The process of getting to Brussels was surprisingly hellish and knowing that I would be blogging the whole time, I thought over the summer that I would dedicate my first Study Abroad Blog posts to tips for the process. Unfortunately, by the time I actually started writing, I had done so many things that I scrapped that initial post. Now that I’m nearing the end, though, I figured I would revive that post and break it down, mixing some of my old advice with my newfound knowledge. Without further ado, I present the Pre-Departure Series.
The Belgian Visa process was unexpectedly long and arduous. I never even considered the need for one when studying abroad and after the exhausting process of getting one, my excitement had slightly dimmed (don’t worry, it quickly returned shortly afterward). EPA sends you a handy guide that explains all the different portions of the application so I will discuss the ones that gave me the most grief.
- FBI Background Check: If you are or will be over 21 at the time of this trip, get this done AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. You can’t get your Visa without it and the process can take weeks, especially if you do it incorrectly. You need to send in your fingerprints in order to complete this process. I did so down on South Street. Make sure you read the instructions correctly and write the correct address on the envelope. If not, results won’t be sent electronically and you won’t get it back until well after the deadline.
- Fees: There are so many of them and they get a little confusing. Make sure you take into account the amount of money you need to spend to go through the process. There is the fee for getting the Visa, but then there is another fee for being over a certain age and seeking one out. This is kind of confusing but a necessary step in getting through the process.
- Doctor’s Visit: In order to get into Brussels, you need a clean bill of health. You can go see your personal physician or you can go to an approved doctor to do this. However, if you go to your own physician, you need to send the certificate to an apostle and have it certified there. I opted to choose from the list to simplify the process.
- Make Copies: Since we are skipping one of the steps involved in getting the Visa, we have to make a lot of copies of all the documents. Some to give to the embassy and some for them to send directly to Belgium. Also, make sure to make copies for yourself and for your parents as a safety precaution.
- Make Sure You’ve Got Your Documents: I found out right before I began to gather everything I needed for my Visa that not only had my mom lost my social security card and birth certificate but also my passport. No one else’s documents got lost. Just mine. Double check you have everything and that your passport doesn’t expire soon to save yourself from the stress I went through.
This is undoubtedly the worst part of the process of going abroad but trust me, the sooner you hop on it, the better. EPA does a lot to help you through the process so if you ever need help, you can definitely rely on them.