Une nuit à Chicago // One night in Chicago

Writing a blog post on a Megabus is uninspiring. All I want to do is complain about the loud conversations going on around me.

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Nearly 4 months later…The first line of this post was the entirety of the draft I had started for my VISA appointment at the beginning of September. For those of you interested in applying to TAPIF, and those of you reading who have already been accepted, you must go to the Consulat Général de France in order to apply for a VISA de longue séjour. Which French Consulate you go to depends on the region you live in. For myself, living in Michigan meant that I had to go to the consulate in Chicago. Furthermore, an appointment must be made online; walk-ins not welcome! Appointment slots fill up quickly so it is important to make one as soon as possible after being accepted and receiving your stamped arrêté de nomination. (Not that I received mine in time to bring it along with me).

Thankfully Chicago was as far as I had to go. Some assistants had a much longer trek to the “nearest” consulate that processes VISAs. My mother, sister, and I made a mini-vacation out of my appointment and left for Chicago the day before. We opted to take the Megabus to save money, which was an unfortunate mistake. The air conditioning broke in the bus not too long into the trip. It was a hot, sweaty nightmare. Once we finally arrived in Chicago, ditched the overheated bus for the cool comfort of a cab, and made it to our hotel, things began to turn around.

The lovely front desk manager at the Doubletree Hilton Magnificent Mile offered us fresh baked cookies and all was right in the world for a moment. After taking our bags up to our room and getting ready, we set out to do some shopping and find a place to eat dinner.

Our search took us to Rosebud, a delicious Italian restaurant that lived up to its Yelp and Tripadvisor reviews.

Upon my return to the hotel, I obsessively triple checked both my directions to the consulate and the documents in my dossier. I didn’t go all the way to Chicago on a scorching hot bus just to have my VISA application denied for being late or forgetting a necessary piece of paper.

The required documents for American assistants are:

Passport (must be valid for at least 10 months and have two blank VISA pages)

-You have to leave your passport at the consulate with the rest of your documents. If you live near the consulate you can elect to return to the consulate to pick up your passport once the VISA has been processed. If this isn’t feasible, you need an envelope (see below) to leave at the consulate so your passport can be mailed back to you. As stated on the website, it can take up to three weeks to receive your passport with VISA in the mail. Many assistants had theirs returned within a week or less. Mine came in the mail just over a week after my appointment.

Copy of the ID page in your passport

US passport style ID photo

Filled out application form

Filled out residence form

Copy of your appointment confirmation receipt

Self-addressed prepaid (stamped) USPS Express Mail envelope with tracking number

-A lovely assistant told me that she went to the post office right down the street from the Consulate in Chicago and the employee who helped her knew exactly what she needed. I picked up my envelope and postage before leaving Michigan with fingers crossed that I had gotten everything I needed.

(http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/Long-stay-visa-for-lecteurs-and)

The VISA process itself was relatively painless. After checking in at the front desk, I made my way up to the Consulat Général. I have to admit I was a bit nervous. I had obviously read blog posts from previous assistants about people who didn’t hear their name being called and were told that they had to reschedule because they had ‘missed’ their appointment. I was already on a later timeline than most due to the fact that I was accepted off the waiting list so late in the summer. Rescheduling just wasn’t an option for me.

I quickly realized why there was so much concern regarding hearing your name being called. The waiting room was separated from the desks by two glass partitions. Furthermore the desks were behind a glass window with small speakers that allowed two extremely soft spoken women to quietly call out heavily accented names. At least there were several other assistants in the waiting room with me agonizing over what name had just been whispered through the speaker.

Once my name was finally called (I arrived approximately 30 minutes early thus there was a bit of waiting involved) the appointment went very quickly and easily. I was asked just a few questions, one of them being what day I was leaving for France, and another being what day I would arrive in France. I handed over all of my paperwork and once the woman helping me had looked through all of it, she gave me a receipt and I was on my way. There was even a girl at the window next to me who they allowed to leave, retake her id photo because it didn’t meet the requirements, and come back to finish the process. Obviously it is appreciated if you speak French throughout your appointment, but it is not required.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the Magnificent Mile before boarding the Megabus and returning to Michigan to live out my remaining 27 days before France.

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