In case you ever want to give it a go yourself.
1. Receive a lot of paperwork and helpful files from AGWM and stare at it all in shock and panic because there is so much of it. (Later you will realize that that’s not the half of it.)
2. Receive all of this just before Christmas and realize it is better to wait to deal with it until after the New Year because there is so much going on.
3. Get stuck in western Washington for 3 weeks after Christmas because of a broken down car and realize it’s a great time to do paperwork, because you have it all on your laptop, which you cleverly brought along.
4. Figure out what order you need to do the paperwork in (and get it slightly wrong, but not too badly).
5. Select the Belgian Synod Attestation as the first thing to do and wade uncomprehendingly through the paperwork.
The Belgian Synod Attestation is a statement from a religious body in Belgium attesting to the fact that you are a religious worker in official standing with a religious body in your home country which has official affiliation with the Belgian Synod. The application for it requires these documents:
- The application, which is longer and more complicated than the visa application.
- A notarized affidavit from the Assemblies of God that it is what it is and you are what you are in relation to it.
- A notarized letter from the Assemblies of God that it endorses your visa application and guarantees your salary.
- A notarized letter from your insurance company affirming that you have insurance that is effective worldwide.
- A list of your educational credentials.
- A photocopy of the official agreements between the Assemblies of God and the Belgian government or the Belgian Synod, or something Belgian.
- A photocopy of your passport.
6. All of this must be scanned and emailed to the nice person with AGWM who will pass it on to the Belgian Synod. It can take up to three months to get the attestation.
7. Select the FBI background check request as the second thing to do. Really it should have been the first thing. Tsk tsk.
8. Rush madly about all the tiny towns in the area of western Washington where you still are until you find a police station that is doing fingerprinting. Find out they require cash payments and run to the nearest ATM to get some. Get fingerprinted, which is a most interesting procedure.
9. Go to a Rite-Aid to buy a money order to send with the FBI background check request, and stand in line for ages only to find out they, too, require cash. Spend more money at an ATM to get more cash and stand in line for ages again. Get the money order.
10. Send in your fingerprints and request to the FBI. This can take up to 15 weeks to get back.
11. Finally go home to Montana and start packing your house.
12. Pack a lot.
13. Receive the original documents from AGWM that were sent in digital form to the Belgian Synod. Don’t lose them. I almost did.
13. Pack some more.
14. Find out from another missionary also going to Belgium all the absurd things you have to do for the medical form required for the visa. Realize you’re going to have to go to Billings (5 hours away) to get it apostilled (a governmental certification).
15. Suddenly receive the Belgian Synod Attestation in the mail with a lovely cover letter, only a month after you sent in the application.
16. Pack some more.
17. Find out from another missionary that if you send in your background check request to an FBI-approved channeler, you might get it way faster than you will from the FBI.
18. Rush madly about Missoula to find a place to get re-fingerprinted (electronically, which is also a very interesting procedure).
19. Send off your second background check request with an even larger fee.
20. Make a doctor’s appointment for the medical form. Make sure they know you have to have a notary present. Make sure they make sure the notary knows he or she has to have his or her notarial certification present.
21. Pack some more.
22. Study a lot of Dutch. Ik leren Nederlands graag.
23. Find out you actually have to go to Helena (3 hours away) instead of Billings for the apostilling of the medical form. You have to make an appointment and pay another fee.
24. Pack some more.
25. Sell a lot of stuff.
This is where I am presently. Here are the additional steps I know about but have not yet taken:
26. Go to your doctor’s appointment and have a lot of bloodwork done to certify the following:
And has found him/her free of one of the following illnesses as mentioned in the annex of the law of 15/12/1980 and representing a danger for public health :
1 Illnesses requiring quarantine as stated by the international health regulation n°2 dated 25 May 1951, of the World Health Organization;
2 Pulmonary tuberculosis, active or progressive ;
3 Other contagious or transmittable diseases by infection or parasites if they are subject in the host country to provisions of protection of the nationals
Who knows what these are?
27. Wait for the bloodwork to come back, possibly several days.
28. Pack some more.
20. Go back to the doctor’s and have the paperwork signed and notarized.
30. See if the notary will also notarize your signature on the visa application.
31. If not, find some other notary to do it.
32. Make an appointment in Helena for the apostilling. Send them a scan of the medical certificate first to make sure it’s been notarized properly.
33. Drive to Helena and get the medical certificate apostilled.
34. Hope desperately the FBI-channeler background check has come.
35. Make sure you have all the pertinent forms from AGWM. Make lots of copies of them.
36. Get a certified check in dollars from your bank made out extreeeemly carefully to the Consulate General of Belgium.
37. Place 2 copies of your visa application (which took about 3 minutes to fill out) tenderly and graciously into a large envelope with the following:
- Your passport
- A language form completely in Dutch explaining that you want all your paperwork in Dutch because you will be living in a Dutch-speaking section of Belgium. The other options are French and German.
- 3 passport photographs
- The originals and two copies of all the documents you already sent to the Belgian Synod
- The Belgian Synod Attestation
- The FBI background check
- The signed, notarized, apostilled, and bathed in camel’s milk (not really) medical certificate with two copies of the same.
- Yet another fee, the certified check.
- A self-addressed, self-stamped address so you can get back your passport and all the other documents, which you need to have in hand to get into Belgium.
- Your firstborn child who can spin straw into gold (not really).
38. Take said envelope to the post office and give them a lot of money to send it very quickly to the Belgian Consulate in Los Angeles, which has jurisdiction over Montana.
39. Have your bank wire yet another fee, in Euros, to the Consulate.
40. Gnaw on your fingernails and pray it doesn’t take the possible two months that it could take, because by this point you want to be in Europe much sooner than that.
41. Pack some more.
42. Have a goodbye party.
42. Find out, oh frabjous day, that you have been issued a visa.
43. Make an appointment to receive it.
44. Fly to Los Angeles. Yes. Fly to Los Angeles to pick it up. You have never had any desire to go to Los Angeles—in fact you have sometimes in the past said to yourself that while San Diego is perfectly lovely, you never ever want to go to Los Angeles. Nevertheless, fly to Los Angeles.
45. Figure out how to get to the Belgian Consulate from the airport.
46. Do whatever you have to do at the Consulate to get the visa.
47. Go see the La Brea Tar Pits, because they’re like 3 blocks away.
48. Fly home again.
49. Buy a plane ticket.
50. Go to Belgium, taking care to bring all the reams of paperwork with you to bemuse the poor immigration agents.
This has taken you five months. But if all goes to plan, you will be celebrating your 35th birthday at a missionary convention in Croatia.