visa countdown

Remember when I said that it’s probably a bad idea to send my passport across the country three weeks before going abroad? Well… that’s exactly what I ended up doing. Surprise!

Since arriving in Santa Barbara for my last “see you later!” visit, I’ve been attempting to finish up the last of my abroad preparations, and decided to stop by the Education Abroad Program (EAP) office to ask my adviser if she had any advice regarding my Visa (or lack thereof).  After repeating my story to her, the head of EAP, and the Operations Specialist for EAP, I was told that I MUST have a visa before I board my plane for Egypt, despite the website’s original statement that it’s only “recommended”. I argued that having my passport is more important, but she didn’t agree, and told me to mail my application to another consulate in the country. This resulted in a pretty chaotic afternoon.

Normally, it takes 10 business days to process a visa application. This means:

Thursday, August 5: I ship my application

Friday, August 6: The consulate receives it.

August 7-20: Application is processed- exactly 10 business days.

Friday, August 20: The Houston Consulate ships my passport back to me (hopefully).

Tuesday, August 24: I depart at 7 am.

With this in mind, I grabbed my passport and the various components of the visa application, and chose to include a copy of my itinerary in the bunch, thinking that this might guilt the consulate into processing my application faster. I rushed to the UPS store, planning on shipping my application overnight to the Houston Consulate, the closest one to California. Immediately upon my arrival, I was told that overnight deliveries went out at 4:30 pm. It was now around 5 pm.

So…I cried. At the UPS store. The boy working there was terrified. He only looked about 18 years old, and awkwardly offered me some Kleenex and an “…Are you okay?” I started apologizing incessantly and briefly considered running out of the store, before deciding to stay and see if my application could be salvaged. This was the last thing that I wanted to hear- it took another day out of the (already minimal) processing time, further risking me being passport-less on departure day. It also meant that I had rushed to the UPS store for nothing, not to mention the fact that I was bawling in public.

We ended up working out another shipping plan, which would get my application to the Houston Consulate by 10:30 AM on Monday, August 9. This would technically still give them 10 days to process- if you count the Monday that it arrived and the Friday that they (hopefully) ship it back to me. For awhile, the boy working there couldn’t figure out how to get me a return envelope for the consulate to ship my passport back to me in, but he quietly snuck into the back room to call somebody from his cell phone, probably in an attempt to avoid more tears on my end.

An hour after I got to the UPS store, my application was ready for shipment- passport and all. Now all I can do is keep my fingers crossed (and call the Houston Consulate daily to beg for them to expedite my application). I’m down to 15 days until departure…if my passport gets back in time. Wish me luck!

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