January 28, 2015

Pole Emploi

The reason most people sign up with pole emploi, the unemployment office, is because they are getting chomage, or unemployment benefits, which are only accessible via this government body. Sadly, having a stage (internship) doesn’t qualify one for chomage, and so I didn’t immediately sign up. However recent graduates frequently do register despite the lack of monetary benefits.

While they do have a service that helps one search for jobs, the types of jobs that I’m interested in weren't usually advertised on pole emploi and so I’d been using other services.

Luckily, a friend of mine told me that if I’d sign up at pole emploi to declare myself à la recherche d’emploi (looking for work), I would receive an unemployment card that would give me free access to most of Paris’ lovely museums.

Suddenly dealing with French bureaucracy seemed worth it.

After signing up online, I received an appointment for about two weeks later to go to the pole emploi offices closest to me.

Knowing how these things go thanks to all my trips to the Prefecture, I brought the documents that pole emploi asked for (ID, pay stubs, CV), plus every other sort of document they could possibly need from me (copy of my birth certificate, proof of having graduated from a French institution, etc.).

I also brought along reading material to keep me busy for at least an entire afternoon, and I showed up to my appointment about ten minutes early.

There was a very, very long line for the accueil (welcome desk) for people without an appointment, and a relatively short line for people with one. Arriving at the front of the line right when my appointment was supposed to start, I signed in without a hitch.

I found an empty chair, sat down, and was starting to pull a magazine out of my tote bag, when my name was called to go back and meet my counselor!

Not only were they super prompt, but my counselor was super friendly, didn’t need random documents that weren’t listed on the official documents list, spent time looking over my general CV and cover letter, and despite confirming that they don’t receive many job offers for the work I’m interested in, gave me a lovely packet full of tips for people in my field.

My crumpled up pass that I keep in my wallet for emergency museum visits

She also gave me my get-into-museums-free pass, and I have been using it up a storm.

January 16, 2015

PDFs and the Prefecture

The process for obtaining the APS visa begins 4 months before the expiration of one’s student visa. After compiling, printing, photocopying, and organizing the various documents required and writing a lettre de motiviation (cover letter), I made my way to the prefecture de police.

After placing the various documents on the counter and saying that I was there to drop off my application for the APS visa, the French man behind the counter said, “On ne prend plus les documents du format papier,” (We no longer accept documents in paper form).

Not being sure I understood correctly, I said, “mais votre site web dit de venir avec tous ces papiers et les déposer à votre bureau” (but your website says to come here with these papers and drop them off at your office).

Ah oui, mais le site web n’est plus à jour,” (Ah yes, well, the website is no longer up-to-date).

Starting to feel a slight panic, I asked the man what I was supposed to do.

He handed me a printed out regular piece of paper (no fancy French flag header or anything) with instructions telling one to send all the various documents I had just spent good money printing and copying as a PDF to an email address that, I kid you not, was a gmail address. Not @gouv.fr, not @prefecturedepolice.fr, not @france.fr, but @gmail.com!

Trusting the process very little, I still did what I was told.

Fast forward 4 months to the day when my student visa expired and I had my scheduled interview with the prefecture de police to hopefully obtain the APS visa. For this particular meeting, I was supposed to have received a document in the mail from my school, but of course I hadn’t.

I called the school and they told me not to worry, that they’d simply email me a PDF copy of the document that I could then print out and take to the prefecture.

Once at the prefecture, I presented them with my documents where it was immediately remarked upon that the school document was not the “original” copy. After explaining that I hadn’t yet received the school’s document in the mail but that they sent me this PDF version by e-mail, I was told, “on n’accepte plus les formats PDFs,” (we no longer accept pdf versions).

Despite the prefecture de police's policy on PDFs doing a 180 in just four months, I was eventually able to get my APS visa.
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