In July this year, I got an invitation from The Document Foundation for attending LibreOffice Conference 2022 in Italy, with The Document Foundation offering to cover all of my travel, catering and accomodation costs for the duration of the conference. If you don’t know already, LibreOffice is a freedom respecting office suite, providing software for spreadsheets, slideshows, documents etc. If you are familiar with the proprietary office suite Microsoft Office, you can think of it as a freedom-respecting replacement of the same. The Document Foundation is the legal entity behind LibreOffice. If you would like to know more, I highly recommend you check out this video introduction or read their about page.

The next step was to apply for a Schengen Visa as Italy comes under the Schengen area. To apply for Schengen Visa, I had to first book an appointment online at VFS Global and produce documents supporting my visa application by physically travelling to VFS Global’s centre at the appointment time. I tried booking an appointment slot and I didn’t get a slot in seven days. On the eighth day after I started applying, I got a slot in New Delhi. During the appointment, they told me that I have applied in the wrong category– the tourist category, and I should book for another appointment under the business or invitation category.

This was disappointing as I tried daily for eight days to get this appointment and I couldn’t even apply for the visa. There was still a little over a month before the start of the conference, so it wasn’t end of all the hopes but the chances of getting another appointment were looking slim as the VFS Global centres were crowded. I tried booking for the appointment again and couldn’t get one. When it was 13 days remaining for the conference, I cancelled my plans and stopped looking for any visa appointments, cancelling my plans regarding attending the conference. I was mainly applying for the slots in the New Delhi centre, a few times I found out that Kolkata had slots available. I briefly considered choosing Kolkata, but VFS Global website mentions that people from selected states can visit Kolkata centre for applying visa, and for me, only the New Delhi centre was appropriate. I thought, since they are very strict about category of appointment, maybe they won’t process my application if I booked a slot in Kolkata.

So I couldn’t attend the conference which I was excited to attend, but I was prepared for the situation as I know that getting a Schengen Visa is not easy. This time I came to know that even applying for it and getting appointment is not easy.

Finally, I would like to thank the The Document Foundation for inviting me and offering full sponsorship of all my costs during related to the conference. They were very helpful during the whole process. I am highly grateful to The Document Foundation.