Feb 012012
Airplane Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s actually happening. Almost 6 months after I was offered a job in France, we will actually be flying there to live. So much for the “it will take about a month” that I was told 6 months ago.

There was about a 2 month pause of not hearing anything new from my employer nor the OFII or consulate. Then out of the blue I received an email from the french consulate saying my visa was approved by the OFII and that I should come apply for the visa at the consulate. It’s ridiculous and expensive to go to the consulate for your state in person, but it’s also necessary as they insist on it. So we flew to California, handed in our paperwork, and 7 days later we received our visas in the mail. The only reason I can see that they have you show up in person is because they take your fingerprints. Obviously this could have been done locally and mailed in…

Now that we have our visas (the first part of them), we have to go to the prefecture after we arrive in France. They will also give us a medical exam apparently. I imagine this is to make sure we aren’t going to France just to take advantage of their health care system, but it’s just speculation.

My family’s visas were easier to get because mine was already approved. We did NOT use the “regroupement familial.” Although it might seem to make sense to use that to get my family a visa, one of the requirements is that someone has already lived in France for a minimum of one year. Nevertheless, getting the rest of my family a long stay visa was easier due to my visa having already been approved. We filled out the “retirement” type of long stay visa on the form, but they didn’t ask us for much of the paperwork (like proof of income) because they already had it.

We’ll be very busy over the next month or so. I’ve added most things to the to-do list page to track what was necessary. We’ll have about 5 days in France before I’ve agreed to start working. This probably won’t be enough with the time change and the two young kids, but I’m not too worried. Being in France will be AWESOME! I’m very excited about finding a new place and visiting my friends.

Oct 172011

The company that wants to hire me in France is hiring me in part because I have a Master’s degree (aka, high school plus 6 years of study). It’s not only because they want an educated person working there. Apparently there is a different path for getting a visa for people with more education. I think the idea is that they want to encourage people to get visas by making it easier.

As part of the process I sent the company a copy and translation of my Master’s degree. The translation has to be “official” of course, meaning it’s notarized and has an apostille (a stamp by the Secretary of State). Here is the problem.

The translation of the word “Master” on my degree was translated into “Maîtrise.” Fine, right? translate.google.com says that’s right, and so do lots of other places. Unfortunately, “Maîtrise” means high school plus 4 years of study. So the company contacted me to let me know that the translation was not acceptable. They could plainly see that the original degree says “Master” and that the translation says Maîtrise. Naturally, I contacted the translation service I used to request a more accurate translation. The response?

That is the correct translation. The word “Master” doesn’t exist in French dictionaries.

Technically they’re right about the dictionary. “Master” doesn’t appear in many French dictionaries online. Unfortunately, the word they used in the translation does have a different meaning than the original word. A simple search for French diploma equivalencies reveals that they do use the word “Master.” Apparently a google search wasn’t good enough for the translator. He eventually agreed to “not translate that part of the degree.”

This “translation” was apparently good enough for the company that wants to hire me. We’ll see if it actually works out that way.

Later I discovered that the word “Master” is in French dictionaries. It’s spelled “Mastère.” Needless to say, I am very displeased with my official translation.

For the record, here are some American and French diploma equivalents (roughly).

United States France
High School Diploma / GED Baccalauréat (aka “le bac”)
La licence (+3)
Bachelor’s Degree (+4) Maîtrise (+4)
Master / Mastère (+5)
Master’s Degree (+6)

To get a “certificate of comparability” of your degree,  which is probably better than a translation, visit http://www.ciep.fr/enic-naricfr/equivalence.php. Start early though, the process is supposed to take two to three months.

Sep 142011

I found a company that wants to hire me, so getting a visa should be easier right? Well, I guess. The French company does handle the first request for the visa. They have to provide proof that the position has been posted for a certain amount of time and has not been filled by a French citizen. They’ve also asked me to provide a birth certificate, photos (head-shots), and the typical copy of my passport. Some documents must be “officially” translated. After this I’ve heard I will still have to go to the appropriate french consulate in person to “apply” yet again. Then after arrival, of course, I will probably have to stop by the prefecture to actually get the document that I need to legally work there. What about my family?

What’s necessary for the family to come with you depends on who you ask. The Consul Général de Los Angeles says the following.

[…] it is imperative that the procedure of “accompanying family member” be started by the employer through the OFII along with the employee’s file

Thus, it’s implied that family members can receive a visa along with you, as long as they apply at the same time and are included in the initial request. It also says to the OFII (Office of Immigration and Integration) is who the request will go through. The OFII website says the following.

 Workers may submit an application for family members (spouse and minor children) under the family reunification procedure as soon as they can document 18 months of presence in France […]

So per the OFII website, it’s impossible to bring your family with you until you’ve already lived in France for 18 months. My future employer, however, says that they called the prefecture directly and that generally the application is done for the family members immediately and generally there is no reason that the application would not be approved. I assume this is the right answer, since I believe it’s actually the prefecture that makes the decisions, and since I imagine few people would want to move to France without being able to see their family for 18 months.

In any case, the “backup plans” available are to have the family members obtain a normal student visa or retirement visa via the appropriate french consulate. Ah yes, the horrible bureaucracy. Just a bunch of paperwork is one thing, but different requirements based on who you ask is ridiculous!