Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Schengen Visa Application At the French Embassy in Manila (Interview)

                       I was told to be at the Embassy of France 30 minutes before my scheduled interview at 8am. I got off at the MRT Buendia station then took a jeep to Makati Avenue where the embassy is located. I realized when I got off the jeep that the Pacific Star building that houses the French Embassy is actually walkable from the MRT station.It was 25 minutes past seven,I asked the guard at the entrance for the waiting area for schengen visa applicants.He told me to go down the basement. At the basement another security guard handed me a piece of paper to be filled out about my appoinment. He asked me to wait for the "signal" from the embassy to go up . Surprisingly there was only one applicant other than me waiting at the basement. After maybe two minutes I decided to start a conversation with her. She looked like she's in her twenties.She's also applying for a tourist visa. According to her a  French couple is inviting her to visit them in St. Tropez. WoW! A couple that according to her she only knew through facebook.Good LUCK! She confided in me that she's nervous and didn't know what to tell  the interviewer.I warned her that most likely the interviewer would zero in on why a couple she hadn't met would be so generous and invite her to come to France. She added that it was through her cousin who works in France that she became friends with the couple (again, just on Facebook). After a couple of minutes we were told to go up. I still could not believe that there were just the two of us.When we got to the 16th floor we had to wait again before we were allowed to enter.I think we waited for about 10 minutes. We had to surrender our phones when we entered.The room where the interviews are held is just a small area ,maybe same size as the waiting area at the boarding gates of NAIA terminal 3.There were plenty of seats,same type as the ones you see at the airports.The seats face the TV and behind us are the windows where the interviews are conducted.Shortly after we entered the room the rest of the applicants that day arrived in droves. I think they all had to wait for an available lift as it was a rush hour.I think it took thirty minutes before they started calling out our names. I don't know what list they followed when they were calling out our names because I was the second to arrive and at the guard's list my name was at the bottom but I think I was called fifth (or so). Before the interviews started we were called one by one to pay at the window and for an officer to check if we had complete requirements. It was the male officer who was tasked to collect the payments that day.I had heard so many stories about him from online forums. When it was my turn to pay he asked for my documents and I quickly handed them over.The moment he saw them he told me  to take them out from the envelope.He said it in a manner that really startled me. At that point it was confirmed that it's him that the other applicants are referring to.He went over my papers but this time he didn't say a thing and that is because I made sure they were arranged properly.I gave him the exact amount of P3610 as payment . Just like the ones before me I was told to wait again.A couple sitting behind me was turned away for some reason.
               The first to be interviewed was the lady I chatted at the basement.As I had expected she was asked a lot of questions.Despite what she had to go through she still managed to smile at me as she was leaving the room.It was nerve-racking and could also be embarrassing depending on how the interview goes because everyone else in the room could hear the officers asking questions since they're using  a microphone.
              When my name was called I could hardly understand it because of the accent of whoever it was that's tasked to call out the names. I was assigned to the "chinita" officer.When I handed her my requirements she didn't say anything.She wouldn't even look at me.She hastily went through my papers and gave me back everything that she didn't need.I was kind'a worried because it seemed like she was busy with something else.What if they're actually making the decision at that moment that you hand them your papers? If that's the case It didn't look so good .After checking all my documents she instructed me to put my fingers on that scanner that would get my biometrics. For some reason it wouldn't work.I think I was not doing it right.She even asked me to wipe it.After several attempts I was already worried that she'd lose patience and just deny my application.Finally ,she started to ask questions.I was only asked three questions.First, If I was traveling alone,second, If I had created my own itinerary and third, What places I'd be visiting in Paris.After the brief interview I was advised that they'd keep my passport for a week along with the old one and I was given the claim stub.I was aware about the myth that the time you are asked to claim your passport is an indication of the result so I checked it right away and it says 11 AM.From what I had read the ones approved are advised to claim their passports at 12NN but I knew somebody who was asked to claim hers at 11:30AM and got a visa.
              During the releasing of the passports I remember filling out a small piece of paper which they collected.Shortly after that they started calling out our names.I could hear the officer telling the applicants the results of their applications.I was starting to worry because everybody called before me was denied except for one guy who was approved but was told to return to the embassy when he gets back from Europe.When my name was called I was trying to prepare myself to listen to the same line that the officer had told the others before me.As I gave her the claim stub she smiled at me and I was too nervous to smile back.I was waiting for her to say something, instead she told me to check my passport .I saw it clipped with the old passport and as I was trying to pick it up I accidentally flipped it and saw a sticker.I was so ecstatic.It was only at that moment that I smiled back at the officer.It was worth all the trouble.