Amy L is a 2009 TEFL Professional Online graduate teaching in Paris, France.
"When I came to France I had a list of schools that TEFL gave me and quickly sent away my cover letter and CV to all of them on the list. Some contact information was no longer valid, but for the most part I received plenty of responses wanting to schedule an interview. I was excited and nervous because I had not had a lot of experience teaching and I was sure the interviewer would focus on that point, but to my surprise she seemed more bothered about my lack of valid working papers. In France, in order to get a work visa you need to have a company who agrees to sponsor you. That company has to write a letter to the French government explaining why it wants to hire you and why you are the only one qualified to do this job rather than another EU citizen. Remember, the United Kingdom and Ireland are part of the EU and both nations have native English speakers; thus, the company cannot say this is a good reason to hire you over all other EU citizens. This is where people find themselves in a very gray area. So, how can you get a job when you need a visa and how can you get a visa when you need a job?
I know of other expats who were able to get a EU passport from other countries, but I do not know what the process was like. [Editor's note: EU Citizenship may be available through family connections. Check consulate for proper details.] I chose to become a jeune fille au pair (female nanny, au pair is for a male nanny). As an au pair I took care of French children and taught them English, while living with the family and earning a weekly salary. Do your research. I did not go through an agency to find my family because I did not want to pay a lot of money. However, I was not always guaranteed a liaison to protect me in case something came up with the family. Still, I found plenty of families through AuPairWorld wanting to sponsor me for a visa because they wanted a native speaker to teach their children English. A future au pair would apply for a student visa because he/she will have to take French classes as part of the requirement for the contract. The French government believes this form of contract is a cultural exchange between a French host family and a foreign au pair, so each side must share part of their culture with the other. What is really great about this type of visa is it can be renewed in France if the au pair plans on continuing to study here, which many do because it is cheaper to earn a degree here, 300-400 euros/year. This is the tuition normally for EU nationals/residents, and any American with a valid titre de séjour (residency card) would meet the requirements. I will be renewing my titre de séjour in the fall for my master's degree.
My time as an au pair finished in July of this year, so before it was over I started looking for work as an English teacher in June. An incredible resource I have found in Paris is a free magazine called FUSAC (France USA Contacts). Not only does it have so many job listings for native English speakers, but also there are ads for English speaking restaurants, bars, markets, bookstores, and listings for apartments, homes, vacation rentals and people looking for roommates. It can be found all over Paris and the current issue is always online. My advice is if you want to look for a job and try to get a work visa, you might be lucky to have a company sponsor you, then check this out in July or November/December because that is when most schools will be hiring. A lot of schools are even willing to do interviews via Skype. Everyone else will arrive in August or January, so you will already have a head start, and that should give you enough time to get a visa should the school want to sponsor you.
Unlike the first time I went for interviews in August 2009, this time around I could proudly show my titre de séjour and confidently present myself as a more experienced TEFL teacher based on my time teaching the children I had looked after for so long. I jumped through hoops to get that visa, and the stress I experienced was unbearable at times. However, I succeeded and because of it I have found a job with a language school teaching English to children and can continue my education as a graduate student starting in September. So, to anyone who wants to work in France, I advise you to be patient and not to give up. Eventually, you will find a way. Bonne chance!