If you are American, this means you are a non-EU citizen (unless you have dual nationality with an EU country). Americans have the right to stay in the Schengen Zone for up to 3 months without a visa. After 90 days, we are legally required to leave. We are also not allowed to work without a work visa, and must complete part of our visa process with OFII (Office Française de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration.)
The first part of the process is completed in the United States. After receiving your arrête de nomination, you must go to your local consulate to apply for your work visa (be sure to schedule an appointment online, and be sure to fill out the visa application form for lecteurs and assistants.) Your consulate will have a list of papers you will be required to bring to your appointment– one of those will include an immigration registration form from OFII, which can be printed from the website. Before you go to your visa appointment, be sure to fill out the top portion of the form, and then hand it in at your appointment. The consulate will then mail it back to you with your passport and your visa for you to take to France– it should be stamped! Do not forget to bring this, and do not fill out the bottom form until after you have arrived in France. Make tons of copies of this form and do not lose it!
Then, once you have arrived in France, found a place to live, and have a French phone number, you must register and send this paper (in addition to a few other things– including your arrête de nomination, a copy of your visa and passport, a copy of your entrance stamp into the Schengen Zone, etc.) to OFII, or Office Français d’Immigration et d’Integration within the first three months of your arrival. Where you are living in France will depend on which OFII office you will send your paperwork to. Be sure to send your papers via lettre recommandée to assure it does not get lost!
Then, you will eventually receive a convocation letter in the mail from OFII after mailing in all of your documents, which will state the date and time of your medical appointment. This appointment is mandatory and cannot be missed. (Side note: I have a few friends who could not attend their appointments, and were simply told to miss the appointment, and then were automatically re-scheduled for a new one and sent a new convocation.) You may have to re-arrange classes and work schedules depending on when your appointment is scheduled, so be flexible and communicative with your teachers!
The day of your appointment, bring your passport, a passport-style photo, your convocation, a copy of your lease, a copy of your shots and medical records (which they say to bring but I never needed), and anything else stated with you. (To be safe, I brought literally ALL of my paperwork with me). Arrive early, and then be prepared to wait alongside 30+ other people (you think I’m kidding). The actual appointment consists of your average physical- height, weight, blood pressure, ears, heart, and eyes. You also have to complete a lung exam (shirtless, FYI), and speak with a final doctor, who gives you your vignette, or the “your-visa-is-now-approved” stamp in your passport.
Congratulations, you’re legal! Now, send a copy of this new vignette off to the CAF office!
Although this is exactly how the process went down in the Nice OFII Office, at the Lille OFII Office, because I had my passport/visa stolen, instead of a vignette in my passport, I received an official document to include in my dossier, which was sent to the Sous-Préfecture in Valenciennes so I can get my replacement carte de séjour. If I had not had my papers stolen, however, I would have received a new vignette like normal.
You do not have to re-do this process if you renew your visa from France, thankfully!
Do you have any OFII horror stories to share? I’d love to hear them.