After finally getting accepted off the waitlist to the teaching assistant program in France, I was giddy with excitement. But there were still a lot of steps between where I was at the end of April and getting my newest French passport stamp at the end of September.
Emails from the French Embassy
In the weeks after my acceptance email, I began receiving emails from the teaching assistant program discussing the next steps of the visa process and whatnot. Unfortunately, the only way to get the long stay visa I needed to work as an assistant in France was to visit a French consulate in person.
Of course it wouldn’t be possible to get that all-important visa without the all-important arrêté de nomination. And so I waited.
Waiting for my arrêté de nomination
Ah, the elusive and ever-essential arrêté de nomination. This is the holy grail of all paperwork for teaching assistants in France. I needed it for my visa, for my school, for my CAF paperwork, for my bank account, for my immigration health checkup. Basically, if you make 100 photocopies and staple them to your forehead, you’ll be in good shape.
But the real game was waiting for it to arrive. The thing is, I couldn’t wait to plan my trip to the consulate until this piece of mail arrived, and sometimes administration and bureaucracy in France can take forever. (Wait—no! What? Shock.) That meant that I had to gamble with international post and French summer breaks (which are a period of ultimate inaction by everyone, set in stone) and just book my consulate trip in the hopes that everything would arrive when it was supposed to. Fortunately, that worked out for me.
The postmark on my arrêté was for June 11, which means I probably had it by the end of June or the beginning of July. The reason that I don’t remember for sure is because it was early enough that I hadn’t yet worked myself into a full-scale panic over it by the time it had arrived.
When it got there, it came in a document-sized brown envelope. Inside was my arrêté de nomination, a welcome letter with académie contact info and time/place of my teaching assistant training, and contact for my school and the teacher who would be the person I would harass the most in the months to follow—I mean, my primary contact at the school. Or in their words:
“Voici les coordonnées du professeur chargé de votre accueil et de la coordination de votre activité.”
It also had accusé de réception that I had to fill out and return to the rectorat d’Académie by snail mail.
Booking the trip to the consulate
As a resident of the state of Washington, my regional consulate was the one in San Francisco. To find out which consulate you need to visit based on your state of residence, check out the Consulate General of France website.
Fortunately, I had Delta miles saved up that could cover the short flight from Seattle to San Francisco to visit the French consulate in person and apply for my visa. I also had a friend living in Berkeley who I could stay with, and another friend working as a ranger in Yosemite who I planned to visit after the visa appointment.
All in all, the trip to the consulate cost me $5 in fees with Delta and probably about the same in transport into San Francisco (of course not factoring in food and my side trip to Yosemite).
Making my consulate appointment and prepping documents
I made my visa appointment online through the consulate website, which is a painless process. Unless of course you are wracked with indecision when it comes to picking dates and times like I am. So, relatively painless.
The website also has all sorts of information about the documents you’ll need to provide. This is the link you need for that. Do a Santa Claus—make a list and check it twice. Because you don’t want to forget something, trust me.
The day of the appointment
I took BART into the city with the friend I was staying with in Berkeley. We planned to have a fun day in San Francisco after I took care of my consulate appointment. I was agonizingly early, so we grabbed a cup of coffee before heading over.
The building the French consulate is housed in is imposing, to say the least. Unfortunately for anyone who had to interact with me there (I’m not human before coffee), no food or drink was allowed in the consulate, so I had to throw out my nearly full cup o’ joe before I could check in and walk through the metal detectors to the waiting room.
I didn’t have long to wait before I was called over to the desk. The process was utterly forgettable—I spoke in English, got my fingerprints taken electronically, had a zombie ID photo taken, and handed over my passport (this was the most nerve-wracking part). And that was it. All the nerves, all the paranoia that something would happen and I would be banned from ever entering the country, all (fortunately) came to nothing.
And then it was over! I went on my merry way to stress that my passport with visa inside wouldn’t arrive before I needed to leave the country. But it was in my mailbox long before that happened.
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