Congratulations! If you are reading this post it means that you were accepted to University in Paris!
If you are anything thing like me, then next thing that went through your mind when this happened was “Holy Craaaaapp
I am moving to PARIS!” Applying for a visa was the farthest thing from my mind on the day but it is a necessary evil. I know it seems like the french love putting us Americans through the ringer in terms of all of the hoops we have to jump through to actually get there, but the Visa process doesn’t have to be a nightmare.
Step One: Make an appointment with the closest French Consulate. Mine was in Washington D.C. but be sure to check which location is closest to you, often times they are in different cities or even states. Chose a date that you will remember and also gives you an ample amount of time to collect every document you will need for the appointment. Another wise choice would be selecting a date that is at least 3 weeks before you leave for France. Trust me, when I arrived for my appointment they told two other people that they would have to cancel their trip in order to comply with Visa regulations.
***Notice that it is the consulate NOT the embassy. The consulate is, sometimes, a separate building in a separate location which can cause many problems when applying.
Step Two: The Paperwork. It is the BIGGEST pain in the ass about the Visa process but no paperwork means no entry. Here is a list of everything you will need to bring to your Visa appointment.
*** Passport, Driver’s License, Short Stay or Long Stay Schengen Visa Application, Financial Guarantee for Student Visa (Notarized), Financial Guarantee form (Notarized), Payment Authorization form, OF II form, 2 passport photos taken recently, Medical insurance valid for the Schengen territory, Proof of residence in France, Acceptance letter to your university, Flight Itinerary or Proof of Travel Date.
I will further clarify the documents listed on my next post.
Step Three: Going to your appointment at the Consulate. Be sure to arrive no more than 15 minutes early for your appointment since they won’t let you in sooner than that. The best piece of advice would be to be prepared. Have all of your paper ready for starters. Understand that the people behind the desk will be blunt, sometimes even downright mean, but keep your cool. It’s not going to help if you get emotional, it will if you listen to every instruction they give you.
They will first call you up to explain why you want a visa. This first interaction will consist of a few questions, mainly, “Why do you need a Visa?”, “When are you leaving for france?”, etc. Then they will either hand you a number and you will have to wait to get called or send you straight over to the person handling student visas. The second part of your application interview will consist of handing over all of the necessary documents and answering more questions. After that you will either keep your number or receive one and wait to be called again.
The next time you will be called up is for payment, this is the one that made me break down in tears. By accident some credit card information was missing and the elderly frenchman manning this post was extremely crass with me in an already stressful situation. Long-story short make sure the cardholder signs where it says signature of applicant on the payment authorization form. In the end the old man took pity on me and I moved on to the next step.
*** DO NOT FORGET that you will not be refunded if your visa is denied.
Now, the last step is pretty easy. They will go over your paperwork again, confirm the date you plan to leave for france and off you go.
My appointment was on a Wednesday and the letter that said my Visa was ready to be picked up came that Saturday. I was super impressed with the time efficiency from the consulate – seriously there must be a shortage of Visa applicants in DC or the tears really struck a chord. I chose to go pick up my Visa at the consulate which took all of 15 minutes. If you do decide to pickup just bring in your Driver’s license and Passport to the consulate at your earliest convenience, no appointment necessary. You can also chose to leave your passport and when done they will mail it back to you.
So that should be all you need to know about your Visa appointment. I wish you all luck with your applications, Bon chance!