So it’s been awhile and I realized I’ve been procrastinating writing this post… Sorry! Old habits die so hard.
Anyways, I received my Certificate of Eligibility in the mail ahead of schedule! It arrived on Tuesday the 18th and I took it straight up to the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles the next day. Interac had notified me when Immigration approved my CoE, when it arrived in the Tokyo office, and they sent me a tracking number for it once it was in FedEx’s capable hands. I had to sign for the package so it’s best to make sure someone is at home on the scheduled delivery date!
So then off I went to figure out where on this good Earth the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles was located. Of course it wound up being smack in the middle of the downtown business district and parking was $4.00 for every 10 minutes… Not happening! But they are kind enough to give alternate parking lots in the area on the website (here) and the time it would take to walk to their office from each. Good things to check for here! Cities are expensive!
Both Interac and the Consulate advise calling ahead to check that you have all the documents ready and available for the visa application. In Los Angeles for a 1-year Instructor visa you need (1) the visa application which you can download on their website here, (2) a recent passport photo –2″x 2″ (yes, another one!), (3) your original Certificate of Eligibility, (4) a copy of your CoE, and (5) a valid passport*.
So I set off on a delightfully sunny Wednesday afternoon to brave the traffic and crowded city I generally do my very best to avoid! Directions to about three different parking lots in hand (less exorbitantly priced than the building lot, but still more than I would like to pay…) I wound up in a completely different lot on Spring St. and closer than I thought to California Tower #2, highrise that is home to the Consulate. There was a ridiculous hill to climb and a never-ending set of stairs to traverse (I hadn’t found the escalator yet!) before I reached the plaza that led to the buildings. It was really a very pretty place with an outdoor amphitheater, a mini-lake/fountain, and a lot of food joints!
Inside Tower #2 security checks you in, gives you a sticker, and directs you to the appropriate set of elevators. A kindly security guard set me on my course to the 17th floor and up I went in my bright and shiny elevator! Another security guard checks your bags when you enter the actual Consulate and you need to take a number to the Visa window (#6 I believe… there’s a big sign) and not stand in a line-that’s-not-really-a-line-just-a-large-group-of-bored-Japanese like I did for about five minutes! Once I was actually there and browsing the good-sized library room it wasn’t long before my number was called.
If you have all your materials ready like you should (because you were a good little teacher and called ahead!) it takes maybe 5 minutes total and you have the option of either (1) coming back when they tell you to pick up your completed visa, or (2) bringing a pre-paid FedEx envelope so they can send it back to your home. Once you get it, you have three months to enter Japan.
Because I am only an hour away from L.A. (with some traffic) I elected to return. The Consulate is in the same building as my old roommates work so it wasn’t that bad. I applied for the visa on Wednesday and was able to pick it up on Friday! Good stuff, fast service! When I went back for my visa, I didn’t get lost, had less traffic, found the escalator (yes!), and found a quicker way to walk from the parking garage to the building. So much better!
Basically, applying for your instructor visa is a very simple process once you finally have your CoE in hand! I picked up my approved and completed final visa on the same day that Interac estimated my CoE would be approved by immigration. Everything is going so fast! The process takes minimal time and is good practice in navigating a large city with no map, just the knowledge of the streets you memorized on Google the night before (I don’t have a smart phone people. That’s cheating! ;) ) It all went very well and now I am almost fully ready to head to Japan and a bright new adventure!
* Make sure to check the requirements for the Consulate you are visiting. They vary! And the information on the application varies. For example, I needed to put down the place my passport was issued but didn’t need the ID number issued by my country (which I still think is SSN in America. But double check!)