By Prerna M.
In order to get a Schengen visa, it is necessary to apply for multiple entry visa from one of the Schengen countries. (For more on Schengen countries, read our article.) I applied and got a tourist Schengen Visa through the French Embassy last year: and here’s the good, bad and ugly of the process.
Where to apply ?
The French Embassy has outsourced the processing of their visa to an Indian company called VFS. So all the necessary information about what, where, how and when is available on the VFS France site. Any applicant can download visa forms for different categories for the site too.
How much it costs ?
For information on the visa fees structure: http://www.vfs-france.co.in/visafees.html. When we include the Visa fee + VFS’ processing charges, it rounds up to about Rs 5000.
How long it takes?
There are two aspects to this: first is scheduling of appointment and then the entire procedure of submitting, interview and getting the visa. The first part entirely depends on how busy the VFS is. I would definitely recommend getting your appointment date at least a month or month-and-half before your departure. This can be done online or by calling their VSF service.
Once you have your date, the second part takes only 2 days and is done at the French Consulate of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkatta (to the best of my knowledge). So remember, if you don’t live in these cities, there will be a trek involved.
On the scheduled appointment day, the applicant has to FIRST go to the VFS office and submit the documents. The VFS officer then issues an interview token upon the receiving of the visa fee for the following day. The applicant then goes for his interview the next day (at the French Consultate) and receives his visa the very day.
Regarding the paperwork?
Don’t underestimate the power of paperwork. If they ask for a document, make sure you have it. And don’t let pride step-in. In my case, I happily wrote that my father was funding my trip – even though it was not the case – and showed his bank statements instead of mine, because of course, it made my application stronger. I arrived with a complete set of travel, accommodation and financial documents.
Questions at interviews?
The good news about the French Visa system is that if your paper work is strong, then the interview is a mere formality. For the tourist visa, they ask the usual questions like: who is funding? How many days? What accommodation? Etc. If the applicant is traveling alone, they might ask why? To that I simply give a guarded but confident answer like “ some of my friends will be joining me on my trip”. Please do NOT mention things like “I have family” or boyfriend. These are strict NO. At visa interviews, it is never a good idea to be TOO HONEST! (Though, read Aditi Tandon’s comment below for a contrary view. Also, if you get nervous during interviews, it might be better to just stick to the truth and slug it out).
What is a biometric?
The French consulate insists on taking biometric every time the applicant applies for a visa. Biometrics involves taking imprints of all your 8 fingers and 2 thumbs on a machine that they keep for records. I think, all the four consulates now have the biometric facilities available. When I applied last year, only the Mumbai and Delhi Consulates did, which meant I had to travel from Bangalore to Mumbai for this.
Even if you are actually staying with friends/family/hosts, I would suggest for you to not mention this in your application. The French system has a complicated procedure for anyone staying with French citizens. The host family has to first collect a paid application from the Townhall. Next, they are forced to answer absurd questions related to their personal/financial situation. (Again read Aditi Tandon’s comment below for a contrary view. Also, if you get nervous during interviews, it might be better to just stick to the truth, get your paperwork done in advance and slug it out).
Take my advice, just make cheap hostel bookings across the country that you can easily cancel after getting your visa: they can’t question the bookings and it is the simplest and easiest way to keep the paper work light. (And stick to your story during the interview).
Multiple set of original documents: Always keep two set of originals of your bank statements or other documents. My bank statement was misplaced by the VSF officer…thankfully I had another copy of my originals at the day of the interview.
Do read our article on why it is important to careful with your visa when travelling by train.
More on France: For a beginner’s guide to France as a destination, go here. For our review of Paris, go here. For a beginner’s guide to public transport in Paris, go here. For our review of Nice, go here. And for our review of the Louvre museum, go here.
If you have any tips, advice, experience, peeves or bile on the subject, the comment space is all yours. If you have any questions or story you want to share with other Indian readers, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.