The week before last, I took a brief trip home for my visa appointment at the L.A. consulate. If you remember my post about trying to make the appointment, you won’t be surprised to hear me say that I didn’t have high expectations for the efficiency of the appointment itself or the visa approval process to follow.
Shockingly, it was almost seamless.
The key to the French visa process is to research the crap out of it ahead of time to know exactly what is expected of you in terms of the documentation you must provide and procedures you must follow.
There are a myriad of different subcategories of visa. I was applying for a long-stay work visa, but because TAPIF is such a big program and getting to be a pretty common thing, most of the regional consulates have specific guidelines tailored to it.
In terms of materials I had to provide, it was much simpler than the application for my long-stay student visa to study abroad. This time I only had to bring my work contract, my drivers’ license, my passport, the visa application form, the immigration form, passport photos, a self-addressed prepaid FedEx envelope, and copies of pretty much everything. (Last time I had to bring almost all of those things in addition to things like transcripts, letters from my study abroad program, my parents’ bank statements, etc.) And as an added perk, I didn’t have to pay the processing fee! (It’s waived for assistants de langues vivantes.)
The only real snafu happened right at the beginning of the appointment. I rang the buzzer/intercom at the office and gave my name and appointment time. The security guard seemed confused, but let me into the antechamber only to inform me that my appointment was not at 10:45 but at 10:15, at which point I pulled out my hard-earned visa appointment confirmation form that said in large, prominent bold font: “10:45 a.m.” To this evidence he could only grumble about us having “conflicting documents” and admit me anyway. (Thank goodness, too, because I think I would have cried or broken something or both if I’d been told I had to go home and schedule another appointment for a later date.)
I only had to sit in the waiting area for about half an hour and the time passed quickly because I met two other TAPIFers. Then I was called up to the window, handed over my documents, was fingerprinted and had my picture taken (no smiles allowed).
And my application apparently met with no roadblocks during the approval process. My FedEx envelope with my visa-laden passport and immigration form arrived intact after only nine days!
AND, even though my contract only obligates me to work for the French government through April, my visa is valid until the day before my birthday in late June! Travel time galore.