Visa Magic

In celebration of the receipt of our Libyan visas, here are a few random DC embassy tips for your next off-the-beaten-path journey:

  • Have a question or concern relating to a visa application? Need to push the entry restrictions? No, they won’t answer the phone. Duh. Go in person.
  • Too bad most consular divisions are only open when traffic is at its worst (9AM-11AM Monday through Wednesday is a popular choice). It’ll take you at LEAST a couple of hours to get to the various embassy clusters: the fortresses up in Van Ness, Glover Park, Embassy Row/Dupont, or Foggy Bottom (why, Tanzania, why are you located there!). Don’t forget to factor in time between embassies and the fact that road construction begins around 10AM. Have fun!
  • Your GPS is your friend . . . unless it has a penchant for directing you through Georgetown. Never go through Georgetown unless you really need a mimosa after a particularly bad embassy experience.
  • The visa checklist on the embassy website doesn’t include a cover letter? Silly, you should know better! Prepare one anyway.
  • Prepared a cover letter? It’s probably missing something (e.g., the color of your car, the location of your first kiss, whether you like ketchup on your hot dogs). Don’t worry, they’ll let you know (and remind you that this is a total inconvenience for them).
  • Prepared a 10 page cover letter? The embassy will, inevitably, require that you throw it away before you can submit your application. Resist the urge to scream. Find mimosa.
  • The visa fees may have changed. Of course, the website won’t reflect those changes! Fortunately, you can get a money order at Safeway for 99¢. Sure the cashier will think you’ve ruined your credit buying too many pairs of Louboutins, but what a steal!!
  • Traveling to a country that doesn’t get a lot of tourists? The embassy officials will likely be incredibly warm, and you may even get an invitation to visit an official’s family!
  • Traveling to a country with an established tourist infrastructure? The embassy officials will handle your visa application in one of two ways: (1) smoothly and efficiently or (2) suspiciously (“You’re trying to move to [insert country] and never leave, aren’t you!! Aren’t you!! Aren’t you!!”). If you encounter a #2, slowly walk out and return a few days later.
  • The embassy website lists visa processing time as 4 business days? It’ll take 2 weeks.
  • The embassy website lists visa processing time as 2 weeks? It’ll take 3 days! Hooray!
  • Be prepared to return 3, 4, or 5+ times for your visas. You will stop by on at least one or two holidays. No, those holidays won’t be listed on the embassy website. Nice try.
  • Be very nice to the person holding your passports.
  • However, if a person holding your passports threatens to “lose” them, speak with their supervisor and repeatedly mention “tourism” and “alternative arrangements.” Your visas will be finalized in a day, and the supervisor will invite you to his village.
  • Coffee helps. Also, download that new mobile parking app.

Decided to go back to the Bahamas, huh?


  • Joe says:

    What’s a Louboutin?

    What do you do when the embassy insists that it’s nation does not border a nation that in actually it does border?

    • Emily says:

      The embassy officials did tend to know their country’s borders. I did get a few smart aleck questions like “Oh, so you’re going to swim from the US to Africa?” [Sigh] No, please see page 2 of the cover letter that outlines information about the cars, including VINs and shipment details, and pages 5-6 with the individual’s airline ticket confirmation.

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