If you’ve been reading my posts from the beginning it won’t be a surprise to you that I received my arrêté quite late. I got the version without the DIRECCTE’s (Direction régionale des enterprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi a.k.a. The Department of Labour) stamp via email on the 8th of September, 2015. As I also stated in a previous post, that version is unusable in terms of obtaining a visa. Your arrêté MUST have the stamp in order to render it official. I know this because I emailed the embassy in St. Lucia (SLU) on the 9th asking for them to basically “gimme a bligh” (let it slide) as it was already so close to the start of the contract. I think if the person replying didn’t have to be professional in their response it would’ve read something along the lines of “girlchile, who you tink you isss?” (translation: please don’t ever think that you are immune to the rules and due process just because the start of your contract is imminent). In reality though it was a pretty decent response just reiterating what my impatient self already knew.
Needless to say, as soon as I received the stamped version (via email again) on the 17th I emailed the embassy requesting an appointment on the 22nd. They responded swiftly with a proposition of one at 10 am.
The only option I had to get there at the time was via LIAT. (Although I think Caribbean Airlines flies there too) I chose that particular date because it was the one with the cheapest fare (and by “cheap” I mean still relatively expensive for (part of) a region that labels itself as a CARI[bbean]COM[munity] and should have muchhh better inter-island travel options for significantly reduced prices but I digress. That’s a rant for another post) for the week. I know some persons who opted to stay in SLU for 4 or 5 days while waiting for their visa to be approved and then just collected their passport at the end of their stay. I however, decided that I’d go on the first flight there and catch the last flight back. I also had a cousin from Spain visiting at the time and thought it’d be a pretty cool day trip for her as well. So we threw some essentials into a backpack and off we went at quite an ungodly hour of the morning.
Finding the embassy would’ve been a bit of a challenge if I hadn’t had the foresight to ask one of the other assistants for directions. Once you know where you’re going it’s very easy though. I suspect that the road has recently been renamed or something like that and I couldn’t find the embassy on google maps so here are the directions as best as I can remember:
Walk out of the Vigie airport and you’ll be facing the sea. Turn left and walk up the slight incline. Turn right at the top and look for the building with the french flag, et voilà!
We found a little bakery just down the road and had breakfast there while waiting for the embassy to open. I ended up arriving much earlier than my actual appointment and they were kind enough to take me before my original time. I’m not sure if it’s just because I was one of the first appointments of the day or if the lady is just genuinely like this (another assistant claims that she wasn’t particularly nice to them) but she was incredibly considerate toward me (Maybe it was just a reaction to my natural charm…😂). My experience with the consulate in Trinidad in 2012 was nothing like this one. In fact, the lady at the Trinidadian French embassy was rather condescending from what I remember. Anyway, back in SLU, lady-considerate asked me how long I’d like my visa for.
YES…She ASKED me!
I’ve spoken to a number of Caribbean assistants and none of them were asked how long they intended to stay, they just had to be happy with the 1-2 month grace period they received.
As my about section rightly states (duh, I wrote it), I love football and it just so happened that the Euros (UEFA European Championship) were happening in France in 2016. Coincidence? Maybe or maybe I planned it that way ;). I figured I’d try my luck and see what happened. The conversation went something like this:
Her: “How long do you intend to stay in France?”
Me: “Well there’s this football tournament called the Euros that’s going to be hosted by France next year and I was really looking forward to maybe attending one of the matches.”
Her: “When is that happening?”
Me: “In the summer, around July”
Her: “Okay, well I’ll just give you the visa for a year”
Me to myself: Whaaaaatttttt!!!!!
I tried to play it cool but I’m sure she had a good laugh at my facial expression after. I imagine I looked quite shocked and puzzled and elated and so many other emotions, simultaneously. Maybe she’s a football fan too, who knows, but I was extremely grateful. She also took my fingerprints at some point but I don’t particularly remember the order of events as I was clearly drunk on just plain awe.
Here’s a checklist of the things that I needed for my appointment:
- Photocopy of the bio page of passport as well as any visas obtained in the last 3 years.
- Passport with at least 2 blank pages.
- 1 recent passport sized photo (white background).
- Long stay visa application form: http://goo.gl/h4kQ2r
- OFII form (2015): https://goo.gl/FL8Ef3
- A detailed travel itinerary (like what you get from a travel agent. They do not recommend purchasing a ticket before you obtain your visa).
- Stamped arrêté
- Copy of previous long stay visa (since I’d done the program before)
I returned home with my passport and used DHL to send it to the embassy with a prepaid return envelope and about 10 days later I had my passport with the visa in hand.
A few additional things to note:
– You should also take photocopies of everything listed above to hand in as the embassy will likely keep most of the documents.
– Your visa is sponsored by the CIEP and you do not need to pay a fee or apply for a waiver.
– On the OFII form, your employer is the academie, not the schools you’ve been assigned to.
– Make sure the embassy stamps your OFII form and returns it to you. This document is very important as you’ll need to send it into l’OFII when you get to France.
– At the end of both documents you have to sign the place/fait à (eg: Nice) and the date/le (eg: 29 mai 2016).
– bon courage!