Applying for a visa while abroad
Jack Graham is studying French and Chinese at the University of Hull and is spent the summer before his year abroad working in Strasbourg as a stagiaire at a hostel before moving to Shanghai to study Chinese at East China Normal University. Here's his advice about applying for a visa while you're already abroad.
So you're setting off on your year abroad, you are doing a work placement in Europe over the summer, but you need to get a visa for when you start university or placement outside of our little European Union bubble. One thing you will find out is that you can’t apply for a visa more than 3 months before your arrival in the country, which is incredibly inconvenient for you as for these three months you will be living life eating French patisseries or soaking up the Spanish sun. Don’t panic! You will still be able to apply for a visa, just you will have to do it from a foreign country, so make sure to follow the advice below.
First, you need to find where the nearest embassy or consulate is. I was lucky as there was a Chinese consulate in Strasbourg where I was working. However, if the nearest consulate or embassy is in a city which is a short train journey away, you are going to have to factor in expenses for one or two trips to this city, which may provide a nice cultural and educational addition to your year abroad. Note: If you are in Spain for fewer than 3 months, you have to go to the embassy in Madrid for the application.
I recommend trying to sort your application out as soon as possible. You will be very lucky if everything is sorted out first time. Some embassies/consulates deliver your passports with your new visa by post but for an added fee. With those that don’t, you will most likely have to go back to the embassy/consulate to pick it up. For obvious reasons, raising funds for travelling to these places may take time, and so it is recommended to start organising your visa within the first week or two of arrival.
3. Documentation and requirements
If you are dealing with French bureaucracy in particular, you should expect to be met with a very pernickety and particular set of requirements:
- Physical Examination.
Unlike in the UK, European visa application can ask for medical test results to prove that you are not a health threat to country. For France they require an ECG, and AIDS Test and a top up of all required vaccinations. However, they should give you a form at the embassy/consulate upon your first visit. In France, you can get the ECG done at a local doctor, but for the AIDS test you will have to go to a laboratory. Being part of the French health system, you will have to pay for these consultations, but they can be reimbursed at a local Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM).
- Proof of residence/work in the country.
The embassy/consulate will want a letter or a contract proving that you are living (and working if applicable) in the country. A signed letter from your director should suffice.
- JW202 and Application Form (for Universities – X1/X2 visa)
- Photocopies of EVERYTHING.
You will need to make multiple photocopies of every document you take to the embassy/consulate and even copies of the ones you don’t will come in handy. Everything from your JW202 to your AIDS test results. Failure to provide any documents will result in another trip to the embassy/consulate, costing you more time and money.
4. General advice
Every country and embassy/consulate has its own prices, conditions, and requirements. It is advised that you check their websites before arrival and contact them if possible. Consulates are basically small embassies and are not open all the time. Check their opening times, which may only be 3 times during the week and only in the morning. Research topic-specific vocab as, e.g. if going to China, you will likely have to speak in French/Spanish etc. to Chinese officials about official documentation. Don’t see the experience as a challenge, but as an experience. If you can deal with bureaucracy and get official documents by using your foreign language skills, you are well on the way to fluency.