I know it’s not the sexiest topic, but in such a small world chances are you’ll have to apply for a visa at some point in time. Don’t freak out, it’s going to be ok – I have some tips to help you through the process! It starts right now, fasten your seat belt!
Step 1: Check and re-check information from multiple sources
The very first step is identifying the different visa types, required documents and where & when to apply. One would expect consulate and embassy websites to be the best source of information but the truth is:
- Most of the time the information is scattered and hard to decipher
- You’re a very unique person with specific needs and of course none of the displayed scenarios are adapted to your situation (or you’re the luckiest person ever! :P)
What to do: read blogs, explore Reddit forums/Facebook groups, consult multiple websites, ask and get recommendations and tips from people who actually went through the process. That being said, don’t rely only on someone else’s experience – checking unofficial AND official information is key!
Step 2: Explore the best scenarios for your situation
Find all the information you need? Awesome! Now, define which scenario matches your scenario by asking yourself these questions:
- Are you a student or a professional?
- What documents can you provide (traineeship agreement, work contract, etc.)?
- For how long do you need your visa (just a few months, a year, long-term, not defined, etc.)?
- What are the visa fees?
- Is there any special agreement with another country (ex: USA & AUS working visa.)?
- What visas allow you to get paid? To apply for a resident visa afterwards? To change jobs?
The visa application process can be arduous and many people just settle for the easiest visa to obtain but try to find the right balance between what you need now and what you anticipate for the future. Formalize the different case scenarios that best fit your requirements and evaluate pros/cons for each to define which visa you will need.
REMINDER: deadlines are usually a few weeks but always count a few more (especially if there are holidays in your country AND in the country you’re applying for).
To sum it up, start as soon as possible!
Step 3: Create a checklist and tick the boxes
Congrats, the worst is behind us! It’s time to gather all the required documents for your visa application. How so? A checklist. Basic but efficient.
Your checklist should mention all the documents you need, how/where to get them and how long it will take. That way you can identify the priorities and start requesting those documents as soon as possible, starting with the ones that take longer to obtain. But in case any of them are missing, follow the specefic tips:
Case 1 – You’re missing a document and you have a good reason to
Ex: you need to attach your diploma but the graduation ceremony takes place in 2 months and until then you don’t have it OR you’re currently living abroad and it takes months to receive a mail, etc.
- Don’t hesitate to write a short letter introducing yourself and explaining why you can’t provide the document requested
- Always offer to send the document as soon as you get it and/or provide other documents justifying or replacing it in the meantime
Case 2 – You are requested to provide a letter explaining why you’re applying for a visa, etc.
- Start introducing yourself: name, last name, citizenship, type of visa you’re applying for, dates and duration of the stay
- Be very specific with the words you use and don’t confuse your reader between 2 different types of visas (ex: if you’re applying for a student visa to complete and internship abroad, don’t ever mention ‘work’, ‘job’, ‘salary’, etc.)
- If you wish to apply for a longer duration than needed (ex: you have a 6-month internship but you’d like to apply for 8 months to travel), explain it
- Flattery and politeness are always appreciated – ex: I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to discover such a beautiful country and its unique culture. // Thank you very much for considering my request, I remain at your disposal for any further information you may need.
Case 3 – There is an online/electronic visa application form to fill in
- Anticipate there will be some technical issues – inform the consulate/embassy as soon as possible so they can provide support
- Obtain all the information you’ll be requested to provide before filling it in – if not possible, try to fill in the form with false data (you will get stopped at a point)
- While filling in the form, don’t take too long because then it will disconnect you but still verify the data entered to make sure all is well-spelled, etc.
- Take screenshots or register the form in PDF before sending it
Case 4 – You need to provide your flight tickets with your visa application
- Try to estimate well when you might receive your visa so you can buy your flight tickets accordingly
- If the deadline is pretty short, get insurance to modify your flight dates at a low cost
Step 4: Send your application
Once you make sure you ticked all the boxes off your checklist, you’re ready to send your visa application. A few things:
- Avoid sending original documents by mail unless you have another original with you or if it’s easy to obtain again
- Make sure your name is on each document (especially ID pictures that are small and easy to lose – write your name on the back)
- Make a photocopy of all the documents you send – just in case
- Order the documents in a logical way – first the visa application form, the letter if there is one, then all the ID documents together (passport, birth certificate, background check, etc.) and finally all the ‘justifying’ documents (work contract/traineeship agreement, proof of financial solvability, etc.)
- Attach all documents together (use a paper clip or even better a plastic sleeve)
- Make sure you have the right address of the consulate/embassy, mention ‘Visa Application’ somewhere on the envelop and don’t forget to write your name and address on the back of it
- Send your visa application by a registered courier with an acknowledgement of receipt. This way you’ll know when they actually receive it so you can follow up
Step 5: Patience and follow-up
Check the receipt confirmation of your package and once you get it, send a kind email to the consulate/embassy the week after to make sure they received it and if there are any missing documents or further information they’d like to receive.
Eventually you will receive an email to confirm that your visa has been approved and that you can pick it up with your passport directly at the consulate– whoop whoop!
Mission (almost) accomplished: don’t forget to check the administrative processes once you enter the country (register your visa, check at the police station, and so).
Enjoy your stay abroad! Believe me, it all worth it! 🙂