Before Leaving for France
Before leaving for France, you should without question collect all of your documents and have translations made into French. Make several photocopies of each document and translation. You will need:
- The protocole d'accueil form which is supplied by the research lab that invited you. You must have this document (not a fax or photocopy of it) before you apply for your visa. You'll also need two photos of yourself for your visa application.
- Your passport with a visa from the Consulat Général de France. Your passport should be valid throughout your expected stay in France.
- At least six small photos of yourself, to include with various paperwork that you'll have to do in France.
- Your birth certificate is absolutely essential. The French translation of this must be certified; the certification might be done free-of-charge at a Consulat Général de France if you're an invited researcher.
- Marriage certificate, if applicable.
- An introduction letter from your bank stating (hopefully) that you are an esteemed client and that you have such-and-such an amount in your account. This can help when opening an account in France. Here's a sample in French.
- A bank cheque made out to you, in French Francs, which you will deposit when you open a bank account. The amount should be enough to get you through the first month. If you're renting an apartment, expect to pay three or four months rent up front (total rent for a comfortable apartment for a family of three is probably between FRF 3000 and FRF 6000 per month).
- It doesn't hurt to bring your last few months of bank statements, and last few months of credit card statements.
- An attestation from the director of the French lab that invited you, stating that you're an invited reseracher to the lab, and stating the period of your stay. This is useful to wave at bureaucrats.
- If you live in Ontario, Canada, you'll have to tell the provincial health program of your long-term departure, and you'll need the attestation mentioned above when you do so.
- A letter from your employer stating your rank, how long you've worked for them, and your current salary. If you're on sabbatical, the letter should state that, and should state that you'll continue to be paid from home during your stay in France. Here's a sample in French.
- A letter from your car insurance company stating how long you've been insured and your record of claims. This will likely be useful if you purchase a car in France and need insurance, although I've not had the opportunity yet to find out.
For other family members, of course, bring passports, birth certificates, and a few photos of each.
This probably seems like a huge amount of paperwork to bring, but life will be an order of magnitude easier if you do bring it, along with the French translations and photocopies. I eventually just stuffed everything in a folder and carried it whereever I expected to encounter a form.
Before leaving, it's a good idea if you can arrange to stay with somebody upon arriving in France. Besides providing you with lodging, this person should provide you with an attestation stating that you do, indeed, have an address in France. This attestation will be necessary in your first encounter with a French bureaucrat, when you apply for your permis de séjour. Here's a sample in French.
James Stewart 2001