It wasn’t like this was a last-minute booking. In fact the first part of our South America trip had been in the works for about a year. It includes a 14 day Princess cruise that departs a couple of hour drive outside of Santiago, Chile and terminates in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Several months ago, we made the decision to add-on a couple extra weeks with more time with an Intrepid land tour. It includes a couple extra days in Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro.
I did know that we needed to get a visa to travel to Brazil, but I was in no hurry. I had taken a very quick glance at the online form that needed to be filled out and presented to our local Brazilian Consulate. We are home based in the Los Angeles area, so the drive was not far. Somehow, I had interpreted that it would take about 5 days.
In early November I filled out the online form for myself and was assigned a number. Still in no hurry, I set Tim’s aside. We did stop off at Costco to get fresh/current passport photos taken
With a remodel project being planned, some decluttering in the works and a trip to Illinois for Thanksgiving, the visa got pushed to the back burner. But as soon as we returned I grabbed my completed form and sat down at the computer to fill out the application for Tim.
OK, I’ll look up the address and we will drive to Los Angeles to leave our passports, forms and fees, then come back in a few days to pick everything up with our new Brazil visa enclosed.
Wrong, wrong, WRONG!!!!!
Feeling a bit foolish, I reread the instructions and found out that walk-ins were not allowed and that we needed to make an appointment.
No problem, I thought…
Well, wrong again, it was a BIG problem as the first available appointment was December 22nd and our flight to Chile was booked to depart on December 17th.
I’m starting to sweat.
Well, if we have to, I guess we could take a day or two to drive up to San Francisco for an appointment as that is exactly what we had done a couple of years ago to facilitate our India visas.
Nope, not allowed. Each geographical area has a strict jurisdiction and you are not permitted to venture outside of your own designated area.
I posted a quick note on a Facebook travel page I am a member of asking for ideas or suggestions
I got Tim involved and he started calling visa services to see if they could expedite the processing. They all needed a minimum of 22 days.
While he then called Intrepid tours to find out if they had some connection or shortcut ideas. They were no help and said that getting any required documentation was our responsibility.
I also sent off a message to a woman we had met on a trip to South Africa who works for a company that issues visas. Katrin was in India, herself on vacation, but she still took the time to reach out to one of her colleagues on the West Coast to see if they could help. They could not.
She did educate me that one extreme solution would to fly from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. Submit our application there and return in 5 days to collect our passports and visa. We would both have to go. That would include two last-minute round trip airfare plus 5-6 nights in a hotel.
Huge expense to absorb due to my ignorance and poor planning.
By now, I’m beating myself up, in tears and thinking we might be forced to cancel our month-long holiday trip. I had not purchased any cancellation insurance, but that would not have covered this issue regardless.
As a last-ditch effort, I drafted an email to the emergency email address listed on the Consulate site. I threw myself at their mercy, explaining the dire predicament we found ourselves in and begging for them to help us secure an appointment ASAP.
I said a little prayer, asking my angels to help us find a solution.
Now, most husbands might be a bit perturbed, down-right angry or throw up there hands, but I swear I must be married to a saint, as Tim just kept calling one visa company after another from the list provided by the Brazil Consulate.
He spotted one on the list that was specifically called Brazilian Visas and it was local. In fact only a short distance from our shop.
Tim spoke to a woman named Julia, and after repeating our predicament for the Nth time, she two reiterated the formidable 22 days. Tim was nearing the end of the list and mentioned to her that we may just need to cancel our month-long trip.
I don’t know if a lightbulb came on, or what then happened, but she said. “I do know someone who may be able to help you. Call Michael Fenton in Atlanta” and proceeded to give Tim the phone number. “I’ve known Michael for years, he is very reliable and if anyone can help you, he can. Tell him, Julia sent you”.
Well, by this time I was imagining a shady back room with a secret knock and a password. But hey, what did we have to lose except for our passports and any associated fees???
Tim proceeded to call Michael and upon hearing the details of our situation, he instantly put us at ease. He knew exactly what needed to be done and what documents he would require to be sent to him via overnight service.
The date was Wednesday, November 29th. He said that if he had everything he needed by Friday, he could review that material and deliver it to the consulate in Atlanta on Monday. He expected that the visas would be issued in 5-7 business days and that he would have them overnighted back to us on 12/14.
Three days before we were scheduled to depart…
We lost no time, gathered everything up, made copies of our travel details including flights, cruise and tour information, our passports, passport photos, completed application forms with assigned reference numbers and required proof of financial stability in the form of a bank statement showing we had enough funds available.
A trip to Federal Express and our Hail Mary pass was on the way.
The next day Michael confirmed he had received our documents but he needed the original bank statement, or if it was a copy, it had to be notarized. I had intended to send him the original, but had once again goofed, and had included my copy instead.
Back to Federal Express we went to send off the original bank statement.
In the meantime, I heard back from the Brazilian Consulate regarding the emergency email I had sent, that basically said that my failure to properly plan did not constitute an emergency, but to keep checking to see if there were any appointment cancellations. There were not any posted.
On Friday morning, Michael emailed me that he now had everything he needed and as previously discussed, would file on our behalf on Monday, 12/4.
We confirmed on Monday that everything had been submitted and we were still on track to get our passports and visas back on 12/14.
On 12/12, I sent Michael another email requesting an update. He responded that he expected the visa to be issued the next day.
On 12/13 I got another email from him with tracking numbers saying that the visas had been issued and that our passports were on the way back to us.
On 12/14 – the exact promised date, our passports and visas were delivered to our office!
I want to give a most sincere THANK YOU to Michael Fenton for the professional manner in which he handled all of this transaction. He saved me from having to cancel our trip, maintained great communication at each stage, and most importantly got us our documents back in time.
I can whole heartedly recommend him to anyone who needs to obtain a visa for any future trip.
So, I am now all packed and ready to go out the door tomorrow morning on our way to South America. Our trip will include a 14 day Princess Cruise from Santiago, Chile around the horn with stops in the Falkland Islands, Uruguay and ending in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We then join an Intrepid 10 day land tour that takes us to Iguazu Falls and on to Rio de Janeiro.
We hope you will follow along with us as we explore South America over the next 30 days.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Well of course I am extremely grateful for Tim’s persistence, the many people on the Travel the World, Simply site who offered up suggestions, Katrin for contacting her West Coast office to see if they could help while she herself was on vacation in India, for Julia at Brazil Visa Service for the referral and of course most of all to Michael Fenton of Visa Supply, LLC for pulling a rabbit out of the hat and accomplishing what no one else was able to do.