The Ambassador of France to Ghana, H.E. Anne-Sophie Avé, has cautioned people who intend to travel to France and Schengen countries to desist from applying for visas via agencies.
She stressed that prospective travellers must follow the due process outlined on the official visa website for France to prevent themselves from becoming victims of scam.
An increase in the number of Ghanaians looking to travel abroad has also come with an increase in visa fraudsters, in recent years. While proactive measures are constantly rolled out by stakeholders to curb the emergence of these illegitimate organisations, the problem persists. Hopeful immigrants and tourists are often duped and enticed with unrealistic offers and, consequently, get their visa application rejected by the consulate. The reasons range from falsified documents to incomplete or incorrect information provided in the application form on their behalf by these travel agencies.
Queried on the subject in an up-close interview with Ghanaian celebrity blogger ZionFelix, H. E. Anne-Sophie Avé stated that these agencies are not recognized by the French embassy, nor do they play any significant role in assisting a traveller in acquiring a visa to France.
“There is no such thing as an agency,” she revealed.
“It is a scam. They are crooks. You should never go through an agency [to get a visa to travel to France]. Visas are to be requested online on a website. It’s called France-Visas.gouv.fr. If you go to the French Embassy’s website, it will direct you to the visa application form; that is, online.”
Contrary to what most travel agencies demand, applicants who intend to secure Schengen visas are not required to pay a hefty amount of money for their request to be granted. H. E. Anne-Sophie Ave, who worked as a Social Counsellor in France’s Ministry of Defence between 2012 and 2015 and as General Director of Armateurs de France (the French shipowners association) from 2007 to 2012, disclosed that a current fee of 11 euros only is to be paid to get an appointment at the consulate.
The appointment is organised by VFS Global –a visa outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide— so that applicants are not kept waiting. A non-refundable chancery fee of 60 euros is also paid directly to the embassy.
Currently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the consulate at the Embassy of France in Ghana cannot issue Schengen visas until further notice. However, the French Ambassador subsequently highlighted the fact that there is no point in agencies applying to a different Schengen country if the applicant has already had a request being denied in another.
“What you need to know is if you are denied in one Schengen country, you will be denied in all Schengen countries so there’s no point going through an agency.
“This is because the network is aggregated so if you are denied in one Schengen country when you come to apply for the visa, it will appear immediately that you’ve been denied by Spain or have been denied by Italy. If you go to the Spanish Embassy consulate, it will appear immediately that you have been denied by France.
“I would suggest that [when you are denied a visa] wait for a couple of years because you will be in the system,” the 52-year-old Fontainebleau native added.
“But if you come back two years later with all the proper documents, then we will reconsider. If you’ve been denied entry several times to any Schengen country, you will be blacklisted if you keep trying.
“So don’t ever go through an agency. If anyone comes to you and says, ‘Oh I know the Ambassador, I know the consul, I can get you a visa’, run away.”
In the comprehensive interview with ZionFelix, H. E. Anne-Sophie Ave (ASA) discussed France, the fact that she was raised in a family of girls, being a proud mom, her career path, life in Ghana, women empowerment, as well as “Touch of France” – her television show showcasing the open culture between France and Ghana.
H.E. “ASA” was appointed for her first-ever Ambassadorial duty in September 2018, succeeding His Excellency François Pujolas. Between 2016 and 2018, she served as a French Defence Ministry’s HR Director after serving as the Social Counsellor in France’s Ministry of Defence, and the General Delegate of Armateurs de France respectively. From 2005 to 2007, she was the Head of the European and International Unit at the Directorate for Maritime, River and Road Transports at the Ministry of Transport.
She graduated from École Nationale d’Administration in 2005. Before joining the public service, she had worked for 10 years in the private sector as the Sales Director at Addeo multimedia and as a consultant and vocation trainer at the Institut de Formation Professionnelle Appliquée (IFPA).
Through her involvement in development projects such as the restitution of the Begho museum in April 2021, the ‘Nkɔsoɔ Hemaa’ – enstooled Nana Benneh III – is seen as one of Ghana’s favourite diplomats.