When people would ask me about my “trip” to France, I often chuckled. Because a trip suggests short-term for the purpose of sightseeing. And because it’s entirely easier to take a trip than it is to move abroad for work. Most trips don’t include health insurance coverage, salary, rent or visas — the last of which truly distinguishes between vacationing and moving abroad. I want to start off by saying every experience and every country’s process is different. And it even varies by what type of visa you’re applying for — and they are many. Although there are a smorgasbord of visa processes, I wanted to share my personal experience on how to apply for a TAPIF visa to France.
My visa type
In June, I accepted a position to teach English in southern France for a year through the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). The position lasts from the beginning of October through the end of April. And the program requires a VLS-TS travailleur temporaire visa. Translated, this means a temporary worker visa.
TAPIF has a partnership with VFS Global, which touts itself as the largest visa outsourcing and tech services. In essence, we apply for our visas through VFS Global who passes it along to the French consulate in Washington, D.C.
If you’re reading this post to learn how to apply for a TAPIF visa specifically, I cannot recommend reading the handbook enough. The actual visa application is a bit confusing. But if you have the handbook right by your side, it answers every little question on the process of how to apply for a TAPIF visa.
This year’s complications
*Raising my hand because I feel personally victimized by Covid and how it’s thrown a wrench in moving abroad. Oh, Covid, you’re the absolute worst. The visa process is stressful as is. And when you add in a global pandemic, it complicates the whole shebang even more.
I’ve written about the stress and anxiety that accompanied with the outrageous uncertainty that has been 2020, in light of trying to move to France. But as it relates to the visa process, Covid caused the most hurdles in this journey. And here’s why.
When you visit VFS Global’s website, you select your country of origin and the country to which you’re applying to stay. In my case, it was the United States and France respectively. It then takes you to another nook of the site and lists the different offices you can visit for your in-person appointment. (It’s not just any French embassy.)
I’m from Missouri, and there weren’t any options in my state. So the closest office was in Chicago. But Chicago had imposed a required 14-day quarantine for Missouri residents, due to its Covid numbers. As did New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C.
We love to see it, don’t we? Houston didn’t have any restrictions on Missouri travelers, but its VFS Global office had a temporary closure due to Hurricane Laura. I had only a few more options that had available appointments and no travel restrictions.
The soonest appointment in a city that didn’t impose a two-week quarantine ended up being Los Angeles. And I took it immediately. My mom and I made the 4-hour flight to Los Angeles the day before my appointment to get this dang visa application done. As stressful as this process was, it was nice to take a day-and-a-half trip with my mom before I moved abroad for a year.
The travel time took exponentially longer than the appointment, which took maybe 20 or 25 minutes. We took an Uber to the VFS Global office in Beverly Hills, and five minutes before my noon appointment, I popped my head in to let them know I was there. They used a metal detector, and I went into the next room.
I handed the employee my passport and paperwork (we’ll get to that), which was listed out for me on my appointment receipt. Personally, I didn’t encounter any surprises in terms of paperwork; it was very straightforward. I even brought documents that weren’t on the list, and the employee handed most of them back to me.
After the paperwork portion, I moved onto the biometrics portion. This is a fancy word for giving them my fingerprints and getting another headshot taken. The employee gave me a receipt with a tracking number so that I could follow my visa application online.
I was really nervous for my appointment, but I really didn’t need to be. The employees were extremely kind and helpful, and they explained the process seamlessly. They’d overnight my application to Washington, D.C., that day, and then I’d get a FedEx notification when D.C. shipped it to my home in Missouri where I’d sign for it. (I paid an additional fee for courier service.)
Again, the appointment took maybe 20 or 25 minutes. There were no trick questions like at the end of The Proposal.
Documents I brought to my appointment
After I submitted my application, I had to download the official version, print and sign it. At the end of this application, a list of required documents followed. For my specific teaching assistant visa (and again, it varies by countries, type, length, etc.), here’s what I needed:
- My work contract with the DIRECCTE stamp, which means it’s ~officially~ official
- Photocopy of my passport (it must have two blank pages and not expire until at least three months after my scheduled departure)
- The physical application and receipt
- My appointment letter
*I really had to dig to find out what dimensions they were looking for. But when I went to Walgreens, I simply told them I wanted a visa photo for France. The lady did a little digging and found the specific dimensions required. I brought the two photos from Walgreens, and they kept one. And yes, they take another one once you arrive.
Okay, full disclaimer right here, right now: I am mega type A. I am almost always over prepared. I totally was that girl in grade school who always had her homework done and always raised her hand. That means I also brought along some extra documents just to be safe:
- My college diplomas
- Email correspondence that mentioned any sort of program acceptance or confirmation of the DIRECCTE stamp
- Photocopy of my birth certificate
No matter what, I’d recommend bringing 3 to 5 copies of each. The VFS employee didn’t take most of my extra documents, but personally, it gave me peace of mind.
Waiting for TAPIF
As if I hadn’t waited long enough to go to France — that’s a fun story. And after leaving my appointment on September 2, I received it in the mail on September 17. Throughout the process, I was able to track my application through VFS. But for much of the time, it just said that my application had been sent to D.C. for “further processing.” I also received FedEx updates via email because I needed to sign for the visa.
The day before my visa arrived by FedEx, I got text and email notifications that my passport would be shipped out overnight. The FedEx tracking was extremely helpful because it requires a signature. Make sure you or someone is home when it arrives!
So, even with Covid delays and the Labor Day holiday, I received my visa in the mail 15 days after my appointment.
Applying for a visa is stressful, especially in a pandemic, but many have gone before you. Take this post with a grain of salt because every country does it differently. Best of luck as you navigate how to apply for a TAPIF visa, or any for that matter! My experience is just one sliver of the the pie. But I hope it helps you on your visa process journey. Bon courage !