Two 90-Day Problems

Today, in preparation for studying abroad next fall, I learned about the process of acquiring a French visa for about an hour and a half of my late afternoon.

After that, the one thing I have to say is freedom of movement, people.

Now, please don't think of me as some spoiled and naïve child; I know full well that millions of people in the world deal with extreme restrictions of movement every single day, and the French visa process is nothing in comparison. Something my study abroad advisor said while leading the session was that if we thought about foreign friends we knew at Georgetown, we should realize that what they went through to study in the United States was probably far worse than the work we have to do to live in France for a semester or two.

There's one point that my especial anger about the French visa centers on, though, and that has to do with what I'd like to think of as my two 90-day problems.

First of all, one does not even need a visa to stay in France for less than 90 days. Everything is so simple then, and it certainly must be, since France is the top tourist destination in the world. I plan on being in France for a single school semester - less than four months - but unfortunately this is just a few weeks over 90 days.

My second problem, the one that really infuriates me, is that you must get your visa no more than 90 days before you come to France. School starts in September, meaning that, with the 90-day rule, I can get my visa no earlier than June. This might not be a problem, save for the fact that one must be physically present at a French embassy or consulate in order to apply for a visa. That's right: In order to go to France, I have to somehow get myself to a consulate in June, after I will have already gone home in May. And where is the closest consulate to Ketchikan? San Francisco.

Now, it's still possible that I might somehow bend the 90-day rule and get my visa while still here in DC. I do not, however, really want to stay in DC for another three weeks after school ends, nor do I want to fly to San Francisco. If I can't get my visa while school is still in session, my summer is definitely not going to work completely as I planned.

One really does find it crazy, though, that this sort of rule should exist. I actually have it pretty easy due to my college being in DC; people elsewhere in the U.S. would have to travel no matter what to get their visa. In fact, my advisor told me that the University of Hawai'i even cancelled their study abroad program in France because of the requirement. How could students possibly be expected to pay for flights to California in order to, sometime later, fly all the way to France to study?

I suppose the problem really is, if you look above at the map the French embassy has for its consulate regions, that France doesn't even know Alaska and Hawai'i's exist, let alone how much of a burden it is to force their residents to fly huge distances.

I believe freedom of movement is something the world really needs more of, whether it's refugees from oppression, workers seeking better pay, or simply students wanting to study abroad without having to travel 1000 miles within their own country to do it. In fact, my valuation of this human right leads me to very much admire the Schengen Area, of which France is a part, because it has no internal border controls.

Apparently when it comes to visiting from outside the area, though, France is not only controlling, but also completely ridiculous.