Planning a vacation, let alone your honeymoon, should not be a cause for stress. It should not keep you up at night ahead of your embassy appointment worrying if you’ve gotten all your papers in order, made the right amount of copies, and if you have enough money in the bank.
Unless you happen to have a Lebanese passport or a Palestinian travel document and are planning to go to Europe.
Just the mere thought of Europe triggers going through the Schengen Visa Application Process. Cue the music.
It’s no wonder that people congratulate you when you eventually do get the visa affixed to your passport, because the process is long. And stressful.
What if they don’t give us visas? I constantly ask myself. That would mean we would have to give up on our dream honeymoon, one that we have been talking about for over a year, and plan something completely new.
A month ago, when we set our embassy appointments, we thought we had plenty of time to gather our documents, translate what needed to be done, fill in the application form, and make enough copies to let Malik’s Bookshop run out of ink. You can never have enough copies of the Ikhraj Kaid!
Well, time has flow by and the embassy appointment is this week. And I am scrambling to make sure everything is ready. I do not want to be that person who gets to the embassy and is surprised by missing a key document.
To complete this process, here’s what had to be done:
- Find the best flights that won’t break the bank and don’t involve weird traveling times or a 6 hour layover in Cyprus. Proceed to ask the airline to set a preliminary booking so that we don’t lose money in case we don’t get the visa.
- Scour Booking.com for nights on end to find a hotel that is centrally located, luxurious enough to spoil ourselves on our honeymoon, and won’t cost us an arm and a leg. Book hotel and breathe in a sigh of relief that they let you pay upon your arrival.
- Fill in the application forms for Ahmad and I because apparently I have more experience with these things. I have to carefully fill in each box with every tiny detail about us, which means that I now know more about my fiance than I ever did. Talk about a relationship building experience.
- Visit the bank to get an account statement, only to be met by a guy who never smiles and who asks me a billion questions about why I need the paper. Eventually he gives it to me with a smirk after I tell him I’m going on my honeymoon. Seeing the paper prompts me to re-evaluate how I spend my salary every month and how the embassy will probably view me as a Zara/Mango addict. And they’ll probably figure out I spend way too much money on house things for a 24 year old.
- Apply for an employment letter two weeks early, then proceed to forget all about it. Remember today to head to HR who thankfully don’t give me an earful for being so absent minded.
- Ask the mukhtar to issue a copy of my family’s civil registry record then have him translate it into English.
- Overcome my fears of dealing with the Lebanese government by going to the Daman offices and getting proof that I am enrolled in the NSSF. The paper is, of course, in Arabic.
- Wake up early on my day off to give the mukhtar the NSSF paper so he can translate it to English along with the first paper I asked him to do.
- Get totally fooled by a travel agency. And by that I mean, I was tricked into thinking they were not available because the office was dimmed, when in fact, they were just suffering from a power cut. Wait for the power to be restored so the nice travel agent who knows my mother can print out our travel insurance policies.
- Photocopy my passport, my former European residency, and every Schengen visa I’ve ever obtained in my life (Three: Greece, Netherlands, Malta), as well as all the papers I’ve collected so far. Ahmad does the same.
- Carefully file and sort all the papers until they are neatly assembled and ready to be dropped off at the appointment.
- Persistently wonder if Ahmad’s having a hard time gathering and translating his documents, since he requires a few more than me and worry about how we’re running out of time and he’s not done yet.
- Persistently worry if everything will be done on time and applying three months early will be to our advantage.
- Cross my fingers and hope things will be alright in the end and count down the days till the appointment.
Seriously though, I love Europe. I am forever grateful that the continent welcomed me a few years ago and let me live and study in the very city in which the European Union was established.
I love Europe enough to respect its regulations and even though I would love to live there again, I would never do so without going through the proper and legal mechanisms. I completely understand why they would ask for so many papers and I willingly comply, knowing that I have nothing to hide or be scared of.
After all, they now know that I’ve set foot (and bought some things) from H&M in the past three months!