be an Airbnb or hotel while you look for something more permanent)
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your time in France

Pro tip? Bring at least 3 copies of everything. It’s a lot, I know. But you’ll have to get used it this amount of paperwork if you’re going to be living in France! At your appointment, they’ll ask you pretty standard questions such as why you want to move to France, why you chose your program, etc. Try not to be too nervous and just be honest.

Step 6: Begin preparing for your trip to France!

Now for the fun part: preparing for your long-awaited new life in France. Consider where you want to live, what you want to bring along, and your new daily routine. The road to the French student visa may be long, but it isn’t as complicated as it looks! 

Molli offers private consultation services which range from help with visas, adjusting to life abroad, to Paris travel itineraries. Click here to learn more.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash