My last post detailed all the documents that I was required to submit for my visa application at the French Consulate here in Atlanta. Being the Type A person that I am, I had all these documents assembled, checked and double (triple, quadruple) checked long before my appointment on June 3. I had left nothing to chance, of course.
I arrived more than an hour before my appointed time – again, Type A not wanting to take any chances on being late. Because I was early I had the opportunity to witness the 6-8 people applying for their student visas ahead of me. They all went something like this:
“May I see your documents, please?” (shuffle, shuffle through the papers)
“Do you have your housing letter? Oh here it is…” (shuffle, shuffle a little more)
“Okay, look at the camera and don’t smile. That will be €50. You will receive your visa in about two weeks. Next!“
I wasn’t worried, this looked easy. My turn:
“May, I see your documents, please?” (shuffle, shuffle, frown, squint. Expression of incomprehension.)
Agent summons another agent to examine my documents as well. More shuffling and frowning ensued and then the interrogation:
“What are you going to be studying in France?”
“Uh, French…” (duh!)
“What is your major?”
(More shuffling, some murmured conversations between the two agents, and a few sideways suspicious glances thrown my way.)
“Do you have proof that you are a student at KSU?”
“Well, you are holding a copy of my Student ID in your hand. It has my picture on it and it says ‘Student’ right there.”
“I’m sorry, but this isn’t sufficient to prove you are a student. Do you have a letter from KSU saying you are a student?”
“No, of course not. I didn’t know I would need that. But I have acceptance letters from ISEP and UPJV in France.”
“That is not sufficient, either. Do you have a transcript?”
(Oh, I see. So ISEP and UPJV accepted me into the program although I am only pretending to be a student?)
“Well, yes, I have a transcript but I don’t have it with me because it isn’t on the list“.
At this point I whip out my official Check List and brandish it under his nose…SEE, it isn’t on the list!
“Yes, I know it isn’t on the list, but we must have it before we can process your application.”
“Can you tell me why you need this since I provided all the required documentation?”
“No, we can’t give you that information. But you must provide the transcript as proof that you are a student.”
Need I add that none of the other students were subjected to this line of questioning? Need I add that they were all 19 years old?
After some more discussion about proof of my student status, I finally got to look at the camera – “Don’t smile” – hand over my €50 (aka $62) and relinquish my passport. I received no parting words telling me to look for my visa in two weeks, only instructions to send the further documentation to prove I am a student. Okay, well BONNE JOURNEE to you too!
Three weeks later, not two, I received the visa. I guess it took an extra week for them to run extensive background checks trying to figure out why I was attempting to pass myself off as a student to infiltrate their country. As if someone my age who wanted to enter France under false pretenses would choose Exchange Student as a likely disguise!