Visa Nightmare.

I woke up this morning at 5:30 AM and got ready for the 3 hour drive to the Ecuadorian Consulate of Miami, convinced I was prepared and ready and had all the correct papers! I called yesterday to confirm, and they told me that if I arrived by 10 AM I should have my visa ready to go by 1 PM. Too easy, I suspected.
After a smooth drive, I walked confidently into the Consulate with my papers. Right from the start, things went downhill. They started by informing me that they were closing at noon today for a holiday so my visa wouldn’t be processed today and I would have to return Monday. Another 6 hour round trip drive.
The woman at the front desk handed me a list of required documents to obtain my visa which I noticed immediately did not match the list on their website. The only document I was missing from this new list was a printed out proof of round trip flights to and from Ecuador. No biggie, I thought, my school already purchased my flight there and my contract clearly states they will buy me a return flight in August of 2013 when my contract ends. “Round trip flights only, no exceptions,” the woman at the desk told me. I explained that a round trip flight was impossible because tickets for August, 2013 can’t be purchased this far in advance. I pulled up Orbitz on the lobby computer and showed the women behind the desk that you couldn’t buy flights yet for Aug, 2013. She wouldn’t even look up and make eye contact. “No exceptions. No return flight, no visa for you.” I asked to speak to someone else who told me the exact same thing.
In the packet of official documents I received from my school, it was made very clear that I was to apply for a cultural exchange visa, NOT a work visa. The principal even reminded me of this in person at my final interview. I was very surprised when the consulate employee told me I was only eligible for a work visa ($230 fee), not a cultural exchange visa ($80 fee) because my contract stated my salary. I showed her a notarized letter from my school saying I was to receive a cultural exchange visa. “No. no. no.” said the woman. “Work visa only.” I told her that this school brings over 50 American teachers a year to Ecuador on these cultural exchange visas but she claimed to have never heard of the program.
I wish that was all, but alas! Next issue. She skimmed through my documents and handed them back all to me, saying that none of them were properly notarized. The dates on the stamps were too old, some were copies and not originals. There was an issue with every single document in the packet my school sent me to give the consulate.

Final nail in the coffin: The cultural exchange visa is a one year visa, and my contract was for two years. I explained that they should give me a one year visa and I would renew it next summer when it expired but the woman kept saying that this was impossible! The contract itself had to state that I would only be in Ecuador for one year. wahhhhhh.
The school I will be working for is over 70 years old and brings over 50 teachers a year to Ecuador. They have a full time employee whose sole job is to arrange visas and documents for teachers. I’m pretty sure the school knows what it is doing and sent me perfectly acceptable documents, contracts, and notarized letters to submit to the consulate.
I drove back to Fort Myers and I’m sitting here just completely at wit’s end. Most likely, I will have to do this 6 hour round trip drive again next week and sort this out. I have a flight to Guatemala on Thursday, so I doubt my school will have time to redo the documents and mail a new packet to me to take the consulate. I emailed 3 people at the school I will be working at these issues and I can only hope these are issues with easy solutions. The idea of going back into that Consulate where not a single employee ever smiled at me or even tried to be helpful or show a shred of compassion at all fills me with dread.


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