Thursday, 8 March 2012

Visa Application: Approved!

I must say, being a MEXT scholar has many advantages, such as when you're applying for your visa. I was reminded to apply for mine when the Embassy sent out a pre-departure briefing email + visa reminder. Good thing too, or I'd probably be panicking at the 11th hour. That's one very strange trait of mine. When I'm preparing for something, I can over-prepare and do all sorts of unecessary things, but I'm also very good at procrastinating.

But thankfully, the entire visa process only took three days to complete. Normally, you have to have things like a Certificate of Eligibility, aka COE (Which sounds suspiciously like the Certificate of Entitlement needed to own a car in Singapore) and other things. Well, it looks complicated. When I went on Monday to apply for the visa, there was this very nice chart showing the order in which you submit the documents (passport first followed by, um, application form I think, and a bunch of other stuff).

As for me, all I handed in was my passport and the visa application form. Of course, I was asked if I had any other documents I wanted to hand in, because I was looking a bit overwhelmed/confused. That was probably because it was pouring cats and dogs outside and I had to walk in from the bus stop (it's about a 5 minute walk) clutching my bag and trying not to get anything wet. But once I explained that I was a scholar, noises of recognition was made and a file was consulted, after which, my name was found and I was assured that everything was fine, handed a sheet of paper and asked to come back on Wednesday.

Thankfully, it didn't rain on Wednesday. I made it to the embassy half an hour after the visa collection time starts and very quickly got my visa. It's not for 5 years though, since from the embassy website, it appears that the longest stay is about 2 years, so I have a 27 month visa (that works out to 2 years and 3 months). But the guy in charge very nicely explained to me what I needed to do and how to extend my visa, along with other things like what happens if you want to exit Japan.

Plus, my visa came along with instructions about all that was explained to me and a short guide to living in Japan, including a list of things which should be done within a month of arrival. In short, within a month of arrival, you should have sorted out: Housing, Alien Registration, Medical Care/Insurance, Education (if applicable), Employment (not applicable for me), Community Life (greet the neighbours) and get ready for a Disaster. The three month time frame is short compared to this, since it only talks about learning the language and taxes.

Apart from the guide, there was also a brochure for the Singapore Student's Association (Japan), which is a specialised group for students to help you settle in and meet up. I've just signed up, and I think their site is worth a look. It has an unofficial guide to studying in Japan and a radiation FAQ, plus some personal experiences.

I'm glad I managed to settle the whole visa thing. Plus, my aunt lives in Orchard (you can walk from the embassy to her house) so I got to visit twice this week. What was your visa application experience like? Did it come with helpful information too?