VISA – if you know how to wait in line you’re halfway there.
I thought I would let the Oz Students Abroad know about my VISA adventure on Friday (02/07/2010). For those of you going to the US you know where I’m coming from. I know these blogs are supposed to have photos attached but since I was going to the American consulate I didn’t think a camera would be a good idea (they kept asking if I had a mobile phone, as if modern communication technology would be the end to us all!).
After successfully making my way to Martin Place and onto the MLC centre, (with minimal annoyance to the transit people ;D ) I realised I had about 45mins and I would still be early to my appointment. Being stuck in Sydney surrounded by shops like Tiffany and Co, Prada and Cartier with a lot of time on my hands was not good for my self control.
I moseyed on up to level 10 to begin the exciting VISA process! *insert sarcasm here*. I was greeted by some happy looking security guards covered in American flag stickers and put all my stuff through the x-ray scanner thingy (scanner thingy is now it’s official name) and successfully avoided the urge to crack a really bad taste joke which seems to come over me when I’m nervous. I waited in line and was called by a pleasant lady who seemed to be going for the world record in processing paper work, VISA ninja I tell you. It was then I noticed I had forgotten my HUGELY important self addressed enveloped and I needed to get a new photo taken…
This is where it started getting annoying, I had to haul ass all the way back down to the shopping centre and get a new envelope and photo and then haul ass all the way back to level 10 and go through the security check again, yep even the x-ray scanner thingy. I waited in line and talked to the VISA ninja again and then low and behold I had another line to wait in…
A group of us scared and confused looking VISA applicants were herded into an elevator and whizzed up to another level where apparently the ‘real interview’ happens. BING the doors open and we were greeted by President Obama’s smiling face…not actually him obviously, just a photo on the wall. I couldn’t decided whether I thought it was cute or cheesey, I guess he deserves his photo on the wall it is his consulate.
I went through a big heavy security door into a room with a big long counter, kinda like at the RTA, you take a ticket and try not to look bored while you wait to be served by an annoyed looking 40-something who you’ll annoy even more no matter what you do. I submitted my paperwork, scanned my fingerprints and sat back down to wait again. Finally my number was called and the ‘real interview’ began…This was it, I can’t screw up now, just answer the questions and you’ll be fine.
He asked me about three questions, pushed a few buttons and said “Okay Olivia, your VISA has been approved just move to the next window please and pay the fee and you’re done”. That was it?!, you’ve got to be kidding me! I gave him this look like I didn’t believe him and he just smiled politely and gestured to the next counter (I think he gets that look a lot) So I paid the fee and I was done. I walked out of the tower with the biggest smile on my face, I couldn’t get over how easy it was.
So that’s about it, my best advise for anyone going for a American J-1 VISA is make sure you have all the documents they tell you to have plus an extra American VISA photo (would have saved me tons of time) and you’ll do fine, all of the VISA people were really nice and it feels great to hear you’ve been approved!
Just re-reading this piece Olivia – I will definitely pass this onto my next cohort of Murdoch students going to the US – it all helps!
You must feel a long way from Martin Place right now.
November 3, 2010 at 12:35 pm
Wow thank you, I appreciate you thinking my blog is good enough to show other students. I’m actually in the process of organising a VISA to Brazil and have been thrust back into the frustrations that VISAs entail…how I long for Martin Place ha.
November 6, 2010 at 5:28 am
Man, do I agree about the visas! There’s nothing like getting caught in the jaws of the immigration monster. My worst experience was at the Federal Police office in Brazil, where the guy who was supposed to take care of me made me sit — not joking — for FOUR HOURS. I actually sat and watched him eat his lunch slowly at his desk, including visit from traveling coffee guy, and reading the sports section of the paper. It seems that ‘the rules are the rules’ is very much the approach many of these folks take, and there’s no wiggle room possible. So good advice — get EVERYTHING together in advance and don’t try to wing it. You won’t get much sympathy.
On the other hand, I was once in the Brazilian consulate in Chicago waiting to get a visa and the consul general, who I knew from some cultural events where I was teaching, found out I was in the waiting room. He made a dramatic show of taking me into his office, got me a drink, talked me up, and sent someone to take care of all my business. One drink and some pleasant conversation, everything was done — I don’t think I even filled out a form.
I understand that Brazil is getting easier, but it was amazing when I was going there in the 90s (I think I’ve gone five times). Some of the folks in the consulates really love exercising their little bit of power. Boa sorte!
November 6, 2010 at 8:35 am
Hi Olivia —
Great to see you back on line — and yes, I will direct my students to your blog entries — as both are hysterical. I TRULY love your sense of humour. On that note,has your humour gone down like a lead balloon in USA?
And as an early childhood education student (from memory anyway) … have you had a chance to get to a school setting? If so, how does it compare to Oz?
So you off to Brazil soon, that should be an eye opener. Greg (my husband) did his PhD there … so I think you will be in for a fascinating time. And another culture shock…. be careful of robbery!
All the best Tonia
November 6, 2010 at 8:39 am
My best friend is Brazilian so I’m lucky when I get there I will have someone to hold my hand everywhere I go 🙂
I’ve been emailing her about my frustrations in organising everything I need and she said that it was annoying she wasn’t here with me as she could have a few words with the officials and then everything would be sorted cause she’s in “the club” ha.
Great memory Tonia, yes I’m an early childhood student. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to go into a school setting and I don’t think I will because of the insurance issues. I miss being around the kiddies but I’m learning a lot in my classes here that I will bring back home.
I think my humor has been accepted okay, I’m quite sarcastic and I sometimes have to explain that but other wise if my American friends don’t get me I chat to my British friends for a while and the banter is fantastic!
November 8, 2010 at 12:36 am