Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The E-7 Visas Story

This is a long story.  I'm warning you right now.  You may not want to proceed.  It should be a short story.  I wish I could say it were a short story.  But, alas, it is a long one.  If it were a short story, it would go something like this:

We applied for our E-7 Work Visas.  We had some paperwork to do, needed to mail it off to KIS who took it to the Consulate in Korea who issued us each an issuance number.  Once we had the number we mailed it off to the Korean Consulate in Chicago with our passports and waited for them to arrive in the mail.  They came about a week later.  All is well!

That is how the story SHOULD go.  In this case, the story doesn't quite go the same way, although the ending is the same.  So, if you wanted to know if we got our Visas yet, we did.  No need to read on.  But if you want to know the LONG story.  Here goes. . .

We needed to apply for E-7 work Visas to work at KIS for 2 years.  I knew it would be a bit complicated as anytime you deal with another country, things are complicated.  The initial paperwork reminded me of adopting from Russia - lots of official sorts of documents that needed to be gathered and signed.  We gave ourselved plenty of time to meet KIS's deadline of May 1 to have all of it ready.  We were done and paperwork was FedExed by mid-April.  Documents needed included a signed work contract, an information form, copy of teaching licences, copy of passport photo page (which requires up-to-date passports, which of course I needed to apply for - first step), ORIGINAL diploma of our highest degree (thank GOD that wasn't packed away in a pod already and that I found it!),  passport photos, resume showing current employment (meant tweaking my resume), copies of recommendation letters (had those), authenticated Criminal Record History. 

And this is where it begins to get interesting.

As you can probably tell from the list, these documents take a bit of time to gather.  No big deal.  But that darn Criminal Record History.

Initially we were told to get that from our local police, which we did.  But long about May 5th we were notified that the rules had suddenly changed on their end and that now we needed an authenticated Criminal Record History from the state level, including an apostille (for those of you who don't know, it's a sort of notarization from the State level that the notarization is legit - at it costs about $10).  So we made our phone calls to learn what to do, paid our additional fees to have matters "expedited" and soon enough we were re-mailing our new-and-improved Crimnal Record History to Korea.

Wait for word. . . .   Yes!  It arrived safely.  Now we wait for the Issuance Number from Korea.  We need these for the final steps in the process to the Visas.  Still on schedule, we get the numbers via email.  A few phone calls later, and we are delighted to learn that we won't have to drive down to Korean Consulate in Chicago after all.  We have just enough time to mail our passports and other accompanying paperwork (including the issuance number) to them.  If we Overnight it (I like to use USPS Express as it costs about 15 bucks versus the 50 bucks FedEx will charge you), all should be well as they have about a 3-day turn around.  Put the return envelope in there as another Overnight (USPS Express) and we should be good to go.   If all goes well, should be about a week - 10 day turnaround time; unheard of, right?  I kiss the envelope for good luck and tell it good-bye - our passports are in there, after all, and we are due to fly out in 5 weeks!

In the meantime, we had an eight day trip planned to Minnesota.  So we asked our neighbor to get our mail and keep a close watch out for this very important document that might be coming.  She agreed.

A few days later, while admiring the gorilla at Como Zoo with my family, my cellphone rings - on Roam.  It's the Korean Consulate in Chicago.  She's noticed an error in the paperwork from Korea.  They are under the impression I am a male and must be notified I'm female.  She'll change things on this end, but won't I get word to them right away that I'm a girl?  Sure, no problem.

First thing back at my sister's home, I email KIS with the request.  An hour later, I get another call - on Roam.  It the Korean Consulate in Chicago again.  She noticed that they are under the impression that my husband is a female.  Would we let them know he's a male?  Sure, no problem.  Brent emails KIS telling them to tell the Consulate he's a guy.  (Hey, don't laugh, would you know if a KOREAN name were male or female?)

The good news?  We know they are processing our Visas.

A day later, while we are at my brother-in-law's house in Minnesota, I get another call - on Roam.  It's my neighbor.  She missed the mailman.  There's a note on our door that there was a package that needed to be signed for.  Now it needs to be picked up.  We have 5 business days to pick it up or it gets sent back to sender. (Oh, oh!)  Thank you, neighbor, for the update!  Hmm. . . .5 business days would put us on Monday, I think.  Does the USPS count Saturday as a business day?  I don't know.  I make some calls (800 numbers, not on Roam).  I THINK I'm safe, but I still don't want to chance it.  My first chance at getting to the post office will be Monday morning.  What if they mail it back Monday morning (day 5) before I can get there to pick it up?  I'd better call our OWN branch and have them hold it for me.  More phone calls - on ROAM. 

Lucky me, I get the most inept postal worker at the branch on the phone.  I know this because of my frequent-flyer miles at the USPS with my IB job.  Let's just call her Bonnie.  It takes Bonnie awhile to understand what I'm asking.  I have a package there Express Mail.  I need you to hold it for me and NOT send it back to sender.  Once she "gets it", she's happy to oblige.  "Sure.  I'll just put a note on it for you," she says with finality.  I interject, "Wonderful.  Be sure to put Brenda B----- on it for me."  "Oh, yeah!  I guess I'd better get your name and address."  Yeah, that would be a good idea.  "My name is. . .  We live at. . . ," I say, "and Bonnie, what time do you guys open?  8 or 8:30?  I want to be there right away Monday morning to pick it up."  "Oh. . .8, I think.  No. . .8:30. . . .   Hold on, let me go check."  (No problem, it's not like I'm on ROAM or anything.  Is this gal for real?)  Back on the line now, "8:30."  "Great.  Thank you, Bonnie, for all your help!"

It's Monday morning.  I arrive at the post office at 8:40.  I go to the teller with my little retrieval slip and my ID ready.  He's happy to help.  He goes to the back room.  He returns with an envelope with a note attached (good girl, Bonnie!).  He smiles and says,  "I see you requested to have this held.  Good thing, too, or we would have been sending it back."  "So I did the right thing?"  "Sure did."  He hands me the envelope.  I tear it open just to make sure all is well.  Two passports?  Check.  Brenda is female?  Check.  Brent is male?  Check.  Visa for Brenda?  Check.  Visa for Brent?  Check.

All is well!

And that is the E-7 Visas story.

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