Moving to France -Êtes-vous prêtez?

Image result for OFII

I celebrated my 1 year anniversary in France on 13 Feb 17. It’s a milestone achieved.

Not just because of the experience of living abroad for a year, but also this is a testimony of how we survived navigating the French administration process. I’m also proud to say, as of 13 Feb 17 – we had completed all our rounds of paperwork and i’ve got everything required to stay in France.

I realized i’ve never actually discussed how i made it to France, the administrative part. Part of the reasons was because i am quite aware that there are many others from non EU countries who would love to move to France but struggling to and I am not an expert in French administration nor can i provide much advice on this area, that’s why i hesitate to write on this, and give others false hope or something. I thought i would still document this down anyway, if it helps anyone out there. For my case, my company applied the Carte Bleu Neurotrope visa and they did all the work for me. If this does not interest you, probably a good idea to stop here.

Now when i looked back, i realized that the memory starts to get fuzzy. The brain has an amazing ability to recover from shocks and traumas in life and make us forget =)

The french administration can be summarized with just 1 word – PAIN. It’s fucking painful.

Most people marvel at the notion of how romantic it is to meet a french man, move to France, live in France (and if you say you live in Paris especially, that’s going to win you even more points and envious looks), but there’s really NOTHING romantic  about this whole process.

I must admit though, i had an easier way compared to many others so i kept my grumbles to myself and some poor close friends. My company managed my transfer to France and application of my visa.

I applied for a company transfer to France. That started in around Aug 2014.  It took a year and i was asking my boss about it every month. Each time he said there is no headcount in France, i thought he was bullshitting me ( as usual, most companies do) though he had assured me MANY times that the upper management is really serious about my request.

Then one day in around Aug 15, he asked for a meeting and told me the headcounts have opened up, they need many people in Europe due to increase in projected activities in Europe. I was just taking it neutrally because i’m used to shit falling on my face and things may not proceed anyway. We were far from anything concrete. By Sept 15, he had connected me to the HR in France’s office, and he was there every step of the way managing this transfer.

Then we started with the procedures of application. We decided to go with the Carte Bleue Européenne visa. Everywhere i read online says this is for highly skilled workers ( i have pause here to giggle, because i feel kind of …flattered). But even at this point, i was still being neutral. I wasn’t sure about my visa being approved because many things were happening in France around that time, the major one being the shooting in Paris on Nov 13.

This visa will allow me to have the rights to stay from 1 to 3 years of validity. It will also allow me to work anywhere else in the EU region after completing 2 years in France. From my understanding, it also does not require the company to justify why they need a non-EU person vs a French person for this position although, i do remember that my company wrote a very nice flattering letter on why they needed me to be in France for submission to OFII anyway. 

There are strict requirements to meet for this visa. Salary has to be a minimum of certain amount (1.5x more than the average gross salary annually by French people), have to also hold a higher education ( like bachelor’s ) of at least 3 years of studies, work contract in France have to be at least a year or permanent etc.

Luckily for me, i met all requirements. Like seriously, 1st time in my life i actually met all requirements for something i wanted. My company did everything for me, even paid the fees.

To be honest, i didn’t even read up on the types of visa available in France. I knew it’s nearly impossible to come to France on another work visa, because that would mean i need to get a random company in France to sponsor and justify reasons to employ me and not another French person. Economy in France is already not great to begin with, many locals have so much trouble keeping their jobs or even getting new jobs so i knew that’s pretty much a long fight and i don’t really want to go that way. Student visa was another one i was thinking about, but i’m bad at being a student and i love having money by my side( who doesn’t?)

I did get an impression that this visa is not really common, even though this has existed since 2007 in France, not many people in the administration have handled this. I have to of course provide many documents (CVs, education certs etc), and they need to be translated by a certified translator to French. That cost me around 200+ SGD. If you need translator based in Singapore but certified, let me know i’ll provide you the contact.

Once i had the Carte Bleue Européenne visa approval, i was told to make an appointment with the local French embassy to collect my short term visa which covers only 3 months. And then the long process began, and i’m going to go more in details, warning: it’s boring stuffs, so skip this if you do not want to read about it.

When i got to France, we started to try to make appointment with the Sous Perfecture in Le Havre. We had to make an online appointment, and the system is open EVERY Monday. I tried for 3 Mondays and i couldn’t get any shit (a place) so we decided to pop down to the sous perfecture one day early in the morning. The counter lady questioned and almost sent us back home to continue to make online appointment (DUH!!) however Sam was being useful in such situations and trust me noone wants to be the receiving end of his backlash. She gave us an appointment date in the end, about 2 weeks after.

Another thing in France? You have to make appointments for EVERYTHING, like to open a bank account you need a Rendez-vous (it means appointment, not a sleazy affair of getting together with the opposite sex). When you want to cut your hair, you also have to make an appointment with the salon, you will almost never ever get a slot if you walk in like this. Sounds fairly organised nation? I’m not sure, i kind of miss walking into POSB bank ( local bank in Singapore), give them my ID and then within 5 mins i have a new shinny bank account.

Finally the day of appointment. I thought it’s some sort of interview i needed to go through but it turns out to be like anyone else, just presenting my documents through the counter person. She basically reviewed to see if everything was there, and to be honest i doubt she really knew what she was reviewing because she said……she and the whole Sous Perfecture has never handled a Carte Bleu Européenne visa before.

I asked what happens to my short term visa because it’s expiring and i do not have any other documents proving i can be in France. They told me it’s ok, noone will chase me out of France. Well, pretty comforting. Wondering how many short term visa expired people are living in France without any real legal papers.

After months of waiting, i guess 2-3 months i finally received a letter from Sous Perfecture asking me to go for medical checkup,  an interview, followed by 2 full day of Integration to France classes, and 200 hours of French Lessons to be completed. ALL of these turned out i did not even have to take them because they have put me under the wrong category of visa instead of Carte Bleue Européenne visa category, as they have never seen this visa before so they didnt know what to do with me!!

In the end my company’s HR had to help clarify with OFII on these and finally i got my Carte de Sejour (like a residency card), without having to go for all those things i mentioned but in the progress i had gone for the medical checkup, interview, and 1 integration class, and been to the langange school for French BECAUSE they asked me to. So i’ve wasted some time in between and experienced first hand how difficult the process can be.

To finally collect the Carte de Sejour, i had to pay i guess about 160 euros. BUT not in cash, not credit card because they cannot receive money at the Sous Perfecture. We had to get STAMPs equivalent of this amount. And for some reasons, we couldn’t get the stamps in all the TABAC stores we went to. Finally, we found luck with one TABAC store near to the Sous Perfecture office.

If you want to feel even more grateful to your home country’s efficiency and minimum paperwork system, and like your patience to be challenged indefinitely or enjoy feeling defeated by life, France is a good country to start with.

For those who might be interested or contemplating this route with Carte Bleue Européenne visa, you can read up more here (But of course it’s in French, and that’s the first shit that will hit you that you have to understand French admin in French, as if everything else is not difficult enough):

http://www.immigration.interieur.gouv.fr/fr/Archives/Les-archives-du-site/Archives-Immigration/Archives-Immigration-professionnelle/La-carte-bleue-europeenne

http://www.immigration-professionnelle.gouv.fr/acteurs-%C3%A9conomiques/fiche/carte-bleue-europ%C3%A9enne

If you are up to the challenge, i guess its easier to get company to transfer you to France than trying to find a job here yourself. I wouldn’t know it well, maybe your skills are highly sought after in France? Start the process early, as you can see it takes alot of time. And learn French, it will do you good.

Bon courage a tous

And if you have really finished reading and survived till you read this then you are rewarded with a comical youtude video from ‘What the Fuck France’.

Paul Taylor’s take on French administration is not only hilarious BUT TRUE especially this sentence he said,’i’ve got 99 problems and French Administration is ALL of them’. I feel ..him…

 

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