I went to San Francisco to apply for my French long stay visa, turned over my passport at the consulate, and went home…to wait. While I waited, though, there was still more paperwork to do. I found this would be a theme of my year in France—more paperwork.

Everything that needs to be done is easily laid out in the American Assistant Handbook sent out in emails from the TAPIF program. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t question and second guess every step and decision along the way. So that’s why I’ve compiled this handy little guide to everything I had to do to move to France that wasn’t getting my visa. May it calm your jitters and second-guessings too.

Accusé de Réception

This came with my arrêté de nomination. I was supposed to sign it and mail it back to France by a particular date to…well, acknowledge the receipt of my arrêté. I assembled the documents, went to the post office, paid the postage, sent it out…and realized quite a bit later that I had forgotten to sign the paper.

Fortunately, I had made a photocopy of the paper before I sent the original out, so I was able to rush back to the post office in a sweaty tornado of stress, smack the envelope on the counter, and breathlessly ask how much expedited international shipping costs.

The answer: a fuckton. As in, $50 for two-day shipping. I opted to gamble that it would be fine if the document was a few days late and sent it standard.

Translation of my birth certificate

I procrastinated on this. I had planned on doing the cheap option, which would be to do a translation myself and have the translation verified by the consulate when I went in to get my visa. But I quickly got mired down by the unknowns—did my consulate offer the service, how much did it cost, could I do it quickly in the same trip, yadda yadda—and general busyness and running out of timeness. So I nervously drafted and sent an awkward email in French to the translator recommended in the Assistant Handbook.

He responded (in English—cringe) that same day, with his rates. It would be €48 for the translation, plus €4 handling fee (whatever that means) payable by Paypal once I had received his invoice. His estimated turnaround was ten days (until I would receive the documents). All I had to do was send him scans of my birth certificate, give him my address, and wait for the translations.

They arrived in plenty of time (if for an absurd price for about 20 words translated). The translator also offered an expedited option for—you guessed it—an absurd amount of money. It would have been €76 for a three-day turnaround. I may have procrastinated, but it wasn’t quite that bad.


I still don’t really understand the purpose of this particular piece of paperwork. The official description from the Assistant Handbook is:

“An ‘apostille’ is a form of international certification for official documents. Having an apostille on your American birth certificate allows the French government to recognize the document as official and legitimate.”

Okay then. What it looks like is a piece of heavy paper stapled over the top of my birth certificate. Doesn’t seem worth the $15 to me.

Fortunately, I’m from Olympia, Washington, the capital city, so I was able to go into the Secretary of State’s office in person and get it taken care of. They also had an option to mail it in, but it cost extra for the postage, and I’m cheap. There’s still a wait time while they process everything, so don’t expect to walk out of the office with your document in hand.

Of course, that was all just the start. There’s always more paperwork to come…*sinister music playing in the background.* For more info, on everything TAPIF, click here. For dreamy destinations and lots of travel tips, click here.

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