Friday, July 27, 2007

Got the Visa!

Endless frustration, stress, and a drain on the wallet ended Tuesday Morning (Tokyo time), when the Kuwaiti Embassy in Tokyo granted me my work visa to travel to Kuwait. Unlike the JET Programme, whose army of bureaucrats take it upon themselves to do everything for JET participants, my school in Kuwait has decided to do the more grown up thing and let me bumble my way through the process myself!

To get a visa to Kuwait it seems, you need most or all of the following. As this varies considerably depending on who you are talking to, its best to have them all in your posession.

1. A work permit from your Kuwaiti employer

2. A valid passport that has a few more pages left and isn't completely over-run with all that worthless junk that the Japanese customs officials keep pasting, and stapling into it.

3. A visa application form to apply for a visa. (duh.)

5. A copy of your residency permit in Japan (if you live there and you aren't Japanese). They don't seem to mind if it expires the day after you show up.

6. A criminal background check from your hometown. (The Kuwaiti embassy in Japan wanted a background check from Koriyama. I thought they wanted one from the USA). Of all people, they don't realize that if I commit a crime, the Japanese will deport me? In the end, they were cool though, and let me just give them the one I had from Littleton.

7. A health check showing myself to be free of communicable diseases, including tuberculosis, polio, measles, mumps, SARS, bird flu, chicken pox, ADHD, athlete's foot, bad dandruff, Tourette's syndrome, Anthrax, halitosis, strep throat, and cheesy Mexican food induced constipation.

8. Shots for Tetanus, Hepatitis A, and 5 other conditions above. (may or may not be required. No doubt necessary for the next mountain of paperwork I'll face when I actually arrive in Kuwait). Also not available at the same location as the health check.

9. An HIV test. Because this is Japan, getting this test at the same time and location as the health check and the shots would be too sensible and convenient! So you will have to go to four different locations throughout your city, as each hospital only performs one test and/or gives one shot! Four to 5 days of time off will be required to collect all required health documents.

10. Passport pictures. Crosseyed pictures or other silly nonsense strictly forbidden! At least they don't have a restriction on smiles like the Japanese DMV.

11. Second copies of all of the above.

Awhile ago, I discovered to my charign that I must make a trip in person to the Kuwaiti embassy in the USA to get my visa. So I call the Kuwaiti embassy in Japan hoping that I can get my visa taken care of there, as I don't really have the time, money, or desire to go to Washington, DC. They tell me that I'm usually supposed to go the Kuwaiti embassy in the USA in order to take care of this matter. But they also tell me that they will ask for "permission from the ministry" to do it here in Japan. Great.

So I wait a bit. I haven't heard back so I call/email again. They repeat the line from above and ask for my residency permit from Japan. I wait another week and ask about things again. They repeat the same line and ask me wait for their response. I have about a week to go before I leave for the USA when I hear this, so I give up and resolve to start the process over when I get back home. At this point I'm really stressing about getting my visa.

Then, less than 24 hours before I'm scheduled to depart for Japan, I get an email from the Kuwaiti embassy that they can process my visa application here. Fantastic! Except that your website states that it takes two days to process the visa. The earliest I could arrive would be 8:00 AM the following morning, giving them 6 hours at best before I would have to leave for the airport.

Waking up at an unholy hour, I travel down to the Kuwaiti embassy, leaving 80 kg of my worldly posessions in 3 "king size" coin lockers in Tokyo's Ueno station. I even have to unpack one bag so it all fits. I get to the Kuwaiti embassy wondering if they are going to be able to do it in record time, as I have to be on a plane that evening. They quickly point out that I forgot to get everything notarized. So they give me the location where I can get everything "notarized." I had forgotten what that term even meant. They tell me to hurry. So I take a cab down there.

I get to the office and a little old lady has me sign a piece of paper that simply says " I do solemnly affirm that these documents are whatever I happen to say they are." She then lets me write a description of the things I need notarized. She then stamps everything with a big official looking rubber stamp thing. I try not to snicker and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Then she charges me 11,500 yen (almost 100 US dollars) for the privilege. I try not to get angry at the absurdity of it all. I manage to get out of the office and back at the embassy by 10:30. I'm still not sure whether they will be able to process the visa in less than 2 days.

They go ask the consul about getting it done today and tell me that they can have it done in time for my flight home. Success! The Kuwaiti Embassy in Japan is currently the most awesome place in the world! Then they fill my passport with more papers, stamps and junk. It will be completely full by this time next year.

I now have just enough time to go down to Shibuya and find that coin dealer who should have all the pieces I need to fill my collection. Unfortunately, he only has 4 of the 15 or so that I never managed to find on my own. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.


Anonymous said...

hey beal, how are you doing in japan. from chiang wang.

Anonymous said...

why dont you respond