VISA Appointment: March 29, 2012, 8AM – French Embassy, 16F Pacific Star Bldg, Makati Ave cor Buendia Ave, Makati City
What you’re about the read is a first-hand info. Though questions may vary per applicant, I’m sharing this to give you an idea on the types of question to expect. In any tourist visa application interview, a consular office probably has these primary objectives: to assess whether an applicant or his/her sponsor is financially capable to spend for the trip; and to ascertain the applicant’s return to home country (in simple words, hindi mag TNT).
It was one of those days when driving in Makati CBD was a breeze. I arrived at Pacific Star a bit before 7:30AM, and I got a parking slot along the narrow street between the old Equitable Bldg. (now BDO), and Pacific Star – and the space was right across the building. Positive vibe! =)
Pacific Star’s guest registration is at Basement 1, and it opens at 7:50AM.
At exactly 8AM, I was at the Embassy, and the guard was calling out names of applicants. The guard gave me a stub. I was Applicant #1 for that day.
1. Reception Area. I was asked to leave my mobile phones at the front desk, and in exchange, a claim stub was given to me. I was advised by the security officer to double-check my documents as I wait for my name to be called for the first interview. (Interview is in two-fold).
2. The first interviewer – a polite French officer.
He asked for my cover letter, passport, flight and hotel vouchers. I handed the documents to him. He began skimming, and spent extra seconds examining my valid US visa (attached to 1 of my 2 passports).
Officer: How long do you intend to stay in France, Ms. Sales? Only in France?
Me: 10 days maximum, may be I’ll go on a site trip to Brussels and Amsterdam.
Officer: Okay. Please prepare the payment. 60Euros, that’s P3,430.00 in Philippine Peso. Exact amount, please.
I handed him the payment, and he issued a receipt, with text in French.
Officer: Thank you for the payment, Ms. Sales. (He gave me back the documents.) Now, you need to go back to your seat. The second interviewer will call you and will ask for all the documents, so you need to take them out of that folder. Have a nice day!
I said ‘thank you’, as courtesy. I went back to my seat, and I prepared the documents as advised. In about 3 minutes, I was called to another booth for a second interview.
3. The second interviewer – a no-nonsense, fierce-looking Filipina. Rumor has it that Filipino employees of the Embassy are not that friendly. Somehow, there’s truth to that rumor, as I could hear some applicants getting yelled at because of incomplete documents. Most of the applicants would get rattled, instead of getting the feeling that they were being assisted.
The officer asked for all the documents. Then she quickly checked each document – starting from the cover letter. She took my biometrics and photo. She informed me that the documents would go to their file, and she asked whether I would need photocopies. I did not bother because I obtained the documents specifically for this visa application (banks, company HR do indicate the purpose in the certificates), and I scanned the docs for my personal electronic backup (paperless!). She checked again my bank account statements, passports – carefully examined the details of my past visas, especially the valid US visa.
Officer: Do you work in HK or in SG?
Me: No. I’m just a frequent visitor.
Officer: (She suddenly became friendly, when she saw my Certificate of Employment) Oh, so you work for SM?
Me: Yes, for almost seven years now.
Officer: (Stamped my receipt) 5-working days for the visa. It is Holy Week already, long holidays, you may claim your visa on April 10, 11AM. You may send a representative, with authorization letter. Here’s your passport. Kindly check again the details in the receipt.
Me: All correct. Thank you.
At 8:20AM, I completed the interview process. It was quick and painless. I was also able to claim my visa, as scheduled. =)