Obtaining a visa to study abroad in France shouldn’t be so difficult, right? Well, in theory, it should be quite easy if you follow instructions things, but there are always the small bumps in the road. For instance, in Canada, two interviews are requested in order to be granted a long séjour visa, one with CampusFrance Canada and one with the French consulate, in which you are then given your visa. The one handling affairs in the Toronto office, when I was requesting a visa for my freshman year of college, was a difficult woman to deal with to say the least. In short, she refused to hear me out for over a month on how I needed to go to the consulate in Toronto because I had no I-94 (which would have permitted me to apply through the consulate in New York), since this year in France would be my first in college. But with that said, everything did eventually work out – I enjoyed my first year abroad, and someone more fit for the job was hired for Toronto’s CampusFrance Canada branch.
So living in the city this summer, I thought I’d be a smart apple by applying for my French visa in New York (as the US only requires one meeting, and it being with the consulate). You’d think that this being my second time through the process that I would be able to receive it with no problems. Well, there was one minor hitch that seemed to result in a longer than expected wait time for me; CampusFrance USA raised its fees (by a meager $10 too!) and didn’t really think to make an announcement to its applicants. Follow that up with the backlog of applications pending review because of the needed additional $10 and those just applying. After waiting over a month, I had some strings pulled to see where exactly I stood with them, and finally, I was cleared and booked my appointment with the consulate.
Fast forward to this past Friday where I found myself walking up to the facade of the French consulate on Fifth Avenue, which faced Central Park – too bad that’s not where you actually apply for your visa. I had to round the corner onto 74th street to find a small renovated townhouse, which served as the French consulate’s visa department. Gathered outside were numerous people with folders in hand – you can’t help but wonder why they’re all out here, and not well, inside. It turns out that only when your appointment time is called, you’re allowed to head on inside; otherwise, you just better hope that it’s not raining, which in my case, it did. Those with the magic print-out stating 11:30 AM were called and the herd made their way inside. Thinking that being early would be a good idea, I was left alone outside, waiting with droplets of rain to keep me company.
Other people did eventually come to join me for the 12PM time slot, and soon, it too was our turn to head on upstairs into the renovated townhouse. I really did think that I would be finished in half an hour, but I was wrong (per usual) – I ended up staying there for a good hour and a half. For those wondering what the process is in obtaining your visa at the French consulate in New York City, you can expect the following: stand in line and wait to pay for your visa (have your Campus France payment receipt, passport and long séjour form ready), sit down in the waiting area and wait for your name to be called in which you will then present all your documents, and then you’re done for the day; however, you will have to return in a week with your passport for them to apply that precious visa sticker onto your empty pages. The whole appointment, when you think about it, is quite straightforward and you should be approved with no problems (most of the issues that people have arise from not having all the necessary documents on-hand).
Strange, though, that the consulate in New York requires so much more waiting and transitions than the one in Toronto, which has you in and out within half an hour (and with your visa affixed to your passport). In either case, I am one step closer towards spending my junior year abroad!
Image courtesy of the Consulat Général de France à New York