Part 1: The
Application | Acceptance E-Mail | Waiting
Part 2: Figuring out your Arrêté de Nomination | Obtaining your Visa
Part 3: Packing & Bringing Money | Arriving: The Paperwork Nightmare
Part 4: Teaching Tips & Lesson Plans | Vacations: Travelling
Part 5: Before Leaving France | Staying in France: Renewing, PACSing, Unemployment
US Income Tax: You should declare your earnings in France on your US income taxes because the US requires its citizens living abroad to file and sometimes pay taxes on foreign income. Convert your French income to dollars using the exchange rate that was valid for each day that you received your salary and add that amount to line 21 (other income) of Form 1040. You can also write foreign income on the line to the left. If your gross income is less than $10,000 you don't actually have to file taxes in the US, but you might want to anyways to reduce the risk of audit in the future. If your gross income is more than $10,000, then you must file and you will most likely have to pay taxes to the US government. You cannot use the Foreign Tax Credit (Form 1116) since assistants do not make enough money to actually pay taxes in France.
If you lived outside the US for 330 days within a 12 month period and made less than $97,600, you qualify for the Foreign Income Earned Exclusion. Assistants usually do not qualify for this because of the residency requirement. If you are a renewing assistant or a lecteur/lectrice, you may qualify, and you can use Form 2555EZ. Then write your foreign income on line 7 of Form 1040 (add it to any other income you may also need to put on line 7) and again on line 21, but in parentheses. Essentially you are subtracting out the foreign income after adding it in, so it does not increase your adjusted gross income. Note, however, that although you can exclude your foreign income from your adjusted gross income, you still pay a higher tax rate because when you get to line 44, you need to use the Foreign Earned Income Tax Worksheet to figure out the amount rather than simply looking up the tax rate for your taxable income on line 43. Basically you will be looking up two tax rates: the sum of taxable income from line 43 + foreign income and foreign income alone. Then you subtract the rate for foreign income from the rate of the sum of taxable income + foreign income to find the correct tax amount to write on line 44 of Form 1040.
For more information on filing taxes on foreign income, read Publication 54 from the IRS.
French Income Tax: Income tax is not taken out of your paycheck like in the US (only health insurance is). But assistants do not make enough money to have to pay taxes in France, so don't worry about filing if you don't want to. But if you want to, you can go to your local tax center (Hôtel des Impôts) in April and fill out a form to declare your wages from the previous year (October through December). You should receive the French equivalent of a W-2 in January stating how much money you earned in the previous year. Compared to other paperwork in France, the form is relatively simple to fill out. If you are a renewing assistant, you will make enough money to be eligible for the prime pour l'emploi. This "refund" is paid out in July or August, so make sure to keep your bank account open long enough to receive it.
Program Evaluation Form: You should receive an evaluation form to fill out in March that asks your opinions of the assistant program. I had to return one form to the CIEP (Page 1, 2) and one to the rectorat (Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) by March 30. Nowadays, the form is online at CIEP's site and you need to fill it out and print it, before giving it to the head of your school, who then gives it to the rectorat - so it is not anonymous by any means! The due date in 2009 was April 20 for 7 month assistants, and June 1 for 9 month assistants.
Closing Bank Account: You should also make arrangements at your bank for closing your account. You should wait until a few months after the end of your contract before officially closing the account though, as you might still receive money in the account (such as from CAF or reimbursement from social security) after you've left the country. So make an appointment at your bank to ask about how to close the account (you will probably just have to send a letter a month or so after you've returned home) and what you need to return to them (usually your carte bancaire and your checkbook).
Breaking Internet or Phone Contract: You can use this website to generate a letter to break your contract. But make sure to check with your provider first to find out when you must do this (usually a month in advance) and if there is a fee. Anytime you send a letter in the mail, you should send it recommandé with an accusé de reception. This way, the company cannot claim they didn't receive your letter. In addition, you should go to your bank and block the company from taking any more automatic payments out of your account. You usually have to pay for this service, but it is worth it, because sometimes even if you send a letter to break your contract, the company will continue to charge you months later!
Breaking Lease: If you are officially renting an apartment and not just subletting, you must inform your landlord three months in advance of your departure that you are breaking the lease. You may or may not want to leave a forwarding address, depending on if the landlord still owes you the security deposit. There is a special tax called taxe d'habitation that you pay on the apartment that you were living in on January 1, regardless of when you moved in or out. However, you are not informed of this tax until the fall of the same year, so if you leave France in the spring and leave a forwarding address, the French government will send you a bill for the tax at your permanent home. Furthermore, your landlord may keep part of your security deposit in order to pay this tax. The tax is calculated based on the size of your city, how much you earn, how much other revenue the city receives from other sources, etc. Recently, the TV tax (about 120 €) is automatically added to the taxe d'habitation and yes, there really is a tax for owning a TV in France. However, if you don't make enough money in France to actually pay taxes, you might be exempt from paying it, or you can at least get it reduced, but you must declare your wages at your local tax center in April in order to prove this.
Mailing stuff home: You'll most likely have too much stuff to bring back in your suitcases, so if you want to mail some packages back home, check the tarifs page for weight limits (maximum is 20 or 30 kg) and prices. You should check with your airline first to see if it would be cheaper to just check in another suitcase instead of trying to mail everything home. La Poste used to offer a cheaper & slower option for sending packages internationally (économique), but unfortunately it was discontinued in 2010. Now the only options are regular Colissimo International rates or the Colissimo Emballage International rates, where you send a pre-paid box that only comes in two sizes/weight limits: L is 31.5 x 21 x 15.7 cm for a maximum weight of 5 kg and costs 36.50€, and XL is 38.3 x 25 x 19.5 cm for a maximum of 7 kg and costs 43€. The Emballage rates tend to be cheaper provided that you don't have something that is too heavy or too big to fit inside the box.
Resume: If you need to add this job to a resume in French, you can use
something like this:
Ministère de l'éducation nationale français
Académie de [x]
Département de [x]
Circonscription de [name of city]
[name of school]
For an American resume, you can use something like this:
English Language Assistant
French National Department of Education
[name of school]
[x] School District
[name of city,] France
This is also what is on my CV:
· Instructed intermediate-level English classes for French secondary
· Provided concentrated instruction in pronunciation, culture and verbal expression
· Worked with students in 3 different schools in the Grenoble area
Can I stay in France legally after my visa/residency permit expires? Technically,
no. You are supposed to leave the Schengen Zone on or before the date
of expiration on your visa/residency permit, which is ridiculous since it's often the last
day of your work contract. For the non-EU citizens that do not need visas
to be tourists for 3 months in the Schengen Zone, this is actually negated
by the fact that you have a temporary residence permit in France. It
is not possible to go from a residence permit to a tourist "visa" immediately.
The required three month gap between stays in the Schengen Zone still
That being said, many assistants do travel after their visa/residency permits expire and they have no problems because of the lack of border controls between Schengen states. If you travel outside of the Schengen zone and want to re-enter it in order to fly home (for example, travel to the UK, then come back to France to fly out of Paris), this could cause problems. Now that the residency permit is stamped into your passport, it will be more difficult to claim that you are just a tourist as many did when the carte de séjour was a separate card from the passport.
For reference, the 25 Schengen Zone countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. (Notice that the UK and Ireland do not implement the Schengen Zone rules for border crossings!)
Renewing for a second year: You should receive paperwork for renewing your assistantship at your school before the end of January. You cannot change académies but you can state if you do or do not want to stay in the same school and/or city. There is no guarantee that you will be able to renew, and you might not find out for sure until September or even October. If you are not able to renew, you can apply again the following year using the regular application. You will basically be doing the entire application process over again from scratch. If you want to be an assistant for 2 years in a row, you must do the renewal form. You cannot fill out another application for the second year like you did for the first year.
I received some renewal information and the 2007-8 renewal form by January 25 at my school. The due date for returning the form was February 20, and it had to be signed by the chef de l'établissement or the directeur de l'IUFM. The CIEP now has the renewal form online if you need to download and print it. For 2009-10 renewals, the due date was February 27.
I filled out the paperwork to renew for a second year, and I received an e-mail from the CIEP on May 31 saying that I would receive a job only if there is a withdrawal in my académie. It also said that I should receive an e-mail from the rectorat at the beginning of July (though past assistants say they never received anything from the rectorat after this initial e-mail from CIEP). The choice of assistants who get renewed seems to be completely random and very unfair, so don't count on this if you definitely want to stay in France. You can try writing and calling the rectorat so they know you really want this job, but they might not be able to give you any information and they will most likely tell you to just keep waiting.
I never received anything from my rectorat, so I finally e-mailed some people in my département at the beginning of July and was told to wait until September to see if anyone quit and I could take their job. On September 10, I received an e-mail from the rectorat asking if I was still interested in being a language assistant this year. I replied yes, of course, and finally received another e-mail on September 21 giving me an assistant post for the 2007-8 school year. I was unable to renew in my old schools however, and had to commute an hour to my new schools. If you are able to renew, you will have to go through a lot of the same administrative/paperwork nightmare as your first year (including another medical visit!) and you will probably have to return home to get a new visa in the meantime.
Recruté local: If you have already been an assistant through the CIEP program twice, then you cannot be an assistant with them again. However, most académies do a "recrutement local" between September and December to fill the remaining assistant posts, so check with the académie for which you want to work and see how to apply. Sometimes you just need to send your CV and lettre de motivation directly to the Rectorat, and sometimes they have an application form on their website. But you will need a valid carte de séjour with the right to work to become a recruté local if you are not an EU-citizen, so most Americans are not eligible unless they are married or PACSed to a French person. Plus new assistants and renewing assistants have priority over the recruté assistants, so don't count on getting a position this way (though I've heard that this is easier near Paris where a lot of assistants quit early.)
Lecteur/Lectrice d'anglais at a university: If you have completed one year of a Master's degree, you can apply to French universities to work as an English lecteur/lectrice. If you have a Master's degree, you can apply to work as a maître de langue. Generally, French universities already have exchanges in place with English-speaking universities, so they may not be hiring lecturers from outside universities. You'll just have to look at the universities' websites for job postings. The deadlines to apply can be anywhere from December to June, so make sure to look early enough. Even if the deadline has passed, you should still send your CV anyway because sometimes lecturers drop out or decide not to do the exchange (this is what happened in my case). Lecteurs/lectrices are paid around 1,200 € a month net and maître de langue receive about 1,500€ net, with a 12 month contract (though you do have the paid vacations so you won't actually work all 12 months). You can renew this contract one time only if you are not doing the exchange through your home university, so you can be an English lecteur/lectrice and/or maître de langue for 2 years total in all of France. This means that you cannot do two years as a lecteur/lectrice and then do another two years as a maître de langue.
Most contracts stipulate that you will work 200-300 hours a year, so the number of hours you work each week may change, especially during exam periods. You may or may not just be working in the Language department; some universities also want someone to work in other departments that need English, such as medicine. You do not need the right to work in France to be hired. The universities are generally willing to sponsor your visa, though of course, you will need to return home to get the visa. For more information on how to become a lecteur/lectrice or maître de langue, please refer to my blog.
Finding a job: You can also send out resumes to several language schools and ask the people at your assigned school if they can help with finding a job in France. Unemployment is high and salaries are low though, so don't count on finding anything right away or anything that pays very well. In addition, most companies are not willing to hire non-EU citizens who have no working papers. You can try posting your CV on monster.fr and searching the Pôle Emploi site for jobs in your area.
Studying in France: You can also apply to study in France. University is much, much cheaper in France than in the US. Keep in mind that you might have to return home to get a new student visa during the summer. In theory, you should be able to renew/change the status on your residency permit from assistant to student without having a new visa, as long as your current one is not expired. However, some prefectures are still requiring a student visa even if the residency permit is not expired. For studies under 90 days in France, a visa is no longer required and you can just use your passport.
PACSing: If you have a significant other in France, you can get PACSed and after a year of living together you will be eligible for a carte de séjour that allows you to work (vie privée et familiale). If you don't have proof of living together for a year - which can start BEFORE you get PACSed - you can get a residency permit that allows you stay in France, but not work (visiteur). The PACS originally began as a way of giving homosexual couples the rights and benefits similar to those given to married couples, but straight couples can take advantage of it too. My French boyfriend and I got PACSed in March 2007, so here's the information about all of the paperwork we needed to do: PACS Info, PACS2, PACS3, PACS4, Paperwork required (at Tribunal d'Annecy), Attestation de résidence commune, Attestation d'absence de lien de parenté, and Demande d'attestation de non engagement.
Each Tribunal is different, so I can't tell you exactly what paperwork you need to get PACSed, but this is what we needed to provide (outside of the documents given to us to fill out):
Once you've gathered all of the paperwork, you just need to call the Tribunal and make an appointment. You will keep the two PACS contracts, and receive two récépisses to prove that you are officially PACSed. This whole appointment takes less than half an hour. Once you are PACSed, you will also have the right to social security even if you are unemployed, but you might have to switch from MGEN to CPAM. Also, you can no longer legally declare yourself as célibataire on official documents, such as CAF. Even though you are not officially married, you are still considered a couple for administrative purposes in France. Here is an official Marriage in France document - some of the same aspects apply to PACSing, but not all. You can also check my Expats page about PACSing or getting married in France.
My experience in getting a CDS due to being PACSed: Since my original travailleur temporaire CDS expired on May 7, 2007, I was able to "renew" it for 3 months as a récépissé with the stipulation that I do not have the right to work. There is some conflicting information about whether you do actually have the right to a CDS visiteur after you are PACSed or not. I originally told my préfecture that I should be receiving a new work contract by the end of the year, so they said they would issue me a CDS visiteur for the summer since I was supposed to be getting another travailleur temporaire CDS in October. I was issued a récépissé that expired on August 14, 2007, and I finally received my visiteur card at the end of summer (the préfecture claims my first card was lost in the mail, so they had to order another one). In November 2007, I applied to change the status on my visiteur card when I received my new arrêté de nomination. However, because I was changing from a non-worker to worker card, I had to do the medical visit over again. I finally received my new travailleur temporaire card in March 2008 after the main office in Paris that makes the carte de séjours messed up and tried to give me another visiteur card that was exactly the same as the one I already had. Then I needed to apply for another changement du statut from travailleur temporaire to vie privée et familiale because my boyfriend and I had been living together for a year. I finally received my CDS vie privée at the beginning of June 2008.
For the Annecy préfecture, this is what is needed to obtain a first carte de séjour vie privée et familiale due to being PACSed AND having the un an de vie commune. BOTH PARTNERS must be present when you apply for this carte de séjour. You may or may not need to do the medical visit, depending on when/if you've already done it.
If your préfecture refuses to give you a CDS visiteur (and you don't yet have the un an de vie commune required for the CDS vie privée et familiale), you should keep fighting with them because they can't expect you to live together for a year in France if they do not give you a residency card to stay there legally. This is an official government document that states you do have the right to a CDS if you are PACSed. And remember that it is recommended to renew your CDS two months before the expiration date. Unless you have found another job and your préfecture will let you renew your CDS because of it, getting married or PACSed is probably the only other way to stay in France legally for the summer while you wait to see if you can renew your assistantship contract for another year. And even if your préfecture agrees to renew your assistant CDS as a visiteur one, there's no guarantee that you will later be able to renew the visiteur card as an assistant one when you receive your next arrêté de nomination.
Unemployment Benefits: You are eligible for unemployment if you are an EU citizen, or if you have a CDS that allows you to work (vie privée et familiale or sometimes salarié). As long as you have worked 6 months out of the past 22, you should be able to receive about 7 months of unemployment. If your CDS is expired, or if you have a different type of CDS, you do not have the right to unemployment (because you do not have the right work legally in France). This means that the majority of language assistants are not eligible.
Please note that as of 2009, ANPE and ASSEDIC have merged into one organization: Pôle Emploi but when I was on unemployment, they were still two separate organizations.
First you must sign up with ASSEDIC, even though the Rectorat will be paying you the unemployment benefits. You will have two mandatory appointments, one with the ASSEDIC - where you basically turn in paperwork - and one with ANPE - which is talking to a conseiller about what type of job you'd like in France. Some offices actually do the ASSEDIC & ANPE appointments at the same time though.
How to Apply for Unemployment in France:
1. As soon as your contract is finished, call or e-mail your rectorat and ask for an Attestation destinée à l'ASSEDIC to be mailed to you. You may also want to ask for the correct person and address to eventually send the unemployment paperwork to.
2. Go to assedic.fr and register as a demandeur d'emploi. You will need to know the expiration date of your CDS, your social security number, and have a RIB with you when you apply online. (And you MUST apply online - you cannot go to your local ASSEDIC and do it there for some reason...)
Ma 1ère Demande d'Inscription: Choose fin de contrat à durée determinée as the motif. For the Département, go to the bottom of the list and choose 99 - Pays Etranger. Note that for nationalities, Canadians & Americans are lumped together under Nord Américaine and Australians and New Zealanders are Océanienne. For Régime, just leave it on General.
Ma Demande d'Allocations: This is mostly just entering the dates you worked for the rectorat and you can most likely answer no for the rest of the questions. Finally, enter your RIB info and you're done! It does tell you to print the entire dossier and bring it to your ASSEDIC appointment with you, but my ASSEDIC just filled out a blank application when I was there, so I don't know if printing it is necessary.
You should receive an email from ASSEDIC notifying you of the time and date for your interview. If you don't receive this convocation, then you'll have to call your ASSEDIC and schedule the appointment (it's supposed to be within 5 working days.) Emails from ASSEDIC come from the domains unedic.fr and tsce.net, so look in your spam mail if you haven't received anything.
3. At the ASSEDIC appointment, they will make copies of your CDS & Carte Vitale, then someone will explain how unemployment works. You'll fill out the same forms that you did online (Inscription & Demande d'Allocations) and you will also need to provide the Attestation destinée à l'ASSEDIC and a RIB. You may have to return your Demande d'Allocations by mail, and then ASSEDIC will send you the paperwork necessary for the rectorat. They will also give you an interview with ANPE and a Préparez Votre Entretien document to fill out (which is basically just rewriting the info that is on your CV). This appointment lasted only 20 minutes for me.
4. You need to bring your CV & Preparez Votre Entretien document to the ANPE interview. My ANPE interview was utterly pointless and they couldn't find any jobs for me that day. I was told that if I couldn't find a job on my own within 3 months, I would have to come back to the ANPE and talk with another conseiller. I've heard some other ANPE offices offer to help you with writing your CV and practice interviewing for jobs. This appointment lasted no more than 30 minutes for me.
5. You should receive 3 documents back from ASSEDIC saying that you have been refused and that your rectorat needs to pay the indemnisations. So you need to bring or send 1) the notification de refus, 2) the demande d'attestation mensuelle d'actualisation, and 3) the demande d'allocations to your rectorat. They may or may not have another dossier for you to fill out and return.
6. After returning the rectorat dossier (if required), you should receive a letter notifying you of your "droits" and how much you are entitled to receive each day for so many days. This is usually around 23 euros a day for 213 days. It starts counting from one week after your appointment at the ASSEDIC. You will get paid at the end of the month, just like the assistantship, but not for that month or even the one before; from TWO months before.
Depending on how fast or slow your local offices and rectorat are, this process can take a few weeks to perhaps a few months. For example, I signed up with assedic.fr on June 5 (the day I received my CDS vie privée), had my ASSEDIC appointment scheduled for June 12, my ANPE appointment scheduled for June 23, and I just sent the ASSEDIC refusal papers to my rectorat on June 30. They sent back the dossier I needed to fill out on July 9, which I returned on the 12th. I received an accusé de réception from the rectorat on the 19th stating that had received my paperwork, and on July 25, I received the final letter saying that I will receive 23.32 € for a maximum of 213 days.
At the end of August, I received my benefits from June 19 to July 31 at a total of 980 € which was just an advance and not the real amount. At the end of September, I received 186 € as the regularisation d'acompte from June & July, as well as an advance of 610 € for the month of August. At the end of October, I received 112.92 € as the regularisation for August and 590 € for the month of September. Then at the end of October, I received 109.60 € as the regularisation for September but no other benefits because I started my lectrice job October 1st.
Keep in mind that even though the unemployment money comes from Education Nationale and not the ASSEDIC, the ASSEDIC is still responsible for administering your unemployment. This means that you still have an account on the ASSEDIC website and at the beginning of every month, you have to go on there and testify that you are still looking for a job but haven't found one yet, called "actualisation." They pass on the word to Education Nationale, who thus continues to deposit the indemnisations into your bank account.
You can either log on to your account on assedic.fr (it only seems to work in IE and not Firefox though!), call 3949 (only costs 11 centimes a minute...), or go to your local ASSEDIC and use their computer to do your monthly "actualisation." You can do this as soon as the actualisation is open each month (second column below). Even if you haven't completed all of the paperwork steps, you still need to do the actualisation for the month that you applied to ASSEDIC, i.e. I applied in June 2008, so I needed to do my first actualisation on 27/06/2008, even though I hadn't even sent my paperwork back to the rectorat yet.
Note that because the rectorat pays you, whenever you log in to your ASSEDIC account, it will always say that you have received no payments. I'm not aware of any rectorats that have an online system where you can check your payments. Also pay no attention to the payment dates stated by ASSEDIC. The rectorat always pays at the end of the month instead.
As soon as you go back to work, you should report it to ASSEDIC immediately (changement de situation). For example, I returned to work on October 1st, and I reported it on October 2nd so that I would be taken off the demandeur d'emploi list and so that I could receive my salary from my new job. You must prove that you are no longer on the list, and therefore no longer receiving unemployment compensation, in order to receive your regular pay from working.
For more information on staying in France legally, consult the Making Your Stay Official in France document.