I did not go to Los Angeles over spring break for my visa. I found an easier way, one which I hope every expat teacher learns about far sooner than I did: an agency that is located in Los Angeles, taking my papers to the Consulate for me.
Although I am still waiting for my documents to be mailed back to me, there is already a palpable sense of relief. This has been a series of fiery hoops to jump through, and I’ve yet to feel as if I’m doing it quite right: such tiny things, like handwriting an application rather than typing and printing it out, can get you turned away from the Consulate to try again.
The company I hired to help me is China Visa Service Center. They have locations in cities other than LA, but because I am currently a resident in Arizona, the LA Chinese Consulate is the location I need to send my documents for authentication. With all costs for individual documents, what the Consulate will charge, and shipping fees to get my documents back home, it is less than half the price of a hotel in LA; that’s not including the money I’d have to pay for driving out to California, food and putzing around in the city for a week to wait for my documents to be authenticated.
I’d say that’s pretty good.
After I get these documents authenticated (for me, a teacher, I need a criminal background check and my teaching Master’s degree – both notarized and certified by the state of Arizona), I need to scan and send them back to my school in China. They will then fill out an application for me that will be sent back to me, and I will have to take that application back to the Chinese Consulate a second time to apply officially for my work visa. I am hoping that, if this agency is as effective as I want them to be, then I will be able to hire them a second time for my work visa.