Sister Ambassador

Having a lawyer in the family comes in handy sometimes. As I am trying to get everything done for my daughter’s high school exchange year, my lawyer sister has done a lot of the heavy lifting (legal guardianship contract, health care power of attorney, repairing the mess I made with the online registration . . .) Unfortunately, I am going to have to take care of the visa situation myself and it is a bit of a nightmare.

embassyThe last time I visited the US Embassy in Vienna was pre-9/11. I just walked in the front door, showed my passport to the one guard and traipsed upstairs to ask for an appointment. I wanted to find out about citizenship for my newly adopted daughter – assuming that she was guaranteed the same rights as a biological child who would automatically be American. I got a convoluted story about how she needed to reside in the States first. If she went to live there, they said, she could apply for citizenship on her first day.

In the 15 years since a lot has changed. The place is now a fortress with soldiers and their machine guns patrolling outside. The website warns over and over again not to show up without a written invitation. All their citizen services are done online and by mail now. I spent several hours reading through all the visa information, but my daughter’s particular circumstances aren’t covered, so I started searching for a telephone number, which wasn’t easy to find.

As I wrote to my sister in her birthday email yesterday:

“I first had to go through 15 recorded messages (“Press One if you are requesting information about a F1, M1, or J1 non-immigrant visa” . . .) until I finally got a human being. Then that human had some kind of Asian accent I could barely understand, and she answered every question I had by telling me to visit some website. I am tempted to just go to Vienna and show up unannounced at the American Embassy (rather than waiting to receive my appointment date and time after making the payment, setting up my “Customer Support” account using the code provided on my payment received notifvisa processication, submitting the I-20 form, and then making an online application for an F1 non-immigrant visa), but I am sort of afraid someone will shoot me.”


As a birthday present, I’m seriously considering flying my sister over here so that she can take care of this for me too.


5 thoughts on “Sister Ambassador

  1. As an employer I had to do some visa work for a new employee. Sheesh! Took hours. I was able to talk to a person who was extremely military (yes ma’am, no ma’am). The day before her student visa expired she was approved. That was post 9/11 but “pre” a lot of other things. Can’t imagine what it’s like now.


  2. Red tape is crazy anymore. Why it should take 2 hours to get through an airport and onto a flight is beyond me. Regulations to “protect” us have proven ironically ineffective in most cases. It might be easier to just walk up to the embassy without an appointment, but in our “shoot first, ask questions later” society, I wouldn’t recommend it. On the phone, try pressing zero or the foreign language option (here in USA, Spanish)–it is often a faster way of reaching a real human. Buena suerte! 🙂


  3. We had to get Visas to go to Moscow and it was a hassle. We hired a company to handle it for us. Perhaps they have such services where you are? It really is worth it, otherwise you take a trip wait in line and then are told something is wrong and to try again and come back another day. And unfortunately, everything is done over the internet these days. Trying to speak to an actual person is damn near impossible I really hate the back and forth on those web chats!


  4. He, he, the embassy experience. I always thought, that being an Austrian citizen was kind of a degradation ticket as soon as one enters the Austrian Embassy here in Berlin. It is a nice building, but the ones it was built for have to enter at something like a back door into tiny facilities. But last time this winter, at least service was nice and quick. A big improvement.


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