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A recent game of Venezuelan political football just caused the visa requirements to change on March 5th, 2015. So what used to be a simple visa on arrival has now become a massive due-diligence paper trail operation that requires:

  • Original passport with a minimum of six (6) months of validity remaining as of the expected travel date and at least two blank pages.
  • Copies of the passport pages that show personal information, the expiration date and the photograph.
  • Visa application
    • With name, address and telephone number of your contact in Venezuela
    • With name, address and telephone number of your hotels in Venezuela
  • Two 2×2 passport photographs
  • An employment letter
    • Typed
    • With company letterhead
    • With contact person and address for verification.
    • Signed by notary
    • With dry stamp of company seal
  • If you’re not employed and a student: A letter from your institution stating your status as a full-time student
  • If you’re neither employed or a student: A sponsorship letter from your parents
  • Leasing contract for a residence or document demonstrating house ownership in the name of the applicant, or a document demonstrating ownership of a different type of property, including high value personal property (e.g. a vehicle or fine art), or commercial, business or industrial properties.
    • A copy of said proof of mortgage/ownership
  • Original copy of the registered certificate that validates proof of ownership if the applicant owns a business
    • A copy of said registered certificate
  • Original latest bank statement or a letter issued by the bank which shows:
    • Name
    • Original Reference
    • Account number
    • Balance in US Dollars
  • In lieu bank statement: A notarized letter of invitation of the person or institution in the U.S. or Venezuela who will cover the costs of the applicant’s stay.
  • A copy of your pre-paid flight itineraries demonstrating your transit in and out of Venezuela with:
    • Date of entry to Venezuela
    • Date of entry exiting Venezuela
    • Name of the airline
    • Flight number
  • Resident card or permanent visa of U.S. legal status
    • A copy of said resident card/permanent visa
  • A money order or bank check for $30
  • Prepaid self addressed USPS priority mail envelope with unique tracking ID for return of your documents
    • They do NOT accept FedEx

This change was made way after we had already bought flights to Venezuela, so as you can imagine, we scrambled our asses. 2 others in our group had to return to the consulate 3 times with additional documents before their applications were finally accepted for processing.

But not deterred after our experiences trying to get visas beforehand for North KoreaMyanmar, Iran, and Pakistan, the 5 of us made it work. We presented ourselves in person at the Venezuelan consulate in midtown Manhattan, and each of us was taken to a back room for an interview that took up for 45 minutes to an hour. We were asked about our professions, the nature of our jobs, the identity of our contacts in Venezuela and what they do, why we were going, and a bunch of other random questions to make sure we were decent human beings. Afterwards they told us they will hold onto our cell phone numbers and call us in case they had any more questions (and they reassured us, they most likely will).

Although we were told it would take 3-5 business days, the turnaround ended up taking an entire 2 weeks before we were allowed to pick up our passports from the consulate.

Be FOREWARNED while their website states that you can pick up your passports between the hours of 2pm-3:45pm in the afternoon from Mondays to Fridays, this was not the case today when they changed the hours to 9am-1pm ONLY. When you ask about this discrepancy, they will claim that their website was updated with this new piece of information more than 3 months ago. They were about to turn me away when I then asked to see the Consulate General himself; they then made me wait outside in the snowstorm up to an hour before they relented and gave me my passports with visas inside.

 

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Like a cold puppy.

  

I think I would be the last American allowed for an in-person pickup as everyone in my group who applied the very next day after me reported that the option for visa pickups were no longer possible, and that every applicant must provide a self-addressed priority envelope for mailing once the visas were finished processing.

To be honest, although this has been the most complicated visa process I’ve ever experienced (it’s the only one that requires an in-person face to face interview), it was far from being the most frustrating (good job, Pakistan).

 

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We’re going to Venezuela!

– At time of posting in NYC, it was 26.6 °F
Humidity: 10% | Wind Speed: 15km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy