I am American, and currently an assistant de langue (language assistant) in France. I have a special visa, called the assistant de langue/lecteur visa, from September 10th to May 10th. On the visa for number of entries/(nombre d’entrées) it says MULTI.
I need to validate my visa with OFII (immigration office) within 3 months of my visa start date (so by December 10th). This involves submitting documents, then getting an attestation de réception de l'OFII (proof they got my documents and are processing my visa). This piece of paper allows me to travel freely within those 3 months, even outside the Schengen Zone.
However, let's assume that I dont have this piece of paper, and I want to go to England on October 20th. Since the UK isn't in the Schengen Zone, there is confusion about whether or not I can re-enter France freely 2 weeks later (November 3rd).
Here's the issue: my visa for France is what was stamped when I entered CDG airport, but Americans can travel freely in the UK and the Schengen Zone for 90 days on a tourist visa. I'm not sure which rules actually apply for traveling to the UK here. Since my visa was stamped, I need to validate it with OFII. While OFII allows me to travel freely in the Schengen Zone for 3 months, I would be going to the UK. And to re-enter France, normally you need to have your OFII validation letter (the one I mentioned). But, Americans also have the 90-day rule.
So which one takes precedence here? Can I freely travel to the UK in the 3-month period that OFII allows, or because I would exit the Schengen Zone do I need the attestation that OFII received my paperwork to re-enter? I'm unsure if I need the attestation or not to re-enter France if I go outside of the Schengen Zone in those 3 months.
There are about 2,500 other language assistants who are non-European who are all asking themselves the same question, so I'm hoping to have a solid response for them. My current assumption is that because the visa for France is what was stamped, if I travel outside the Schengen Zone, I will absolutely need the attestation even if I'm in the 90-day tourist period because the visa stamp takes precedence.
Some people have gone to the UK and come back with no issue, but in the past others have been denied entry to France and stuck at border control. So obviously this is a tricky situation.