Sunday, March 9, 2014

What to expect when you're expecting... a visa.

This post is long overdue since I got mine about two months ago, but I did want to sum up what you should expect when applying and receiving your visa to become an au pair.  This is an overly-detailed description of exactly what you have to do and what to expect when you are getting your au pair visa.  Hopefully, some of you who are currently going through the process or anyone thinking about being an au pair will find it useful.

Since I lived in New Jersey, I had to make my appointment through the French consulate in New York. A few days before I sent my DIRECCT paperwork to the family, I made my appointment online.  You will need your passport number on hand as well as a vague idea of when you will be available.  I cannot speak for all French consulates, but the one in New York only had time slots available from 9 am to 12 pm, so make sure that you can take off of work, don't have an exam that during that time, etc.  After scheduling my appointment, I proceeded to change my appointment a total of three times because I was unsure of when the DIRECCT paperwork would be approved and sent back to me.  This was cautious, but in the end, not necessary because all of the documents had been stamped and given to the family within two weeks. Warning: time slots fill up fast! You probably won't be able to make an appointment earlier than a month in advance, so keep this in mind if you need to reschedule.

Now that you have your appointment, read and reread the list of documents that you are required to bring to the consulate.  In New York you will need:

  1. Your au pair contract + one copy
  2. The letter (or email) confirming the dates that you are enrolled in school + one copy
  3. Your visa application with a recent passport photo attached + one copy
  4. Your passport + one copy of the identity page
  5. Proof of your education status in the US + one copy

Note: just because the website says to bring one copy of each document, I would bring two.  I only brought one and had to make more.  Also, I brought all of the documents that I had sent to be approved by DIRECCT.  I was not asked for any of these papers, but it gave me peace of mind while I was there.

When you fill out the application form, try not to do it the day before like I did.  I was rushed, made mistakes, and had to print it out again... many times. Also, you will have to change the page settings when you print out the application because it is in A4 format (the standard French paper size).  This means that it is a bit longer than the standard letter size in America causing a few questions to be cut off.  I can't describe to you how much this stressed me out nor do I like to admit that I had a small (okay not so small) temper tantrum while trying to figure out how to fix it.  Also, make sure you check off "student" as the type of visa you are applying for - you are not considered an employee by France!  I made this mistake and got yelled at by the disgruntled lady at the consulate.

Okay, so you have double and triple-checked that you have all your documents and that you have filled out your application correctly.  Now it's time to go to the consulate.  Depending on where you live, it may or may not be easy for you to get there.  Either way, make sure you give yourself plenty of time for transportation and finding the consulate as it could be difficult depending on your familiarity with the city.  I am a crazy person and left at 6 in the morning to get to my appointment at 11:30.  Obviously I had a lot of free time beforehand.

When you arrive at the consulate, they will ask you for the confirmation email you received for your appointment.  I was unable to print mine, so they just checked my passport.  You will then be given a number, and when it is called, you will give all of your paperwork to one of the consulate's miserable employees.  This is why it is important to make sure you have completed everything correctly and have all necessary documents: they will be even meaner to you if you don't.  Trust me, I found out the hard way. Maybe only the employees at the New York consulate are this awful, but brace yourself just in case - they're not nice.  Imagine DMV workers times 100.

They will ask you when you plan on leaving, so make sure you know the date of your flight.  I didn't have my flight booked yet, but I knew when I wanted to leave.  Do not give a vague answer, you will only make them angrier.

After you have given them your paperwork, you will be asked to wait again until they call your name (which you will barely be able to understand over the loudspeaker).  At this time, they will give your appointment to come and pick up your visa.  I had thought that they would mail it to me, but no, I had to go all the way back to New York for my appointment which was "anytime between 9 and 10 in the morning."  It's more than annoying, but luckily my lovely mother booked a hotel room for the night before for a friend and I. Also, I had to pick up my visa the day before I was supposed to leave.  Just a little stressful.  

When you pick up your visa, they will give you your OFII paperwork which will be very important for when you arrive in France, so make sure you hold onto it! I will writing a post in the future describing this process.

Luckily, I did not have any problems getting my visa, but I know a lot of girls who had to go back to the consulate several times because they did not provide the required paperwork.  Make sure you have everything, so this does not happen to you!  I'm sure it will save you a lot of anxiety.

I hope this helps some of you sort out how to get your visa and feel free to comment if you have any questions!