NYC French Consulate: My Experience

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French Consulate, Visa Section

In order to live and work abroad, legally at least, most countries require a visa. I have gone thru this process twice at the French Consulate in New York City. Even though they were for 2 different kinds of visa, both were SUPER stressful. These are 6 things I’ve learned:

  1. Schedule your appointment early, and for early in the day

The French Consulate in NYC is one of the few that requires an appointment. This means you have to sign up beforehand in order to be let in the building. Also, depending on what State you live in, this means you will most likely have to travel to the Consulate designated to your home residence.

When I first looked at appointments for the summer in May, there was tons of dates available. Once I got all my paperwork from my family at the end of June, the only one left was Aug 9th… or the day I was leaving. Clearly, that was not going to work.

This meant I was frantically looking at the appointment site every 5 minutes as often as I could. Once a sooner one opened, I tried to book it. The problem: other people are doing the same thing. I was able to change to an earlier appointment, twice, but keep in mind it can take 7-14 business days from your appointment date to get your visa. AND you will have to go back to get your passport.

My story below explains how having the earliest appointment of the day can save you. However, if you are checking for closer slots like I was, you cannot not be choosy since you just want to get the process done ASAP. BUT if you do have a choice, pick the earliest one available in case you have to leave to make a copy of something, or get another version of something (I’ve had to do both).

Lesson: Book your appointment before you have everything and with ample time before you will leave.

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Line of people at 9am, when the Consulate opens

2. Bring EVERYTHING on the required list… and more

I have been to this Consulate for two types of Visa’s: Long Term Student and Au Pair. Each require their own list of original documents.

For example, my Long Term Student Visa required proof of income (basically proving my parents would be sending me money), a doctors note concluding I was healthy enough to study abroad, and proof of departure flight (proving I was going to come back to America). My Au Pair visa required my college diploma, proof I was enrolled in French classes for a minimum of 10 hours a week and paperwork from my host families city hall.

Each time I brought everything listed on the required documents checklist, however, they still wanted something else that was not on the list. The second time it was a copy of my drivers license. Since my appointment was later in the morning (11:30 am to be exact), I had to run from 5th Ave & 74th to Lexington Ave & 88th, make a copy and run back in 15 minutes before they closed (that’s about 20 blocks round trip). This reminded me of the time I went 5 years ago for my student visa, when I was living in State College, and they made me come back with a piece of paper from my College that was not on the list of requested documents.

I ended up making it those 20 blocks, out of breath and sweaty in the July city heat, but I made it. Even with that, they still required I come back because the requirements from my school needed to show I will be studying the entire year. My copy only stated I would take 10 hours a week, as stated on the checklist.

Lesson: Bring a copy of your license, just in case. Or any other document you think they might ask you for.

3. When they say “Original”, they mean the “Original”

This was the most frustrating part for me. For my Au Pair visa, I needed to being my diploma. Now, a college diploma is a very expensive piece of paper. It was stressful when I took it out of the frame, stressful having to travel carefully with it from Philadelphia to NYC, and of course, it was the only thing they did not even ask for!

On top of that, I had to show the Original copy of all my other paperwork, only for them to take the copy and give me back the original.

Lesson: Be over prepared.

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The sign on the door

4. They do NOT make copies

Refer back to bullet 2 and 3. Even though they may not take the original, they want a copy. It proves you can read and come prepared. If you do not have it, they will make you get one and come back.

Lesson: Bring multiple copies just in case.

5. Be prepared to wait, and come back

Both times I needed to get a Visa from France, it took me 3 visits. If you are going to be coming from out of town, I suggest spending the night and giving yourself at least 2 full days each time. This limits the amount of stress of having to run around because you don’t have a lot of time in town. It also makes the trip worthwhile, so you can enjoy the Big Apple.

The first time I applied for a Visa in 2010, I had to come from State College, PA every time. This past time, I came from Philadelphia. Either way, it is not convenient and can be expensive. But think of how worth it it is going to be!

Lesson: Make the most of your time; plan ahead.

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My receipt, or second appointment card, with 2 pick up times

6. Make friends with people waiting, and the doorman

Everyone is in the same boat as you! They are just as stressed and will be moving to the country you are moving to! I talked with girls who would be studying aboard and just visiting on holiday. They were all really nice and certainly helped lighten the mood for everyone in the waiting room.

As for the doorman, his name is Steven. He is a friendly older man who is super sweet and will put a smile on your face no matter what the situation. I gave him my business card and he gave me his phone number and email before I left for a final time!

Lesson: Small talk can help with nerves, and help make new acquaintances before you leave.

Did you have similar experiences with the NYC Consulate? Did you have to go to a Consulate in another city?

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8 Comments

  1. Jennie May 1, 2017 / 10:58 pm

    Hi, I’m also applying for an au pair visa at the NYC consulate. The appointment selector won’t go past May so I’m wondering if it’s because there aren’t any appointments at all since May is also full. How can I get an appointment? I’ve heard calling is a disaster as well. I’d appreciate any words of wisdom you may have. Thanks!

    • Paula May 6, 2017 / 9:48 pm

      Hi Jennie! Yes, if you get the pop up “We are currently at full capacity. Please try again later.” this means they are fully booked for the next 2 months. Each day they open up the next available calendar day. They do this at 6 am Paris time, so if you are in NYC time, thats midnight. I stayed up several nights to get an appointment just to book my spot. Obviously it was too late for when I needed it by, so I then had to constantly watch it during the day for someone to cancel an existing appointment. You can try and call, but they will just refer you back online. Good luck, and let me know if you have any other questions! – Paula

  2. Sid July 14, 2017 / 6:02 pm

    Hi, I went through almost smooth process in this location today. However, i dont know how they inform about the visa approval. Can you let me know how the consulate will let me know about the visa status. Thanks.

    • Paula July 22, 2017 / 4:42 am

      Hello! Before you left they should have given you a date to return to pick your passport back up. If they did not, you may need to contact them and ask the status. Best of luck!

  3. Beth November 14, 2017 / 6:27 pm

    Just as a heads up there is a Kinkos much closer at 77th Street and Lexington. 🙂

    • Paula December 18, 2017 / 4:21 am

      Thanks Beth! Good to know 🙂

  4. Paula December 13, 2017 / 11:00 pm

    Hi Paula,

    My name is Paula! and my birthday is exactly one day before yours. Apart from that 🙂 I’m moving to Paris soon, I have to pick up the passport next Monday, but I’m going upstate New York on Sunday, by any chance do you know if I can send someone else to pick up my passport? I think I read it somewhere but I’m not sure anymore.

    Thank you!

    Paula

    • Paula December 18, 2017 / 4:22 am

      Hi Paula!
      To be honest I am not sure. I would give them a call and ask. I doubt it but it is worth a try.
      Good luck!!

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