Saturday, April 16, 2005

I am seriously F*CKED

Excuse the language. But OH MY GOD.

So, this was supposed to be a happy little post about how I'm going to Colombia tomorrow and how much I'm looking forward to it and oh I'm getting my US visa renewed while I'm there won't that be fun, followed by amusing anecdotes on US bureaucracy and Colombian inefficiency and all that. Seriously, it's been an adventure just getting this far, including four phone calls to the embassy call center, one change of flights (with fee) and a mound of paperwork.

So my flight is for 6.35am tomorrow. I'm in at work doing the final things - burning CDs, making sure I've got all my documents and work and all that. I go onto the website for the embassy in Bogota, just to look for a map of Bogota with the embassy marked on it.

I follow a couple of links and find myself in the section entitled "Interview with the Consular Officer - Frequently Asked Questions about the Visa Interview". Now I hadn't looked here before because, well, I'd been looking at all the things to do before the interview.

Right down the very bottom, I find this paragraph.

Third country nationals
A citizen from a country other than Colombia who has a Colombian resident visa with a valid national ID card (cedula de extranjeria), may apply for a U.S. visa in our Consular Section. If not, the applicant must return to her/his country of citizenship and apply for a U.S. visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

I am seriously F*CKED.

Let me reiterate that I have spoken to four different people at the embassy call center. Every single one of them noted down that I am a New Zealand citizen and don't have Colombian residency. And then they booked me an interview.

Just out of curiosity, I've just checked how much it would cost to fly from Bogota to Auckland return, not via the US (because of course, without a visa, I can't even transit the US). That would be $US2260 + tax. If I try and enter the US on the visa waiver program I get in trouble too.

If I get on that plane tomorrow there is a good chance that that is exactly what I would have to do. Of course, it's a Saturday, so I can't even ring the embassy to double check. Or the international scholars' service. At least the airline will change my ticket up to half an hour before departure (for a fee, of course). So I've got about 14 hours to figure this out.

I suppose there is the silver lining that I saw this today. But why not a couple of weeks ago? Huh?

Anyway, isn't a blog just the perfect place to vent frustrations. I feel better. And seeing as screwing with immigration is never a good idea, I think I'll be cancelling my flights (again). Which still leaves the question of how on earth do I get my visa renewed? I can't travel until I do. But I have to go overseas to get it. Stupid system.