Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trip to Europe and Visa Hassle

The new year brought good news for me in that I was accepted as one of the 15 participants to the Global Perspectives Program (GPP) offered by the Graduate School at Virginia Tech. The trip entails visiting universities in Switzerland, France, and Italy to learn about higher education in those countries. And to add to that joy, the Graduate School pays for most of the trip to minimize the financial burden on students. I assume this learning experience would be one of its kind where one is not only gaining knowledge along with traveling abroad but also having all this experience with minimal cost out of one's pocket. Everything great. But is it?

The first challenge I have been facing is in obtaining the Visa for my travel. Given I am an Indian passport holder, I require a Schengen Visa to go to either Switzerland, France, or Italy. And there are multiple hassles in obtaining any Visa (I have applied and obtained Visa for the USA and Canada in the past).

So my hassles in trying to obtain a Schengen Visa started with finding out the right website to figure out what I need to do in order to apply for the Visa. And it was not easy - there were numerous websites that gave information about which documents I need or how I can apply for the Visa but none of them were official. So, while I had the information, I did not know how much I could believe that information. After talking to many people, I finally found out the website of the Swiss embassy that gave me more legitimate information about what I need to do to get a Schengen Visa.

But my pain did not get over here. Once I figured out which documents I need to apply for a Visa, the list seemed unfair and almost like a nightmare. I am required to provide them with a medical insurance during the period of my stay, which makes sense. But they also require me to get my travel tickets and hotel bookings for my entire stay. The Graduate School has been helpful in getting the tickets and accommodation confirmation well ahead of time, but what do I do for the duration when I travel on my own in Europe? How do I plan a trip so much ahead of time and also get my hotel reservations done? And never to mention that I will have to travel to DC to appear for an in-person interview.

I hope the Visa interview goes smoothly but I sure will write another post about it if it does not. And definitely, I will write more posts about Visa policies across the wold and how it is skewed in favor of "richer" countries.

Till then, Tada!!

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