From July, 2009
Okay. So maybe getting your student visa isn’t actually as easy as I made it out to be in the last blog entry. Actually, it’s a ton of work and you have to be obsessively detail-oriented. Time got away from me and, due to a couple of points of confusion, my visa letter arrived extremely late. There was absolutely no way that I could mail in my paperwork, cross my fingers, hoping desperately that my paperwork would be approved, and then wait for my visa to be processed. I was out of time!
Fortunately for me, there is another option!!! You can, believe it or not, go directly to your nearest British Consulate, and at exactly the right time on exactly the right day (or even more likely, by appointment), you can have your student visa processed and returned to you on the same day! This was an amazing option for me. I wasn’t actually aware of how detail-oriented the application process really is. Not only do you need to have all of your paperwork and copies from your original online application, you need passport copies, passport-sized photos, bank statements, signed and dated biometric information, and every single piece of documentation that you used to apply for your school. If you needed transcripts then, you need them now. In their original envelopes. Bring everything. You can’t be over-prepared! They are not shy about turning applicants away who don’t have every single piece of necessary information. This is their job. Just be prepared. I thought that I was ready! I really honestly thought that I had everything. I even went to my bank and had the tellers there print out my bank statements right there in the bank. Not good enough. My bank statements didn’t have the stamp on them. It’s just the stamp that they use to endorse the back of the checks, and I didn’t have it. Here’s where I got lucky! The lovely young gentleman reviewing my documentation said that I could go and find a branch of my bank, assuming that there was one in Chicago, and if it existed, I could come back at the end of the day with my stamped bank statements and could, at that point, get my visa. My bank had a branch in Chicago! Not only did my bank have a branch, the branch was only two blocks from the Wrigley Building where the British Consulate is located!!!! I ran over there, got every single page of my statement stamped, stamped, and stamped again multiple times, and ran right back! The world’s most amazing security guard was working in the front of the building, and not only was he the one who knew right where to send me, he also authorized me to run right back upstairs and resubmit my paperwork! All that was left was the wait! A few hours of painful agony, waiting to see if my visa had been approved. I had purchased airfare for only one day in Chicago (if you’re a student, make sure to check out Student Universe. I paid less for round-trip airfare than the other students that I was with paid for train tickets!) and would have few options if I was rejected. Fortunately, I happened to have my mother with me! She knew just how to distract me. We had lunch right on the river (I had a truly amazing steak sandwich with caramelized onions and a horseradish aioli with these gorgeous french fries. Mom had a beautiful BLT.) and then we went shopping. Approximately twelve iced soy lattes and a brand new pair of boots later, I was ready to face the music. Back to the Wrigley building! In Chicago, you have a one hour window in which to retrieve your passport.
My application was accepted!!!!! I am now the proud parent of a beautiful U.K. clearance stamp, authorizing me to follow my dreams, study, work, and become a chef in London, England.