Yes, I am back from Paris, after Attending WordCamp Europe 2017. It was a remarkable trip but started with some major hiccups. I have shared our detail experience with WCEU in the weDevs blog, here I will share my semi-horrible experience with France Embassy, which made this whole trip very very uncertain.
The Uncertainty of Getting Visa!
WordCamp Europe 2017 was in Paris, France. We require Schengen Visa to visit Euro Zone. I have several Schengen Visas in my Passport and the last one is less than 5 months old, and in general, I never faced any issues in terms of Visa due to frequent travel history. I applied for the Visa about 2 months before the event. The France embassy in Bangladesh had a process where you have to email or call them to get an interview date.
I applied on April 23, did not get any answer, contact the embassy again on May 4th, still got no response, upon doing more research I found embassy is changing their location and process. Now there is an online Appointment process, when I checked that I found there is no date available in May, and the latest one is available on June 7th, which is too late for WordCamp Europe, to be held on June 15th. I contacted the Embassy, still no response. So, finding no other way I booked the appointment for June 7th. But kept trying to contact Embassy.
Tareq, the Lucky Guy!
On May 30, after Tareq came back from leave regarding his wedding, we were talking about this long queue. So, far up to this point, I was the only one planning actively for WC Europe and applied for Visa. I shared the appointment booking link for Visa to both Tareq & Nizam, Tareq tried that and it was showing 27th June is the earliest date available. But on my screen, it was showing something else. So I went to his room and refreshed myself and viola! It was showing June 5th as available, Tareq signed up immediately, Nizam tried but instantly it was showing 27th June is only earliest available. I tried to change my booking but unsure as to change first I have to give up my existing booking of 7th, with their freaky system very confused what to do, I contacted French Embassy, and again no response.
Tareq attended the interview on 5th and was given a date to get the passport back on 12th. As they require 7 days to process Visa. I attended on 7th. I explained what happened to me, and informed that I need the visa before 14th so I could reach before the event starts. They said I could try coming to their passport section earlier than stamped date and if its ready I could collect. But my stamped date was still 14th. We tried collecting passport two times before the date but it was not ready. Tareq got his passport back on 12th, at that point we were sure I won't get my Passport back before 14th. And with so much story of people getting their Schengen Visa refused from French Embassy for WordCamp Europe, we could not book the flight or anything.
At the Last Moment?
I, after all, got the Visa, on June 14th 5 PM in the evening. After that, I came back to the office, purchased air ticket at 6 PM, booked the hotel at 6:30 PM, went back home, took shower, had quick dinner, then head out to the airport to fly on the same night., and it was literally uncertain. We booked for shortest transit to reach Paris as early as possible on 15th June. Our flight in Qatar Airways was fine, but we arrived about 15 minutes late on Doha, which was very late for a 1 hr transit time. We rushed to clear the security check-in, Airport Authority fast-tracked everything seeing our flight time and helped us superbly, so we were able to catch the flight as the last passengers.
From that point, I was very sure we will have a hard time with luggage, as we were carrying heavy luggage full of swag for the event. When we arrived in Paris, I went directly to Airlines Counter, besides waiting in the luggage belt. The Airlines people asked me by name because they have our luggage paper ready, it did not arrive with our flight and will arrive sometime that day or next day. We informed them our event is in the next morning, and all our swag and clothes are in the luggage, they promised to send our luggage to our hotel by that night. And interestingly we got the luggage in our hotel delivered at 1 AM in the night. And were able to attend the event in the morning. Please check here for the detailed story about our rest of the experience.
I Attended The WordCamp Afterall!
So ultimately it all worked out, but in very last hour, and we could not prepare properly, we had to spend more on airfare and hotel booking because of this very last hour. And most notably Embassy never responded back. I tried all their email address publicly findable and used all the contact details you could find on their website. Nothing worked, they never responded to the email, not even automatic reply like the email is not under use or any feedback. And you can't just visit the embassy, it does not work that way. There is no VFS kind of thing as well for France Embassy in Dhaka. And during my interview and when I submitted my passport, I have mentioned it multiple times, they could see from all document that how crucial the time is, they even did not give me right information at that time. They mislead me by telling I could check back for my passport even before 7 days. Which we later find out is never the case, they will never return the passport before the 7th day.
Note to France Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh
The way they deal with this whole Visa is very unprofessional. I did not ask for any special treatment or asked to fast track anything for me, I just wanted a clear answer. I have experiences dealing with several other European Embassies in Bangladesh and abroad. Many have long ques and strict process, but not responding at all and giving misleading information is something very new for me. I could understand as they move to new appointment booking system and moved to new office in between my application process, but they should have been direct, they should have responded. If I was really late but informed properly, maybe I would not plan for this trip but at least thing could have been more organized.
I am sharing this to create some awareness, and maybe France Embassy in Dhaka will give little more focus on communication and respond to people's request in future, and others don't have to suffer like me.