Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to (Not) Apply for a Student Visa in Boston: A Comedy of Errors

Unfortunately, this is based on a very true story. Please don't judge my intelligence too harshly.

Preface: So my official residence (i.e. where my parents live) is about an hour away from Boston. However, I've been living with my girlfriend in the 'burbs of Boston (like subway distance, very convenient) because a) that's more fun and b) I have a job.  So even though I spent most of my time in Boston most of my stuff is an hour away.

So last week I went home for a few days to see the family and also pick up the very important Certificate of Eligibility you need from the Japanese government to apply for your visa. This COE takes months to get, so you will be very excited to get it, especially when you are leaving for Japan in less than three weeks and need that visa ASAP.

So I finally got that document in the mail, and went back to Boston on Friday to do my last shifts at work over the weekend, with the plan to go first thing Monday morning to go to the Consulate. I wake up Monday morning to realize, I forgot my passport at home. (Lesson 1: DON'T DO THAT.)

I spent the day cursing out the world and took the train home. I borrowed the car and went first thing this morning back into the city. I promptly missed the exit I needed, staying on the wrong highway and I shot right past Boston. Thirty to forty-five minutes later (panicking) I found another highway that got me into Boston from the complete opposite end. I do not know this side of Boston.

I followed some signs on the thruway that promised me the area of Government Center. I know that area from taking the T. Sounds promising. Tried to get off the exit, but a big truck was in my way and I couldn't get to into the lane in time. Fuck you, truck. Took the next exit.

Miraculously, I ended up on Atlantic Ave. THE VERY STREET I WAS LOOKING FOR. (Awesome.) Had to find parking. Ended up at the massive central post office, no parking. (Boo.) Asked the attendant where the public parking was; it's right across the bridge. A five minute walk. (Nice.)

Find my way back to Atlantic Ave. Look, there's South Station! I practically know where I am. Found the building (the Federal Reserve) where the consulate is located; it's right across the street from South Station. (Sweet).

Uh oh! I forgot to go to CVS this morning to get a 2x2 inch photo for my application. (Sucks) Walk past the consulate looking around, went in to a hotel to ask the concierge for directions. She says Go to the Post Office, dummy! [Recap: I was just there trying to park my car and have already walked past it en route here. Damn it.]

Doubled back to the post office, and got my photo. Made it inside the Federal Reserve (heavy security).

The application took two seconds. The place was completely empty, and I spent all of a minute filling out the one-page application form. Handed the attendant the documents, who told me unless they called me, everything would be in order and I could come back on Friday to pick up my passport.

Then I had to navigate through Boston to the other side that I knew and could take the highway I'm actually supposed to take to get home. (Stressful)

In summation:

  1. Getting your student visa is ridiculously easy. Just remember to bring EVERYTHING that you need (including not only the original COE but also a photocopy, and that 2x2 photo, AND YOUR GODDAMN PASSPORT) and it takes no time at all. If you live in Boston you have no excuse. 
  2. Navigating through Boston by car is the worst. As in 最悪.
  3. I'm just about the dumbest person alive. Not only did I forget two of those above things, I got completely lost by car AND walked along the same 10 minute area back and forth at least three times.  If I had just brought my passport with me over the weekend I wouldn't have wasted four hours of my life today and would've been done with this YESTERDAY. AFTER LIKE AN HOUR. 


  1. When you get to Japan and you visit the Shinagawa Immigration Office, you are in for a special kind of bereaucratic torture. And that on top of no doubt getting lost trying to get there.