Update — The visa process

Monday 9 September dawned cool for LA this time of year. From our 8th-floor room at the AC Hotel we could see the sky slowly brighten over what is a remarkably nondescript few blocks of Wilshire Blvd. The seductive Santa Monica Mountains stretching far into the distance presented a striking reminder of one of the things that drew people to this dusty basin in the first place. Anyway, we didn’t select this hotel for the view, but for its proximity to the Spanish Embassy (1.5 miles east). Given our appointments at 10:00 and 10:30, I didn’t want to risk getting hung up in LA’s legendary rush-hour traffic.

It was a quick drive down 6th Street (heading eastbound, at least…the traffic crawling westbound on the one-lane residential thoroughfare was backed up for blocks). Scoring free street parking on Mansfield Ave. south of Wilshire was surprisingly easy. After a quick stop at Starbuck’s, we arrived at the embassy a half hour early.

The embassy lobby is lined on the north side with five service windows, two specifically for visas. According to explicit instructions posted on the embassy’s website, we quietly took seats and waited for our names to be called. A couple other people strolled in after us and sat down closer to the glass-paned counter. After finishing up with a client, the embassy rep vaguely called out, “Here for a visa?” and of course, a fellow between us and the window jumped up and beat us to the goal. He was there to retrieve a completed visa, for which no appointment is required, and was consequently dispatched in short order. That sequence of events repeated itself with another person collecting her visa. After those two snubs, even though we still had 20 minutes before our scheduled times, Robert calmly walked over and politely stated, “I have an appointment.”

The rep asked Robert to sit down and started the process as I observed from across the room, not wanting to interrupt. I couldn’t make out every word, but could tell things were going well and that we appeared to have every document that was requested, and in proper form. About 15 minutes in, the rep caught on that Robert and I were together so I was able to immediately follow Robert (about a half hour ahead of schedule). Sure enough, we had successfully collected all the necessary documents (and a few extra to spare).

Fifteen minutes later, we walked out onto the sunny sidewalk with fingers crossed. The embassy gives a very wide range when estimating turnaround times (one to three months). If it’s more than two months for us we’ll be pushing our flight back since we already bought plane tickets for 3 November; however, everything I have come across on blogs and review sites indicates the process is typically completed in weeks rather than months.

The trip to LA afforded the opportunity for way-too-quick visits with friends and family in Thousand Oaks, Los Feliz, and West Hollywood (boy, has Sunday tea dance changed over the last 25 years!) We also stopped in Palm Springs to break up the drive home and got to see Paul and Johnnie’s new pad in Cathedral City (congrats!), as well as bar hop for the evening on Arenas Road.

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