The trip to the South African Consulate. Deep Sigh.
My friends and colleagues have been encouraging me to visit the Consulate for months.
One said, just visit and get on their radar.
Get on their radar? What does that mean? But after receiving this recommendation for the third time, I finally took the trip, during a snow storm, all the way from my Brooklyn home to E. 33rd and 3rd Ave in Manhattan. Waiting for me behind the glass window was a 75 plus, year old woman. I stepped up and here’s how the conversation went:
Me: Hi, I’m here to speak with someone about a work visa.
Consulate Representative (CR): It’s all on the website.
Me: Oh yes, I looked at the website and that’s why I’m here. I have questions about work visas.
CR: It’s all on the website.
Me: Yes, I reviewed the website and I have questions. I want to know what my options are for obtaining a work visa.
CR: That’s between you and the employer.
Me: Well, I don’t have an employer. Is it possible to get a visa without a job?
CR: Your employer helps you get a visa.
Me: Oh so, when I get a job offer the job helps me get a visa?
CR: No you get a visa.
Me: Oh, ok. What are my visa options? What do I need?
CR: That’s all on the website.
Me: Well since I’m here can you give me an application so I can review it and get some clarification while I’m here?
CR: The application is on the website.
Me: (My voice gets louder with annoyance) Yes, I know, but can’t I get a paper application here?
She gives it to me. I look it over.
Me: I have questions. Is there anyone I can talk to here?
Me: So while I’m completing this application, if I run into trouble there’s no
one I can talk to? No one eight-hundred number to call?
Me: Well what’s the difference between the General Work Permit, Exceptional Skills Permit, and the Quota Work Permit?
CR: It’s all on the paper.
Me: But I have questions.
She looks at me. Finally after 20 minutes of this back-and-forth, another woman finally gets up from her desk and says, I can answer your questions. I thought to myself, “you heard all of this and you are just now stepping up?” We stepped over to another window and I proceeded to go through the checklist of each type of visa. As I thought there were a number of criteria in which I needed clarification. She answered the questions and then the BOMB SHELL…
…you have to come back to your country of origin to obtain a visa.
Me: Wait! If I go to South Africa and get offered a job, I can’t apply for a visa there?
CR 2: No you have to come back here.
Me: And how long does it take to get a visa?
CR 2: 4 weeks.
Me: And there’s no office in Johannesburg at all where I can apply for a visa?
CR 2: No.
So what’s the lesson folks? Due diligence.
I feel in my heart that this trip is destined. I am meant to explore the world at this time. I can’t begin to tell you the signs I have and continue to receive about South Africa. From car songs to random emails about South African speakers in New York to discovering a pin of the South African flag in my mom’s dresser. Even my dirt cheap airline ticket was a sign. Although, I know this is exactly what/where I am supposed to be doing at this very moment, one still has to be completely informed. If I want to relocate to another country, it would be nice to know all of the regulations regarding immigration, visas, and permits. Silly of me to think I could simply go to a country and get a work visa there.
So, now my focus during this trip is to proceed with in-person interviews, establishing contacts, and building networks. I will then return in March, once my 90-day visit expires, and obtain a work visa: General Work Permit, Exceptional Skills Permit, or Quota Work Permit.
My next questions: Can I apply for all three at one time? If I get denied one kind, can I apply for another? Sigh…