Visas and Permits in France and Switzerland

by Chelsea Fairless on April 17, 2014


(featured photo by:

Last year, I got a visa and residency permit for France as an au pair (nanny) under a student visa, and this year I’m going through the process of a regular student permit in Switzerland. Both processes are similar but not identical, and my personal experiences have been very different, so I thought it may be useful to hopeful travelers to know about some possible things to encounter.

Andrea described her visa and permit process for France in detail in her book Twenty in Paris, but my experience wasn’t quite so nightmare-ish as hers. I remember it having a lot of rules, but being essentially straightforward and relatively quick. I had one month to complete the visa process before leaving because it took so long to find a family to work for, and I just barely got it done in time. I had to sign a personal contract, a form for the French government, pay a fee, etc. I honestly don’t remember all the documents I had to have, but it was quite a large number of things to have copies of. Then all the documents had to be taken to the French Consulate closest to me, Houston in my case, and I had to give them my passport. Then when they approved it, they put the visa in my passport and mailed it back. I got it two days before my flight!

To complete the permit process, I had to prepare more documents, pay another processing fee, and do a medical exam exactly like Andrea did. Then I right away got another giant sticker in my passport across from the other, verifying the entirety of my stay for the year. It was definitely a lot of paperwork and needed to be dealt with sooner rather than later, but it was assuredly do-able and more annoying in general than annoying for any particular difficulty. Just make sure you have every document necessary when going to the consulates, because I was missing something the first time I had to drive two hours in France to do the permit, so I had to go back, costing me time and money.

The process in Switzerland is essentially the same, with you needing to get a visa in the country of origin before arriving and then applying for the permit. They require even more documents than France, notably with money assurances that you can support yourself for the entire year. The Swiss love love love their laws, and they follow them to the letter. In this way, they are less flexible than France with certain documentation.


(The Swiss love their laws – photo by:

Unfortunately for me, my permit process has been really complicated. In order to get the original student visa, you have to have the official acceptance letter from the school. Well, for my program I only had an unofficial acceptance because the 100% acceptance rested on my passing a French language exam. And because I physically took that test in Geneva only three weeks before school starting and got the results two weeks before school, there was no time to go home and do the process of a visa which would take more than two weeks. So, I decided to just enter based on a normal tourist entry and then apply for the permit directly. But because that’s not specifically following the rules… I feel like they’re indirectly punishing me by taking a ridiculously long time to review my case. It’s been months since they asked any more questions, but I simply have to wait. Someone told me that they would have accepted the unofficial acceptance under the condition of immediately receiving the official acceptance when I obtained it, but by that point, it was too late for that.


(Waiting on the Swiss -photo by:

Long story short, visa and permit applications can be really complicated, so make sure you do your homework on exactly what’s required many months in advance, because you could otherwise get stuck. While I wait for my permit, I can always leave, but I wouldn’t be able to return without one, so I essentially can’t leave the country… lots of fun. Double and triple check every rule when doing the application to make sure you get everything right the first time. If not, you could be forced in a difficult situation or be denied completely.

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Chelsea Fairless

Chelsea is a home-bred Texan currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and studying French at the University of Geneva, while living and working with a family as a part-time nanny. She has been living in the Geneva area since August 2012. You can follow more of her story on her blog and other social media sites.

Morgan’s Freshman Year in Paris: What now?

by Morgan Liverman on April 16, 2014


(featured image by

What progress have I made in the past couple months to prepare for Paris?

When I ask myself that question, I wince. I do have to give myself credit for using my account a couple times a week. I can now successfully navigate my way around shopping centers, restaurants, talking about relationships, ask directions, along with a couple other handy phrases.

But in tangible progress… well… I bought a suitcase? Ooh, oh and a suitcase tag!


(photo by Morgan:How ugly is this suitcase?)

After I received an email from NYU saying that they would take care of all of the visa arrangements, I assumed that there wasn’t much left for me to do. The visa seemed like the most time-consuming and tedious task, and with that out of the way I certainly could relax more. However, there is a ton more to get done before I take off in August (including not giving up on these last couple months in high school…)

Every couple days I think of something else I need to purchase before the trip, but when I think about it I realize that buying all of this stuff in Paris would make moving over a million times easier!

My list so far includes:

French press, small iron, hair dryer, clothes drying rack, vacuum bags, adapters***, cleaning supplies, power strips***, small travel backpack, candles, laundry bag, stamps, reusable grocery bags, rain boots/coat, umbrella, expandable hangers, can opener, kitchen necessities, v neck t-shirts, ballerina flats, go-to lipstick and mascara…

***- apparently must haves

If some of those items seem odd, blame those youtube videos about “what to bring to college”. And yes, I’m that nerd that watches those videos (as it turns out, someone is yet to make “what to bring to college when studying abroad in Paris”, so if someone wants to make one of those, I would greatly appreciate it).


(photo by Morgan: Often what is pulled up on my computer)

I feel a little overwhelmed, and like I don’t have any sort of reference guide for what to do or bring next year. Neither of my parents studied abroad, and considering all of my friends are in high school, nor have any of them studied abroad. It also doesn’t help the NYU is being extremely vague in how registering for the classes is going to happen. I don’t even know what options I have for classes next year. I’m also not sure about where I will physically be living next year, as NYU is yet to email me anything regarding that matter.

Is it too soon to ask questions like these?

Maybe I’m just anxious after four non-responsive months of waiting.

I also have this foreboding fear that I will get an email from NYU apologizing and saying that there was some sort of mix up and I’ll either be in New York next year (which wouldn’t necessarily be terrible) or that I wasn’t supposed to be accepted at all (which would be utterly devastating).

Then again, I’m probably still so shocked about next year that I’m trying to rationalize it.

p.s. If anybody has pre-departure advice, I sure could use it.


Are you feeling overwhelmed with planning for your Paris study abroad or au pair stay? Feeling not yet ready to leave behind everything and everyone you know to embark on this journey? If you answered yes, you’re not alone! Don’t be confused and anxious- let new book The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored answer all of your questions (available now on Amazon, $3.99)


Morgan Liverman

Morgan is a high school senior in Nashville, Tennessee. She was accepted into NYU and will be studying abroad in Paris her first year of college starting in September 2014.


 (photo by

***Today’s information in thanks to

When most students think of Paris study abroad preparations, they think about getting a French visa, upgrading their American cell phone plan to an international one, have questions on banking, look for the best price on a flight- but what about how to get to your host family’s house or hostel that very first day? One former study abroad student on Twitter recently told me that she wished she would have known this information on her first day as it would have alleviated some stress to an already anxious day. So I dedicate this post to her and all the up-coming Paris study abroad students.

Bienvenue à Paris

There are 2 main airports in Île de France about 45 minutes to 1 hour outside of Paris down town – Charles de Gaulle (abbreviated as CDG) or Orly. Fun fact- CDG is sometimes referred to as Roissy Airport because it is located in a town called Roissy. CDG is north of Paris where is Orly is south of Paris. For some time now all international flights (which you will be) land at CDG. It’s like in Dallas we have DFW and Lovefield airport. DFW is for all domestic and international flights whereas Lovefield is only for some domestic flights. Anyhoo, back to Paris. CDG is a pretty big airport and there are a few ways to leave it to get to your destination on your very first day in Paris. Let’s take a look! Here’s a video on Terminal 1

1)  Taxi – this is the easiest, most direct, safe but most expensive way to get to your destination. Just like any major airport, there are taxis outside waiting to take people to where they need to go. It’s easy because all you have to do is walk out the front door and look for a line of taxi’s and find the first available one; It’s direct because you don’t have to worry about frequent stops or getting off at the right stop- you’ll be dropped off directly at the front door of your destination; It’s safe because you don’t have to share the cab with anyone or have strangers get on in the seedier neighborhoods. However, the cost to take a taxi can be anywhere from 50 € to over 100 € depending upon where you are going in Paris. And don’t forget the tip!

 roissybus6233(photo by

2)  Roissy Bus- this is a bus specifically set up to transport people from CDG airport to Opéra Garnier at the corner of rue Scribe and rue Auber which is pretty much right in the middle of Paris. It is a big bus and just like the general RATP buses (RATP also operates this bus), it is clean, roomy, safe, has a direct route and runs every 15-20 minutes. At 10 €, it’s a pretty good deal with plenty of room for your luggage and nice way to see Paris for less than the price of taxi in an equally safe mode of transportation. You can find the Roissy Bus outside of Terminals 1,2 &3 at CDG airport. More of a visual person? Here’s a clip of someone taking the Roissy Bus and


rer_b_terminal_1_atrium(photo by:

3)  RER Train- The RER B train picks you up right inside the airport! This is another good deal for getting into Paris from the airport at 9,50€. It’s also a double decker train and should have lots of room. One big con to this method is that this train makes every stop along the way from the airport to Paris and those stops are not in the best of neighborhoods. The RER B train makes stops at:
The station « Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 1 » serves terminals 1 and 3.
The station « Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 2 – TGV» serves terminals 2 ACDEF and G.
Terminal 2G is linked to terminal 2F (entrance 2.10) by the free N2 shuttle (average journey time :15 minutes).
Journey time (From the below Paris stops to CDG):
- approx. 25 minutes from Gare du Nord
- approx. 28 minutes from Châtelet-Les-Halles
- approx. 35 minutes from Denfert-Rochereau.

- every 10-15 minutes on weekdays

I took the RER once to come back after dropping someone off at CDG and a young girl got on in from one of the banlieu (suburb) stops. She brought a loud radio with her and started stripping and pole dancing on the train- and that’s the least of your worries! I do not recommend this option for your very first day in Paris after a long flight and with suitcases in tow but it is good to know that it is an option if the other 2 fail you for some reason. Sometimes an image is more powerful than words, here is one tourist’s video of taking the RER B to CDG

It’s natural to be nervous you’re first day in Paris- you’ve just signed up to be away from everything and everyone you know and love! But with a little leg work you can have your method of transportation (as well as a back up plan) already in place so that it is one less thing for you to worry about on your very first day in Paris. Bonne chance!

Do you have other questions about your time in Paris as an au pair, student or traveler that you would like answered? Tweet it to me @twentyinparis


Are you going to Paris to study or be an au pair? Do you think that the experience of living in Paris is dreamy? You might be setting yourself up for disappointment if you do! Don’t go abroad with dreams- see the real experience of transitioning to a new culture and language to best prepare yourself with new “thought- provoking” (Dialect Magazine) book The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored- out now on Amazon Kindle ($3.99)


Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: The Harvard of France

by Alexa Wybraniec on April 14, 2014


(photo by Alexa — Here’s hoping Paris has some accessible rooftops for me to contemplate the eternal mystery and beauty of life.)

Life has been good to me, lately.

I traveled to New Paltz, New York last weekend with the Rutgers Rock Climbing Team to compete at the Collegiate Climbing Series’ Northeast Regional Competition and to climb at the Shawangunk Mountains the following Sunday. I ran my first half marathon, the Love Run in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, two weeks ago, and my second, the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon in New Brunswick, New Jersey, yesterday. I competed in my first bouldering competition (that’s rock climbing sans ropes) on Saturday at the Sourland Mountains in Hillsborough, New Jersey, which I’m proud and grateful to call my hometown.

One of my journalism professors asks the class, every Monday, what did we do over the weekend? This entire semester, I haven’t been able to shut up about my life. I’m quite happy. I’m especially glad that I’ve discovered and joined a team at Rutgers (shout-out to Anne for being an awesome founder/president/superstar!) I’ve met so many encouraging and downright inspiring people there, and they’ve become some of the people I’ll miss the most when I leave. Who knew?

When I first started climbing, I hated it because I wasn’t immediately good at it. I wasn’t even a little bit of a wizard on the wall. I was uncoordinated and frustrated. As a perfectionist, this irked me the entire ride home. I never thought I’d buy my own pair of climbing shoes, let alone compete, let alone LOVE IT.

Until I climbed again. And again and again and again. Eventually, I realized that everything is like wind. You can struggle against it, or you can ride it.

Applying to study abroad, I didn’t think much of it. I thought, hm. I’d better have some good reasons for wanting to do this. Am I going to need to make a PowerPoint presentation to convince my parents? Do I really think I’m smart enough? Independent? I think I am…

Now, I’m staring at an email from Sciences Po’s admissions team:“We would like to inform you that you have been accepted to Sciences Po’s exchange programme for 2014-2015! Congratulations!”and smiling my mouth off. Because hey, I did a thing!


(photo by:


I’m also secretly freaking out from the pit of my being.

I started this blog by saying that life has been good to me, and that’s true. I think that I’m extremely privileged. I know that I didn’t have to work as hard for this acceptance as, say, a Parisian teenager, someone from a very low-income family, or a student who attends a school that does not offer a study abroad program.

Then again, my French friends have mentioned that Sciences Po is the “Harvard of France”. Am I ready for the Harvard of France??? I consider myself relatively intelligent when it comes to the state school of New Jersey… but I’m not sure how that’s going to translate overseas. I’m very anxious about being smart.


I also need to sit back for a second, chill out, and remember that I worked for this. I have some merit and potential, even if I don’t see the results right away or 100% of the time. Ride the wind. Because no matter how terrible my French professor has made me feel about my grip (or lack thereof) on the language, I know that I’ve done things that nobody can take away from me.

(Aside, I have a new French professor. More on that next time.)So yes, life has been good  to me. I’ve also been good to my life. And, I’m sure Paris is going to offer me the same give-and-take relationship that every town I’ve ever lived in has offered me. It’s not where you live, it’s what you do with it, right?

Although… Paris… :-) I’m still a giddy little ten-year-old when I think about it.



“Amazing”. “Refreshingly honest.” “A witty and informative read.” This is what readers are calling The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored ($3.99, out now on Amazon Kindle). Are you  20 years old and going to live, study or work in Paris? Don’t wing it abroad! Find out everything you need to know about this experience to maximize this amazing opportunity!

(Eiffel Tower images by


Alexa Wybraniec

Alexa is a journalism major at Rutgers University who blogs at New Jersey Food Journal. She is going to be studying abroad in Paris at SciencesPo for a year starting in the fall semester of 2014. Check back every Monday for a new post from Alexa. You can connect with her via Twitter and Google+.