It took about 3 weeks, but I finally was able to get my hands on the rare and coveted Algerian tourist visa in NYC … 24 hours before my literal departure to Algeria!
You’ll need the following to prep:
- 2 copies of a filled out but unsigned visa application form (don’t sign it digitally!)
- 2 copies of a 2×2 passport photo of yourself in front of a white background
- Hard copy of your USA passport in hand with at least 2 blank pages (the pages in the back don’t count!)
- A printed copy of the front page of your USA passport
- $160 USD in a USPS-issued money order, with the “Pay To:” field left blank and your name and passport number in the “Memo” field
- A copy of hotel bookings or notarized invitation letter from an official travel agency in Algeria; this letter can be a printed copy from an e-mail or PDF from the agency
- A copy of a roundtrip flight itinerary (I did not buy my flights until way later on)
- Either a recent pay stub or bank statement (showing you have enough money to get in and out of the country if needed)
Then you can either mail your application to the embassy in DC (along with a self-addressed prepaid envelope) or head to the consulate in person (preferable):
When you immediately enter the front doors at the consulate in NYC, you go through a metal detector, your bag is screened, you sign in, and your cell phone is checked in with a ticket. That’s right, you’re going to be sent to the waiting room without your cell phone to pass the time — bring a book to read!
During the 15-20 minutes of waiting, they summon a few staff members to come by and praise your choice of a tourist destination before visa processing officers arrive to review your application. They also go through your entire passport to make sure you have at least 2 blank pages not counting the “Special Endorsement” pages in the back — this is important as they turned away a friend of mine and asked her to reapply with a new passport as all she had left were the 2 blank pages in the back of her passport! Suffice to say, this meant she unfortunately could not come on the trip with so little time left to prepare.
Once your application is approved, you then sign both copies of your visa application, the $160 USD money order, and a sign-in sheet on a clipboard before you’re sent on your way. Although they told me my visa would be ready within 10 business days, it took many of us months before we heard back (I waited about 3 weeks). They were notorious in never picking up the phone when we called, so it took many of us a triple-threat combination of an email, fax, and phone calls before anyone from the consulate finally reached us.
More than 3 weeks went by and after the email/fax/voicemail combo, I finally heard back on a phone call that “your visa has been ready for awhile now!” In other words, they don’t call to inform you that it’s ready unless you bother them a little (And I’m glad I did because I’m supposed to leave in 24 hours!).
So I returned to the consulate just now to pick it up, going through the same rounds of security checks before a man came downstairs 10 minutes later, shook my hand, and just handed me my passport right then and there. Simple as that: Nothing else was signed and I was done!
Flying out in 24 hours!
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- At time of posting in NYC, it was 7 °C - Humidity: 50% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy