Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Visa Game

If you've ever lived for a prolonged time in a country that is not your own you probably know what a hassle it is to apply for a visa or residence permit. There is nothing worse than feeling helpless in a system that seems doomed for you to fail.

I can't say much about the U.S. immigration system as I'm lucky enough to hold a U.S. passport, but I am thankful most days to have that piece of cardboard. I say most days because there are days like today when I would kill for an EU passport. Life would be so much easier.

My first two years in Poland I went through the US embassy in Washington DC to apply for a student visa. I went in submitted my forms and three days later picked it up. No problem, easy peasy, simple.

My third year I didn't return back to the US so I was forced to apply for what is known as a temporary stay card as you can't apply for student visas inside of Poland (you also can't apply for temporary stay cards outside of Poland. Which makes no sense.) So I did what I was supposed to do, I applied within the 90 day period, I collected the letter from my school, proved that I had enough money in my bank account, got health insurance from ZUS, officially registered my residence with the town hall, was visited by the Police, and managed to navigate my way through the Polish immigration system (mostly in Polish, a miracle even then).

Generally speaking it was the nightmare you're probably imagining. But it was nothing compared to what some students have gone through to get their temporary stay cards. So I was happy to have conquered the system and in the end I was rewarded with a shiny new temporary stay card. Proof that I live in Poland.

Let's fast forward a year. The card expired when I was back in the US last fall. I was going to apply for a student visa in Washington, but my school never sent me a letter of enrollment to prove I was a student (after I repeatedly called and asked). I finally got an e-mail from them asking if I still needed it a week before I was supposed to return to Europe. Too late.

I got back in December but wasn't able to apply for my temporary stay card right away because unlike the student visa I also had to prove that I had funds to stay in Poland. Which I didn't as we don't get our loans until the end of January. So I had to wait. Which totally wasn't a problem. I had time.

Around the first of February I had everything I needed to apply for my visa. So I did. The next weekend I flew to Ireland again which "reset" my 90 days in Poland, but not in the rest of the shengen zone- something that wouldn't be a problem once I get my visa. (Oh and I have the 90 day rule recorded from the horses mouth. Because I couldn't find that law written anywhere.).

I waited and waited. No letter, no confirmation of my application. No nothing.

I went to the visa office. "It's no problem, don't worry" they said.

I visited them 5 times in the past 2 months and waited two hours in line or more each time. And every time they said the same thing.

Today I visited again and this is what I was told. "You aren't eligible for a visa because you're leaving in June."

I just want a visa! Is that too much to ask?!? 

If I get deported before I graduate, I'm not going to be a happy camper. 

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  2. What a nightmare for you. I hope you manage to finish your degree. I'd be interested to know why you chose to study in Poland in the first place and what affinity you have with the country? I assume you speak Polish. Bureaucracy the world over's full of inefficiency and failures. You seem to have had a particularly rough ride.

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