I can finally take a breath and let all of this excitement sink in. For several months I have been a ball of stress stressing over the approval of my leave from work and more importantly, the approval of our France Visas. In order to stay in France (or any Schengen Country) for more than 3 months, you must have a visa.
When I first started researching the visa process it seemed a little overwhelming, but definitely doable. My research told me that the earliest I could apply for our Visas was 90 days before our entrance into the Shengen Area (France). Alright.. so I enjoyed our summer and then logged back in to start our Visa applications in September. ... uh oh! Things had changed. The French Consulate had handed over all of the interview and first steps of the Visa process to a private company called VFS. All of the required documents had changed, the application process was different, and the reviews online said horrible things about VFS. The wait time for visas also went from 10 days to 30-45 business days. Their webpage was very vague about the required documents and I had a lot of questions.
Attempting to keep all of these documents in order.
I spent time on the phone with employees that couldn't answer my questions and I was left to stress. By some magical coincidence it turned out that Jeff's place of work in Vancouver was in the same building as VFS, only two floors away actually. On one of his work trips he stopped in to VFS to get some answers. The agent he spoke to told us many things that were required for the Visas that were not listed anywhere online. This meant that if Jeff had not gone to inquire, our trip to Vancouver and our interviews (yes you must personally go to Vancouver) would have resulted in immediate rejection. You can imagine our frustration!
After days of photocopying, requesting letters, getting things notarized, visiting banks, and getting criminal record checks, we headed to Vancouver, all 5 of us, to have our interview. I wish I could better explain my stress levels at the time.. I was a wreck! How could this huge dream of mine come down to all this silly stress and the approval of a Visa!?
We ended up going over to Vancouver the night before so we wouldn't have to get up at 5 am and risk somehow missing our appointments due to weather or some other phenomenon. We packed activities for the kids, a zillion documents, and headed to our appointment. Within minutes we were told that we were missing things (What?! I had checked and quadruple checked everything!). They told us we had 30 minutes to somehow go get new bank statements (We were told we needed the last 3 months bank statements, but not told that they could not be more than 7 days old), a letter written and notarized stating that we would support our children financially, new medical insurance, and a new letter notarized for Jeff that had Jeffrey instead of Jeff on it.
We literally ran around Vancouver with our kids in tow and Jeff worked his magic. After sitting in the interview room for another hour and a half, our documents were accepted and our biometrics (face scan and digital fingerprints taken) were taken. Our first interview had been at 10:30 and we walked out of the office at 2:30. I think the kids had about 3 hours of screen time and no food or water for hours... It makes them stronger, right? They behaved incredibly well.. perhaps they noticed how insanely stressed I was and decided that they better keep quiet or I would burst (they were rewarded with candy later!) We left the whole process exhausted and not super hopeful that our Visas would be approved. We prepared ourselves to wait 30 business days and crossed our fingers for approval.
Documents submitted! Stopping to see the view before
we zip back to Victoria.
Nine business days later we got our documents in the mail and opened them up to find that our Visas had been approved!!! Yahooo! Jeff and I went out to celebrate with chocolate croissants. He then tracked down and purchased the very wine from the small town we will be living in and we celebrated again clinking our glasses.
If you are planning on applying for a Schengen Visa to France please send me an email and I will send you my detailed list of what we included. There is no reason this process should be so stressful and I would be happy to help!