Legal Living in France
It took me six months to figure out the appropriate steps to take to live in France legally. The options are: finding a French employer who will arrange a visa, marrying a French citizen, joining the Foreign Legion, or becoming a student. The last option seemed to be the easiest and less emotionally exhausting.
All you have to do is sign up at one of the French for foreigners schools in Paris recognized by the French government (below), present your registration card at the French consulate in your home state, and get your student visa. All the schools offer programs to suit your level and needs, and some offer aid with the paperwork and housing. Request catalogues from each school and review them carefully before making a decision. (The Sorbonne is the most popular and least personal; it is also least expensive.)
After deciding on the school, you can register by phone, email, or fax. If you are in France, go directly to the school and preregister, then obtain your visa back in America. You must sign up for at least 20 hours of French a week to apply for a visa. Sign up for one year if you want a long-term student visa. Depending upon the school, you may have the option of making payments instead of paying all fees at once.
The next step is to go to the French consulate in your state of residence with all the necessary papers. The documents you will need vary from state to state, so check your local consulate web site.
Once in France, the first thing you need to do is get your at the police prefecture. Take with you to the prefecture: your final registration at the school of your choice (which you receive after taking your placement test), proof of payment of tuition, and proof of health insurance. If you are over 28, you have to get private coverage, which you can buy in France or America. Look in Fusac, www.fusac.fr a journal for English-speaking residents in France, and carefully compare prices. Take your insurance ID card, proof of residence, and proof of financial support to your local prefecture. The required documents vary, so ask your school to help you with the process. If you have the option, bring a French person with you.
Once you have your
and you are legal you can open a bank account, get a mobile phone, and find part-time employment more easily. Try to start the process at least two months in advance of your departure. The peace of mind is worth the pain.
French Schools for Foreigners
Institut Catholique de Paris, 12 Rue Cassette, 75006 Paris; 011-33-01-44-39-52-68, fax 011-33-01-44-39-52-09; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.icp.fr.
La Sorbonne, 47 rue des Ecoles, 75005 Paris; 011-33-01-40-46-22-11, fax 011-33-01-40-46-32-29; email@example.com, www.fle.fr/sorbonne. Cost per semester (20 hours a week for 12 weeks):
Alliance Francaise, 101 Blvd. Raspail, 75270 Paris; 011-01-42-84-90-00; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.alliancefr.org.