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.
The 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 notification, 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.