I will never forget the day I received this acceptance e-mail…
I was in Aix-en-Provence, France, visiting mon chéri during Spring Break for the high school where I taught French I and II. It was a beautiful morning: the sun offered some springtime warmth while a cool breeze settled in from the vallée du Rhône (aka the Rhône Valley). As the passersby below my window began to adjust to their morning grogginess on their way to the marché, I turned on my laptop.
I was expecting…an e-mail: the most important e-mail Ever! The results of such an e-mail would either change the course of my future teaching career or leave me in tears wondering what other outlets were available to help find a teaching job in France. I was a nervous wreck all week – what if I wasn’t accepted? I had been searching for English teaching jobs in France for months. There were a few available jobs; however, none of them seemed to want to bother with sponsoring an American long-stay work visa. This is unfortunate for employers because they want to hire Americans due to the increasing popularity of American-English as opposed to British-English. In a perfect world for these employers, Americans would already have the proper documentation before applying for the position; however, the world is as perfect for them as it is for moi.
After doing a bit of research, I narrowed down the chances of an American getting the proper visa to work legally in France to this: Marry a citoyen, or citizen, of the EU, Get PACSed (civil union) to a citoyen of France, study at a university, get accepted into TAPIF or FBETA (Fullbright English Teaching Assistant), find a job in the US that has stations in France (and maybe you can move up the latter and eventually transfer to France), or be a top-notch researcher with a room full of awards to prove your ‘worthiness’. Without one of these, the likelihood of an American getting a long-stay work visa is practically zilch.
In fact, a few potential employers informed me that the easiest way to work with them is to get a student visa. This might sound like a good idea on the surface; but, it isn’t for everyone.
How to know if getting a student visa is NOT the best option*:
- You want to work the normal 35-hour work week. This type of visa only allows for 20 hour work weeks. How can anyone pay for schooling, the visa, housing, food, airfare to/from the US, and other expenses on 20 hours a week?
- You want to use your degree for something…with a decent paycheck attached. Whether you recently graduated or have been an alumni for several years, if you want to use the degree you obtained, then, this type of visa would be pointless as its main focus is linked to studying (hence Student visa).
- You want to start paying off your student loan debt. Unfortunately, 20-hour work weeks will not cut it. Hopefully, 35-hour work weeks will suffice.
- You’ve finished undergrad, but you are not interested in grad. school… at least for now. Before being granted a student visa, you must be enrolled in a university program.
- You want to build up your work experience and participate in France’s economy. You can build up work experience by working 20 hours a week; however, 20 hours a week wouldn’t give you as much financial freedom as would a full-time job.
*I can only speak from an American perspective as I have no experience as a citoyen of a country other than the US; however, I hope that this liste can function as a helpful guide for citoyens of other countries.
As I mentally checked everything off this liste, I opened my e-mail. There it was: an acceptance letter from the coordinator for TAPIF. I couldn’t believe it! This guaranteed an English teaching job in France for the 2014-2015 school year. On top of that, I was accepted into my #1 Académie, or school district: Aix-Marseille. I cried. I immediately sent an e-mail to my parents and some texts to my closest friends before posting the news on FB.
Now, on to the next step: wondering what to expect and going through the visa process. As I wondered what to expect from this program, I decided to see what others had experienced. So, I searched the ‘net for blogs about TAPIF, but I didn’t find many. The few that I found showed a mixture of positive/negative feelings and they weren’t very helpful. As a result of this unhelpful-ness, I decided to create this blog. Prospective TAPIF assistants deserve to know what to expect – including all of the processes (the visa process, orientation, first meeting the faculty…etc…). There’s no better way than to hear, or read, about these types of stories from past and from current assistants. Obviously, not every teacher and every académie, will offer the exact same result for every assistant; however, it’s nice to know at least some of what to expect through the eyes of someone who experienced it first hand. ♦
What questions do you have about TAPIF? What was your experience with TAPIF or working in France from some other outlet?