“Congratulations, Stacie! You have been formally accepted to the Universite d’Orleans Institut de Francais.” Yay! When I received this letter, I exhaled and naively assumed my days of jumping through hoops were over and I could now focus my energy on the end goal – learning the french language.
“Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”, said the French Embassy.
I thought all I needed was a little visa for study’s and based on the fact I am married to a citizen of their country, I might even get a little special treatment. First, I discovered I must make an appointment and have an interview at the nearest French embassy located in Atlanta. After I recovered from that aneurysm, I conceded and snapped up the earliest possible appointment-1 month later. Next, I began researching the requirements, which were filled with many gray areas. However, after 20 phone calls, a snarky email and being told (in English) that “the Embassy does not answer questions in English,”, Fabien (not me) received a call back from a disgruntled diplomat who advised him of the requirements for his wifes visa. So, like a good little documentor, I collected letters from my in-laws, bank statements, pay stubs, university diplomas, evidence of insurance coverage, marriage certificates, etc. for my appointment on Monday, December 12th.
The night before, I drove through the mountains, in the dark, to Atlanta to stay at a shady La Quinta Inn thinking it would all be worth it when the Consulate welcomed me to France and thanked me for choosing to study in their country. You’re welcome! Que the laughs again.
I was not denied at my interview, but was told, by the football shaped woman, that I did not qualify for the visa and she gave me several reasons why. I named the person at their office who advised Fabien of the requirements and I provided documentation over and above what they were asking. She then reminded me of the Parisian motto: “Not my problem”. Stunned, furious and confused, I left the office in tears and drove 4 hours back to Nashville.
When I returned home, I feverishly research and reinforced what I already knew – she was wrong. At 1am, I wrote a scathing email to the Consulate and almost immediately receive a response that they would see me the next day. I was hesitant to spend another 8 hours driving only to walk away even more furious and hating France. At the crack of dawn, I called, demanded to speak with the man who emailed me and asked for his reassurance, which he (sort of) gave to me. So, I hopped in the car at 5am and drove through the mountain fog, to Atlanta…..again. 6 hours later, I was driving back to Nashville, visa in hand. Turns out, there was a mistake, the football shaped woman did not know what she was talking about and since they felt so guilty, they issued it on the spot.
Should you ever find yourself applying for a visa, it goes without saying, but it is so important to know your visa backwards and forwards. When I applied for a chinese visa, I researched the requirements so throughly that I received my visa even before Fabien, who had an attorney assisting him. However, with the french visa, I simply relied on what I was told my the embassy. One would think that would be enough, but you must confirm, reconfirm and know the requirements inside and out. Had I approached the french visa as the chinese, I would have been successful on the first attempt. But, then what fun would that have been?
After all was said and done, even though it was a lot of stress, work and miles on the car, the embassy’s mistake worked in my favor as it normally takes 3 weeks of processing time. In my opinion, the entire process was France testing my sanity. But most likely it was the Universe playing a game of “how bad do you want it?” Whatever the reason – I am officially a recipient of a French visa.