If you catch me at the border I’ve got visas in my name

(Song reference: M.I.A.)

If you keep up with my blog, you already read a little bit about my rough-but-still-successful visa appointment here.  However, I wrote that as soon as I got home from my visa appointment when I was still full of hating-Chicago fervor and it was more complaining about the city than talking about my actual appointment.  So without further ado, here’s the post I started before my appointment that has more detail and less spite.

One awesome thing about going to live overseas is having to get a visa.  Luckily, there is a special process for “assistants de langue” that isn’t as involved as regular work visas, but it’s still kind of a pain.  The biggest thing is that you have to go to your regional French consulate to have your visa appointment.  It’s not a big deal for me, since I live 30 miles away from Chicago, but I feel bad for some of the other people who have to travel kind of long distances.   The only French consulates are in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.  So basically if you live in any of the mid-north-western states (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North or South Dakota, all of those) you’re out of luck.

All the way back in April we had to fill out our work contracts, which was the first step in getting a visa.  You have to have one of those before you can get an appointment.  I got mine at the end of June and scheduled my visa appointment for August 2.  You have to bring your work contract with you to the appointment, as well as a whole list of other documents:

  • your passport
  • a copy of your passport
  • an application form with an ID photo on it
  • a residence form
  • a self-addressed prepaid Express mail envelope (cost me 20 bucks!!)
  • a translated copy of your birth certificate for them to stamp

Side note: we also got an email that we had to get a special seal called an apostille put on our birth certificates.  The Iowa Secretary of State website had a form online for it, but no instructions; I printed out the form and filled it out and sent it along with a copy of my birth certificate and 10 bucks to the SOS office in Des Moines.  Lo and behold, I got back two copies of a form that had all the information from my birth certificate and a fancy little seal.  Woop woop.

You have to sign up for a visa appointment on the website and it’s all very official.  You have to choose your time, fill out your personal information along with your passport number, and check a box that basically says “I promise I”ll be there at this time and if I can’t I’ll call and cancel.”  So understandably I was really worried about getting there on time and it was kind of a struggle, but I managed to make it.

The consulate is in a big building right on Michigan Avenue.  You walk in, go up a flight of stairs, and then have to check in at this big desk.  After giving them your photo ID and them presumably checking your appointment, they print out a little label thing with your name, appointment information, and a bar code.  You have to use the bar code to get through the turnstile thing before the elevator.

I rode the elevator up to the 37th floor, originally went to the wrong desk, then made it to the visa office.  I sat down to wait and got called 5-10 minutes after my appointment time.  I was expecting to go down a hallway or something but as I approached the glass window I realized that’s all it was: just a big room sectioned into a waiting room and a work area along one side with a big glass window dividing them.  I walked up and the guy working who looked even younger than me was like, “Give me all your documents.”  I passed them through the window and stood there waiting awkwardly while he went through them all.  After a few minutes he told me to do my fingerprints on the machine next to the counter.  Literally, that’s all he said, no instructions or anything.  There were photos showing what to do on top of the machine, which basically said to hold your hand like this on top of the glass:

No joke.

He didn’t explain ANYTHING; I ended up moving my hand too soon and having to do it over again but HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW HE DIDN’T TELL ME!!  I couldn’t help thinking about how I would do his job differently; namely, I would talk to the person.  After my fingerprints were done he took a photo of me (CLOSED MOUTH!), gave me back some of my documents, then basically sat down and continued working.  Luckily I already knew from other people who had already had their appointments that they keep your passport there and then mail it back to you with the visa page in it in the $20 Express Mail envelope they make you provide, otherwise I would’ve freaked out when I didn’t get it back.  So I was done!  The whole thing took about 10 minutes.  It was quite a joke compared to how serious they made it seem on the website.  I was expecting an actual interview but the only thing the dude asked me was “When are you leaving?”  I was so startled he was actually speaking to me that I think I stuttered when saying the date.  “S-S-September 26.”  Sigh.  Good thing he wasn’t cute or I really would’ve been a mess.

After the appointment I walked back to my car (as I mentioned before, that’s a whole other story) then went and met up with my roommate.  We had never met in person before but it felt like we had; I think our constant talking the last couple of weeks helped with that.  We got a drink (the bartender gave us each a free shot when he heard we were moving to France, haha) and dinner and then I drove back to the suburbs.  After having met my roommate I’m even more excited now to move; I think we’re gonna get along great and have tons of fun!  CAN’T WAIT.

Oh and if you care to vote in the poll on the right side of my page I’d appreciate it 🙂 not sure what I want to write about next!

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Categories: Preparations | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “If you catch me at the border I’ve got visas in my name

  1. Maddy Kluesner

    Hello! I am just curious – does the Chicago consulate really certify translated copies of birth certificates? I was planning on getting mine translated and certified in France. I am really desperate to know about this!

    • Nope, they really really don’t. As far as I know, no French consulate in the US does. I think some of my friends had to get their certificates re-translated, but I never did… maybe because my translator was a notary too? Who knows. Let me know if you have any more questions!!

  2. Live long and prosper. Some people struggle with that! Isn’t it genetic whether or not you can do that with your hands? Maybe I’m wrong. G-g-glad you got your visa without any hitches! Our Spanish FLTA from Peru is having issues with her visa and still hasn’t made it to Gettysburg! 😦

  3. Dad

    My story, that is very nearly as exciting and involved as yours, is that we had our passport photos taken.

  4. Yay! Thanks for detailing out the process. Do you have your passport back? I was so nervous mailing off my important docs getting my passport, and then changing my name on everything. But it all worked out great.

    So what is a visa physically? Do you get a piece of paper? A book like a passport?

    • I did get it back, thankfully! The visa is printed on two pages in my passport; it’s a photo and some information.

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