Salut. Today I will try my best to recall the story of our visa appointment. This is all a true story, no exaggerations.
I have given birth and let me say, that was a piece of cake compared to getting our visas. It did not go anything like I expected. I imagined a lovely office where we would sit in a private room and be able to speak with a French agent (let Liv show off her French skills). We all take photos with our new visas in hand.
I liken our experience to going to the DMV with no appointment. The day started off fine, we felt prepared as we could be. I didn’t forget anything, I took my stress pills. We all dressed up, as I mentioned in my last post, I wore my fancy new brogues for good luck. We left the house with plenty of time for traffic and I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be (although I had a serious knot in my stomach). Google maps told me it would take 50 minutes to get there. GOOGLE MAPS LIED! They wanted me to take three freeways that I know would be a parking lot at that time of the morning. I took the streets knowing I can take shortcuts around traffic. All the drivers of LA were being assholes! I almost threw up and cried because the 50 minutes arrival time kept changing to an hour and 2 minutes. It took ages to go a few blocks. Every shortcut I took was met with someone driving 10 miles per hour. I was not happy. I think I gave Antz a heart attack with my crazy driving but there was nothing I could do, we arrived at the consulate at 9:04 am and our appointments were scheduled for 9:00/9:20/9:40. Yep, I blew our first impression by being late. Then we couldn’t find the entrance because it makes total sense to look for an address INSIDE a building. We park in the garage and look for the office only to have the world’s slowest speaking security guard tell us the French consulate was located outside around the back of the building. This guy.
So, you do understand I was wearing my brand-new shoes made of leather. Meaning, not broken in and destroying my heels in blisters with every step. Please use your imagination of me shuffling in hurting feet walking around a huge building holding all our folders, fighting back tears, frantically searching for the consulate entrance. Can you see it clearly? Good!
As we are approaching an alley, we see a few people standing outside the building. We lined up behind them totally confused and worried about missing our first appointment. The door opened and we tried to enter with the other three people but a security guard told us we couldn’t come in yet. WTF? I tried not to panic. The family went inside and we just stood there. Antz finally buzzed the door and we opened it to find the smallest room you every saw. Like Antz, Liv and I could barely squeeze inside. This is why he told us to wait. There was a metal detector and the guard asked if we had any electronics with us. I had my laptop and our phones but he didn’t want to scan them, he said to put them away and said you cannot take any photos inside. There goes my photo of us with our visas. Okay, we went through the detector with no problem and the security guard tells us (sensing how nervous we were) don’t worry, it’s all about the vibe you give. I recomposed myself and we entered another small waiting room. By then it was 9:07 am. Seven minutes late for the most important appointment of my life! There was two guys and the family of three already seated so we sat down. One of the guys looked very polished and had a folder. The other guy was wearing a Members Only looking jacket, had hair on top of his hands and had some loose papers folded in half. There was a glass covered counter (like at a gas station) with two French dudes sitting at them. I assumed they would call us soon and we would go to another room for our appointment. We waited without saying anything. I was stiff with anxiety and feeling sorry for myself that our nice outfits were going unnoticed. The guys called the first two gentlemen to their windows and we continued to wait. I almost interrupted to tell them I had a 9:00 appointment but I figured it would be obnoxious since we were already late. I finally said to Antz, we’ll go next since your appointment is almost over. I was surprised that I overheard the French guys taking paperwork and conducting the visa business at the window. Then I noticed there was no other room or other agents. Just two bored looking French guys at the window. This was not what I planned for. Those minutes went by excruciatingly slow, maybe because of my nerves and we couldn’t use our phones to pass the time. I listened to the right window guy say he needed a short term visa to go to a wedding. The other guy wanted a long term visa and I kept hearing him to tell the agent in a snotty voice “I work for 20th Century Fox!” as if that would have changed something. The agent needed a ton of paperwork from the dude so they took forever. The wedding guy was quicker so when the agent said next, I popped up out of my seat but the guy from the family that was before us outside said, “No we are next.” I said “Oh sorry, I guess they aren’t going by appointment.” He said “No, everyone has a 9:00 am appointment.” It then dawned on me that had we arrived early (as planned), we would have been seen first and the three appointments I scheduled online didn’t matter anymore. Meanwhile the guy who works for Fox was told to come back with his medical insurance and he could get his visa. It bothered me that as unprepared as he was, he was still getting approved. I whispered to Liv, try to speak up and say hello in French when we get to the window.
Finally at 9:37 we were called. All three of us went to the window but there was only room for one of us to speak at a time so I went first because I had all our paperwork in my fancy folder and totally forgot to have Liv say Bonjour. It didn’t matter anyway, this guy didn’t seem prone to charm after his encounter with the jerk who works at Fox. He asked for Antz paperwork first so Antz came forward and gave him my six inch thick dossier. The guy asked a few simple questions and went through every sheet of paper meticulously. He then began to hand me through the slot in the window almost every other paper saying he didn’t need it. You guys, I almost killed myself gathering all this paperwork. I paid for our documents to be translated into French, I made two copies of everything as requested. He handed them all back to me. I was shaking but he hadn’t really said anything disparaging yet. He then asked if I had copies of our bank statements. I was like Oh, my name is also on the bank statements and our advisor said only Antz needed to show proof of income. It’s almost as if he found the one thing I didn’t make copies of just to scare me (I really didn’t see the need to make copies of our 14 pages of bank statements). Merde! He then asked me if we were married. Umm, maybe you would have noticed we were if you didn’t hand me back my certified marriage license so fast (two copies in Antz file, two in mine along with the French translations). So freaking frustrating! He then started on my files which are smaller than Antz because I had no income to show. He didn’t have much to say about mine except he asked if we had an utility bill from the woman we were planning to be hosted by. OMG! I straight up panicked. This was not happening. I couldn’t believe a stupid bill was holding us back from getting our visas. All that preparation and double checking we had everything was useless. He told me I could email it to the consulate. I said screw it to the no electronics rule and I emailed her and texted her because it was 7 pm in Paris. She wrote back immediately and said she would send it after her work meeting. Great, I interrupted her at work, as if I haven’t asked enough of this poor woman. I was so mortified I didn’t even know what to say. The guy then started going through Liv’s papers. He seemed confused when he got to her vaccinations chart so I told him, I put that in just in case. He started speaking to the other guy in French and took about 10 minutes looking on his computer. He finally told me “You don’t need it.” I was smiling like a crazy person. I’m sure I had flames and tears in my eyes at this point. I still tried to be as friendly and courteous as humanly possible. I threw her report card in for extra measure knowing it wasn’t required, he seemed fascinated and began to read all four pages line by line. He asked if we had a school yet for Liv and I fumbled out that our school director was working on it. He then asked us for our fingerprints. By this point a family with a baby came in and was being helped next to us. The Dad clearly had the flu and proceeded to sneeze/hiccup loudly the whole time we were trapped in the world’s smallest space. I felt bad for the guy but I also wanted to scream at him,
“Don’t you dare make me or my family sick with your nasty germs!!”
Antz pointed out that everyone in there was using the same fingerprint scanner and no one was sanitizing it in between. Gross. I was relieved when he asked Liv for her fingerprints in French so that made me feel a little better. We had to take another photo at the window and just like the DMV, we didn’t see how they turned out. I’m positive mine looked like a Goblin with lipstick on my teeth. He nonchalantly asked us did we want our passports mailed or picked up in a week. I said I’ll pick them up because with our three week departure date, I am not leaving anything to chance. I was prepared to use my credit card with the no fee for foreign transactions when the guy asked me to use my debit card. Certainly, I will only be charged three separate bank fees and pay more for euros than my credit card but when it rains, it pours! He took our ten measly papers and put our passports along with them and gave us a tiny slip of paper confirming our appointment. He did smile at us and I gathered my remaining papers while simultaneously checking the shit out of my emails waiting for that bill to come in. Just as we were leaving she sent me the bill and I was like HALLELUJAH!! I have no idea what the bill was for but it was 24.99 euros a month.
The security guard was the nicest person we encountered thus far. We walked back to the car in a fog and then I remembered to take a photo in front of the consulate. At the very least, they had a French flag outside and a kind lady took our photos. I’m still feeling weird and confused about the whole thing. I guess it was not as bad as I’m hyping it to be but it’s a serious exercise in perseverance.
So from what I gather, next Thursday I will pick up our visas, I hope? I never received a response that they got my email with the bill.
Here’s a tip: leave an hour early, duh (I made a rookie mistake and didn’t anticipate shitty LA traffic), bring hand sanitizer with you and be mindful the consulate door is around back next to the alley near the dumpster.
Actually, I want to say I am aware of how bratty and first world problems I sound in this post and I can’t begin to say how thankful I am to go through all these slight inconveniences for the privilege to move to MUTHA-FING PARIS IN THREE WEEKS!!!
9 thoughts on “Our Visa Appointment at the French Consulate”
It is most interesting to read of your long term visa experience as I have an appointment with them on March 6 for my long term move in April. Good luck to both of us and I hope that you find a place soon.
Bonjour Billie, I wish you the best of luck at your appointment! It was the hardest thing we have ever done but worth all the stress.
In the 60s we applied for a visa for the US … they were so quick and efficient! Try getting a visa to the UK from Bangladesh! I worked in the British High Commission in Dhaka and it was a total nightmare! This was in the late 80s though, things might be easier now.
Pingback: Moving Abroad: A Financial Guide
Hi Elizabeth! I just discovered your blog today through the WordPress discover page, and I’m absolutely in love with it! Your recounting of the French consulate had me on edge the entire time I read it… I can’t imagine how stressed you were. Fingers crossed that everything turns out okay! I’m rooting for you 🙂
you’re moving from L.A. to Paris???? wow!!!! so the stress will be worth it! You are amazing. 🙂
J’espere que vous avez réussi et que vous êtes tous en France a ce moment.! What a beautiful family.
Great story. I can feel the stress and I love the humor!
Pingback: Moving Abroad: Finalizing our visas at the OFII in France -