I got my Visa for FRANCE!!! Leaving in 8 days!!! OHHHHH MYYYYYYY GOSSSSHHHHHH!!!
Applying For A French Au Pair Visa 101
Since applying for a French Visa (Au Pair) was one of the most stressful events of my life, I thought I would share some insight, so those of you thinking about doing the same might have an easier time. There are a lot of outdated resources out there that are way less than helpful, because they have you running around getting paperwork that you don’t even need. Here’s an updated list of paperwork you WILL NEED for the French Consulate (in San Francisco as of August 2014)
Things you NEED to apply for an Au Pair Visa:
1. Visa Application Form: First things first, make sure you print out and fill out the application form and attach a passport style (color) photo to the top right corner. Make a copy.
2. Your Passport: Sounds like a no brainer, but you will need to bring your passport and a copy of the identification pages when you go to apply. Make a copy.
3. Contract: Make sure you have an approved contract signed by you, the family you’ll be working with, and validated by the local DIRRECTE where you plan on moving (in France). Make a copy.
4. Flight/Travel Plans: You’ll need to have proof of plane ticket purchases, OR written plans of when you’ll be traveling with a signed statement that says you won’t leave the country before you receive your visa. Make a copy.
5. Letter of acceptance from a French Institution: As an au pair you will be required to be enrolled in language/culture classes while you are working in France. I decided to enroll in a 1 year program at a language institute at the University near where I’m going to be living. Make a copy.
6. OCII form: Once you actually get to France, you will need to get this form validated within 3 months of getting there. When you apply, make sure to bring it with the top part filled out.
6. Self addressed prepaid express mail envelope: You’ll need this for getting your passport and visa back (unless you decide to go back to the embassy and pick it up). Make sure this is from USPS (not FedEx or UPS) and does NOT have the mailing label stuck on it (this way they can give you your tracking number).
7. Processing Fee: The easiest way to pay this is by Visa, but they also take personal checks. For me this fee was $136.
Things you WON’T NEED:
Certificat Médical: Some Au Pair websites told me that I would need to get a signed document of health for applying for my visa (within three months of applying) but they never even asked me for this when I was applying, so don’t worry about it (unless you really feel like going to the doctor for a physical).
Extra Passport photos: Other than the photos in the top right corner of your application, you shouldn’t need any other passport photos.
Bank Statements/Guaranteer: This was my ALL TIME stress because some websites stated that I needed to have the total amount of $820 x 12 months I’m living there in my bank account before leaving, OR someone to notarize a statement saying they would be available to provide that amount given the need. NOT NEEDED.
CampusFrance: This is NOT FOR AU PAIRS. And it is a stress and four week waiting + $100 dollar waste of your time. I cannot believe I waited so long for this paperwork, just to find out that it wasn’t needed.
Diploma: Some sites stated that I would need a printed copy of my last diploma (so, University) when applying. NOT NEEDED.
Might want to bring (BUT DON’T NEED) if you’re OCD, like me:
Receipt of Booking: You don’t really have to have this, but I brought mine just in case (for some reason) they tried to say that I hadn’t made an appointment. Proof on paper is generally a good rule of thumb.
Proof Of Residence: I didn’t need this when I was applying because my passport has my Washington State address on it, already. BUT if you’re from a different state originally, and are applying for a visa within the district of where you’re living now, you’ll need to provide proof that you live there. This can include a copy of your drivers license or state ID (refer to consulate website for more examples).
A Pen: Just in case you’re sitting in the waiting area and realize you forgot to fill something out. Which may or may not have happened to me.
For more information visit your Consulate’s webpage (or email them). Here’s the link for mine (San Francisco): CLICK HERE
REMEMBER: This is a list based off my personal experience at the San Francisco French Consulate, consult your local consulate before making an appointment to double check you have everything you need!
Apply For Visa: Done.
Last night consisted of Cup Of Noodle, nervousness, triple checking that I had everything for my visa appointment,
excitement and hours of giggling, with the girls in my hostel, over how cute German guys are. Needless to say, sleep was not high on the list of priorities. Even when I did manage to fall asleep, I kept being jolted awake by the construction happening outside and the light streaming in through the curtains.
In short, I ended up sprawled out on my bed with a striped wool sock over my eyes, dreaming about not waking up in time for my appointment (I set 3 alarms). After worrying all night, I had this feeling that I should double check my 10am appointment time, so this morning I did – it wasn’t 10am, it was 9:30am.
Thankfully, I checked early enough that this wasn’t an issue, but I was reminded of how fragile this whole process is. Missing that appointment would have meant having to reschedule…in September. I would have missed my flight, school registration (September 8th) and I don’t know where I would have lived (in the US or France). Thank God I double checked – and I mean that in the absolute most literal way.
Even up until I was being checked in I was thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I half expected not to be on the check in list. But I was. And I had to mentally pinch myself as I sat in the chair. I was sitting at the French Consulate. I was applying to move to France. Was this real life? Yes. Yes, it was.
Everything went smoothly with the application process until the clerk noticed that my phone case had the French flag on it. She was so surprised, and I mentioned that my tattoo was also in French. She wanted to know why, but all I could say, as I started to cry, was, ” I’ve wanted this since I was 9 years old.”
For some perspective (for those of you who don’t know me well) I NEVER cry. Not at sad movies, not at funerals and not in front of strangers at the French consulate. But, combine lack of sleep and the realization of how close I am to making my dream a reality, and the result hit me all at once. Cue water works.
The good news was that the lady at the office told me there shouldn’t be any problem getting me my visa in time. She told me to email them in 10 days to double check with them, if I had not heard back. Apparently there’s been a running joke in the office because I’ve been emailing and talking with the San Francisco and Washington DC consulates so much. In fact, when I walked up to the window, the other clerk said, “Is that Emily Morehouse?!” I’m kinda a big deal, guys. When an embassy knows you by name, I count it as a good sign.
Now that the application has been turned in, the waiting begins… But I feel such a huge weight lifted. I applied to live in France – that’s insane.
I really hope that if any of you guys are feeling intimidated by travel you’ll be encouraged by my story, here. There’s nothing magical about me, nothing that makes this more possible for me than it would be for you. The only thing I’m equipped with is an ungodly amount of stubbornness. I’m such a strong advocate for being able go do anything you REALLY set your mind to. Because, if it’s something you really want, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
You Never Let Go
I’ve been waiting four weeks for paperwork from a French government agency so that I can apply for my visa. After sleepless nights, phone calls, faxes and emails, they finally called me this morning. The woman, her thick French accent filling the phone, told me I had no need of the paperwork I had been waiting for (and had been told to apply for). “Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We’ve just been so busy.” Four weeks.
Welcome to the bureaucracy.
I’m finally boarding a plane for my visa appointment with the French embassy in San Francisco. It’s been a long road, filled with stress, stress, stress and more stress. I can honestly say that this “adventure” has been more stressful than four years of college… combined. I don’t even know how people do this and live to tell the tale, but I’m still fighting everyday to make it to the end.
The only question now is, when will it be the end? The hope right now is that the embassy will process my application in record time and then I’ll be able to leave on August 18th. The reality is, though, that they might not get it done in time, and that means I’ll have to buy another plane ticket. Something which I have NO budget for. Let the prayers commence.
Miracles don’t generally seem to happen, but when I was sitting in my room yesterday, looking at my stack of paperwork, I realized something – this ALREADY IS A MIRACLE.
If you had told me a year ago I would be applying to move to France, would be accepted into a French university and would be quitting my job, I never would have believed it. Last year, at this time, I was trying not to think about suicide, unhealthy relationships and starving myself. I was on multiple meds, had no plans or direction for my life and was spinning out of control. I remember sitting on my bed, curled up in a ball and thinking that I just wanted to die. Then I thought about that thought for a minute – no I didn’t! And that’s when a little voice said, “You’re going to have to choose. You can’t keep floating between life and death.”
I chose to live.
It’s been a pretty bumpy road getting here, but I think that’s what’s making me realize just how much I want this. Last night I really felt like God was pointing me in the direction of 2 Peter 3:9 where it says, ” The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you.” We’re all given passions and dreams for a reason. On each of our hearts God writes a script that is unique to who we are, and who we’re called to become. Maybe these things seem arbitrary and random, but those are what guide us to find our destiny/calling/purpose. The funny thing is how often it’s US who are causing the roadblocks to getting there.
I think one of the most dangerous things we can do is to ignore what we’re passionate about. But, the reality is, sometimes we just forget. We get so caught up in the societal expectations to ___________ (fill in the blank) that we lose sight of our own path. And, for a really long time, that was me. Afraid to live my life, and trying desperately to follow someone else’s dream to get married, work in an office, get pregnant, volunteer in the kids room at church and only shop at Nordstrom and Anthropologie. Note: There is nothing wrong with these dreams. But they are not mine (although, some might be in the future). Coming to terms with this realization was half the battle. But you know what they say: Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to recovery. It wasn’t until I was in a place of complete (and essential) surrender, that God reminded me of the dreams HE had planted deep in my heart.
When I was going through some old boxes at my parents’ house a couple of weeks ago, I realized that throughout my life I’ve always wanted to move to France. I have coloring pages from when I’m 9 of the Eiffel tower and every school related binder I ever had has some kind of France theme to it. It was a dream of my heart – my heart’s desire. But, in the chaos of life, I had forgotten, and I almost gave up.
I’m so thankful that life is full of second chances. And that right now I am on a plane to go apply for a visa to FRANCE. That, in itself, is a miracle. And I think it’s important that I declare that. Everything might not be working out according to the plan in my mind, but it is going to work out, because this wasn’t my plan to begin with.
This dream comes from somewhere so much deeper than my mind or my heart. In truth, I think it comes down to following a path that’s been waiting for me for quite a while, now. To find it, I simply had to stop looking so hard for a path that was someone else’s “right one.”
Life Is Like A Mop
Hello beautiful people!
It’s been a while since I’ve written and there are a few reasons why.
1. I’ve been running around like a mad person trying to get things ready for moving (pretty unsuccessfully) and in between jumping up and down in excitement, and weeping for hours, I’ve haven’t had a lot of time to write.
2. I’ve been hosting Couchsurfers! My roommates have been gone for the last couple of weeks so I decided to take in some lovely Couchsurfers so they had a place to stay. We’ve had some pretty awesome adventures, and I’m so happy that I got to meet some other amazing people who love traveling as much as I do.
3. I’ve been arts-ing a lot. I’m trying to do this #100daysofhappy, inspired by one of my friends (it’s bumpy, but I’m determined to stick with it) and so I’ve been creating some watercolor beauties to share on my Instagram.
4. I’ve been/will be taking classes. I was taking an online “Lettering” class, which was fantastic. I use the website, Skillshare.com which has online tutorials, “classmates” and instructor videos for only $10/month (which is amazing). I loved taking the class so much and I can’t wait to practice more with all of my favorite quotes etc.
Whew! A lot has been going on. I’m still trying to get one last piece of paperwork processed before my visa application appointment on August 1st. CampusFrance is a French agency that all incoming students have to go through before getting a visa to France. I don’t really even know what they do, but I had to send in my paperwork weeks ago, and they still haven’t got back to me. I’m going to be harassing them this coming week to get my confirmation email, so I can be all set for my visa appointment.
This whole process has, honestly, been the most stressful process of my life (more than four years of college put together). I can’t even believe that I’ve made it this far, and worked this hard. But every time I hit a road block (which is happening A LOT) I just really have to view it as life asking me, “How bad do you want this?”
The resounding answer, of course, is A LOT.
Videos like this one have been keeping me on my toes:
At this point, I think it might just be my Irish stubbornness that’s keeping me going, but I feel like once I get to France I’ll be able to let out a huge sigh of relief.
Oh, and did I mention that I’ll be living in France in LESS THAN A MONTH! Let the hyperventilating commence. I can’t even believe how fast the past months have gone. I feel like every time I look at the calendar two weeks have passed and all I’ve done to “get ready” is stared at the things I probably will need to get rid of at some point, in my room.
But “c’est la vie“. I have no idea how this is all going to come together in the end, but I know that it will and that I’m getting ready to embark on a pretty amazing adventure. Updates should be coming pretty regularly now that life has slowed down a bit. The things remaining are:
1. Flying down to San Francisco AGAIN for my visa appointment (August 1st)
2. Getting approved from Campus France before being able to go to my appointment
3. Getting rid of pretty much everything I own (except my very favorites).
4. FORCING myself to keep practicing French even though I’m not “in the mood”
5. Not having a panic attack every day.
Shout out to all of my beautiful friends who have been keeping me sane over the past months, only one more to go!
People you should be following, because they’re doing awesome things:
San Francisco: Day 2
Yesterday I spent three hours drawing. I can’t even remember the last time I drew something. To be fair, I do prefer to paint as my medium, but sometimes I think I get so deep in the business side of my art that I forget to just do some just for my own enjoyment.
Yesterday I went to a park called Dolores Park, which isn’t too far from where I’m staying (The Mission District). It had a great overlook of the city and it was so pretty outside that I just sat there for a while sketching.
Afterward, I got a chance to walk around the city and look at some of the beautiful houses here. I love the style of houses all smashed together. It has a hybrid style of European and beach style and I kind of want to dig up one of the houses and take it back to Seattle with me.
One of my favorite parts of yesterday was when I found out there was a jazz festival happening! I love me some jazz, so I headed over and had fun seeing some awesome bands…including a metallic gorilla. Afterward I met up with my host and some Thai girls, and we went and got Thai food. So good.
NOTE: Despite being in California, San Francisco is really cold when it’s windy out. I’m really glad I remembered this from last time I drove through, because last night I ended up wearing wool socks, moccasin boots and my down jacket. Happy Summer!
Last night we walked around downtown San Francisco, which was kind of neat because it was late enough that there weren’t very many people on the streets, so we got to see everything without huge crowds.
Today we’re biking to the Golden Gate Bridge and (hopefully) going to the Walt Disney museum. I’m such a huge Disney nerd that I’m way too excited for the museum.
San Francisco: Day 1
When something doesn’t go your way , you have two options: You can mope over your “losses” or you can search the scene for the silver linings ( spirit of Bradley Cooper, come to me!).
When I first came to San Francisco yesterday I was pretty upset about having to travel here for “no reason.” In my over analytical mind I didn’t know how I would be able to enjoy a trip that had no purpose. But then, when my plane was landing I felt that little voice say, “trust me.” And I decided to give this trip a chance.
Yesterday, was arguably, one of the best days I’ve ever had while traveling. When I showed up to my Couchsurfing host’s house I immediately felt welcome and then found out there were already FOUR other Couchsurfers there, making our host a complete all star.
The role call included: Two French guys who are hitchhiking (not to be confused with the word “highjacking”, which had been lovingly confused) and Couchsurfing from Montreal to Mexico City. Two Brazilian east coast au pairs, who had decided to travel together after both of their original companions had backed out. Our Mexican host, who is au pairing here in San Francisco while going to school. It was her au pair family’s house that we all were staying in.
When I first heard there was such a full house my first thought was, ” Where is the nearest hostel?” But I’m so glad that I stuck to my guns and came anyway.
The thing I love the most about Couchsurfing are the people who do it. The people who surf and who host are some of the most adventurous, open minded, kind, warm and exciting people I’ve ever met. Every time I surf I cannot say enough about how amazing the people I meet are.
Yesterday we started with me saying I wanted to see the famous hill of Victorian houses, which led our little clan on a metro adventure, bus routes and hiking up a giant hill to FINALLY find the houses…under construction. It really didn’t matter, though, because everyone in our group was so fun that we had a great time in the park across the street taking jumping pictures and laying in the sun.
After that it was bus and cram-and-smash trolley car over to Pier 39 to see some water front beauty. The pier was a madhouse because it was Saturday, but we managed to make if fun, and then headed back to the house, where we made some pasta for dnner and said our goodbyes to the girls and then, later, the guys.
At this point I had been awake for 36 hours (other than some dozing in the plane) straight. Remind me to smack myself next time I decide to pull an all nighter before a morning flight. But after such a fun and crazy day, I floated into bed and slept for 12 hours.
I can’t even believe how good my first day in San Francisco has been! I had kind of forgotten how to have fun, in a way, since I’ve been so zoned into all of my French visa stuff, so I think it has/will be good for me to just relax for a bit and enjoy the city.
Tomorrow I’m going to the Golden Gate bridge, and then once I get back Tuesday I’ll be posting all our awesome pictures!
It Will Take A Nation Of Millions To Hold Me Back
When I was a kid I really liked painting my nails. Or, rather, all of my friends really liked it, and I really wanted them to like me. The problem was, I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and the incomes of most of my friends’ families were well above the “midde class” line. I couldn’t afford to get a manicure done every week like them, so I taught myself. I don’t know how much nail polish and nail polish remover I must have gone through, but I sat down in my bathroom for hours and figured out how to paint flawlessly with both my right and left hand.
Today, when I was painting my nails, I kind of had to laugh when I thought about this. I was such a stubborn kid… and I can’t honestly say that I’ve grown out of it. At some point, I got so used to being told I couldn’t have/do things, that I made a game out of getting/doing them anyway. I affectionately referred to it as – “Watch me.”
Overall, I had a pretty unconventional childhood. I was homeschooled, didn’t have cable or internet in my house and owned enough pets to open a petting zoo. But I still was borderline obsessed with fitting in. I might have been spending hours in the library, devouring every part of Teen Vogue before it closed, but I was still reading Teen Vogue – every month.
Despite being an adventurer by nature, it wasn’t always fun. But looking back I’m really glad that I went through those years. The reason being, when I see something I “can’t have,” I don’t see a stop sign, I see a detour.
My mom always used to always say, “You might have to work twice as hard as other people, but you can, and will, succeed.”
There are always going to be obstacles in life that can seemingly prevent you from going down the path you dream about, but I want to encourage you to see it as a challenge, instead of a roadblock.
You are probably guessing where this is going next, but this principle applies to traveling, as well!
I was thinking this week about how essential it has been for me to find creative ways of traveling and pursuing the places I’m passionate about. There’s no way I would be able to practically do what I want with my life…so I have to find impractical ways of achieving my goals.
This weekend I’m going to San Francisco and I’m so extremely excited! I haven’t taken a vacation since last fall and it feels way overdue. Since this trip was not at all in my budgetary plans, I have a budget of nothing to spend on it. But, I’m still managing to make it happen.
Well, there are a few ways.
1. Always travel at an inconvenient time: Because, let’s face it – it’s inconvenient for you, it’s inconvenient for everyone else. When I fly, I will be flying out Saturday (aka day after 4th of July) at 7:00am. Fun? No. Necessary? Yes.
2. Couchsurfing: I was going to originally stay in a hostel, because I couldn’t find anyone to host me (because of the holiday), but I opened my invite up to the world, and got a host invitation a couple days ago (cutting it a bit close, huh?). So, I get to share my trip with a lovely local, and I’ll also be only 15 minutes away from the embassy, which is perfect!
3. I’m not taking luggage: Yeah, it’s four days, so I might be justified in taking more than a carry on bag, but I’m sticking to a light packing list so I’ll just be taking my backpack. It carried me through two weeks, I feel like I can make it through 4 days 🙂
4. I’m bringing things to do: I’m viewing this trip as a retreat, more so than a vacation, really. As much as I want to run around and be a tourist, what I’d really like to do is finish a book. So, I’m bringing my tablet, so I can write, and some books so I read. I obviously will go out and do fun things, but this helps it not be essential to spend money, if it isn’t absolutely necessary.
5. Looking up free events etc: On the other side of things, I do like going out sometimes, so I’m doing my research and looking up some free concerts, events etc. that I can go to without having to spend a whole lot of money.
Like I said, I am so excited for this little journey, even though it isn’t going very far from home. It’s coming at just the right time, and I can’t wait to see what adventures are going to come out of it! I’ll be posting updates here, as well as on Instagram, so feel free to follow along!
San Fran Bound
I’m going to San Francisco!
This week I found out that the only way to get a French Visa is to apply in person in San Francisco, so I’m going to be taking an impromptu trip this July to get all of my Visa stuff cleared. As random as this trip is, and as much as financially it’s really not helping my whole “budget” plan, I’m actually looking forward to the vacation. I’ve been so incredibly stressed during this whole process, and having four days to explore a beautiful city I love will be a perfect respite before go-time in August. July 7th is the magic day for applying for my visa! Wish me luck! I honestly will weep if it doesn’t go through, at this point.
This whole week has been a bit mad, honestly. I’ve jumped through so many hoops to make this happen, and now a new hidden hoop! Hurray. I’m not saying the French government doesn’t want people to move there, but I’m not exactly feeling like they do.
That being said, there are some pretty awesome things that have happened this week, too! First off, I got my official hard copy of my acceptance letter to the University of Orleans, yesterday! It was so cool to get something in my mailbox from where I’m moving! The packet included my letter, and then some other info, such as a campus maps and some info about the city. I CANNOT wait.
Today I FINALLY got ahold of a copy of French Vogue! I’ve been trying to get it from the newspaper stand near my house, but they’re always sold out! Sixth time’s a charm, I guess. This morning I sat, facing Puget Sound, eating my favorite Pike Place bakery treats, and reading vogue in the sunshine – it was magical (and so needed!).
Also, Postcrossing is blowing my mind. If you haven’t signed up, and have an interest in sending/receiving postcards from around the world, sign up! I’ve already had postcards from Prague, Poland, South Africa, Germany, China and five other places I don’t even remember. It’s so much fun to open my mailbox and find a postcard from someone thousands of miles away!
And that’s all for now. Life is crazy right now, but I’m doing my best to soak up every minute, because I know it’s only for a little while before I won’t be able to. France 2014, or bust! (preferably not busting, though)
P.s. Next time you meet someone who’s successfully moved to France – give them a high five.
I can’t believe it’s been a week since I’ve posted on here! Life has been crazy hectic, per usual. But I think the real culprit is me having my head up in the clouds too much. So, since my mind has decided to ground itself for this slice of the evening, I’ve decided to catch you all up on what’s happened this week.
This week I went and had my “I’m not dying or trying to carry the plague to your country” checkup, which is required before you can apply for your French Visa. I’m happy to say the diagnosis was that I’m normal – physically, anyway.
Awaiting DIRECCTE Approval:
All of my paperwork is officially in! Now, all I have is to do is wait for the DIRECCTE (the local government in the French city I’ll be living in) to approve it and I’ll be ready to apply for my Visa. I’m so excited, and I can’t believe how much work it’s been to get to this point. Here’s to working your butt off just to be able to APPLY to live in France.
SIFF: French movies
The Seattle International Film Festival is happening right now – my favorite time of the year! I saw this film last weekend with two of my friends and we absolutely loved it! It was witty, well written and the actors were phenomenal. There was one part of the movie when everyone in the theater was laughing so hard you couldn’t even hear anything on the screen. Definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year – a must see.
This film I’m going to go see next week and I can’t wait. Not only are Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris some of my favorites, I love the overall whimsy of this storytelling style. I can’t wait!
Official Acceptance Letter
Last week I got accepted into The University of Orleans and this week I got my official acceptance letter, which was so exciting! I can’t believe I’m going back to college. I know it’s going to be a challenge but (if I’m totally honest) I’m so excited to be a student, again!
Anthony Bourdoin: Parts Unknown
This series has been my absolute favorite this past week. It’s produced by CNN and is as much a series about culture and global perspective as it is about food. I’ve loved watching it and getting whisked away to different parts of the globe. My favorite episode is about Quebec, mainly because that’s where my French obsession began when I was there for my 9th birthday. Two seasons are on Netflix now, so if you have access I would highly recommend watching a couple of episodes. My only warning is: Have a healthy snack nearby, because you’re going to want to eat your entire kitchen after each episode.
Belle et Le Bete
I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE THIS MOVIE. And, weirdly enough, it has nothing really to do with the movie itself. I’m just so excited to see the cinematography, costumes and sets that I’m about ready to cry. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I AM really excited.