Wow! I never thought I’d say this, but the French are good at processing Visas. It has been a long time since I’ve needed a Schengen Visa since I’ve had one on my passport for 5 years already. However, the Visa expired late last year, and I ended up making plans for a quick trip to the Schengen Zone, so I figured I had to apply. Since the trip is not related to my office, I did not want to bother them with filing it for me.
On the other hand, the plan only got made on Monday, and I had to ensure I had a visa by Friday (today!). So I went through with preparing paperwork. Last December, the French have moved to getting Visa forms filled up online. I filled up the usual 2-page document on the required page france-visas.gouv.fr/. Then, I made an appointment with the VFS portal. Lucky for me, there was an appointment available the next day, i.e., Tuesday.
As of 2015, the French Embassy had made their turnaround time for Indian passport holders to be issued a Schengen Visa to be 48 hours. However, this was the first time I was going to be able to test it.
I arrived at the VFS application centre in Mumbai ahead of time and was admitted after the usual security checks. After a long wait, I was at a window to submit my documentation. But amidst everything else going on, I had forgotten to bring a couple of documents. The VFS team explained that they’d have to make an observation that this was an incomplete application and they could still send it over. Sucking it up, I was sent back to fetch them, and I paid a princely sum of INR 150 to hire a computer and make prints downstairs.
Subsequently, I went back up, waited more and finally came to the window a second time. I explained I could get everything except one piece of paper, which I’d have to go home to bring and that I was willing to file the application with the other papers to see what happened. I was very sensitive to the timeline, given the VFS chaps kept insisting that sending the application on Wednesday would cut it very fine (it’d arrive at the Consulate on Thursday!). I signed the relevant declaration as well.
The VFS team marked my application Urgent having a look at my ticket, and I was on my way. What happened subsequently was something very impressive. Without charging me extra money for the application tracking, I kept getting an update on how the file was moving, and eventually, the application was up for consideration the next day itself and came back to the VFS office in Mumbai by the end of Wednesday.
Thursday morning I got a text alert to pick up my passport, which I did the first thing in the morning. I was very impressed that a decision was made within 24 hours by the consulate. However, I was disappointed with the result. With someone who has held long-tenure Schengen circulation Visas in the past, I had only been given a 1-month Visa.
Anyhow, kudos to the French Consulate for upping their game and processing the Visa within such a finite timeline.
What has been your experience with the Schengen Visa processing timelines?