TAPIF or Teaching Assistant Program in France is a great way to improve your French and live abroad in France for a year while sharing your native language. In this TAPIF guide I touch upon major questions prospective applicants have. I have the most up to date information on the subject because I recently completed TAPIF and I keep in touch with current TAPIF assistants. I did such a great job during TAPIF that my work contract with the school was extended well after the other assistants left France.
This guide is extremely long because I wanted to give you the most comprehensive information.
In this guide we’ll cover:
- What is TAPIF? Is TAPIF right for me? What if I don’t speak French well?
- Do I need a visa for TAPIF? If so, what visa do I get and where do I get it?
- Does TAPIF pay assistants? Does the salary cover the costs of living in France?
- How do I handle the French immigration process (OFII)?
- What regions in France should I select for my TAPIF application?
- How do I find a place to live in France? How do I find roommates?
Is TAPIF right for me?
TAPIF is a yearly program that takes native speakers from across the globe and integrates them into French schools. The purpose is to have native speakers help teach foreign languages in the classroom.
There are many advantages to TAPIF such as experiencing France, working on your French, meeting amazing people, sharing your culture, and gaining teaching experience. It’s a fulfilling endeavor. But is TAPIF worthwhile for people who don’t really care about becoming a teacher, or those who are experts in other fields outside of English?
I have two degrees: Neuroscience and French; I plan on working in the medical field. TAPIF didn’t have much to offer to me outside of living the life of a Frenchman, getting away from the U.S, and solidifying my French language skills. The typical TAPIF applicant applies to the program after completing their undergraduate studies and earning a degree. They take a gap year before returning to the workforce or returning to their studies. While this is the typical applicant, you can theoretically apply to TAPIF well after your college years.
Applicants must be between the ages of 20 to 35 before the program starts. In order to teach the English language you must be a citizen of Australia, South Africa, The Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, OECS, the United States, India, Ireland, Jamacia, New Zealand, the UK, Trinidad, or Tobago.
Do I Need a Visa? What Visa Should I Get?
For citizens of the United Kingdom and anyone with a European citizenship, you can skip reading this portion.
When you’re not part of the Euro-zone then getting a visa is a very important step, especially for Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders. A visa is essentially a document that the French authorities will stamp into your passport. You will need a valid visa to function and report for work in France, otherwise you’re an illegal alien.
The visa process is daunting if you’re not use to international traveling.
But it’s worse because there seems to be a lot of misinformation on the web.
Some people are tooting that you should get a student or work visa and not an assistant visa when applying to TAPIF. Ha! The problem is that when I applied to my local consulate (in Washington D.C.) with my TAPIF paperwork, I didn’t have any sort of option. An assistant visa was given to me by default.
The other two visas are only provided if you ALREADY secured a school or job before departing to Europe. The assistant visa allows you to work in France for a few months. All fees are waived when filing for an assistant visa through TAPIF. When the visa period ends, you don’t need to rush back home right away. I clarified this point at the prefecture in Bourg-en-Bresse: as an American citizen I have 90 days of visa-free travel around the Schengen Zone. This means that although your assistant visa may end in April or May, you theoretically can stay (without working) a bit longer in France.
Make sure you do not exceed your stay and please, confirm this information with your local French prefecture. I’m not responsible for your deportation :D
The assistant visa only permits you to work 10 additional hours outside of your teaching job for a total of 22 hours per week. If you want to work more hours, legally, then you have to notify the school(s) you’re working at. IF you want to work under the table, let’s just say that English speakers can do so with ease (not that I have any experience doing that… ehem… *cough* *cough*).
This brings up a lot of questions about money which I shall talk about next.
APPLICATION PROCESS: What French Region(s) Should I Select?
If I could describe the TAPIF application process in one-word, what would it be?
Thousands of people are applying to TAPIF so your acceptance is not guaranteed. When signing up for TAPIF you merely select which REGION you want to be in. Top candidates get their first choice while secondary candidates sweat it out on a waiting-list.
When living abroad for several months at a time, people are quick to put Paris as their first choice. However, getting into Paris is rather competitive. Likewise, France is more than just Paris and foreigners somehow forget that.
I’m having a lot more fun outside of Paris to be honest.
In my full guide, I write specifically about what to look for in your region. I also mention which regions I choose and explain which academic regions are the best (according to me). You’ll even see my application letter that I wrote for TAPIF!
TAPIF Money & Salary
Questions answered in this section:
- Are TAPIF assistants paid?
- Is the assistant salary enough?
- How should I budget my money?
TAPIF assistants are paid.
Your monthly salary is wired to your bank account at midnight, three administrative days before the end of the month (weekends do not count). There’s a strange feeling of greatness when the money lands in your account and you go can spend it all on Champagne the following day.
(I hope you realize that I’m kidding, but come on… who doesn’t love Champagne?)
As a TAPIF assistant, you are assigned 12 hours of class instruction per week. This may be in one school or across two or three schools. However when you consider the time it takes to commute to work, the free time you kill between your classes, AND the time it takes to prepare classwork at home. You could end up spending 16-20 hours a week “working.”
You are compensated roughly 800 euros a month after taxes are pulled from your salary. I find this salary to be more than enough as a single (sexy) American roaming around France. Every month I pay for my food, studio apartment, cellphone plan, internet, TV, a gym membership and still wind up with over 300 to 400 euros per month of excess cash to use for traveling!
La vie est belle, n’est-ce pas?
BUT WAIT, life is only great if you’re living in an AFFORDABLE area of France. If you’re in Paris then you may need to work on the side or get supplemental money from your family abroad. I lived in a low cost area of France where I could rent my own apartment for 200-300 euros per month. It’ll be harder to find that in the capital.
Keep in mind that TAPIF assistants don’t need to pay for luxurious cars, hefty insurances policies, mortgage payments, kids, etc… At this present moment my life is centered around me and my studio apartment.
What if you still struggle to make ends meet on the TAPIF salary and you aren’t graced with parents who randomly deposit large sums of cash into your French bank account?
In France, a social program known as “La CAF” can give you money towards your housing. But applying early to this program is a good idea because French bureaucracy works slowly. It took months of back and forth correspondences to receive allocation checks. If you need help filling out paperwork then stop by their local office or ask a co-worker to help you.
Lastly, a good way to save money is by finding a roommate to split costs of your apartment or by using any housing provided by the school. This can help you save on rent in expensive regions. Keep an eye out for any student discounts AND ALWAYS buy a carte jeune if you plan on using the train system in France.
I explain, in detail, about how to sign up for La CAF in the full guide. I’ll also talk about how to budget your money effectively and how I was able to travel across Europe while participating in TAPIF.
Finding Housing in France – Where Do I Live?
Assistants have many options on where they can live.
If you have relatives or family in France/Europe then you have more options than foreigners. Most high schools have some form of housing. It’s affordable, but might not be great quality. I’ve heard horror stories of students having no internet, sharing rooms, and there being curfews.
I was offered school housing at 50€ a month! It was a great offer, but I eventually turned it down. I preferred living in my own place, which was better situated in the town.
The most viable option for TAPIF applicants is to find roommates. There are plenty of websites online which can help you find roommates in your region. Finding the right roommate, especially when abroad, can be a fiasco.
The last option is to have your own apartment (like I did). I enjoyed having the freedom and flexibility to what I could do chez moi. Besides, having no roommates meant I could invite girls or friends over to my place without problems. Finding your own place can be a long process and you need to have good French if you’re in a rural region (where it is doubtful that your agency speaks English well). There’s a lot of legal stuff to handle and you will sign a good amount of papers. You’ll need your bank account ready by time you want to rent UNLESS you avoid the agencies and cut a deal with the landlord.
One of the rooms in my French apartment
MAKE a TAPIF Folder!
If there was one piece of information I’d like you to remember when doing TAPIF, it’s in this section. I cannot stress this enough. Before going to France you should have a folder dedicated to all things TAPIF related.
Organization is PARAMOUNT when you go abroad and it will make finding those necessary documents a lot easier.
When you open your French bank account, sign a lease, fill out insurance paperwork, or report for your first day of work you will need to have at least one copy of these documents on hand:
- Your passport and visa stamp + copies of these pages
- Your attestation of work + copies
- Your birth certificate and/or officially translated copies of it
- Your RIB (French bank account number) once you’ve gotten one. This is how they pay you or take money for subscription services like your TV, cellphone or GYM membership.
- Previous tax and income information if you’ve had a paid job in your home country
So rather than search for the documents every time, you’ll simply whip out your TAPIF folder and be ready!
OFII and French Immigration
Even though you went to the local French Consulate to obtain your visa, it is not official until OFII (L’Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration) clears you.
You’ll need a recent radiography, a medical visit, your passport and all your papers to get through the process. TAPIF assistants need to take OFII seriously otherwise you’re essentially an illegal alien in the country. Cool, right? You can learn more about OFII at http://www.ofii.fr/. I will go more in-depth about completing OFII’s process in the guide. You will likewise be given some information about OFII when you arrive to France.
Do NOT hesitate to complete the OFII procedure.
How do I Make Friends While on TAPIF?
I want to briefly cover this topic. A serious concern about being in a foreign country is creating an established network or friends or relatives to spend time with or assist you in times of need.
How did I met my best friends in France? I didn’t do anything remarkable.
The first Saturday night in my town, I went out. I didn’t know ANYONE. I walked into the local “Irish pub” and introduced myself to people in French. It usually went along the lines of, “Hi, I’m John, I’m from New York and I’m new to this town.” People were very warm. As I bounced around the pub, I eventually met these three guys who seemed like they weren’t having a fun time.
My presence brightened their night.
They told me that they were going to leave to another place to meet more people and asked me to join them. I did. It was one of the best nights that I experienced in France. I met their friends, and then friends of their friends. Soon I started seeing 20+ different people on a consistent basis. They’d offer to drive me to out-of-town events or invite me to tag along for weekend parties. Maybe I hit the jackpot?
I also made countless friends just by going to the local gym at around the same time (18h00). Since I went everyday, I eventually started to recognize people. At first it started as just chatting in between sets, but a month or two down the line people started wanting to hang out. I actually traveled to other parts of France with two of my gym buddies.
I met people just by watching big French soccer matches in public or by going to local music concerts. Since I patronized small establishments, my barber and various cashiers would see me often. This would lead to various conversations and a further sense of belonging.
And isn’t that what you want? A sense of belonging… that you actually fit into your new French lifestyle?
You could make friends with other TAPIF assistants on Facebook or in France because they will be in the same boat as you. However I believe that befriending staff members at your school(s) or hanging out with people from the area is a better option. If you put yourself out there and participate in social events then making friends is a simple “bonjour” away.
If I found success then you certainly can; I’m no special snowflake.
Need MORE information?
Well you made it this far and we’re already 2,500 words in. I hope you realized that there’s a TON to say about TAPIF.
For example, do you know how to set up a working cellphone in France? Do you know how to open a bank account? How about tips on being a better teaching assistant? There’s so much more information I’d love to share with you.
Which is why I spent hours toiling away to put together a complete TAPIF guide. In it, you’ll receive more expert knowledge from me and a few of my friends who are doing the program this year.
What does this guide cover?
See for yourself!
The COMPLETE TAPIF Guide for 2016
Chapter 1: TAPIF Application Process
How to select your region & age groups
Writing a great application letter
Obtaining letters of recommendation
Waiting period & wait-list
Chapter 2: The VISA Process & Preparation for Going to France
How to prepare for your stay in France
Creating your TAPIF folder
Obtaining your French visa
Chapter 3: Arrival in France – Setting Up Life
How to set up your bank account
Getting around France
How to get a working cellphone
How to complete French immigration (OFII) requirements
How to find a place to live & set up your apartment (furniture, electricity, immobiler, etc)
Safety, insurance & healthcare
Learn your area (geographically: banks, stores… on going events)
Chapter 4: Reporting for Teaching & Teaching Tips
Your first day as a teaching assistant
Teaching assistant duties
How to be a better (& cooler) English teacher
Chapter 5: Money guide & how to make friends
Understanding VAT and shopping in France
How to budget your money off your salary
Tips on making friends and being social
Chapter 6: After TAPIF
Closing & lasting impressions
(6 times more information than what’s above)
Gain FULL Access:
All the information you’ll need for TAPIF, in one convenient place.
Congratulations from Brisbane, Australia John! And thanks so much for your encouragement and a great website. BethREADER'S COMMENT
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Created This Guide?
This guide was created by me, John Elkhoury. I’m the founder of FrenchCrazy.com, a popular learning website created back in 2011. Thousands of people consult this site on a daily basis for information! I’m a French tutor, an English tutor, and I lived and worked in France on several different occasions. You can learn more about me from our about page.
Who Is This Guide For?
This guide was designed for prospective TAPIF applicants who plan on teaching in Metropolitan France. Ideally, English should be your main language because a vast portion of the guide is in English.
Why Pay for this Guide?
The full guide provides invaluable information that will make your transition to France go a lot more smoothly. You’re going to be living in a completely NEW country for the next few months. It’s a huge endeavor. The small price you pay for this guide pales in comparison to the money and time you’ll save from following it. I’ll help you comparison shop for phone plans as well as give you tips on lowering your rent and advice on how to save on transportation. It is a premium offering designed for to those who want TAPIF to be a stress-free experience. If you enjoy free content, then you can enjoy the hundreds of free articles I share on frenchcrazy.com.
What is Included?
The guide is hosted on FrenchCrazy, through a secure member’s area. This is so that the guide can be updated with lightening speed (a feature unavailable if you download a PDF file or were sent a physical book). I also provide a TAPIF-specific email where you can get in touch with me.
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Is the Guide Up-to-Date?
This full guide was created a month ago, so yes, it is. I also update this guide as often as needed to present the most up-to-date information. Prices and procedures change on a somewhat frequent basis, so it’s imperative to stay ahead of the game!
Will I Like this Guide?
Of course. I guarantee you’ll love the guide because I poured my heart and soul into it. It features up-to-date information from various sources, screenshots, and in-depth explanations. I believe that if you had the full guide, you would be much more prepared for your experience with TAPIF. But… if you feel as though something was missing from the guide OR that you need more information on a topic, you could always contact me. Included with the guide is an exclusive email address where members can reach me. I’ll do everything in my power to help you out. Not only that. I’ll update the guide to include any relevant information that was missing after working with you.
I wound never risk my relationship with my readers and my large audience to endorse a poorly made product. That, you have my word.
What if I Have MORE Questions?
That’s fine! Feel free to leave a comment in the page below OR email me (John) at firstname.lastname@example.org. You should probably make your subject line something along the lines of “TAPIF GUIDE QUESTIONS.” I’ll try to respond as soon as possible.
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All the information you’ll need for TAPIF, in one convenient place.