Bonjour, tout le monde!
You might think that, after getting your VISA and making it through stage/formation, you’re finally ready to start living the life in France for the next few months.
Not so fast.
Before you can finally breathe again, there’s one more *very important* thing you must do in order to officially (and legally) work in France: surviving your OFII appointment.
Short for “Office Française de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration,” OFII (pronounced “oh-fee”) is, of course, the French office for processing immigration and work visas for non-EU workers (namely, Americans like me, as well as those who don’t have dual citizenship from an EU country. Lucky bastards!). Whether you’re an assistant(e) or a lecteur/lectrice, you’ll have to go through this process while in France which, depending on the region you live in, can be smooth-sailing or just a plain mess.
Luckily, my académie (Rouen) was very good at helping us out during my first year as an assistante (and I can hope that it’ll be the same this year). For one thing, our OFII appointments were in early October, literally the week after stage/formation. During our second teacher’s training, we got our paperwork processed and our appointments assigned to us and just had to stay the weekend over in Rouen to attend our appointments; luckily, I had a friend who lived and taught in the city proper, so I just crashed at his place for a few days until it was over.
Again, I was really fortunate that my académie was able to get the OFII stuff done early in the year, as I’d heard from other assistant(e)s in other regions (e.g. Strasbourg, Lyon) that they didn’t get around to it until December, let alone January, which is already over halfway through the program! It really depends on your académie, since some are more efficient than others.
So what happens at the OFII appointment? Two things: 1) medical examination and 2) the office stamp. At least in l’académie de Rouen, both things were split into two sessions over two days.
1. The medical examination. This is where you get naked…literally. We’re instructed to take off our clothes (only on top, thank goodness) for a chest X-ray which, from what I’ve heard, is done to make sure that you don’t have tuberculosis or some other disease that could otherwise infect others while abroad. The wait time for getting examined can take up to an hour; the examination itself takes less than 5 minutes. Pass the time with your assistant(e) comrades by complaining how unfriendly and inefficient French administration is.
After getting your X-ray taken, it’s back to the waiting room! Might take another 30 minutes to an hour for you to receive your X-ray results, which you’ll need to keep and present to the immigration office at a later time.
2. The immigration office. Now armed with your X-ray results, you’ll now need to head over to the immigration office to get your official permit-stamp to work legally in France. Again, it involves a good amount of waiting, so make friends with the other assistant(e)s in the room with you and complain again about how French bureaucracy is slow. Eventually, you’ll get called into the office where you’ll hand over your X-ray results (along with your passport, the convocation of your assigned appointment time, your school documents, etc).
Inside the office, you’ll be speaking with a doctor (most likely in French, so be prepared!), and you’ll be asked a few questions about your medical history, as well as if you have any records to give them (even if you don’t have your medical documents from the States, it’s usually okay). I recall that I also had to get my height, weight, blood pressure, and all of those aspects checked at the appointment; it was like being at the doctors again, but in France!
Finally, you’ll finish the second round of medical stuff and wait (again!) to be called into another office for *finally!* receiving your work permit, which is a sticker that the worker will stick onto your passport.
…and you’re set! Afterwards, you won’t need to worry so much about making sure that you’re legally in France for the next few months. All that’s left now is to receive your carte vitale (social security card, which may or may not arrive at all during your time in France) or get CAF for your housing needs (I opted not to). You can finally breathe normally again!
While the OFII appointment can be quite stressful and a pain in the ass (most of the time, you’re just waiting there in the office for a 5-minute process), you’ll feel so relieved once it’s all over, as now you can now go ahead and live well abroad. Again, I’m really thankful that my académie was quite efficient at helping us schedule appointments and process paperwork in a timely fashion, despite us complaining about how we had to wait and deal with bad service at our appointments; I’ve heard many tales from other assistant(e)s in other regions who had not-so-great experiences with OFII, but I guess that’s what we signed up for when we decided to work in France: slow processing and mix-ups in bureaucracy. No big deal.
How was your experience with OFII? Let me know! À bientôt.