…the answer is, “IT COSTS A LOT!!!” If you have the option of applying for a travel visa waaaaaaay in advance of your trip or doing it, oh, the week before? Do it waaaaaaaaaaay in advance, no matter how thrilling it might seem to wait until the last minute. Like, go ahead and start NOW.
Mind you, most travel doesn’t require a visa. So, ya know, I’m mostly just talking to myself. And anyone that wants to go to/from China to work or go to school.
In another life, I was responsible for making sure Chinese college-level students and professors got their travel visas to allow them to come from there to here. This meant procuring:
* a letter of invitation from the US that specified the length of the student’s stay in the US
* a letter proving the student had enough money in the bank to be financially ok while here (in part to make sure no one’s getting a job while they’re here)
* a copy of their passport’s front page and other ID
* payment for their visa application
I then had to fill out their application, submit it online, send the documents to our college’s visa processing gods, and keep everyone informed of the progress of the application. The tricky part was watching those deadlines. If we ended up getting too close to the specified dates of travel, we had to alter the visa application.
I didn’t enjoy the process very much because I found it nerve wracking. Looking back, though, I’m very glad I had this experience, because it helped me with my own application quite a lot.
So! Jump from 2012/2013 to June 2014.
Bones and I run into a friend of mine who has a lot of haunt building to do over the summer. He asks, jokingly, if either of us are available to help. I say, “Maybe! Let us know.”
Jump to September 2014. Said friend posts to Facebook, “Hey! I need a fourth person to join my team to go to China to build haunt houses!”
I text him, saying, “I have a passport.”
He calls. “You do? Can you really go?”
I look at the calendar. It’s maybe the second week of September. Haunt build is due to be completed by September 25th. Trip will have us leaving September 17th or so. My haunt opens October 17th.
“…Yeah, I can do that,” I say.
We talk again a few days later and he officially invites me to join his crew. I do not squee. I really want to squee.
Email arrives with instructions on how to fill out the visa application, but we’re all waiting on the invitation letter from the Chinese client.
We wait a bit longer.
Finally, J finds out that the client has pushed back the opening date to…October 15th. So now we’re leaving in October.
J runs a haunt in…SALEM. No way does he want to NOT be in Salem in OCTOBER.
We regroup and figure out that yes, we can all still go. Departure date is now October 5th. We return October 14th. My haunt still opens October 17th.
We all get the paperwork we need for the visa applications and submit on September 24th. (Allow me to refer you to the beginning of this blog…you really do not want any of this panic.) I am using the passport that shows my name prior to marrying Bones. That application shows that I have a Pennsylvania address, but since I’m in Michigan and the visa is to be shipped to Michigan, I’ve sent my passport and application and a ton of documentation to Chicago.
Chicago calls. “Um, you should have sent this to the NYC office. But the Chinese embassy there is closed Oct 1st to the 3rd. In fact, most of the Chinese embassies are closed for most of this week…you’ll never get this back by the 4th.”
So I explain that, um, I have two addresses, I AM married, I AM in Michigan.
“Do you also travel to Massachusetts to work for…is that Bone…yard?”
“No, I need to travel to CHINA to work for this guy in Massachusetts.” At this point, I nearly blurted out, “..And I’m not a terrorist, I swear.”
“Oooooo..kay. So email us a letter explaining all of that with a copy of your ID from Michigan and you should be good.”
No, I’m pretty sure I’m close to being the oddest visa applicant they’ve had this year. But. I do as she asks – this is all on September 29th – and the application goes to the embassy.
I’ve spent the week hitting ‘refresh’ on my application status page, and I’m still kinda stunned that it’s here, in my hand, on October 3rd.
IN THE MEANTIME, I have:
* been working at Bones’ office
* organizing actor sign-ups for this weekend
* getting paperwork together for the actors
* working at the haunt at night
* being interviewed about the haunt
* talking to local schools about our need for actors
* documenting my job for the person that will help Bones in the office while I’m gone
* training said person (probably badly…alas)
* figuring out how to get from my house to Chicago O’Hare via train
* buying travel insurance
* recruiting more help for Bones for this final push of haunt building
* blogging 🙂
* keeping track of family stuff (did I mention my mom is having health woe? she is and AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!!)
…I have 4 different to do lists I’m working from right now. I’m wicked tired, and I feel very very guilty about leaving Bones. He is being incredibly, INCREDIBLY supportive.
I leave Sunday.
Holy poop, I’m going to *****CHINA******.