Yesterday we got our visas from the French Embassy in DC. And on the way there sold the BMW.
So we had made appointments at the Consulate, which were scheduled 15 minutes apart. Both Rolf and I had envisioned meeting with someone in an office, who was sitting behind a desk; you would give them the required documents, they would slap the visa in your passport, and voila, you were done.
It was a pretty crappy day- snow/sleet/rain about Baltimore on down. We dropped the car off successfully, got the Metro back into town, a cab from the Metro to the Embassy in Georgetown, and then had to figure out how to get into the grounds (surrounded by a big fence). The gate door was open(ed), and at the security booth they confiscated our driver’s licenses and gave us visitor badges. We walked up to the visa section of the Consulate, and into what looked more like a bank in a bad neighborhood- 3 “teller” stations with bulletproof glass separating the staff from you. We were directed to sit down, and the guy in the third window started asking who had appointments when (we were about 45 minutes early, having been warned that if you were late, no visa for you).
The first window was for diplomatic business, which was steady, and seemed to consist of people mostly known to the staff at the Consulate, though a wide range from guys in suits, to guys who looked more like gardeners.
The middle window was staffed by a younger woman who seemed to be the assistant to the guy in the third window. He would call people up, hand her stuff, and she’d work on documents, although in a somewhat random fashion. We got called up by Window 3 Guy, and were able to produce all of the things he requested. The lawyers in France had suggested we bring 4 copies of the application, 5 pictures, etc, but they only asked for one of each item. He confirmed that the visas had been sent from France to Washington, we paid and sat down again.
In the mean time, we got to see (and hear) the others who were also at the Consulate getting visas; a really interesting mix. A bunch of Pakistani guys were there when we arrived, apparently all together and trying to go to a week long something or other in France. It seemed they did not have whatever documents they needed, and left as a group, empty handed. A lot of people there were people in the US on some kind of visas, and who needed a visa just to enter France (unlike US citizens who can enter for up to 90 days without a visa). One poor guy had lost his passport.
We were called up at various intervals for further questions by Window 3 and the woman, to confirm the spelling of our names, that we had paid, and so on. After about 45 minutes the guy who had been manning the diplomat window called us up, and presented us with our nice new shiny visas.
Once we get to France we then have to apply for a resident and work permit- this is only the entry ticket.
Until the turnstile at Union Station gobbled up my Metro ticket, yesterday I was carrying mass transit passes for 4 cities: Philadelphia, New York [we go back there tomorrow for the Intensive French weekend], Paris and Washington DC. I think I’m cosmopolitan.
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