Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oh, say can you see...

Today was scary. I woke up before my alarm and there was no chance of going back to sleep. Today was the day. D-Day.

I was going to apply for a holiday visa to the US.

The run up to this momentous occassion was nerve-wracking. First a phone call to book an appointment. None of this "Hi, my name is Suzie-Jo and how may I be of service on this zippy-zappy-happy day" shit. The US consulate answers their non-immigrant visa query line thusly: "credit card number."

You see, you're charged 15 smackaroony-Euros before you can even say your name. And if your visa application is not successful (she types while touching wood with crossed fingers), you have to pay another 15 smackaroonies to book another appointment - if you want to try again.

Anyway, so appointment booked. Now I just need to gather the generic visa application supporting documents. I've done this before.

Letter of employment. Check.
Bank statements (printed and stamped by bank, nice touch). Check.
Proof of residence. Check.
Copies of everything. Check. Check. Check.
Application document, printed and signed. Check.
Very specific US visa photos (both ears showing, no teeth visible, exactly one half inch between head and border. NO white borders). CHECK.

Now, bearing in mind that Nelson Mandela has only recently been removed from the US terrorist threat list, and I don't even have a Nobel Prize issued in this century or the last, I was nervous. Being South African, I too could be viewed as a security threat. I didn't want to leave anything to chance.

So it was that I had printed my planned route to the Consulate. I also had alternative routes in case a bus driver had a seizure or a train got derailed. I had gone over the possible trick questions and answers. The phone call to book the appointment alone had left me nervous, how intimidating was the actual visa application going to be?

I arrived almost an hour early for my appointment. I removed the battery from my phone (as instructed) and made sure not to pack my penknife, kitchen cutlery or any other sharp objects in my bag. I left my fire extinguisher and mace spray at home, but my plastic ballerina shoes still set off the security scanner (huh?).

I got to the till and fanned out my documentation. I handed across passport, application, residence permit and photo. I waited for the questioning.

Stamp, stamp. Stamp. Scrawl.
"Xxx Employment Agency, huh? You're a good person to know."
Huh? Sorry? Do you want to see my letter of employment?
"No. So what sort of jobs do you recruit?"
Um, internationals and expats. Do you want a job? You've got my details.. *sly wink*
Stamp. Sign.
"Your visa has been approved, you will receive it by registered post in 3-4 days."

But don't you want my suggested itinery, or my specifically printed bank statements? Where's the part where you question me about my terrorist intentions and previous illegal activities? What kind of a visa service are you running here?

Every single person at the embassy was nothing but polite, friendly and efficient. I'm still a little bit thrown. Where's the catch? Well, besides the fact that I don't actually have my passport back yet... I think I'll finally relax once I've got that back in my grubby little paws.

Cross your thumbs and hold your toes that it comes back soon, because I hate being separated from my precious (both worthless and priceless) SA passport.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yey you coming to the US:) I am soo excited...hopefully we can meet somewhere....let me in on your plan...xxx MK

Little Big Sis said...

Fantastic!!!
It sounds so easy. Now all you have to do is remember to take your passport with you to the airport :-)

Koekie said...

Oh yes, that little gem. Thanks for the reminder Little sis! See you soon!

MK - I'll definitely keep you informed!! Hope work is going well :-)

Anonymous said...

Do you want me to come and pack for you?????!! Puma Tannie

rd said...

well done!
Much less painful than getting a working Visa!
But ya, please set your reminders now for taking the precious piece of paper with you.