That French visa

For those following my adventures in moving to France, here’s my experience on the visa  process.

France is one of several countries contracting the visa process to VFSGlobal. Not every consulate is with VFSGlobal yet; my experience is with the San Francisco location. To apply for a visa, I started here: I created an account and started an application. I received a list of all the documents required, and made an appointment to appear in person with my documents (that was today’s adventure). Despite the document that acknowledges receipt of the application, the appointment is at the VFSGlobal office at 315 Montgomery St, not at the French Consulate at 88 Kearny, San Francisco. It’s only about three blocks from one to the other location, but in San Francisco three blocks can involve a significant change in altitude, so for me it paid to get the right location and park as nearby as possible.

What they didn’t tell me: I was one of many people applying for various flavors of visas from any number of countries, mashed into a smallish waiting room. And there was a sign saying that the VFSGlobal staff have no influence on whether your visa is accepted or not. So brushing up on basic greetings in French does no good.

Next, even though there’s nothing on the visa application checklists that says this, I needed a photocopy of my passport and other ID (driver license in my case). But, they made copies for me and charged a buck each on top of the application fee. The application fee quoted on the application site is 99€, which translated to $115, a quite reasonable $1.16 to 1.00€ conversion rate.

And, despite what I read on various blogs and discussion boards, I didn’t need an FBI report. (I should write up that experience, too, later.) In fact, VFS Global staff will take your fingerprints in a final “biometric” step.

What did I bring to persuade French authorities that I’ll be a valuable contributor and not a burden to France? They expected bank account statements (I brought three months’ worth). I also brought and handed over my Social Security statement showing how much SS will be paying me later this month; my latest IBM 401k statement; my latest MorganStanley account statement (IRA and non-retirement accounts); and a statement from my French bank account. Also, a copy of the lease for my initial apartment in Montpellier, and my ticket via Air France. Return ticket was not expected, but it’s cheaper to buy round-trip and just cancel or never use the return.

In one week I can check the visa application site to see status, and, if all goes well, check again after two weeks to see when I can pick up my passport.