October 4, 2013 - 9:49am
BY ELIZABETH DERISH
As promised, this blog post will be dedicated to the fun and exciting (that’s only slightly sarcastic) process of getting a student visa. This is a step in the process of going abroad that is obviously non-avoidable, and it takes some planning to pull it off smoothly. I think that this is the first time in my life that the cliché lesson that was hammered into me as a child, “everything takes longer than you think it will”, really hit home.
Since I was going to Spain, I had to go to a Spanish consulate in America to obtain my student visa. After several unsuccessful attempts to call the consulate and have a conversation in Spanish about what I needed to do, I turned to the tried and true method of trolling the Internet for help. Here’s where things got slightly tricky-because I’m from New York, I had two options: go to the consulate in Chicago and get my visa there, or have a legal representative — in this case, my fairly unhappy-about- it father — take care of the dirty work for me in New York. Due to my inherent laziness, I decided that having my aforementioned father do it for me was the better of those two options.
An important thing to keep in mind is that each consulate has specific checklists of the things that you need to bring with you in order to get the visa, and that it varies from state to state. When I went home for Thanksgiving, I brought everything that I needed with me and gave it to my father. I went back to school happy that this annoying step was out of the way, only to receive a phone call several days later that the first available appointment at the New York consulate was the day after I was supposed to be leaving for Spain. The visa can take up to several months to process, and obviously this sent me into a tailspin of panic. My dad — at this point probably ready to kill me — sent all of my important documents back to Michigan in an express envelope and I had to make all of the changes necessary to get the visa in Chicago as opposed to New York. This included notarized documents, and so let me stress again just how important it is to allow enough time for everything.
In the end, I was lucky enough to be able to get an appointment in Chicago for the following week, and had to take a bus there and back in the same day for an appointment that was approximately 3 minutes long. The moral of the story? It was pretty much a seriously sucky experience that I could definitely have avoided if I had allowed more time. Depending on where you are planning to go abroad, I would imagine that each consulate has different requirements for the documents that are necessary, but the one take away from all of this was that this step of the process can be so easy and smooth — just allow way more time than you think you’ll need.