Last week, I completed another step in my journey towards France: The Visa Appointment.
I’m very lucky because I live so close to my regional consulate. The same consulate also serves people from DC, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, so some people have to make full day trips, while I just missed a two hours of work.
On Friday, I left work early and made my way to the French Embassy/consulate in Washington, DC. It is a complex of pretty ugly buildings in a lovely neighborhood in Georgetown which was quite beautiful to drive through. Luckily, I have an amazing mother who helped me get there and back, since it is not very Metro accessible. I spent the previous few days gathering all the information the consulate lists on their website: the visa application form, my passport + 1 copy of the info page, my arrêté de nomination + 1 copy, a passport-sized photo, my Virginia identification card, and a prepaid envelope.
When I arrived, I had to show the woman at the gate that I had an appointment at 9:30 and she checked my name off a list of all the day’s appointments. PRO TIP: Make a copy of your ID before coming if you also plan to use it as your proof of residence, because she wanted to keep my ID in exchange for a badge indicating I had a visa appointment. Luckily, the visa office has a photocopier (25c per page) so I could get everything quickly sorted out.
Entering the visa office was a very strange experience. It was a small, brightly lit room, very DMV-like, with a few rows of chairs and four “windows” where applications were being processed, although it was somewhat more friendly and less oppressive than a DMV. However, unlike the DMV the exact manner in which they process all the people was not immediately clear. I noticed some people with numbers, but couldn’t tell where they got them…Eventually, I just sat down to see if I could figure it out through observation (because why ask someone when you can sit quietly and wait??). I figured out that they were calling people up to the desks by name (presumably from the appointment list) and immediately relaxed.
I only had to wait about 15 minutes before they called my name. I went up to the window and the man asked me a few questions about the purpose of my travel and I passed over all my paperwork. While he was going over my visa application, I was a little nervous because there were some spaces that I did not know how to fill in…..so I just made them up. For the most part though, everything worked out except two spaces that he whited out and had me re-do. Since I know there was a ton of confusion and some conflicting info, here’s what I wrote on my application, so all 9 of my readers can be informed!
- Box 11, National Identity Number, where applicable: At first I wasn’t sure if this meant to put my social security number but ultimately decided to leave it blank
- Box 12, Type of travel document: I haven’t even heard of some of the options listed, but a quick wikipedia search told me to mark “Ordinary passport”
- Box 21, Current occupation and Box 22, Employer: **These are the boxes he had me change.** Originally I wrote “assistante d’anglais” and entered the address of my principal school, but he told me that since I wasn’t there yet, they didn’t count. I guess I could have put down “summer camp instructor” or something, but instead I changed it to “unemployed” 😦 wompwomp.
- Box 24, Name/address in France of inviting employer: Here I put the name and address of my principal school
- Box 25, What will be your address in France during your stay: I have not yet secured housing, so I put the address of my IEN, found on my arrêté. I’ve also heard of people doing it the other way around and putting the IEN address in Box 24 and the school’s address in Box 25, but I honestly don’t think it matters too too much. (If you have a different experience, please comment below!!)
- Box 26, Intended date of entry into France of Schengen Area: I have not yet purchased plane tickets, but I know the week I want to leave, so I put the Monday of that week to give me some wiggle room. Some consulates may ask you to bring already purchased plane tickets, but DC didn’t.
- Box 29, What will be your means of support in France: I wrote, “la remuneration mensuelle et mes économies personelles” (monthly salary and my personal savings)
(sidebar: the consulate’s website indicated that the application must be filled out in French even though the application itself was written in English…I took no chances and filled it out in French anyway)
After the tiny snafu with Boxes 21 and 22, he put all my stuff in a folder, gave me a number and told me to wait until my number was called. The wait was not bad at all. It was actually kind of amusing overhearing everyone else’s reasons for wanting a visa to France. One man married a Frenchman and was getting a visa to go live permanently with him in France, another wanted to take his Iranian father to visit his brother, several people were studying or au pairing, and one bold young man said he wanted to go to Paris “because it’s awesome.” They called my number about 15 minutes later and a different man gave me a receipt for my visa (which I guess means it was granted?). According to the receipt, it would have cost 99euro, but thanks to the French government, I received it for free!! Then he told me to sit and wait for my number to be called one more time…This wait was a little longer, but finally I saw the last woman who told me everything was in good order and they would mail back my passport in 2-3 weeks!
So overall, a somewhat confusing but ultimately pleasant trip down bureaucracy lane. The whole affair lasted about 90 minutes (including the 20-ish minute drive there and back) and I returned to work just in time for Pizza Day!!
If you have had any noteworthy run-ins with the Visa office, or can offer any tips for different regional consulates, etc. share them in the comments!!
Today, July 22, My passport with visa sticker was returned to me in the mail! A mere TWO business days after my appointment! The visa is for a 9 month term, starting 2 days before my “expected entry” date that I put on my application and lasting through mid-June, a full 6 weeks after my work contract ends. The only thing that concerned me is that they did not return the original of my arrêté, which I expected them to…I’m still trying to figure out if this is normal or if I should be worried. But luckily I made some extra copies if worse comes to worst.
About a month after I received my visa, I emailed the TAPIF administrator Carolyn Collins to ask about my missing arrêté. She asked for my mailing address and told me she’d ask her colleagues in the visa office to send it back. Sure enough, a few days later it arrived safe and sound in the mail.