Friday, July 7, 2017

What's This Visa Deal?

passport

I've been asked enough times to share a mass response...

As an American Citizen, our passports are valid for travel in Europe (the Schengen area*) for 90 consecutive days. After those 90 days you are required to either leave the Schengen area for 90 consecutive days before returning or have a Visa to validate your stay.

*The Schengen Area is comprised of 26 countries that have agreed to allow free movement of their citizens within this area as a single country. Of the 26 countries bound by the Schengen agreement, 22 are part of the EU and the other 4 are part of the EFTA.

With my 90 days fast approaching, I was stressing over which Visa I could apply for. I basically had 3 options ~ 1) be old, rich, and retired, 2) be a student, or 3) work for a company that initiates an application for a work Visa. Aggravatingly, I had a few requirements for each but not completely for any. And so began 'Operation Italian Visa'

I have to attain the Visa from the Italian Consulate that covers my home of residence (which is Arizona) so I started to work with the LA Consulate. I was going for the National Visa which made the most sense and I actually qualified across the board depending on the interpreter. Well, the interpreter that mattered basically denied it via email stating that this Visa is usually for rich retired people that do not need to work. Since I have to work, this wasn't going to work.

Thus began a route towards a Work Visa as self employed/entrepreneur/freelance with the goal of establishing my Coaching business. The Consulate was on board but the Italian VAT business dudes were not. I was denied a VAT (tax stuff/business recognition) because what I do can all be done online. Grumble. I wrote the Italian Consulate again...

I'm begging! Please help me, what is my option!? I'm just trying to do the right thing! Where's the 'I fell in love with an Italian citizen and I want to live with him in Italy' Visa ?! Certainly I'm not the first! He responded with a 'sign up for a language program' ... and I can apply for the Study Visa. 
But, but, but, the rules states "Visas will not be issued for private school programs in basic language instruction." He responded once again, "You can apply for an Italian Study Visa if you book an Italian Language Program, not basic."
I felt like he was saying this through clenched teeth like, look girlfriend, I'm the approval guy and I'm telling you, SIGN UP FOR A LANGUAGE PROGRAM. 

Okay, okay, I'll do it...
I wanted to find a language program no matter what but the trouble was, they wanted ALL the money (and I'm talking several thousand dollars) up front. Only then would they provide the paperwork for my Visa. That's a double edge sword though. Say I pay the whole program fee, attempt to attain my Visa, and I'm denied. Then I'm out all that money! Additionally, I had to apply with the Education Department of the Consulate General of Italy to enroll with a school; that was another whole complicated process (to include giving them my transcripts which are secured in Kansas). Good grief! It felt like a dead end every way I went. Too many tears were shed.

Right about this time, Danielle told me about the language school/program she was starting in La Spezia. They seemed way laid back and their program sounded perfect for what I needed. I quickly booked an appointment and went with her! They gave me my first lesson that day and signed me up for more. YESSS!!! Without hesitation they provided me an enrollment letter with their school and a whole layout of my program for the next year. And no upfront fee. (I've taken several more lessons since and I love it, I can't wait for our group program to start in October!!). AND this course qualifies me to take the big exams for an official language certification which provides me the opportunity to work as a guide or teacher in Italy. 

So now I'm confident I have all the paperwork to attain a Study Visa and email the consulate, "Are you as excited as I am!? I have been accepted at a language school!! Please provide me with an appointment to apply for a Visa." And boom, he slides me in for July 6th and travel plans start rolling. I had one day between Norway and U.S. I basically took 8 airplanes in a matter of a week. 

I arrived in LA, slept, woke up early, ran to a FedEx about 5k away to get a pre-paid self addressed envelope, ran back to my hotel, cleaned up, and walked to the Italian Consulate. 

Meeting the man behind the emails, he remembered my situation and laughed, "You are the famous American... How many times did you email me, 2, 12, 20?!" Ha ha ha ha ha... thank you! I'm sorry! I just wanted to do the right thing! 

He was very nice and sorted through my paperwork to ensure I had everything. He wrote "!! July 17" on the top and bid me a good day. I have NO IDEA if I'll be approved or not and get this, they can deny it for ANY reason they want and NOT provide me an explanation. A friend of mine told me she was denied THREE times before finally getting her Visa. As you can imagine, I'm SWEATING. 

This is not an easy process and I totally get why we have so many illegal immigrants in the U.S. They are literally dead ended at every turn. I'm not saying that's okay!! I'm just expressing an understanding. I could have easily been like FORGET IT and just remained in Italy as an "illegal". 

BUT, I want to live comfortable and safe. 
And I want my drivers license and a Vespa, so I'm all in! ;) ;)

Finally, for the record, if I am denied, my trip will turn in to a 90 day layover (keep in mind my loves are back in Italy)... so please, send up some prayers, wishes, luck, good fortune, vibes, and all that lovey support. THANKS!! 

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