That basically sums up the word "visa" for exchange student. So far the word to describe my visa experience is....HELL.... its a horrible horrible process. So I will sum up the visa process for everyone here that is unfamiliar with the bureaucratic process.
- Get Passport
- Make appointment at counsulate
- gather many many papers
- go to appointment
- hope you have all of the correct papers
- hope they approve your visa
- hope like hell it gets to your house before your departure date
So now i will elaborate on each step because so far ti seems very easy right? WRONG all those steps have about a million "sub steps" that you have to get through and it is just a huge pain in the a**
passport - fill out a 2 or 3 page application with all sorts of information before you go to the post office then when you get to the post office make sure you have 3 different forms of picture ID with you so you can prove you are who you say you are. Make sure you have your birth certificate and social security card with you because just when you don't think you will need it is exactly when they ask you. Then get your picture taken in front of this UGLY white background (anyone else wondered why these pictures look oddly like mug shots?) Then the application and pictures are sent out to the government and as you know everything with the government takes FOREVER so 3- 12 weeks later your passport will come in the mail YAY!
making the appointment - appointments are usually easy to make right? a quick phone call and your all set for the next day right? NOPE especially when you have to deal with government buildings/hours/schedules!! You need to make this appointment about 2 months ahead of when you actually need an appointment because the offices are only open from 8 - 12 and only have a few appointments a day. Then you need to hope they have an appointment open that gives you enough time to get your visa before your departure date. Oh and did i mention that this phone call lasts around 30 - 40 minute and that it costs about $1 a minute per call? yup my visa appointment PHONE CALL cost about $60. does the visa cost anything? NOPE but the call costs a small fortune.
getting all the papers - While ive never really dealt with a government organization trying to apply for something but all the papers you need for my STUDENT visa seems a bit extreme. here is a list of papers that i need.
- Visa application (to be filled out in front of the Visa people)
- 4 papers from AFS ITALY (which take FOREVER)
- A letter from your High School in the USA (saying your not a slacker)
- Transcript from USA school with 3 copies in a sealed envelope (to PROVE your not a slacker)
- Affidavit of support (saying you will go to school in Italy and your parents support you)
- Passport (with 3 copies)
- birth certificate (with 3 copies)
- Copies of parents ID's
- 1 passport photo
- Parental Consent form (to be notarized)
- Bank Statement (proving you have the money to live of of in Italy)
- Flight Itinerary ( of when you are leaving the country)
That is a list of all the papers that i need for this visa.. its a bit CRAZY if you ask me i mean my god they want a paper trail of my whole life basically!!
Go to appointment - My appointment is on August 21st at 11:45 AM. If i am more then 10 minutes late for my appointment they say that they will NOT see you because you are late. The consulate that presides over Wisconsin is in Chicago so i have to drive 3 hours down to Chicago for my 15 minute appointment!!! yup its CRAZY. beyond this i do not know much because well i haven't had my appointment yet lol... So Ive now had my appointment and it was pretty painless yet very very nerve wracking. So we drove down to Chicago and we got there a full hour early so we walked around Chicago for about 45 minutes then walked back to the consulate, which consisted of 1 room with very uncomfortable metal (patio style) chairs and like 5 booths that you walk up to, and we waited for them to call my name.
hope you have the papers - If you do not have all of the papers that the consulate requires (and they can change this DAILY) then you can have your visa refused because you forgot one simple little paper! So I am SUPER nervous about having all of my papers on time and with me! So i did end up having all of my papers with me YAY! and the girl that i went up to in the booths took EVERYTHING that i had!! most people don't get all of there papers taken but the girl that i had was new so she took one of everything. i was soo happy that i had everything that i needed because i tried to cover every base and have anything that they could possibly ask for! which i seemed to do.. which was a good thing!
hope they approve your visa - you are basically hoping that you have all the papers that you need, are on time, and that your coordinator person is having a good day! GOOD LUCK! Well because i had all of my papers they said that they would approve my visa and once it was they would send out the visa. so that made me very happy because if its not approved then you basically have to hope for another appointment on time and come back to Chicago but i don't because MY VISA WAS APPROVED!!
hope you get your visa on time - The visa process can take anywhere from 3 days to 30 days. My consulate says that Student visas take some where from 3 - 7 days to process and receive. so i hope i get mine on time I'm super nervous about leaving late!! So they said that my visa would arrive with in 1 week.. which i was very happy for because that means that i would have my visa on-time YAY! so i came home and checked the tracking number on the envelope the next day and OMG FedEx already had my envelope so my visa will be here on MONDAY!! thank god that Chicago is quick with visas sooooo i will have my visa on time and i will be leaving on time YAY..
It doesn't seem quite so easy any more does it?? well that's because its not but we all go through it and deal with it and forget about it as soon as we land in our respective countries, ITALY. so right now im just trying to get through it and get to Italy on time.. 20 days in counting