Friday, August 15, 2008

Karen's Debut at Brazilian Consulate in San Francisco

Thursday, August 14 — I am sitting in the Brazilian consulate office in San Francisco. I had envisioned marble floors and majestic flags hanging from vaulted ceilings, but this tiny, cramped office feels more like waiting at the DMV. At least I am getting to hear lots of people speak Portuguese. I opted to go directly to the consulate myself rather than hire a visa expediting service.

For my Brazilian visa application, I have gathered:

1. Passport photo for visa (at Kinko's)
2. Copies of California Driver's License (at Kinko's)
3. 3 vaccinations for travel to Brazil and Peru (typhoid, yellow fever and Hep A). This required two visits to different Santa Cruz Medical clinics.
4. Cashiers check for visa application fee ($130 at Washington Mutual)
5. Filled out online forms about the purpose and dates of my visit.
6. Copies of my airline ticket and lodging reservations.

Friday, August 15 — Mission accomplished! Disaster avoided: My cashiers check for $130 fee was from my bank. Turns out it had to be from the US Post Office! I found this out from a friendly guy sitting next to me while we waited in line. I had been waiting an hour and a half and my number was close to being called, but I knew my application would be rejected if I did not have the proper money order. So I sprinted to the closest post office, waited in line and fortunately made it back in time. After a 90-minute drive to San Francisco, two and a half hours at the consulate (not bad!) and a 90-minute drive back home, I have successfully applied for the visa. I will pick it up in person in San Francisco next week!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The joy of obtaining travel visas

The clock is ticking: I depart on Saturday, August 30th, for my two-month adventure in South America - I fly into Brazil, visit Peru, then return to the U.S. from Brazil.  To make that happen, I must get a visa to Brazil. The Brazilian consulate website states that this fairly new visa requirement for U.S. citizens is in "reciprocity" (revenge!) for the U.S. requirement of visas for Brazilians. Fair enough, I suppose!

With limited time for this major administrative task, I have two options:

A. Drive 90 minutes one way to the Brazilian consulate in San Francisco and present my package of documentation, passport and $130 fee, then turn around and drive back home. After a week or two, I will need to return in person to pick up the visa; or

B. Use a visa expedition service. Travisa,,  is the one recommended to me. For a handsome fee, they will allow me to use Fed-Ex to apply for and receive a visa with their help. Even more paperwork is required for this option. (Considering the price of gas for the total of 4 hours' drive time to San Fran, plus parking at Union Square, it  may not be so expensive after all!)

Regardless, I need to gather up my passport, photocopy my driver's license, fill out long forms, print out copies of my hotel and flight confirmations, supply a letter indicating my reason for going there (required for a business visa). And one more fun thing for the visa: today, I get a yellow fever vaccination!

I am qualified for a tourist visa, so I will apply for that.