During the fall of 2017, I decided to study abroad in Athens, Greece. As a student (or anyone staying in the country over 90 days), I was required to receive a visa. If you’ve ever talked to someone about the process of getting a visa, you know that it isn’t easy. There are numerous steps that you must undergo, and, sometimes, the process might feel never-ending. Trust me, there is an end.
To reach that end faster, make sure that you are prepared for your visa appointment and have tried to anticipate everything that you will need. The student portal on AIFS’ website is a useful resource, and your AIFS contact is always available to answer questions on the visa process and to give you advice. AIFS is an awesome resource as you prepare to travel abroad, but here are some additional tips that worked for me to help you prepare for your visa appointment:
- As soon as you learn of your acceptance to study abroad, get your FBI background check. This background check can take up to 12 weeks. You’ll need to get your fingerprints from a local police precinct, so call a non-emergency number to figure out where you need to go and when you can stop by.
- Look up the local consulate for whatever country you’re visiting. Consulates have jurisdiction over specific states, so the closest consulate to you might not be the one you need to visit. Be careful that you contact the correct consulate for the state that you reside in.
- Once you know what consulate you need to visit, call and make an appointment. Keep in mind when you’ll receive your FBI background check, but don’t let this be a reason to procrastinate on making the call. The consulate might take 8-12 weeks just to schedule your appointment.
- While on the phone with the consulate, go ahead and ask what they require for a visa application/interview. They can tell you the specifics of what you need and how to acquire these items.
- Check out your AIFS student portal. There’s a list for what you’ll need for your visa on the student portal, so you can combine this list with the list from the consulate.
- Schedule your doctor’s appointment for your visa medical forms.
- Get a folder to collect and organize all your visa paperwork. Everything you need should be in this folder, so you’ll only need this one item when you head to your appointment.
- Plan your trip to the consulate. How long will it take to get there? Do you need to stay the night somewhere? Are you driving or is someone else?
- Find someone to travel with you. Going through the visa process can cause a lot of anxiety, so having someone there for moral support (or milkshakes!) can really help.
- Don’t fret. Your visa will come. You will study abroad. It’s OK.