Obtaining a visa to work, study, or live in another country is not easy. Many of my friends and family think I'm simply packing up my bags and getting on the next flight to Paris. Not so simple, my friends.
My goal is to live and work in France. I've felt a pull towards the French lifestyle, culture, food, and language since I first visited. Every province in France is magical, with their own respective cheeses and wine. Paris, gloomy as it may be during the winters, is still alluring. I love the quaintness of the people, the beauty in every carefully crafted croissant. I love the rich coffee and the way French people communicate. It amazes me, how insightful and beautifully their thoughts are crafted into language.
Before I get to live in this beautiful country, however, I must obtain a visa.
This article written by the Haven in Paris team discusses many visa routes one can take to living in Paris. For those of you interested in living in Paris someday, you'll see that a viable option for living in a different country is taking the student-turned-work-visa route.
Living in Paris has always been a dream of mine, and if I hope to achieve this dream, I'm jumping at the possibility of a permanent residency in Pairs while I'm still a student.
I decided to study in the City of Lights to learn the language, adapt to the culture as best I can, make connections with professors and professionals working in Paris, and land an internship during my studies that will hopefully turn into a job.
If you share the dream of someday living and working in France, and you are also a student, then read on. I'm sorry, but my expertise on how to achieve the big move to Paris is limited to the long-term student route (this does not include study abroad semesters).
Moving to France as a student is complicated. I just read today in my Living Abroad in France book by Aurelia D'Andrea that the former president of France was super against immigration and tried to limit the amount of student visas issued because he thinks we're all rich kids who just want a taste o' dat Dom Perignon in a French discothèque for a night. And, although this may be the case for many kids my age, it's certainly not the case for me (although I wouldn't mind my first sip of Dom with a hot Frenchman by my side).
So, in order to make the move as a student:
1. Apply to a French institution to study something that makes sense. What would employers understand you moving to Paris for? Of course, studying in Paris by itself is an experience; your mind is opened to another culture, and you gain international experience, which is great for today's resume. But, for example, it doesn't make sense to move to Paris to study math or certain sciences. I applied to the American University of Paris under the major of global communications and I plan on minoring in French. This makes sense to me--I receive a more international education of global journalism, which is what I'd like to pursue, and I get to learn a valuable language skill along the way. You'll have to do some research to determine where in France you'd like to study, whether you'd like to study at a specialized arts or language school as opposed to a more general university, and whether your education will be taught in French or English.
2. Make sure you have a passport, or renew your passport, well before you will be ready to travel. If you don't have a passport, you can complete the forms online at the State Department website or in person at an Acceptance Facility, which includes post offices, public libraries, and government offices. All passport requests must be submitted through an Acceptance Facility, even if the forms are completed online (you must print them and submit them in person). Be prepared to take appropriate head shots for the passport and pay at minimum slightly over $100 for the processing fees.
3. Apply to Campus France. You should start the Campus France application as soon as you've been accepted to your school. The Campus France website has a variety of resources for prospective foreign students studying in France, like helpful tips on student housing or the legal restrictions on how much foreign students can work in France. The Campus France form is tedious and you have to provide documentation for all of your activities/transcripts, but it's important to fill out the form with detail, as this information will be provided to the consulate when deciding whether to issue you a visa or not. I highly recommend filling out the form step-by-step with this guide for long-term students, as it provides extra directions that are SoooOOOOo USEFUL! You'll also need to pay for a $100 money order to be sent to the Campus France offices along with your official acceptance letter from your educational institution. The entire process will take about 3-4 weeks for you to fill out the form, send over the cash monay, and have your Campus France application validated.
4. Make an appointment with your French consulate. There are 10 French consulates in the United States, not counting the French Embassy, and you can find the closest consulate to you here. You'll want to make an appointment no more than 90 days before you leave, but try to schedule it as early as possible, as consulate appointments fill up fast in advance. You can make an appointment and find out what documents you will need to bring to your interview here. This will be the final step for applying for a visa to study long-term in France.
5. Prepare for your big move! Once you have your visa, all that's left to do is to open a French bank account, sign up for health insurance, get an international phone plan....but fear not. Schools will oftentimes offer advice or services to help you adjust easily to your new life Paris. If your school doesn't offer resources to do so, these arrival sheets provided by the Campus France website discuss step-by-step what you'll need to prepare before arriving to France and once you're moved in.
Oh, and throughout all this time, you should be brushing up on the language. It may seem daunting if your only knowledge of French is "Voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir?" But you're moving to a different country, and you should be ready to adapt to the French culture when you're out to dinner, buying groceries, or at the doctor's office. Check out my article on U lala to read about some FUN & AWESOME mobile apps that help you learn languages in a SNAP. xx