One Family's Journey: The Visa

Well, if you read my previous post you know that you have to get a "Special Temporary Visa for Adoption Proceedings" if you are not a Colombian citizen. You can't get this visa until you have bought round-trip tickets to Colombia but the good news is that they actually do turn them around quickly. For us the better news was that my husband's new cedula was finally available ( he applied for it more than a year ago). Double score!

How to get your visa
The first step is to gather up a ton of dumb stuff that they want. This is both inconvenient and costs money, just like everything else in the adoption process. The good news is that you are used to this kind of stuff by now. Plus you don't have to get fingerprinted. Bonus! The requirements can change frequently so don't forget to ask your consulate for the most up-to-date info.

Requirements as of November 2009:

A) Valid Passport
B) 2 copies of the passport photo page
C) 2 original visa app forms (visa is free if you are a US citizen)
D) 3 1.5 in by 1.5 in passport style photos (note that passport photos in the US are actually 2 x 2, this means I got to pay Walgreens $18 for pics I had to cut out myself. Awesome.)
E) 2 notarized photocopies of your referral letter from ICBF (You notarize these by attaching an attestation and signing it. Just like you did with your FBI fingerprints and your explanation of names. I think this process is unnecessary and doesn't make things anymore legal but nobody asked me.)
F) A formal letter requesting your visa from the consul. The letter must include the reason you are requesting the visa, where the child is located, the name of both parents and ID numbers. I made mine fancy and overly formal because Colombians seem to like formality in their documents. Stuff like "Thank you so kindly for your time attention" etc etc.
G) 2 copies of your round-trip plane tickets

Once you gather your stuff you go to your nearest consulate (San Francisco -1.5 hours drive for us-sans traffic). It will be inconvenient because they are only open at certain hours during the day only of course. Why waste your really nice downtown SF office by having it open all day to the public? On the day we went they were open from 9 am -2 pm. Every consulate is different though so be sure to try to contact yours. I say "try" because answering the phone is not something they are big on.

Once you get there you will present your giant stack of unnecessary paperwork to whoever you can find. I say this because in my experience the consulate is not organized. At the SF consulate there is not even a sign marking the entrance. I just wandered around until I heard some Colombians and then opened the door. Inside wasn't much better. There is no line, just poor helpless Colombians wandering around trying to figure how to get their new cedulas. The good news is this means you can just stand there insisting someone take your paperwork instead of standing in line. While I stood there the woman at the front desk told a lady on the phone "I don't have all day to help you, there are like 30 people in front of me waiting". I think by 30 people she meant 3 but you get the point. At a consulate you must be assertive to get what you need. Customer service is not their thing.

To be fair getting the visa was far less painful than I expected. A word of advice: If you live far from the consulate you should bring a pre-paid UPS or Fed Ex envelope so that they can mail the visa back to you, if not you will have to go back to get the visa in person. I tell you this because they will not offer to do this for you or mention it on the website. I submitted my visa app on 11/25/2009 and received it back within 3 business days so I have to say I can't complain to much about the lack of organization. I have my visa and we're one step closer to meeting our baby boy. :)

On the way back home I suggest that you stop and eat something delicious to reward yourself for a job well done. I ate tacos in Berkeley and chased them with churros and chocolate. Trust me, after dealing with a consulate you'll need it!


Laura S said…
In the Atlanta consulate you get the VISA while you wait (at least you did 2 years ago when we did ours).

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