A year ago, the Egyptian who was seeking a visa for France had to queue outside the gates of the consulate of France for hours, even if he had an appointment. An act That Egyptians considered unacceptable specially when their country issue visas to all citizens of the European Union at the airport of Cairo ...
This year, I wanted to visit friends in France. I started the process by calling the department responsible to set me an appointment with the consulate. But they surprised me by saying that a private company was responsible for this mission now.
I told myself that it would not change anything, maybe the consulate staff did not have time to answer the phone, or may be he is busy with more important things. So I called this new company that told me I had to first register on its website so that I can have this famous rendez-vous. Once registered, I could set the meeting schedule as available, always thinking that I will go to the consulate. However, on receiving confirmation of the interview, I discovered that I had to first go to the premises of the company itself, with the necessary documents. Another time, I thought it was probably a preliminary meeting to facilitate the appointment with the consulate.
I carefully prepared my documents and I went to the company. There, they told me that in addition to visa fee (50 euros), I had to pay LE 200 (about 30 euros) additional fee for this appointment. It was the shock of my life ... I paid and waited my turn, which would be 9.30am. Three hours later, it finally manages to summon me. I realized then that the old system has not changed. It is always a queue, but instead of being the consulate, it is forced to wait in the crowded premises of this company.
At this point, I realized that the company was charged to retrieve the file and send it to the consulate. And then I had the joke of the day: My interlocutor was an Egyptian. She began to examine my records and stops in front of my bank statement. She refuses, saying it is not stamped by the bank. I try to make her understand that the consulate has always accepted it in the past. Especially as the amount set is much higher than what's available on the account of many French people ... There I asked her to give it to the french consulate as it is and let thrm decide. After 30 minutes, she looked at me and concluded: "Your record is incomplete. Why? Because in addition to the certificate issued by my friends that i'm their guest, i have to have a "letter of invitation" written by my hosts explaining why they welcome me ... I could not believe it. I try to make her understand that the proof of accommodation is ample proof that I am expected in France. But she would not listen. Review: She asks me to have all these documents before 16:30 or else I would have to repeat this whole process ... I found myself compelled to submit my file, she said, "incomplete" and take the risk of refusal.
Two days later, I had to go to the consulate (finally!) To give my fingerprints. I was pleased with the appointment for the simple reason that if there is any problem with my file, I could explain to the staff. But I was wrong. The D-Day, a surprise awaits me: The people responsible for fingerprinting are two young Egyptians whose age not exceeding 22 years ... not to meet a French person to be reassured about my record.
So I wait for fifteen long days ... Meanwhile, I buy my tickets and my train tickets for France, with the risk that I could loose them if my visa is refused ... One Thursday evening, I get SMS at 16:10 of the company informing me that she has my passport and I have to recover the same day before 16:30 or well to wait until Sunday morning. Of course, it was impossible to successfully obtain Thursday. On Sunday morning, I am in front of the company. And then another surprise: The door is closed. The reason? It's Pentecost (which should be Monday). The company apologizes because she decided to take Sunday off to have a long weekend ... without telling its customers. I had to wait until Monday to see if I had my visa or not.
All this got me disgusted with the idea of traveling. Humiliation, why do not we submit the French who want to go to Egypt the same rules?
This article was written for the french magazine "Courrier de l'Atlas"