One of the first things I heard from many people after they heard I'd been called to serve in Brazil was: "Get started on your Visa now."
Boy, do I understand their fervent insistence now!
There was a lot going on with my family around the time I got my call: my sister Reana was going to India to meet her soon-to-be-in-laws, then she and Shawn were going to get married in the Logan, UT temple. The rest of my family was flying down for the wedding, my sister Rachel was moving from Indiana to Boise and stopping in Utah for the wedding on her way, I was moving back to Oregon after the wedding, and all of us were living in a hollaballoo world. I decided I'd start the Passport and Visa processes after I moved home, to save my mom the trouble of having to dig out my birth certificate, immunization records, and other such fiddle-faddle while she was preparing for an out-of-state wedding. I don't regret that decision. It just may have saved my sanity. And my mother's. But I do wish I had hopped on it a little more quickly when I got home.
When I did come home, a fat, juicy envelope from the Church Travel Office was waiting for me. My Visa stuff! Oh goody!
.... Oh dear....
I won't go into super-detail, just to spare you all some premature gray hairs, but here's the list of things I need to send to the Church Travel Office in order to get a Visa for Brazil:
- Notarized and Authenticated photocopy of every page of your passport
- 2 Passport-type photos
- 3 Signed Electronic Visa Application Forms
- Notarized photocopy of driver's license
- Travisa Permission Letter
- Certified Birth Certificate (order a new one because this one won't be returned)
- Notarized and Authenticated Police Clearance Letter
- 2 Notarized and Authenticated Seminary Transcripts w/ Affidavit Statement
- 2 Notarized and Authenticated Seminary Certificates w/ Affidavit Statement
- 2 Notarized and Authenticated Curriculum Vitaes
- Missionary Verify Information Sheet.
If you don't even know what half of that means, then you are just like me. Thank goodness the Church is so organized and prepared! There were very detailed instructions for each step of the process (well, except for the Missionary Verify Information Sheet. I don't know what to do about that part, but if any of you know, please enlighten me!).
So far, the wildest part for me has been all the "notarized and authenticated" stuff. Especially the seminary things. Because it's a confusing process and boring to read about (and because my jobless state has left me with a lot of hours in the day) this is where the pictures come in......
First off, I made a couple hundred phone calls (ok, maybe more like 4) to figure out how to get my seminary transcript and another graduation certificate. The location of my school moved during my high school days, so it was great fun trying to figure out which district had my seminary records. Once those were located, I dragged the Seminary President (thank you, Brother Mouer! And sorry for butchering your name....) to a notary at my local credit union and the three of us had a merry time sorting through a stack of papers, figuring out who was supposed to sign where, and what went with what. It felt great to get that all out of the way! Then I went in to a Police station to ask for a Clearance Letter (basically a good conduct report), to be signed in the presence of a notary. I'm just waiting on that one thing now.
And then, once I get that, I get to stack up all the notarized documents, and send them all off to the Secretary of State to be authenticated.
And then I wait for them to be sent back to me.
And then, once all of those documents are sent back to me, notarized and authenticated and beautiful in their completeness, I will send them off to the Church Travel Office, along with all of the other required papers, and they will take over my Visa application from there. Whew!
Of course, in a perfect world, where I am organized and plan ahead and figure out what's what before jumping into things, all those pictures might be very accurate, but really, the whole process looks a lot more like this:
In the end, the Star of the Day is that little bowl of rice and Yumm! Sauce. It all comes back to Yumm! Sauce at the end of the day. And the beginning. And the middle. I love that stuff. No matter how confusing the Brazilian Visa process gets, my Yumm! Sauce is there to make it all better. In the words of my nephew, Paul: "Num, num!"
For any of you out there who are thinking about serving missions: DO IT! Don't let the confusing and expensive Visa stop you. Apparently Brazil Visas are one of the hardest to get, and if I can do it, anyone can. Seriously. And I'll even share my Yumm! Sauce with you, if it comes to that. :)