Our work towards getting our Colombian temporary work visas started early in the summer, when Rebecca made a timeline of important steps we would need to quickly take in order for her to change her last name on many important documents, including her passport, and for both of us to compile all the necessary paperwork for our visas.
So when we got back from our 3,000-mile honeymoon, we knew we had to get to work right away. Our first step was to update Rebecca's passport. It was at that time that we realized that Ryan's passport was going to expire in November, so we had to renew that too. We decided to make a trip up to Minneapolis to the regional passport agency so that we could be sure to get them back on time.
Then we had to compile all the paperwork. ECA sent us several envelopes of important papers that would prove to the consulate that it would be a good idea for us to work in Colombia. We checked our stack of papers against the list on the consulate's website, and it seemed like we had everything in order.
Then, a few days before we were going to leave Sioux Falls and head towards Chicago for our visa appointment, we realized that the passport pictures that we had paid good money for at Walgreens were not exactly what the consulate website asked for– instead of 2 small rectangular photos, they needed 3 tiny square photos. So we set up a photo studio in the living room. We opened the shades. We brought flood lights in from the garage. We took dozens of photos before we finally got some decent, professional-looking shots with a nice white background. Then we ordered prints in various sizes so that we could cut them down to 3x3 centimeters.
Then the next day, as we were filling in the visa application form, Rebecca came to a question she didn't know quite how to answer. So she looked on ECA's website to see if they had any more information that would help. That's when we saw a list of visa paperwork requirements that was longer and more detailed than the list on the consulate's own website. So we had to run around Sioux Falls that day to get Ryan's seminary transcripts and our criminal background checks. We also had to get these documents notarized and apostilized. (Apostillization is a process that basically notarizes a notary so that even other countries can trust it.) Since the South Dakota apostille is in Pierre, we couldn't go there. We found out that there was an Illinois apostille in Chicago, so we would have to go there on the way to our visa appointment. But since Illinois apostilles only recognize Illinois notaries, we had to figure out a way to get our papers notarized in Illinois.
Our visa appointment was on a Thursday morning, so we were driving to Chicagoland on Wednesday, so Rebecca called a bank in Rock Island to see if they had a notary on staff. We figured that would be the closest Illinois notary to South Dakota. There was a notary who worked there, so we made plans to get up at a descent time on Wednesday morning and get there by 4:00pm.
So it's Tuesday night and most of our stuff is packed and we finally have figured out how to fill out all the visa forms and so we have to make a copy of everything, which means we have to scan in every paper and print it out once or twice. This took several hours, plus we had some more packing and cleaning to finish, but we finally fell into bed around 4 a.m. We set an alarm for 7 that morning.
At 9 a.m. we awoke to a knock on the door. "Would it be alright if we had breakfast now?" Ryan jumped out of bed and Rebecca looked and saw that she had turned off the alarm in her sleep. We drastically condensed our plans for that morning and we were on the road within an hour.
Throughout the day of driving, we knew that we had to keep moving to make it to the Illinois border and our Illinois notary on time. We also had to try not to die from the incredible humidity that day. At about 3:45 p.m, we saw a sign that read "Davenport: 76 miles." Rebecca picked up the speed a little while Ryan kept a lookout for cops. We crossed the Mississippi at about 4:45. The bank closed at 5. Neither of us had ever driven in Rock Island without taking several wrong turns, so we were a little nervous about our ability to steer our way to the bank before it closed. At about 4:57 we pulled into the bank parking lot. Ryan ran in while Rebecca turned off the car. So there we were, in the bank, in Illinois, short our morning showers, windblown hair, sweat poring down our backs, legs shaking– and all that mattered was that our transcripts were being notarized.
Our next stop that evening was a photo center in Northwest Indiana, where we needed to pick up more of our homemade visa photos, because the first time that we had printed them we hadn't gotten enough of the right size.
The next morning we woke up and got ready to head downtown. We had to stop at the apostille and then be at the consulate by 10 a.m. We thought we had left ourselves plenty of time, but then we took the wrong exit and got a little turned around. We finally got to our pre-chosen parking garage just a little before 9 a.m. We took off running towards the apostille's office.