I call this: The Imposstil-ble Roadblock.

Well folks, we hit a major bump in the road this week. And when you’re staring at the calendar with only five business days left in the USA, bumps become VERY SCARY.

How did said bump occur? Well, I’d like to blame the visa application company VFS, and their confusing customer service line, but it’s most likely my fault. The beauty of this maze of a process, is that I’ll never really know if I was right or wrong until I get a visa… or don’t. But here’s how it all went down. Here is (drumroll please) part three of my Portuguese visa process.

If you’ve been following along by now, you know I’ve collected all of the necessary documents and made my appointment with the VFS office in Washington D.C. So after an evening run to FedEx (shoutout to Hasan at the FedEx in Walkersville, MD) to make copies of everything, and snag a cute folder and sheet protectors, I sat down at home to organize all 167 pieces of paper, which will hopefully prove to Portugal that I’d be a nice addition to the landscape. Organizing makes me feel better. I added a glass of wine into the mix to boost the mood even more 😉

So on the morning of August 28th, I collected my well-organized folder, an iced coffee because duh, and hopped in the car to drive to Washington D.C..

My first angel of the day was a man leaving a parking garage on PRIME Vermont Avenue. Seeing as it was a working day, all of the parking garages were full (one of the times I do NOT miss city living), and driving around in circles was getting old. This gem of a human drives out, says “Hey! You looking for parking? I’m the manager of this garage, and I know it says ‘full’ but they’ve got a spot right at the front for ya!” Thank you guardian angel man. (I made a note to pay the kindness forward, after paying $20/hour to park in said man’s garage…)

SO! I make it to VFS, take my ticket, wait for my name to be called (about 45 minutes), and proceed to the counter with allllll of my documents:

 

  • First things first, I was using the wrong checklist of documents. Splendid. (But not major as most documents overlap.)
  • Also missing a notarized copy of my passport (Not on the wrong list. This was a quick fix thanks to the FedEx shop literally across the street)
  • And here’s the real hum-dinger. Remember that background check I got done digitally and was so jazzed about? It was missing a cover page. Something called an “Apostille.”

At first, I tried to use my logic and a calm tone to reason with the VFS agent. I’m missing a cover page on my background check, that certifies that it is indeed my background check? I printed everything that was sent to my inbox. Surely this must be enough, and the cover page must only exist for the traditional background check system? Will my visa application seriously be jeopardized by the lack of a cover page I’ve never even seen? Spoiler alert, the answer was repeatedly, “You need to have this piece of paper.”

 

At this point, I was feeling frustrated, but not undetermined. So I casually said, “I’ll be back” a la Schwarzenegger, and stomped out onto the streets of Washington D.C. to figure out who held the keys to this weird thing called an apostille. First stop? Apostille Courier Express which offers visa services and background check assistance. Turns out you can just walk into the office and meet your very own guardian angel! No joke, I walked into the windowless office of an absolute gem, whose name I cannot remember for the life of me, who sat me down to explain exactly what this piece of paper is (literally just an official piece of paper with not much info on it) and confirmed that, indeed, my visa application would not be complete without it. So how do I get it? Well, nameless guardian angel told me that this is her business, and she offers this service to foreigners and out-of-towners for $200. This information was promptly followed by her saying, “But don’t do that. You can do it yourself, and I’ll tell you how!”

Over the next twenty minutes, my guardian angel walked me though my two options for getting an apostille (one process required a lot of driving and three days’ time and the other required a lot of driving and one days’ time.) Regardless of which process I chose, I then had to mail the apostille back to VFS in D.C. and then they would be able to submit my visa application. Oh, and this process costs about $5 (not including the gas, tolls, and bottles of wine consumed over this weeklong affair). $5 compared to $200? Madness. As I said in my previous post, Visas are BIG business, and throughout this entire process I found this part of it to be so disheartening. I have a job that’s somewhat flexible, but if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So taking all of this time off to track down useless pieces of paper can be really costly. That being said, I tried to see how I could thank my guardian angel, and she would have none of it; She was just happy to help a confused, frustrated local gal trying to go after European ideals and a life in Portugal. And I really cannot say how appreciative I am that people like her exist. Every time I think of my visa appointment day, I’m reminded of her….

Notes

-Make the visa appointment with plenty of time to spare in case you run into snags, like an apostille

-Make sure you have the correct checklist which corresponds to the specific visa type you’re applying for

 

-Grab a coffee, have a few extra bucks on hand, and be prepared for frequent bumps in the road

And without dragging this saga on too much further, let’s just say I put in the driving, got the apostille (thanks to ANOTHER overly kind soul working at the Secretary of State in Annapolis, MD), and then, just then, did I ship the last of my documents off to VFS and confirm that my application was successfully submitted.

 

And that’s it. That’s the end of the months of job searching, weeks of gathering documents, and hours of traveling across countries and states. I honestly thought the end of it would be a bit more triumphant, with confetti and balloons with echoes of “Huzzah! You did it!” But it was nothing of the sort. I mean yes, I felt accomplished once I gathered the final documents. But it’s not like the gates of Oz open up and your visa appears. It’s just… more waiting.

 

So that’s where I am now. Living in limbo land, grateful that I had the resources and optimism to make it through the process, but without knowing if I navigated the entire thing successfully. I guess only time will tell, but in the meantime, I’m learning to appreciate navigating the bumps in the road. Because it’s life. And life is full of bumps. But what matters is what you do once you’ve made it over them. Do you complain about how many bumps there were? Or do you carry on, try and make sense of the jostling, and maybe even remember that “stomach drop” feeling of a pretty large bump rather fondly? I see two options. And I’m happy with the optimistic path I’ve chosen. Here’s hoping the Portuguese embassy agrees…