Get a Visa 1: Documents
Posted August 3, 2010on:
As the business world becomes more and more international, more professionals are traveling, taking them abroad for everything from conferences to two year stints in foreign countries. Besides dealing with the logistics of hotels and currency conversion, these professionals are going through the visa process. I’ve done it once so far, am working on a second time, and have seen my brother do it twice himself. We’re an international family, and being one gets me some insite into the schizophrenia of visas.
Welcome to the first post of the Getting a Visa Blog Series.
Besides relying on my own experience, part of my preparation for this blog series was asking a Question on Linked In about what people thought of the visa process and doing general research. This is not a step-by-step guide to how to get a visa but rather an exploration into what the process is like. I would love to do a step-by-step guide, but the process varies tremendously depending on your country of origin, destination country, and the time of the month (this last might be an exaggeration, but I’m not sure).
This time, we’ll cover one aspect that seems particularly burdensome in getting a French visa, but can also nip you in the bum with other countries: documents.
To get my French student visa, I had to have my documents, including my birth certificate, translated into, yes, French. This ties in to a little bit of French law many Americans at least might not realize–all contracts must be written in French when they are with a French company. I had to get a bunch of documents, too, each translated into French by a certified translator. Everything from my birth certificate to my college transcripts. I even seem to remember my high school records getting caught up in that. If you don’t believe me that the French are document prone, Maggie Kim, a writer and musician who moved to Paris from New York to be with her husband, had a similar experience. After my list of documents was acquired and translated (my translator was in Florida. I did a bit of mailing), I had to then get to a French Consulate and submit them for inspection.
Maggie lived in Manhattan, so when she got turned away because she didn’t have the right documents, she could go back without being tremendously put out. I live in Arizona, so my nearest consulate was in LA. Those plane tickets aren’t bad, but I am not made out of money. I had to get everything right the first time. I made my appointment and showed up. Surprisingly, I thought the people working at the consulate were kind, though I don’t doubt that my ability to actually speak French had something to do with that. A nice little note to all folk thinking of going to France for anything: at least try to speak French. The French people will love you for it and then whip outtheir (generally) amazingly good English.
No one will say that this love of documentation is a French monopoly. Other countries can be just as insane. My mother and brother once almost got turned away from getting an Italian student visa because the woman behind the counter didn’t like the type of paper the photocopies were on. To hear my mother tell the story, the only reason my brother was able to legally immigrate to Italy for his bachelors degree was that Mother glared at the consulate worker with enough passion and threat of imminent danger that the woman meekly took the documents and issued the visa.
If you have any of your own stories, please share them in the comments. I don’t know how long this series will be, but next up, I tackle paperwork!