Forays into French Bureaucracy: La Direccte

Once you’ve found your French host family and have negotiated and drawn up the terms of your contract, the next step is to get it officially signed, stamped, and validated by la Direccte (la Direction régionale des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi—the French sure do love their long, convoluted acronyms).

As with most forays into French bureaucracy, dealing with la Direccte is easier said than done.

The “r” in Direccte stands for régionale, which means that there are a bunch of different regional Direcctes throughout France. The Direccte you and your host family interacts with thus depends on where your host family lives.

Each Direccte requires you to submit a dossier of documents in order to evaluate your candidature as an au pair before then (hopefully) validating your contract.

The first thing to do is determine exactly what elements are required for the dossier. Each regional Direccte has its own website where it’s supposed to list all the required pieces, but the websites are unorganized and hard to navigate. What’s more, la Direccte is notorious for requesting additional documents once a dossier has been submitted (thus stalling the process). Having been warned by friends who had already gone through the au pair process, F&F decided to be proactive and call the Val-de-Marne Direccte to get a complete and up-to-date list of required documents. But even that isn’t easy: You can only call the Val-de-Marne Direccte on Tuesday or Thursday between 9:30 am and 12:00 pm.

The first time François called, the lady on the phone was less than helpful and told him to look on the OFII’s (l’Office français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) website, which turned out to be a complete and utter fause piste because the OFII deals with au pairs (and people with long-stay visas and other immigrants) once they’re already in France and has nothing to do with validating work contracts.

After scouring the OFII website and obviously finding nothing helpful, François called la Direccte again. The lady this time told him to look at their website. Frustrated, he eventually asked her who at her office evaluates au pair dossiers and she said she did. Then he specifically asked if she could tell him the list of required documents and she finally acquiesced.

Here’s what I had to prepare and send to F&F for the dossier:

  • Four original copies of the au pair contract signed by both parties
  • A photocopy of the information pages of my passport
  • Proof of pre-registration in a language school in France
  • A medical certificate proving my state of good health completed within the last three months and translated into French (we got away with using a bilingual form provided by AuPairWorld)
  • A letter of motivation written in French
  • The French version of my CV
  • A copy of my diploma translated into French by a certified translator (this took about a week and a half and cost $125)

F&F also had to provide a bunch of documents on their end.

After weeks of scrambling and emailing and sending things back and forth across the Atlantic via UPS, everything arrived à la Direccte on November 14. Two weeks later, we hadn’t heard anything positive or negative and my appointment at the consulate for my visa was fast approaching.

François did all in his power to harass motivate la Direccte, calling multiple times and sending angry emails to the office’s minions and superiors. The good news: We learned that our dossier was complete, that au pair dossiers are usually quickly evaluated, and that the Val-de-Marne Direccte didn’t have a lot of them to treat at the moment. The bad news: The person in charge of our dossier had been on vacation for a week and then took an additional day off because she was too tired after her vacation to go straight back to work. And of course no one else could pick up the slack in the mean time. Oh la la…la France…

So in the end, French bureaucracy won the day, and I had to reschedule my visa appointment (more on that later).

F&F received the finalized contract on December 4 (ironically the exact date of the visa appointment I had to cancel), and my copies arrived on December 8 (just in time for my new appointment on the 9th).

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All that for a stamp and a signature…

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6 comments

  1. […] up: Language schools, la Direccte, and the visa […]

  2. Ashley · · Reply

    That has to be one of my favourite acronyms!
    I certainly don’t miss all the hassle that comes with living in France, though sometimes I think the Spanish way may be worse because it’s just so inconsistent.

    1. The acronym is SO ridiculous. And yes, at least the French system is consistently infuriating. Also, once you learn some of the subtle rules (like the importance of official signed hard copies of everything) you can anticipate and thus avoid some potential road blocks.

      1. Little by little you’ll become an ace at dealing with them!

  3. I love the acronym as well. I am surprised you got away with that “bilingual” medical document as opposed to an officially translated document.

    1. I was also surprised (but very relieved) that we got away with the “bilingual” medical certificate.

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