Or, “Getting a scholarship is not all fun and games.”
- There are no “study” visas. Student applicants can apply for the National Visa or “D” class which is from 90 days to a maximum of 365. As a PhD student who will be doing research in the EU for at least three years (maybe four or five), getting a visa and/or permesso di soggiorno every year is not a thought that I relish. But hey, there seems to be no better system so what can we do.
- Three months before you are due to fly, make an appointment via the Italian Embassy website. Choose a time and take into consideration the travel time to Makati. I chose 11:30am, just to be sure.
- On the date of your appointment, arrive at the Italian Embassy Visa Section a prompt fifteen minutes before your appointment time. Deposit all electronics with the kind guard, and enter the waiting room. Marvel at the sheer mass of people in the space and the teeny tiny box television with no sound playing telenovelas. Find an vacant chair, or sit on the floor. Give up your seat for an elderly nun. Realize that the “appointment time” is merely a suggestion and you should have arrived first thing in the morning.
- Wait for your name to be called. Wait for four hours. I am not kidding.
- Finish reading two books.
- Hear a faint whisper of your name. (There are no microphones, and the embassy officials are behind glass.) Run to the window and hand over all your documents— passport, visa application form with passport-size photo, letter of invitation from the university/ Erasmus Mundus scholarship program, all academic transcripts, proof of sufficient funds, and plane ticket. Answer all their questions. Try not to look like a future-TNT. Do not pay for anything, visas for study-reasons are free. Receive your claim stub/receipt and return to the embassy on the day specified.
- Return on the day specified. Arrive at 11:45am for the 12nn “entry.” You will not be let in prior to this because the room is still full of people submitting their applications. At noon, give the kind guard your receipt and all your electronics. The receipt will hold your place in the queue. Enter. Find the room still full. Take a deep breath, sit on the floor, and wait.
- Finish reading three more books.
- By quarter to five the room will empty and a counter lady will call out “mayroon bang hindi na tawag?” (“Was anyone not called?”) Realize that they forgot to call your name and/or lost your receipt. Look around and see other startled faces of people who have suffered the same epiphany.
- Hold your tongue and do not complain about the incompetence— they might not give you your passport. Claim your passport, check your visa— Is your name spelled correctly? Date of birth?— and leave. Pray never to return.
- Go to the nearest place of sanctuary. Order a coffee. Start reading your sixth book.
Note: I was informed when I landed here in Italy that I lacked crucial documents for my permesso di soggiorno application. The Italian Embassy in Manila should have stamped my letters of invitation and returned them to me when I claimed my passport. They did no such thing, and as a result I was forced to ask my parents for assistance in procuring said document. Thank you very much, parents.
Future applicants for the Italian visa and/or permesso di soggiorno: insist on the embassy stamping and returning all the documents related to your stay. This includes the letter of invitation as well as your health insurance. Without these stamped documents you will be denied a permesso.